The story so far:
The Captain kicked his feet up on the desk, chewing a dinosaur size bite off his sandwich. After David had finished with his interviews the Captain had sent him up to Millie’s to have the girls in the deli fix him up the usual. Corn beef on white, avocado, bacon and horseradish. Bag of Sour Cream and Onion Chips. Mountain Dew.
He was worried about his deputy. Looking pale. And he had been…well, best described as a little ‘off ' lately. More so than usual anyway. He chuckled and little bits of wet morsels flew from his mouth.
The Captain considered the reports that David had given him earlier.
First, their discussion before he had conducted the interviews:
David told him the people gathered out in the station were all suffering from some sort of mass hallucination. And caused by this…Evangelist type Preacher fella. Going door to door. The Captain had asked…
“What faith is he selling?”
David had stared at him blankly for a moment before a look of pain washed over his face. Then he shook his head side to side slowly and said, “Not faith.”
“Okay…well what then Davey? Bibles? Encyclopedias? Dildos?”
The Captains boisterous laughter had shook the desk.
“No sir. He’s not selling anything. He’s just, well…asking questions. Personal questions. Questions that make people feel really uncomfortable.”
The Captain squinted his beefy eyes as he read David’s body language.
“MmmHmm. And by chance have you met this Preacher man yourself son?”
“No sir. I just want to get to the bottom of this ****. Millie…Stuart…these are my friends Cap. And I don’t like no one fuc…I mean, messing with them”
The Captain smiled. He liked when David got all riled up. He was a passionate kid. Would make a good Captain one day. His only fault was that normally he was too honest. Except for now. The Captain had dealt with enough riff raff in his time to know when he was being lied too. He wondered why David would hold that information back.
“Well okay then son. Proceed with your interviews and I expect a full report when you’re done. If we gotta put a warrant out for this crackpot than we gotta put a warrant out ya hear. I wont have anyone terrorizing the fine folk of this town. Not so close to Halloween. And definitely not selling…what did you say it was again…” The Captain was already fading…thinking about lunch.
“Nothing Cap. The guy wasn’t selling anything. He was just…asking questions.”
“Right…well, if it upsets people then…I cant have it. Tell me what you find out.”
“Yes sir.” David stood up quickly and moved toward the door.
“Oh David…” The Captains serious voice halted him.
“When you’re done, let me know. I don’t know about you but I’m famished!”
The Captain chomped off another huge bite and let his saliva attack and dissolve it. He loved the after taste of avocado. Reminded him of this Mexican girl he once arrested when he was working border patrol.
He pulled a silver flask out of his desk drawer and took a long hard, serious tug of bourbon whiskey.
That Mexican. She had two kids and a plump round ****. She had earned her freedom that night, that’s for sure. The Captain hoped that every time she turned her back and saw her **** in the mirror…saw the scars there, the teeth marks where he had sunk them into her flesh…he hoped she remembered what Freedom was worth.
“Welcome to America you…”
A noise distracted him from the moment. Something from the lobby.
“Hello out there. I’m the only one here…you need something you gotta come see me.”
No answer. He shrugged and reached for his hit flask again.
He thought back to the second time he spoke with David, after his interviews:
“Cap, I’ve come to the conclusion…that this…this person, posing as a Preacher…well, he has targeted a select group.”
“Mmmm. And that group is the group I saw out there in the lobby this morning.”
“YES! Yes it is. And…that group, well…we…I mean they, all have something in common Cap.”
That had been the first time that day that the Captain had the urge to reach for his flask.
An involuntary gesture. An alcoholic’s gesture.
But he hesitated. He had made a promise to himself to not drink in front of the kid. And he aimed to keep it.
“And just what might that be?”
David cleared his throat as he shuffled through his flash cards. The kid used flashcards for all his cases. The Captain had chuckled. Oh well…whatever helped him stay focused.
“Well...” The Captain urged…his addiction pressed for time.
“They are all atheists Cap. Every one. I couldn’t get them all to admit to it…but it was evident in their responses. I picked up on the possibility early and so started asking pointed questions ya know…about the Church and such. Mostly, when I asked any of them if they thought the Preacher was some sort of…well, agent of the devil…they had all pretty much responded in the same way.”
