“Either he’s dead, or my watch has stopped.”
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As I was sitting at my desk, ready to call it a night, in the darkness of my office, the door behind me opened abruptly, and there stood P*I* Smithers in the doorway, panting like a frantic dog.
“Sergeant Minutes!” he shouted, his silhouette spread-eagle, covering nearly the whole of the frame. I was leaning back in my swivel chair, my feet upon the surface of my desk, and my hands folded behind my head. “There was a suicide on Drury Lane about five minutes ago! They’re calling for the police, but they haven’t responded, backed up in Hartford, and———”
“Calm down, Smithers,” said I. “The Connecticut Police haven’t responded with a call?”
“No, Sergeant!” he said, saluting to me. “They’re busy with cases in Hartford and New London—we’ve called them several times with no answer———”
“I’ll try them myself,” I said. It was a lonesome night in October. Close to Halloween. The Drury Lane Police Department is always busy around this time. Mostly mischievous teenagers egging houses or scaring dogs with their costumes. Nothing I haven’t seen before. We get the occasional suicide or homicide; they’re a rarity in these parts, usually mentally disabled folks whom escaped from the Looney House or robberies. P*I* Smithers walked across the threshold, stopping beside my desk. He sat in the empty armchair, eyeing my actions as I dialed the Hartford Police Department. It rang several minutes. Both of us were silent, staring into each other’s eyes. The ringing stopped and a female voice answered on the line.
“Hartford Police Department. How may I help you?”
“Hello—This is Sergeant Miles Minus Minutes, of Drury Lane Police Department. One of our P*I*s was on duty and witnessed a suicide. He said he tried to phone you for several minutes with no answer. You claimed you’re forces are backed-up in Hartford and New London?”
“We haven’t received a call from Drury Lane Police Department this evening. I have no idea what you’re talking about, Sergeant Minutes.”
There was a dead silence for a few moments. I listened intently to Smithers’s heavy breathing as he stared at me with his crystal green eyes. I covered the speaker with the palm of my hand. A cool breeze blew in from the open window opposite us—a four-paneled, rectangular window with a crow sitting on the sill, squawking into the moonlight. Crickets were playing their symphony orchestra. An owl hooted into the eerie darkness. I could barely see his face in the darkness, except his face and ghastly face.
“The lady says they haven’t received a call from you.”
“That’s impossible, Sergeant!” he said. “I just phoned them ten minutes ago.”
“The muffin shop across the street from the crime scene.”
“Are you telling me the truth, Smithers?” My heart was racing. I broke out into a cold sweat. His face grew even more paler, and I saw his own sweat form on his forehead. His gloved hand touched the cuff of my uniform, and he spoke in a soft voice, very plainly, yet eerily calm and innocent.
“Why would I lie to you, Sergeant? If you don’t believe me, come to the muffin shop. I have my unit there investigating the crime scene. We’re bringing the body to the Morgue at midnight. In fact, P*I* Barnum was asking for you. I have my notebook in my pocket. Want to see my notes?”
“No, Smithers.” Here I uncovered the speaker. “Ma’am? My P*I* claims he indeed did call you from the muffin shop in Drury Lane. He has his unit there investigating the suicide as we speak.”
“I’ll check today’s records once more, Sergeant Minutes. Give me a few moments.”
She placed me on hold.
Smithers rose from the chair. He walked over to the doorway and grabbed the kerosene lantern hanging by the golden hook. He set it upon my desk, turned the fuel cap to the right, and a bright luminescence sprang forth from the glass compartment. Black smoke breathed from the metallic chimney. I could see Smithers fully now. His black uniform—the trenchcoat and the bowler around his head—blended with the blackness, and his white, gloved hands reached into his trouser’s pocket, pulling out a spiraled notebook.
I coughed to break the silence.
“The man who committed suicide is named Jasper Johns,” he said, solemnly. “Originally an inhabitant of New Haven, he moved to Drury Lane two years ago in order to ‘settle down.’ He was a taxi driver by profession; a member of the Masons. He lived alone, mostly. The neighbors say they saw a ‘female acquaintance’ enter his house a few times, but rarely. He has a history of mental disorders and suffered with a grueling disfigurement of his body—he was always skinny but ate like a horse, never gaining a pound, frail to the bones, on the verge of collapse.”
