"You are distracted, Doctor". The voice calls me back. Happens that this very voice is the only one that I am supposed to listen to. Because, also, it is the only one that can be heard by me. I am alone with the man and his cell. And of course, the lack of sunlight and the rancid smell of the environment does wonders to keep me here.
I look at the man across me. He is a rather fit man for his late thirtys. White, the slowly balding hair not even grayish yet... And the smooth, square jaw is strangely offset by warm, focused sea-green eyes. He should be in the Mayor's seat, not in some dank Bronx cell.
"Pardon me. It... has been a while since I've done this." Not as bad a lie as I imagined it would be.
"I'm sure, Doctor, that..."
"Don't call me Doctor." I'm getting enough of that savior routine of his. It irritates me.
The man in front of me is fourteen times homicide convicted, and has committed more horrors in his brief existence than most two-times gangster losers in Bed-Stuy will ever commit in their entire lives. He is, for lack of a better word, hopeless.
And still he jabs at me. The man is a tough nut to crack.
"Tell me, then, M. Moore", says he nagging me, " what... or who... is on your mind?"
"I am trying to make sense out of your particular habits, Mister Brooks. Let us be honest, I am but a simple psychologist and criminologist. Psychiatry isn't quite my field of expertise, and I have to say, if it wasn't for Commissioner Wellington pulling strings, I wouldn't be here sharing a pitcher of water and talking to you. I probably would be home trying to salvage what's left of my mariage. But I suppose the game is as enjoyable for you, no?"
He was taken a bit aback by my wittiness. Arthur Brooks was an intelligent man - too intelligent for his own good. He could rationalize next to everything he did, and while the law could not let him go away, he ended up in a cell with much of the lawyers and juries wondering whether his testimony was making perfectly sense or was just apocalyptic blabber. But he sure as hell did not expect me on his case.
Not every mortal makes the Damned's day.
Then again, butchering the homeless and poverty-stricken to read their entrails and avoid persecution by unknown factors wasn't entirely socially acceptable. Not the least by me.
"M. Moore, I am sure you are not without knowledge that what I did had a greater purpose. Why do you mind?"
"It is my job. And what I chose to do for a living."
"And losing your wife was part of the deal?"
He was trying to get at me. Like a cornered dog, he would fight if he couldn't circle me. What was he trying to get at?
"If you don't mind, I'll be asking the questions, Mister Brooks." My back door exit to anything. Or rather, Moore's back door.
"Whatever you say."
"Good. Here", I say handing him a copy file of his case, "is a complete file of your case, Arthur. Photographs, drawings, calendar, witnesses' accounts - or rather, the few of them that were left alive... How do you feel, knowing you've taken so many lives that were completely unrelated to you?"
I wasn't doing this by the book. There was no sense in it; he already knew all about it.
"I admit to feeling a bit disappointed", he replied calmly.
I don't quite understand, so I ask him to clarify this for me. Like a good, fighting homicidal maniac with a cause, he's rather joyous to oblige.
"Unproductive lives lead to the stagnation of our great society. I have done my research, 'doctor'. All of these people were totally forgotten by their families. It had been years since they had gone unrecorded by the IRS. No social security numbers. And the hooker? The seventeen years old? She had been walking the Bronx streets ever since she was able to walk. My disappointment is not being able to help mankind better. I got stopped at twenty-four."
This is a total surprise. Twenty-four?
"What do you mean, doctor?"
"Twenty-four? The file says fourteen. You mean to tell me there are ten others out there we still haven't found?" This was quite unexpected. Who would admit to more killings after being convicted?
Twenty-four, no less. The man is too far gone. Even for me. Mankind was not meant to be so deluded, so lost. All of a sudden, I feel like I've saved nothing in my existence. Then he breaks the silence.
"Well, you could say fourteen... But some of them I've had to kill twice..."
Intelligent man, Arthur Brooks. Too intelligent for his own good. If he knows his stuff, he'll probably behave and expect a transfer to a minimum security prison where he'll do community work while fooling his psychiatrist, and I'm not allowed to do anything to prevent it. And it isn't quite an incertainty. It is as if humanity is going totally off the rails.
Sometimes I wish I had stayed in the Pit. Hell was less suffering than this. We had sacrificed everything to make Man great, and now here I am, in the shithole called New York, to witness the rot that came to grip Man's heart. Lucifer never said it would be easy.
But where is Lucifer now? No Lightbringer on the dawn. Just the Damned that spews out of the Abyss to come here. And here I am, part of them in a strange land. In this 'Manhattan'.
As far as I remember while I was scouting the winds of Creation, this island never existed. It was sunken, for sure. Or maybe it was a place of rejoice for the Defilers, the Angels of the sea. Now... It is the New Babylon.
I am walking in those streets with waves after waves of humans passing me by, and no one knows. No one sees. They see the man in the woolen dark brown longcoat, the chestnut hair, the fine glasses, the black briefcase. Single women will notice the smooth shaving, the worried brown eyes, the Byronian demeanor, and will maybe try to cheer me up. Still, I can feel the treason screaming from what's left of Francis Moore's soul.
I had to kill a man to take his stead, his life and his memories, and the remnants of his conciousness still nags at me. Like the urge to see his wife again. To have another of those Club 21 fine bison steaks with italian wine. To buy that little chalet with Robertson, an old friend, and go deer hunting in the Appalachians.
But now it's somewhat hollow. Robertson now knows Francis P. Moore is no more, being the mortal shell for the angel Valariel. His friend has seen the angel and now worhips him. Offering his faith. Knowing, believing in his divine presence.
Alexander Robertson is gone. All that remains is his faith in Valariel. And that thought haunts me.
I walk back to Upper East Side Manhattan, to the lobby of Moore's condominium. Night has fallen. I hang the coat and have a shower. My wife -Moore's wife- would normally join me -him- in the shower after a long day such as this one. But she's no longer there. She has gone away when Moore was too taken by his work. That's when his soul got crushed. That's when the alcohol got to him. That's when I replaced the broken Francis.
Even tonight, I can't shake the feeling that I'm no better than that psychopath, Arthur Brooks.