Rivers never liked Saturdays.
Though it would seem that his hard work and reluctant ass-kissing
that finally awarded him with a position high enough in the
Cincinnati P.D. to have a normal, American, Monday through Friday
schedule would make Saturdays the best... it never worked out that
way. There was almost always some emergency, some political
requirement that he show up anyway. Even on the few Saturdays that
this didn't happen, he would spend the whole day waiting for it.
Sundays were always worse from the Saturday-night parties, and
Mondays were Mondays. What the Chief NEVER expected.. was a Tuesday
like this one.
“I just... don't understand.”
Rivers said gently, running his hand through a hairline desperately
grasping at its last vestiges of life, a habit from his mullet-days
that he never quite broke. He loosened his already relaxed tie and
leaned forward in his ancient office chair that suffered more vocally
every day. He studied the badge and gun that had landed haphazardly
on his tidy inbox, as if they would somehow explain the mystery
The statue of a man in the chair
opposite him continued its unstirred vigil. Jim Skorski had now been
the head of the homicide division for nearly eight years. Rivers had
grown to consider Jim a true friend long before that time, despite
the fact that the two couldn't have been more different. Rivers was
often misconstrued as a slob, though those who knew him realized that
this flaw applied only to his mode of dress. Every rookie detective
had to take a turn pointing out the Chief's off-buttoned shirts or
rumpled ties within two weeks of being promoted. The remainder of
Rivers life was a lesson in organization and well-oiled management.
However, even his exemplary record hadn't staved off the inevitable
approach of retirement age, with the hair and body to go with it.
Detective Jim Skorski was the youngest
Lead Homicide Detective in the history of Ohio state law enforcement.
Rivers would often lovingly joke that Jim's speedy ascension in the
ranks was due partly to his impeccable fashion sense. Despite his
clean looks, including a shaven head that didn't need to be, and a
fit body that refused to gain weight, Jim was a man of more passion
than compartmentalization. Though Rivers was at first skeptical of
this mindset, Jim proved to have more than enough empathy to give him
the drive to solve cases, but the innate wisdom to let go when there
were no answers, or even admit when he was wrong. The last case was
a rare occurrence since Jim modestly wielded a genius-level I.Q.
“Jim, talk to me,” Rivers pleaded
again, “This just... isn't YOU.” Jim blinked, after what seemed
an eternity, but continued to stare blankly into an empty corner.
“Listen, I understand this was a bad
one, and it seems completely senseless, but we just got started on
this case.” Rivers had already been called twice the night before
about the riot on Timberhill Drive. Even by morning the press were
already calling it “The most violent cataclysm in Ohio history.”
Thus far, there was no discernible cause for the event. Rivers had
collected reports of over 130 homicides, more than 70 rapes, 95
supposed suicides, several bombings, assaults of all manner, and even
animal cruelty. Reports were still coming in, and the rubble was
still being tediously sifted through. The entirety of which seemed
to be centered primarily around one city block.
“Did you hear about the survivors?”
Jim blurted suddenly, making Rivers nearly jump. His tone was
monotonous yet sharp.
“Yeah... yeah I heard.” Rivers
was already reeling over one of the most perplexing and terrifying
factors in the riot yet. All but half a dozen survivors had to be
sedated for violent behavior, and preliminary reports from CPD
therapists was that they were all suffering from delusional
“This is.... this is... is...” Jim
closed his eyes to regain his composure, “This is something... it's
just beginning. Something... is coming.”
Rivers sat up straight again. He had
never heard this voice come from his friend. “All right, look...
this is one of the bloodiest, creepiest, weirdest things we've faced,
so I can understand if you need to step back. Take some time. But,
Jesus Christ, Jim... we've seen some real shit together! We survived
that serial child rapist, the... the fuckin' cannibal vagrant.
Jim... you faced down two Al Queda terrorists about to blow up a
goddam veteran's hospital!”
Jim's eyes remained closed. Rivers
was beginning to get seriously pissed... and deeply disturbed, by the
specter in front of him. The ghost of Jim. “What the hell
happened out there?” Rivers finally forced out, for he considered
whether or not this was really a question he wanted the answer to.
Jim's eyes darted open, staring
directly into the Chief's. Rivers found himself forced to look away,
as much as he tried not to, he found himself frequently interested in
the discarded gun and badge and various notes on his desk.
“When we first got there... Cate and
I... we saw a man running around,” Jim began, his voice less stoic
and more shaky than before, “He was naked, but with something
draped over his head and shoulders. He seemed wounded, and was
definitely unarmed, so we... got closer. The power was out and there
was still lots of smoke, so we had our flashlights on the guy. It
wasn't 'til we got closer that we realized what he was wearing...
Frank, it was the skin of the upper half of a woman.”
The Chief's mouth dropped open despite
his attempts to disguise anything resembling shock.