“Intriguing,” said I. The voice of the Madam begged my pardon and spoke to me.
“Sergeant Minutes, I deeply apologize. We did receive a call from the Drury Lane Muffin Expo at ten hours, five minutes this evening. We were so busy with cases in Hartford and New London that we did not have a minute to spare to answer your call.”
“No worries. How soon can you send a unit?”
“In about thirty minutes. We’re awfully busy———”
“Get there as soon as you can. Tally-ho!” I hung up the receiver.
“Sergeant Minutes,” said Smithers, flipping through the pages of his notebook. “Shall we go there? I mean, not that my unit can’t handle it, but at least to gather more information?”
I rose from my swivel chair. I grabbed my coat from the closet behind me.
“Smithers, you’re a fine lad. You’re doing a superb job.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“No time for petty talk! Off we go!”
He crossed the threshold before I did. I looked back into my office one last time. The darkness swallowed it whole like a hungry lion. Smithers descended the stairs. The hallway was lit with bright lights upon the white ceiling—cast in a vagrant, golden glow. The brick walls drew our shadows with ink. I sighed. Drury Lane is a mysterious town indeed. Smithers coughed in the silence. I shut the door behind me—lock tightly, cross yourself, pray to the Good Lord for a good night’s case, and bless your soul. I stared at the golden lion’s head upon my door: a doorknocker given to me by the department for good service. Its growl and smile irked me immensely—almost a wicked smile. Smithers call up to me. I placed my gloved hands in my pockets, bowing my head, and reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Halloween was the Devil’s Holiday. Something was telling me that evil was afoot. I descended the stairs, the cool breeze of the night grabbing the cuffs of my pants as I walked out into the moonlight.
10:30—We arrived at the Drury Lane Muffin Expo surrounded by Smithers’s unit and an ambulance. Most of them were sitting in the muffin shop eating and downing several cups of coffee and tea. Lights were blazing from the police cars and ambulance truck. Smithers ordered a pink-icing donut and coffee. I ordered a tea with milk. We sat down at went over his notes. The expo had an aqua-tiled floor and pink walls. Laughter from the other men in the room. From the windows I saw the ambulance load a covered body on a stretcher into the truck and shut the door tightly.
10:45—P*I* Barnum came from the counter, carrying a chocolate muffin and his cup of French flavored coffee. His black moustache wiggled as he began to speak, eating his delicious treat, amid the shouting of the female cashier calling out order-numbers.
“Evening, Sergeant Minutes.”
He looked over to Smithers, who had his cheeks full of his own treat.
“It seems we have a suspect, Mr. Smithers.”
Smithers looked at Barnum with bulging eyes. He swallowed his donut—coughed ferociously. I thought he choked, his face was so red. He banged his chest with his fist, continuing his heavy breathing. He drank a mouthful of his hot liquid and raised an eyebrow. He thumbed the corner of his moustache, frowning. I continued to take my own notes.
“A suspect?” he questioned. “You mean an arrest was made past curfew?”
“No arrest—just questioned.”
“The suspect is female, aged thirty. Christened ‘Crystal O. Mancy.’ Resident of Hartford. Knew Jasper Johns very well. Said he was a ‘nice guy.’ That’s all we have so far, sir.”
Smithers scribbled into his notebook.
“Where is this ‘Crystal O. Mancy’ you speak of, Barnum?” I said.
“She’s sitting on the front porch of the crime scene, Sergeant.”