“MmmHmm…and how’s that?”
“Ahh, well…mostly with laughter. Or by adamantly refusing the possibility.”
“And you don’t think their responses had anything to do with the fact that the question was pretty, hehmm, wacky?”
“No sir I do not. I feel like I’ve uncovered a really important piece to this puzzle. I just need to put it all together now.”
The Captains hand fingered his top drawer. He needed a hit. A little tug.
“Atheists you say.” The Captain considered.
“Yes sir. I thought I knew them all so well too. But after a full interview with all individuals…that is what I…um, what I think.”
“MmmHmm. What you think.”
“Say, David…aren’t you yourself an atheist?” The Captain tilted his head sideways like a concerned dog.
David held his gaze for a moment, then hung his head.
“There’s nothing wrong with it son. Just your beliefs.”
“Yea…but, how did you know?”
The Captain howled laughter.
‘Son, I am a Detective. I’ve been on the job for over thirty years. I’m able to distinguish facts about people that they don’t even know about themselves.”
David confirmed his position on faith. Then confided that, the mysterious preacher had visited him too. A fact the Captain had already surmised.
“I think you need to pick this preacher man up and bring him on in here and let the Cap have a go at him ya hear?”
David had hesitantly shaken his head.
“But first, you need to run on and get my lunch now. I’m starving.”
The Captain considered David’s seemingly silly evaluation.
“A preacher…after atheists.”
He tilted his head back and let the sting of whiskey splash down his throat and subdue the fit of laughter that threatened.
As the hot liquor seeped down his pipes into his stomach, he caught a glimpse of black in his peripheral.
He turned his head sideways and saw a figure in the doorway. A man?
The late afternoon sun was buried beneath a blanket of gray October clouds and the Captain hadn’t bothered turning his light on, so it was difficult to distinguish facial features from shadows.
The Captains eyes blurred in and out as he tried to focus.
The constant suckling of booze all afternoon had also impaired his vision slightly.
Who was that? Looked like…
“Well I’ll be damned....look what the cat done drug in. I almost didn’t recognize you with all that black on.”
An uncomfortable silence filled the air.
“You gonna say something? Tell me why you come all this way after all these years?”
The Captain chuckled as he tipped the flask to his mouth and drained the last few drops.
Only this time, the hot liquor that normally trickled down his throat, came rushing like a tsunami wave.
He tried to pull the flask away and halt the flow of liquid, but the force was overwhelming. His muscles cramped. His functions somehow not his own. No control.
Fear welled up in the Captains eyes. The first real fear he had felt since childhood. Nothing frightened him anymore. Except losing control.
He tried with all his might to pull the flask away, or to rotate his head, or adjust his neck…but he was paralyzed. The searing hot liquid poured into his mouth, down his throat, into his stomach.
He felt the burn in his gut. A tiny kindling fire…smoking and threatening.
“Mmmmm…you always did love your drink didn’t ya Riley.”
The man in the doorway tilted his hat down, as if to shield any unwanted light from impairing his vision of the gruesome event occurring before him.
The Captain made an attempt to plead, to fight, to curse…but in the end, his stomach simply burst into flames.
He fell heavily to the ground with the sting of whiskey in his heart, and the emptiness of an unfulfilled life playing hopscotch on his senses.
With his last bit of strength…he looked up at the man in black.
“Why…why did you do this to me…Dad?”
The Preacher frowned. It was never easy. But it was necessary.
He went to the Captains safe in the corner. He hadn’t bothered to try and hide it. Or lock it.
The Preacher smirked as he easily found what he had come for and carefully removed it.
“Small town trust.” He laughed. ‘Idiot didn’t even realize what he had.’
The Preacher looked down at the Captain as he gagged out his final few breaths.
“I’m sure your real daddy will be so very happy to see you Riley. Please give him my warmest regards wont you.”
As the Preacher tucked the booty into the inner pocket of his black jacket and turned to leave, the front door of the main lobby banged open and a frantic female voice called out…
“Captain…Captain…the graveyards been robbed…the graveyards been robbed….”