“We lost sight of him when we got
attacked. I... I don't even know how many shots we fired, or how
many we killed. They just wouldn't stop coming... wielding bats and
pans and knives... clawing, biting, screaming gibberish or repeated
phrases... men, women, children, old people... There were so many
patrolmen already on the ground. Cate got hurt pretty badly, and
fortunately we got her on one of the few ambulances that was still
there, but... I heard screaming in one of the tenements. I had to
Rivers shifted nervously now. In
truth, he was no longer interested in hearing the details. In truth,
this was a day he truly wished to not be a cop. He knew he had to
listen. For his friend's sake, he HAD to keep listening.
“I grabbed two beat cops and had
them follow me into the building...” Skorski got quieter, as if he
feared the sound of his own voice. “Most of the street violence
seemed contained for the time being, so we headed in. There were
bodies all over the hallway. I checked the ones that seemed like
they COULD be alive... the rest were obviously not. We took the
stairs and at the first landing we found... two decapitated toddlers.
I... Jesus, I don't know where their heads were... they were
completely red from blood...” Jim paused and looked down, “One of
the patrolmen bolted right then. The remaining two of us continued
up to the second level. There were blood smears on every wall. Most
apartment doors were hanging wide open, some with bodies propping
them there. At the end of the hall there was... a couple... an old
man and a.. a little girl were fucking! They... they were covered in
blood, and... she was on top of the old man... screaming.”
Jim winced to hold back tears, “I
yelled 'Stop', but they both just jumped up and ran down the other
stairwell. We started across the hall, but more screaming came from
the third floor. I figured those two would run into the cops still
on the street, so we headed back up the stairs. That's where I
saw... more than blood on the walls. It took me a minute to even
figure out... that they were ears. Human ears had been nailed to the
stairway wall... dozens....” Jim chuckled lightly with a vacant
expression in his eyes, which Rivers found even more disconcerting.
“They were all sizes, all colors... a real equal-opportunity
Rivers could see the tears pooling at Jim's chin,
despite his attempts to find humor in his own story. “Jim, you
don't have to....” but Jim held up his hand.
“When we got the third floor, there
was teenage boy... it looked like the lower half of his body was
charred... his right eye was missing and he was digging... he was
digging at his left eye with a grapefruit spoon.” Still looking
toward the floor, Jim scowled in further attempts to stave off his
tears and keep talking, “He wasn't the one screaming. He was
barely grunting as he did it. I grabbed his arm and pulled the spoon
away, but he gripped it tight... and smiled at me. That's when I
realized that he'd already pulled all of his own teeth. At least...
I assume he did it himself. When the beat cop finished puking I had
him take the guy out of the building. He was more than happy to
leave. Hell, I would've given my right testicle to go with him...
but I could still hear the screaming, though fainter, from the end of
“There aren't words... It was hell
on earth... There was blood and semen and feces and... body parts...
everywhere. Fingers, toes, organs, pieces of scalp... I passed a
door, I presume by the same 'artist' who nailed up the ears, there
was a little mosaic of a face... two eyeballs, a mouth, a nose, two
more ears, all arranged in the shape of a face, just... nailed,
tacked and glued to the door. There were other body parts stuck
there, too. Three penises, a heart, a kidney, four fingers... and
parts I couldn't identify. I heard a weaker scream... the same
voice... coming from the next door.”
Rivers found himself wincing as well.
He also noticed that he'd begun to sweat. Jim's tears were dripping
rhythmically from his chin and nose. Rivers could feel a tear on his
own cheek, and had to fight not to cover his ears.
“The door was ajar, so I went in.
The place was trashed. Every picture on the wall and piece of
furniture was broken. There were small fires in the kitchen as I
passed it, but then I saw the woman laying on the living room
floor....” Jim paused for several seconds, seeming to attempt to
disconnect himself in order to get the words out of his mouth, “She
was covered in blood, too... from neck to ankles. There was... a
gaping wound in her abdomen with something hanging out of it. At
first, I though it was intestine, but... I realized it was... an
umbilical cord... she was holding a straight-razor in one hand and
something meaty in the other. There were little bloody pieces all
around her. She didn't seem to be able to move much, and I quickly
realized she was close to bleeding out. Then... the meaty thing in
her hand... suddenly made sense... I could... I... I could see most
of a head and torso... and part of the umbilical...”
Jim broke into full bawling. Rivers
squeezed his eyes shut. For a time, all Jim could say was “Oh
God!” and “Help me! Please fucking help me!” through his
cries. After a couple of minutes, Jim breathed deeply, calming
himself as Rivers had seen him do many times in the past. This time,
however, Rivers knew that this was just a temporary reprieve. This
man would never be able to escape this unrelenting memory.
Suddenly, Jim stood. Rivers bolted
upright in his seat, and the squeal the chair bellowed seemed
deafening. Jim still didn't look at his old friend, but almost
whispered “She smiled... she smiled at me, so I let her die. I
just... walked away.” With that, the ghost of Jim shuffled out of
Rivers' office. There was nothing to say. The air was thick in his
absence. The silence was ominous, oppressive. Cincinnati Chief of
Police Frank Rivers then slowly picked up his phone, and called his
wife, seeking a lifeline back to sanity.