10:55—We left the Muffin Expo after our little break. We talked vigorously with the ambulance, who failed to give us adequate information. P*I* Philips, the youngest of Smithers’s unit, bade our welcome and gestured us toward the house across the street, which was illuminated faintly by the street lights. Every P*I* in the unit was dressed like Smithers and myself. Commotion began amongst them—a rhythm of low, whispering voices in unison. I kept watch of the area. The “kids” like to come out in this hour of the night. The cool breeze blew across the tops of our shiny black shoes. Single-file, ten-hut! We marched in a line toward the drooping house with a pointed roof. The yellow CAUTION! tape was wrapped around the rickety, white porch. Officers from another unit shined their flashlights at us. Smithers hung the lantern upon a nail sticking out from one of the two poles supporting the frame of the porch. Sitting on the steps was a silent, solemn woman. She looked about thirty years of age.
11:00—Suspect in question is identified as Crystal O. Mancy, from Hartford. Graduate student of NYU—Associate’s in philosophy. Came to Connecticut to visit family. Says she met Jasper Johns at the Muffin Expo two years ago. He was thirty, she twenty. They talked over muffins of their lives and dreams. He offered her to stay with him while she toured the state. She accepted his offer, and fell instantly in love with him, although their contact was ‘on and off.’
“He began to act very strangely,” she said as we questioned her. She was a brunette—her hair fashioned in the style of vaudeville flappers. She wore a pink pajamas, as I could guess, but I am not a connoisseur of clothing. “He always complained of the weather and the dreams he had the previous night. He called me regularly to talk out his worries, but I ignored them, thinking that he just had a lot on his mind. Then, about a week or so later—it was in August—his behavior changed for the worse.”
“What exactly happened, Ms. Mancy?” I asked. Cameras took photographs of the crime scene; P*I* Saxe-Coburg was riding his dapple-gray horse amid the ruckus of the investigation. I was scribbling as fast as I could. Smithers ordered his men to enter the house and take more photographs, retrieve the body. They did as ordered. The moonlight grew brighter overhead, and a chorus of owls hooted into the miserable blackness.
“Well, when it was ungodly hot, he would wear a sweater. When it was awfully cold, as in winter, he wore shorts and tee-shirts.”
“And?” I mentioned. It wasn’t odd behavior—maybe just personal preference.
“Have you ever seen a person wear a sweater in summer, Sergeant Minutes?” she asked me, her gorgeous green eyes staring at mine, her lashes blinking rapidly.
“Well...can’t say that I have.”
“Exactly. I can see them wearing a long-sleeved shirt during the night when its chilly, but during the daylight hours when its warm—that’s preposterous!”
“Did he ever say why?” I questioned.
“His explanation was that he always felt cold—really, awfully cold—when it was extremely hot out. And vice-vera: when it was ungodly, terribly cold out, he complained that he was burning up.”
She spoked with heightened fervor, as if anxious. Her hand touched her bosom and she began to breathe heavy. Her body then froze suddenly—petrified, she was! I called to my men, who came in hurry. She began to convulse violently. She screamed bloody murder. She called to his name—that shrieking, godless bellow! The ambulance came rushing through us and carried her to the back of the truck. Her convulsions ceased; she panted, leaning forward, brushing her crisp, brown hair from her pretty face.
11:10—After ten minutes of rituals to calm her down, she managed to speak once more. My men questioned her on numerous topics, from Jasper Johns’s diet to his hobbies and personal preferences. However, whenever we asked her why he would commit suicide, she would say, in the calmest of voices:
“I cannot answer that question.”
“Why not, Ms. Mancy?” asked Smithers, who held her hand firmly, friendly and sincere.
“I promised him that I would not utter a word about his dreams—what they were about.”
“So his suicide was connected to his dreams?” asked Saxe-Coburg, who began to take his own notes.
“Yes—but I cannot say why he killed himself.”
“You do realize that if you fail to answer us, Ms. Mancy, that you’ll be put into custody?” said Barnum, who was previously chatting with the ambulance.
“I understand. I cannot break a promise.”
“Very well then,” said I, grabbing my handcuffs. “Crystal O. Mancy, you are under-arrest for the murder of Jasper Johns.”
