Friday, April 6, 2018

The Central Mystery

The Central Mystery
Bobby Derie

We breathe the dead. All smell is particulate. When you catch that waft of putrescence in your nostrils, like spoiled ham and excrement, that's because pieces of the corpse are in the air, expanding outwards from the corpse.

Detective Keryes didn't seem to mind.

"Your problem, Jack, is that you think presentation matters. Truth, whether incised on an ancient tablet or captured in softcover and available at a reasonable price from Amazon, whether brought down from the mountain by a white-bearded prophet or shouted from the street corner by a wild-eyed homeless person that's wearing a three-day old adult truth."

The call had come in from the mail carrier. Took three days for them to notice the pile up of bills and packages. Peeked in through the windows and couldn't see anything for the smear of blood.

"My problem," Detective Bastard said, "is with the idea."

The body was in the living room, which opened off of a short foyer. A nice little stucco two-bedroom with Spanish tile on the roof, white tile on the floors instead of carpet. Not much space, but there were no doors until  you got to the bathroom and bedrooms, so it had the illusion of being bigger than it was.

ID on the mail was Irene Caldwell.

We stood just outside the circle in the living room. Looked and smelled like blood. Strange symbols - Hebrew, maybe, and something else that looked like constellations, all straight lines and circles. There was a pool there, dark and sticky, a giant scab of old blood and dried shit. It had been a scorcher the last couple of days, over a hundred degrees, and the AC hadn't been running. When they tried to move the body, the skin of her back had peeled right off.

"You don't like truth?" Keryes wasn't smiling. One of the lab techs had a spatula and was making progress.

"Revelation," Bastard replied. "The idea that there's something ineffable. Doesn't matter how old or new the 'truth' is, you look at it in the light of day and it's stupid or silly. Because it's not about the information itself. It's about the process. The initiation. All those poor assholes that have to suffer through something, and at the end they get God, or aliens, or the Enlightenment or whatever...but that's it: you can't share it. You can't tell people about it. You try, and they don't get it. Because it's not in the words. It's something that can't be communicated." He looked around the room. Sparse furniture, no photos. "Cause of death yet?"

"They haven't got back with us yet. Best guess in the meantime is 'gutted from crotch to sternum.'"

"Right." Jack Bastard knelt down near the wall, looking at a pile of dust. Followed it up to an air grate. "It's not democratic."

Keryes followed his gaze, took out a small multitool from his pocket

"What's that?" he said, as he started to undo the screws.

"Revelation. That's part of what I don't like about it. Like Christianity, the inherent message is that everybody's saved. Jesus sacrificed us so God could forgive us of all the sins that...well, the whole weird recursion thing. But that was the kick with Christianity: everybody that wanted to be saved, done. Just accept Jesus. Don't even have to go to church, or read the Bible. Didn't have to earn it - just had to ask. But you see Christians, they still struggle with that. It's too easy. They feel they need to suffer for it. That they have to earn it."

"Sounds Libertarian." The grate popped out easy. There was a couple notebooks there. "Bingo. Think this will unravel the mystery?"

Detective Bastard grimaced, and looked down at the shadowy stain. The lab tech with the spatula had gone off to the corner to dry-heave.

"Not the big one," he said. "But maybe it'll help us solve a murder."


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