Seven

Officer William “Bunk” Morrison popped a cigarette between his lips and lit it. The cherry on the end of the cigarette glowed as he inhaled. He exhaled deeply with a sigh and walked up to the newsstand for a morning paper.

He usually walked to work. It was a ten minute jaunt and he enjoyed having a few moments to himself, getting lost in thought as he traversed street to street. His wife and kids kept him busy from the moment he got home from work at night to the moment he left home in the morning. This brief solitude was his own, a little ritual – a cigarette and a casual stroll.

The newsstand had bundles of unpacked papers still wrapped in twine. Some were laid out and others were sitting in the trash. The shelves were stocked with fresh, morning papers. There, on the front page of every daily and tabloid was the twisted, desiccated rictus of the stabbing victim from the railyard. The teeth stuck out ghoulishly and the eyes were a milky, foggy mess.

“Motherfucker,” William grumbled. He picked up a tabloid and flipped the bottom down open to see the full page beneath the fold.

There was John Doe, curled up into a fetal position on the ashy, brown gravel of the train yards. His face looked even more fucked up without the stench of a dead body to distract from his chewed-up eyeballs and the weird painted markings.

“Are you going to pay for that?” The newsstand owner sounded impatient.

William mindlessly fished for a few coins in his pocket and slapped them down on the counter top. How the hell did they get pictures so fast? Fucking vultures, he thought. There weren’t any photographers the whole time he was working the scene, so they must’ve gotten there before the police. Did the engineer tip off the reporters for a payday before he called us? William didn’t want to assume the worst of people … but in this neighbourhood, who knows how low people would go to make a buck.

He no longer had time for a leisurely stroll to work. He needed to get to the station now. The captain would be pissed. William looked up and saw a cabbie leaning against a car, smoking a cigarette. The cabbie had sallow, pale skin and long, greasy, black hair. He was also very skinny, his arms were stick-thin and his pants threatened to fall down, even with a belt tied around his waist.

“Can I gedda ride?” William said.

The cabbie eyed him up for a moment, took a long drag of his smoke and flicked it into the gutter. His eyes darted up and down, back and forth in personal agitation. “Sure, where to?”

“Police Headquarters on Queensway,” William took another drag and tossed his cigarette in the gutter.

He slid into the backseat of the cab and reopened the paper to read the story. He couldn’t help but notice the smell of stale vomit underneath the lemon scent of cleaning products and air fresheners. The cabbie had all the windows open in an attempt to air out the consequences of last night’s fares.

The car lurched to a start and began weaving its way.

“What happened?” The cabbie said.

William looked up from the paper peevishly. “Guy got murdered and it’s all over the papers.”

“That happens all the time, what’s different this time?” cabbie said.

“He’s not supposed to be in the papers,” William explained.

“You a cop?” the cabbie asked.

The car swerved to dodge something in the road, William slid unceremoniously across the seat since he wasn’t buckled in. The cabbie drove fast, but seemed to be in control. He never slowed down for lights and they seemed to conveniently turn green before he had to brake or stop.

“Yeah, I was assigned to this guy yesterday,” William said. “The way he went out … doesn’t get much worse than that.”

The cabbie eyed him up in the rear-view mirror. William looked back. The driver’s eyes were surrounded by dark circles and his fingernails were painted black. He looked like a reject from a music video by The Cure.

“I can imagine,” the cabbie agreed. “Think you’ll catch the guy who did it?”

“Too early to say. We still haven’t identified the body and as of last night, no one’s been reported missing,” William said.

The engine sputtered momentarily and then roared back to life.

“I know,” the cabbie blurted out in irritation.

The outburst caught William off guard. “You know what?”

The cabbie seemed slightly distracted. “Just talking to the car. She acts up sometimes.” He slapped the dash as if to reprimand the car. He was an odd duck. “It’s been a long night, you’re my last fare and then I’m done my shift.”

“In any case, with the picture out in every paper, someone will probably come forward today to report a missing person,” William said.