“But I did not murder him!” she shrieked, struggling to get out of the cuffs, resisting arrest with every inch of her life. She began to wail a god-awful wail; her struggles to release herself from the cuffs caused Smithers’s unit to intercede: to help me control her as her wails and shrieks pierced our eardrums. She finally ceased her rage—she sat on the stretcher silently, panting, looking at each of us with her deadly glare, and spoke once more. “If I tell you everything, will you promise to keep it a secret? I mean, he would not want this. After all, you are the police, and I understand you have to do your duty—but the events leading up to his suicide scare the shit out of me.”
“We can’t make promises, Ms. Mancy,” said Smithers, who opened the exit-door of the ambulance truck. “We’ve arrived at the hospital. All personnel are to proceed with direct orders. Suspect in custody will be brought the Drury Lane Police Department after the body has been unloaded and taken to the morgue. Ms. Mancy, you will come with Sergeant Minutes and I. We’ll recite your rites to you; on the way to the station, we ask you recite the story of Jasper Johns’s suicide, as you remember it. If we catch you lying, then behind bars you go, then euthanasia.”
“Why can’t I see your faces?” she asked us.
“You’ll see them soon enough,” I said.
11:25—Smithers hopped down from the truck. His unit followed him precisely. The formed two lines of three each, motioning Ms. Mancy to come forward. The ambulance had placed her in a straight-jacket. The corpse of Jasper Johns—covered by a white sheet, attached to a stretcher with belts—was rolled into the vicinity of the hospital. Smithers’s unit made haste, following the ambulance drivers, EMTs, and the stretcher carrying the corpse. Murmurs rang forth from the impenetrable darkness. Under the stars, Smithers led Ms. Mancy to our black Citroen, with the single oval-shaped light, placing her in the back seat. I opened the driver’s-side door. Smithers followed me, sitting in the passenger’s-side. He flipped through several sheets of notes until he found a clean one, exchanging his pen. I started the engine, slowly driving off.
“We’re waiting, Ms. Mancy,” said Smithers, looking behind the caged box which divided the Citroen in half. “Begin your ‘confession’—You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. We have no way of giving you a lawyer, but one will be appointed for you, if you wish, if and when you go to court. If you are not a citizen, you may contact your country’s consulate prior to any questioning. You can decide at any time from this moment on to terminate the interview and exercise these rights. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
After a long silence, the suspect in question sighed. “Yes,” she whispered.
“Yes for what?” asked Smithers.
“Excellent!” He clicked his pen. “Proceed with the aforesaid ‘confession.’ It will remain confidential until you are presented to the Court of Law in Hartford, in which case you are to present this story to the appropriate judge, but not to any other officer of the Connecticut police. If you wish, this ‘confession’ may not be printed in any form of media, and if you wish to remain anonymous, I can grant that to you. This story will be strictly held by myself and Sergeant Minutes unless, as I have said, presented in the Court of Law. Understand?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
“Proceed with ‘confession,’ Ms. Mancy.”
After a long sigh, she began to tell her story.
“It wasn’t very long after I graduated from NYU with an Associate’s in philosophy that I met Mr. Johns. I moved to Connecticut to visit my relatives. My Uncle Maxwell owned a pet shop in New London, not far from here. He reserved for me a pretty little calico cat named ‘His Whiskers’ as a graduation gift. His Whiskers was just a kitten. I took care of him for all his life after that. My Aunt Julia was a baker, working for the Muffin Expo until she unexpectedly died from pneumonia. I lived with my brother for a while in his apartment until I could find a profession. I became a tarot-card reader for Ms. Brown of New Haven. I worked in her shop as an apprentice for a couple of months. It was in this shop that I met Mr. Johns.
“He came in with great distress. He was an unusually skinny man. He wore a brown suit, all ragged and dusty, but not torn. His shoes were also brown, but the laces were untied. His body was skeletal in design: as I said, very skinny, anorexic-like. His nose was long and pointed, sort of Jewish, but who am I to judge? His eyes were droopy, sad, like a basset hound’s. A brown Gatsby covered his semi-balding head. An Adam’s apple poked out of his giraffe-like neck. He spoke so softly that it irritated me immensely; but he seemed like a genteel fellow, and merely wished for some advice. His voice—nasally as it was—went through me like fingernails on a chalkboard. He set his eerie green eyes upon me, and surveyed the purple room.
