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- The first true crime account ever published, if you believe in said things, was the Old Testament. Cain and Abel was a great influence.
So you’re comparing yourself to God ?
He smiled. The action of smiling seemed to be enough to rattle the chains wrapped around his body. They rang against the metal chair he was sitting on.
He said – Who said God even wrote that ? It was a reporter. Just like you.
I pretend to jot down my notes. My pen scratches. His voice breaks through my pretending.
- If you believe in such things.
I forced myself to look up. To look into the face that seemed wild and feral, a wolf that was at rest but never really done with hunting.
The smiling face of death organically humanized.
- It looks like a pretzel.
The patrolman laying the crime scene tape says this to me. I studied the car wreck in the middle of Main street.
He got up and asked for my ID. I hand him a plastic card.
- Harry Slate from The Bugle.
He takes a glance at the five year old photo and then at me before handing it back. I clip it to the ID holder around my neck.
I say to him : I wouldn’t have used “pretzel ”.
A head-on collision looked more like two crushed soda cans glued together at the ends, and then crushed again as one whole unit.
I spotted the detective, the one wearing jogging pants and an overcoat.
I ask for a summary.
- Guy decides to drive down Main street the opposite way. Like two rams smashing into each other. Never stood a chance.
I ask about drugs or booze. He says :
- Clean. Only found this.
He hands me a paperback book : Animal – The Memoirs of John Felix Grey.
The day of his execution, John Felix Grey - the most prolific serial killer since Robert Pickton and his pig farm - asked me to do his last interview. As I walked towards the main entrance, hundreds of people were lined up on the other side of the thirty-foot fence surrounding the compound.
They chanted Grey’s name.
Signs saying they loved him, wanted to marry him, and that he should be freed, were bouncing back and forth.
John Felix Grey was the first death-row serial killer who had published a book. My editor wanted me to write a piece on it.
It had only been released a week before he was scheduled to be executed.
I found out later that all of the proceeds from the book were going to the families of his victims
The last thing I heard when I got in the prison were the doors clanging shut behind me.
Three days ago a twenty-two year old student threw his girlfriend off of a flight of stairs…
A librarian went on a rampage at work shooting up students, children, and grandparents…
A garbage man drove his truck through every red light and every car that got in his way. He then stopped in the middle of the street, turned on the trash compactor, and jumped in after killing more than ten civilians and injuring dozens of motorists….
All of them owned a copy of Animal.
- Y’see, all the shrinks ? They got it wrong. Killing ? It’s a sport, a past-time. That means you gotta keep score.
So that’s the book ? To show the world your score ?
- In a matter of speakin’…
And you asked for a last interview because you wanted to, what, brag about it ?
He smiled with those vampire teeth of his. His glasses had slid off his nose. He peered at me through the bottom part of the lenses.
- You ask a lot of questions. You’re smart…Intelligent, even…. Ever tried killing ?
Can’t say that I have.
- To be a great killer you have to ask great questions. You ask yourself if you really know what you’re doing. You ask yourself if you’re prepared to face everybody.
Its self discovery, is what it is.
He leaned in closer to me. His breath smelled like steak sauce and meat.
We’ll make a killer out of you yet…
A cashier at a grocery store tore off all her clothes, and then cut up five of her co-workers with a butcher knife she stole from the meat counter.
The cops had to shoot her because she didn’t stop even after they arrived. She died naked and covered in blood….
A custodian at the local zoo killed off five monkeys, one polar bear, and three giraffes with food doused in cyanide. He was on his way to the elephants when he was tackled by other zoo employees and stopped….
I check my local bookstore.
In two days they’ve sold out of Grey’s book.
- Did you know that Ann Rule practically created the idea of “True
Capote was the first crime writer, but Rule made it into a phenomenon by selling millions.
She wrote about her co-worker, Ted Bundy. She made him famous.
I tell him I had no idea.
He smiled at me :
- I watched on the news the other night. They say my book’s the fastest rising in sales about a killer since “Helter Skelter.”
I tell him the last number I heard was somewhere between fifty and seventy-five thousand copies in less than a week.
He paused. He was still smiling :
- Tell me Harry, have you reported on more murders involving people who read my book ?
I blink. The governor put a gag order on both the press and the police about the book being found at the crime scenes, because of the execution being so high profile.
He looks right into my eyes. The hairs on my arms stand up. The room is suddenly cold.
- I’ve been watching closely…free cable, and all….I know my work, Harry. I know what one of my kills looks like.
His stare is so deep I almost fall off the world. I start to sweat.
- “Catcher In The Rye” started itl with Chapman and Hinkley, but nobody thought anything of it. Everyone ignored it….
He leans in closer : - …My memoir is a legacy. My virus to the world.
My hands start to tremble. The room has turned into a meat locker.
His voice raises. He’s preaching to me as I feel my heart pound against my chest.
- It was always about numbers, Harry. The numbers were key….
He begins laughing as the guards grab him.
- …The Hillside Strangler killed 10, Dahmer chopped up 17, Gacy buried 33…
He’s yelling to me now as the guards try to drag him out of the room.
- …To keep score means to break a record, Harry. I’m about to become the first post-mortem killer. I’m the new Black Death, Harry ! Pushin’ 50 million !
There are four guards now pushing and pulling him out the door.
I am unique ! I’ve invented a new way to kill ! Violence begets violence, Harry ! Violence begets violence !
And his laugh echoes off the hallways and into the room, and no matter how tight I push my hands into my ears I can hear the shrillness in my head.
The rest of the cell block had gone quiet as they dragged him back to his cell. Rapists, pedophiles, murderers, bank robbers and thieves – all silent.
His laughter filled the entire prison.
Two days before I had received the book from the publisher. I had to email them a request for a copy using my press credentials. There wasn’t a copy of it in the stores by then.
I read the book in one night. The pregnant woman in the hospital who shot three nurses with a pistol had finally convinced me to do it.
She was just like the others. An average citizen who worked a job for a living, paid school taxes, and wondered what to cook for supper.
All of them had a copy of Animal.
The copies were all dog-eared, beat up, and marked.
Read over numerous times.
The book was surprisingly dramatic and emotional. It didn’t disturb like many would think. It somehow drew you into it. It was like he had been on a mission. Killing for a cause. Grey had been epic in his prose.
It made me think of JFK.
Of Martin Luther King.
It reminded me of Hitler’s speech in Germany.
I read it again.
And it was when I began circling parts of the text with a pencil that I knew what had happened to me.
Slowly and without a thought I was infected.
I left the prison through the main gate. I passed the John Felix Grey fan club lined up along the fence.
The state made a special request for gas to be used on Grey instead of the needle.
My watch said 1:17pm.
He just smelt the first pine oil fumes. He’d be dead in 25 minutes.
I got in my car. The two pistols sat on the passenger seat.
Animal was about to go for a second printing. It was a publishing record for a book in that genre.
It had to be stopped. Destroyed.
The publisher needed to understand they had created a plague.
They needed to know that John Felix Grey would live again.
Spawned from the bloodlust that we seem to crave for more and more everyday.
I needed to make them understand.
I made sure the safeties were off.