The cab pulled up to the police station and jerked to a stop. William got out, pulled out his wallet and handed over a couple bills to the cabbie. He didn’t know the total, but the cab driver had gotten him to the station in record time.

“Keep the change,” William said.

“Thanks,” the cabbie said.

William began to walk away and was ascending the stairs when the cabbie called to him. “What if you can’t figure out who he is?”

“We’re working a few leads,” William said.

“Like what?” the cabbie pried.

“The fucked up writing painted on his body. It means something to someone,” William said.

William had left the newspaper in the backseat of the cab. The cabbie reached into the back and looked at the front page picture of the corpse.

The cabbie nodded his head. “It looks like Enochian,” He said, as a matter of fact.

William did a double take. “What?”

“I dated a girl who was into that angels and apocalypse shit. It looks like Enochian,” the cabbie said.

“The fuck is that?” William asked.

“The Angel alphabet,” The cabbie said matter of fact.

“You can read the ‘angel alphabet’?” William said.

He stared at the cabbie, the sallow, sunken-eyed weirdo with bottle-black hair and black nail polish. He wondered if this twat was jerking him around.

“I can’t read it as such, just recognize bits and pieces, you know? It’s like, I can’t read French, but I know it when I see it.”

The wind pushed at both of them, whipping past them as if to hint at an oncoming storm. William decided to make a snap judgment call. He pulled a business card from his pocket and set it into the hand of the cabbie.

“I’m going to need to come with me, take a look at the markings on the body. Tell me if anything resembles words or clues. If we can track down whoever murdered this guy, we can bring them to justice,” William nodded his head and pumped his fist up and down in a firm handshake on the last beat of the word ‘justice.’

The cabbie tried to look unimpressed and nonchalant. He’d pressed the issue by asking about the investigation into the murders so William didn’t believe the cabbie was anything less than interested.

“I guess so,” The cabbie said.

“Okay, let’s go inside. We’ll fill out some paperwork, show you the body, take a statement. Time is of the essence,” William said. “Oh, uh, what’s your name? I’ll have to tell it to the investigators.”

“David … David Joy.”

“I’m Detective Inspector Morrison,” he said.

A minute later, William was ushering David inside and explaining everything to the captain and the investigative team. They scratched their heads and stared at the odd-looking informant Bunk had brought them. No one bothered to argue, a lead was a lead.

“We should contact the university and see if anyone there knows Enochian, and we need to try and get a hold of David’s ex-girlfriend. Apparently she reads this stuff, David can only read bits and pieces,” William said to an investigator.

They didn’t waste time showing David the body. They guided him through the police station to the morgue. It was a bluish-green room with a sterile, medical atmosphere, accompanied by the cold, antiseptic colour of brushed steel. There were refrigeration units along the wall and a giant slab in the middle. The coroner guided them in and pointed to the body.

Two investigators, William, the coroner and David stood in a semi circle around the slab. David approached the corpse slowly, gingerly, and gazed upon it.

William watched David staring at the corpse laid out on the slab. The room itself was kept cooler than room temperature to preserve the bodies a little bit – but it didn’t seem to help in this case – John Doe stank. William shivered and held his nose.

The coroner put on rubber gloves and lifted and turned limbs at David’s request to expose the painted markings. The arms and chest were smeared with dry, blackened blood over desiccated skin that resembled the texture of cracked parchment.

David pointed out a few symbols.

“That one means ‘to receive,’” David pointed at a squiggle. “This symbol by his neck … that is the number ‘six.’”

William listened intently and the investigators scribbled in their notepads.

William turned to the coroner.

“No ID on the fingerprints or dental records yet?” He asked.

“Nothing yet. No one’s reported any missing persons either,” The coroner said. “The lab results are still pending.”

David looked up at them and back down at the body. He seemed to be getting a little twitchy. Williams figured seeing a dead body for the first time was pretty disturbing. There was no knowing how someone would react until they were put in the hot seat. Some people threw up. Others cried. David looked pale and queasy; he didn’t seem to be taking it too well. He took half a step back from the body and seemed to experience a full-body tremor.