“‘Are you the owner of this place?’ he asked, raising his head, crane-like. He spoke nervously, and I could tell his body was twitching.
“‘No,’ I said. ‘But I work here.’
“‘Then maybe you could help me,’ he said. ‘I need a tarot-reader...I...how should I say...I need help with my life.’ After he said these words, he sunk low: his head bowed and shook, saddened he was. A terrible, tortured little man! I felt sorry for him then, but now I wished I hadn’t helped him at all.’
“‘You need a reading, sir?’ I mentioned, gathering the materials necessary to perform the ritual. ‘I can help you with that. What troubles you?’
“He stood there—in the doorway—motionless for several minutes, bitterly silent. He never spoke a single word, only coughed. He twiddled his thumbs and whistled. Perhaps he was just thinking. From those moments, however, I knew that something was dreadfully wrong with the man. It was an unbearably hot day, and I could see him shiver, as if cold. I put out customers’s chair in front of the small, circular table in front of me. The red tablecloth had upon it Ms. Brown’s crystal ball. Beside my arm was a pack of tarot cards. He saw me do this. He coughed once more, sitting in the chair, still twiddling his thumbs. He took his hat off and began to play with it.
“‘Is it me, or is it cold in here?’ he asked.
“‘Well, we can’t afford an air-conditioner—so no,’ I said.
“‘Nevermind. Just me, I guess. I apologize.’ His nervousness was more severe now.
“‘Sir, are you alright?’ I asked. ‘You’re really jittery and nervous. You want something to drink? We have refreshments.’
“‘No—no, I’m alright. Just proceed with this reading. I need answers.’
“‘What exactly is it you need to know?’ I asked. I tried to be as gentle as possible, but it was difficult. He became increasingly nervous each passing minute, and I could see sweat-beads forming on his forehead. He closed his eyes, his teeth chattering. He really was cold! Nevertheless, I began to deal the cards and he stared hard into the crystal ball, trying his best not to shiver. He frightened me. I did not want to look at him, but I could not deny his request for a reading.
“‘Can you interpret dreams?’ he asked as I dealt the cards.
“‘I’m not Sigmund Freud,’ I joked, ‘but I’ll do the best I can.’ Here I smiled.
“He smirked. ‘Well, I’ve been having strange dreams lately, Ma’am. Every night at exactly three o’clock in the morning. I always wake up in a cold sweat. I try to fall back asleep; it’s useless. They keep coming back.’
“‘What are dreams about, Mr.—’
“‘Johns. My name is Jasper J. Johns.’ He smiled.
“‘Yes, Mr. Johns. What are your dreams about?’ I finished dealing the cards, looking at him. His smile was crooked. His nervousness grew worse—he did not want to tell me. It looked as if he were fighting his conscience. Do I tell her, or don’t I? That’s the feeling I got. Instead, he sighed and began to speak as I prepared the crystal ball.
“‘I keep dreaming of this creature,’ he said. ‘A strange one.’
“‘I see,’ I said, looking into the glass reader. ‘What kind of creature?’
“‘A...k-kangaroo,’ he hesitated. ‘A gigantic, pink-furred kangaroo with purple polka-dots, on roller skates, sunglasses on its eyes, red boxing gloves, wearing a purple turtle-neck sweater. Its nose is also pink, and very moist. It is female—she talks to me. Says her name is Laverne. In these dreams, we always meet in this white area. She towers over me and laughs like a maniac. She tells me she’s going to get me—she runs after me and I run, but can’t, because my feet always feel like they’re stuck in concrete. As I try to run, she laughs, a mighty roar it is, and before it ends, she punches me in the back with one of her boxing gloves—and I wake up. Every night this happens, exactly the same! What does it mean?’
“Now, I am not an insane woman, but that monologue caused such a reaction in my brain that I wanted to laugh hysterically. I hesitated, however. My job was to help people, insane or not. We stared into each other’s eyes for several long minutes. He did not move a single inch. His eyes blinked repeatedly. His smirked returned, widened slightly. I tried to ‘interpret’ his dream with the cards—but as it goes, nothing happened, because it’s all just a gag for money. I couldn’t let him sit there and wonder. This man was troubled and needed help. I couldn’t help but to laugh to myself—and I tell you, sirs, that I have never heard of such a thing in my life. He continued to play with his hat, awaiting my explanation.
“‘That is indeed strange, Mr. Johns,’ I said, nervously. ‘The cards say nothing now. Maybe the crystal ball will tell us something.’
“‘If you can’t help me, that’s alright,’ he said. ‘People find me weird as it is already. I’m not weird—just misunderstood.’
“‘If you ask me, people dreaming of pink kangaroos is a little farfetched,’ I joked.
“‘This isn’t a joke, Ma’am. She haunts me every single fucking day that I exist! I can’t stand it anymore!’ he shrieked. He rose from the chair, moaning like an insane man. He grabbed his head tumultuously, screaming at the top of his lungs. His rage was so violent that I thought he would kill me. He leaned on the carpeted floor, shaking his head, saliva forming on his mouth like a rabid dog. He pounded the floor with his fists. ‘She won’t leave me alone!’ he growled, his voice demonic—possessed. ‘Every day I’m either hot or cold! On hot days I am freezing at sub-zero; on cold days, I’m burning up, melting in a volcano! Why? Why? Why are you punishing me, GOD ALMIGHTY!’ He rose, rushing out the door of the shop, without paying me, crying like an innocent child. I sat where I was, dumbstruck, trying to decipher what exactly happened.
“The next several days saw me going to his house. Don’t ask me why, because I haven’t the faintest idea. On my way to Ms Brown’s one day, I saw him walking alone down the sidewalk, toward the Muffin Expo. I followed him knowing that it was stalking, but I had to figure out what troubled this strange man. He went inside—I hid behind a series of bushes across the street. I watched in earnest: he was in there for about ten minutes. The beholders ignored me. It was a sunny day in July. Temperature was about ninety-degrees. And yet, when he reappeared in front of the Muffin Expo, he was wearing a sweater and pants! I tell you, sirs, he was a demented soul. He was eating a bran muffin with an iced tea. He crossed the street in haste, making his way to the house next to me. The house was a rickety-sort of bungalow, misshapen, dreary, the paint peeling. Trees covered the house like a bewildered, evil canopy. He entered the house, slamming the door behind him.
“What I am about to tell you, you make think I am insane; rest assured, sirs, I am not insane—merely a woman of my word, for I snuck out of the bushes, tip-toeing, quietly, up to the broken windows of the bungalow. What I saw was Jasper Johns talking to himself erratically; not only talking but answering himself! Yes! He would actually hold a conversation. He would speak, then he would answer in a higher-pitched voice, trying to sound female. There would be intervals of seconds were he would not answer—just pause and stare off into space. He then shout that horrible name—that thing he dreaded—the name I heard in the shop—his living nightmare, I tell you!
“‘LAVERNE!’ he shouted. ‘LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE AND NEVER COME BACK, YOU STUPID BITCH FROM HELL!’
“And then he would answer, in his feminine voice:
“‘Poor, poor Jasper! Afraid? Why, I am going to get you! Unless you’re a good little boy and do as I say, not as I do. I don’t want to hurt you—just play.’
“‘I DON’T WANT TO PLAY WITH YOU!’ he shouted in return ‘JUST STOP! GO AWAY! LEAVE MY LONELINESS UNBROKEN!’
“‘But why? Afraid to face the facts of reality?’
“His blood-curdling screams gave me goosebumps. I dashed off, heading toward my brother’s apartment. That evening, over supper, my brother asked me what bothered myself. I told him nothing and simply went to bed. I had a restless night, sirs. I couldn’t sleep nor dream; just lie there awake, staring at my ceiling fan, his voice echoing in my conscience. That image of that damned kangaroo never left my mind that night. And I am not afraid of anything. The conclusion of my tale will surely make your bones rattle—it will be difficult to recite, but I’ll do the best I can.