“Shhh,” David hushed the corpse.

All eyes were on David now.

“Did you just shush the corpse?” The coroner cocked an eyebrow.

“Well, he doesn’t need to shout, now does he?” David said as matter of fact.

It was a dead body on a slab. It wasn’t moving or saying anything at all. William said nothing. He waited to see how the coroner would react to David’s odd behaviour. Is this guy high? Is he fucking with us? William asked himself.

The coroner, surprisingly, let out a small laugh. "They say dead men tell no tales. I guess you’re right – this guy’s literally shouting … there’s too much evidence and mess for us to come up empty handed. There has to be something we missed.”

David pulled a cigarette pack from his pocket and set a cigarette into his mouth. He lit up and exhaled slowly, staring at the body. He cocked his head to the side. He held up the pack to the others and offered them a cigarette.

They declined his offer.

“What’s your name?” David said.

The body remained still.

“Who did this to you?” David asked.

Again, nothing from the body.

William and the coroner stared at the odd cab driver. Everything about him was weird, and this behaviour was weirder still. David clucked his tongue as he appeared to listen to the unmoving body.

“I know, I know. It’s all very messy. The police are trying to solve your murder. You just need to calm down – think now, think back to that night … yes I know, it’s very much like a dream, fuzzy, hard to recall. Think,” David rocked back and forth on his feet.

The coroner had seen a lot in his day. He sometimes talked to the dead bodies himself, just to pass the time and break up the morbid silence attended much of his work, but never in front of the living. This cab driver guy took the cake. He was fully committed to his conversation with the dead guy.

David turned to William and sighed.

“He wants a Catholic service for his funeral,” David stated plainly.

“A Catholic funeral?” William felt confusion and befuddlement. This cab driver was absolutely mad. Totally barmy. “Are you having a laugh? You think you can just talk to corpses and tell us their bidding? This was a waste of time,” William fumed.

“There’s a church not far from here, Father Rupert Cain is Catholic, does last rites,” David said nonchalantly.

The coroner peeled off his rubber gloves and tossed them into a medical waste bin with mild disgust.

“What a waste of time,” the coroner said.

The cabbie moved to exit the morgue, sauntering slightly.

“Oh, it wasn’t a waste of time. Some of those markings are Enochian,” David said. “I don’t know what those other ones are though. Some kinda’ Satanic thing.”

William moved to intercept David and grabbed his skinny, little arm.

“Are you fuckin’ with us? You think you’re fuckin’ funny?” William glowered.

David’s face betrayed nothing. It remained impassive. “Why would I fuck with you? You asked for my help.”

“Satanic? You’re suggesting some asshole murdered this guy in the name of Satan and you think you can just walk out of here saying that kind of thing is nothing serious?” William seethed.

“Nothing funny about Satan at all. Please let go of my arm,” David said. He pulled his arm free from William’s grip.

“If any of this Satan-crap ends up in the papers, it’s your ass, you hear me? You don’t mention this to anyone,” William felt like a fool.

“Not to worry. Secret’s safe with me,” The cab driver left the morgue quickly.

The mayor, the captain, council, everyone would shit bricks if some Satanic murderer was running around stabbing people to death. It would be mayhem. The mayor’s office had surely been calling for hourly updates as the investigation unfolded over the past couple days. Most of this was entirely beyond William’s pay grade. He did not give a fuck about assuaging the hurt feelings of skittish politicians chasing votes – what would motivate him though, was a pissed off captain with his fist shoved firmly up his ass.

One of the investigators laughed. “You got played Bunk. That squirrely, little fokker had you going.”

“I don’t need this shit,” William muttered.

“Probably full of shit about the ‘Enochian’ too. Enochian … angel language? Probably doesn’t even exist, I bet he just made it all up,” The investigator griped.

Seven

Mage: The Gun Quarter MattBarton