“I’m sure you know about the Drury Lane Public Photography Festival? It’s held every October. It was two days ago, yes. Pictures are taken for free, free refreshments, you know the whole drill. I did not register because I hate getting my picture taken. One of the many phobias I have. I went just for ‘something to do,’ you know. Well, it so happens Jasper Johns was there. He was standing in line, which began down at Peabody Street and ended at the Muffin Expo. Picture after picture was taken—not in the least bit did time crawl slowly. I just simply watched. Yet again, maybe it was him that I wanted to see. It would seem strange to you men what I felt: but I thought I was falling madly in love with him. Perhaps I was. When it was his turn, the people welcomed him with glee. He smiled brightly. He seemed in every way normal. He shook hands, bade hello, kissed the ladies, so forth. He was next—he sat upon the cardboard box, the bright smile glued to his face, and he sat there like a statue. His hat off in his lap, his hands folded, his teeth glowed in the camera-light; then the photographer said ‘Smile,’ which he had already done. The lights flashed consecutively four times. Four pictures tumbled out of the printer to the camera, tumbling to their doom upon the sidewalk.
“Mr. Johns rose from the box. The photographer shook his hand, the pictures picked up and handed to the deranged personage. And when he looked at them, a hideous paleness entered his face. He turned ghostly white—his whole body did. He became a frozen ice statue! His hand trembled horrifically—then came those hideous, nightmarish screams! ‘NO!’ he screamed, still staring into the fresh photographs. Finally he moved. He ran through the crowd of confused people, all looking at him as if he were insane. The four pictures tumbled once again to their doom. The photographer picked them up and handed them to one of his assistants, who placed them into another box beside the camera. I stalked my way through the crowd, inch-by-inch, until I reached the photographer. His assistant asked me what I needed.
“‘May I see that man’s pictures?’ I asked. Lying, I said, ‘I’m his sister.’
“He handed me the photographs. Sirs, until I am totally dead—until my soul has departed into the Afterlife, until I face God Almighty myself, nothing will ever make me forget what I saw in those pictures. They were so hideous, evil, that I still think to this very night that they were possessed. Sirs, I am not a liar—I am a sane woman: and I tell you that I saw that damned, pink, hellish kangaroo standing behind Jasper Johns in those photographs! That kangaroo, with the sunglasses and purple sweater, was in the backdrop smiling, her boxing gloved-paws resting upon his shoulders! Sirs, either we’re in a twilight zone, or I am indeed insane—I cannot tell you how frightened I was when I saw that image. I myself froze, petrified, in my tracks. I whispered ‘Oh my God,’ under my breath. And now I pity him. As strange as my story sounds, it is the truth! I put the photographs back into the box and dashed toward his house.
“I heard his cries from a distance. He left his front door ajar. I walked in. He never had the lights on—it was dusty inside, bookshelves full, dark furniture, a television that showed static, etcetera. That was the last I saw of him. I always walked there everyday after classes were over to see if he was alright. And that’s why you saw me there hours ago. I hadn’t heard from him. It’s a shame. He was a nice man, but tortured by some demon that I can’t even explain. Whatever this ‘Laverne’ was, she was a part of him. Sirs, I am not a murderess. I had heard of his suicide earlier this evening, so I rushed over to pay my respects to his departed soul. I hope he’s in a better life now. Make what you want of my story. Regard it as fact or fiction. We’re all sinners—all liars—all imperfect in the Eyes of God. I just hope that demon was put to rest once and for all. May he rest in peace. God rest you, merry gentlemen. I thus conclude.”
Midnight—Arrived at the station. Smithers wrote Ms. Mancy’s “confession” with ease. Two guards met us at the gates where the cells are. Smithers got out, heading for the back. Two other Citroens rolled onto the gravel of the lot. Saxe-Coburg and Barnum met Smithers at the back of my Citroen, opening the door to let the suspect free. Saxe-Coburg and Barnum led her to the guards. Smithers shook his head.
“A likely story,” he said. “Demonic kangaroos?”
“Indeed,” I said, through the open window. I lit a cigar. “Maybe she is mad.”
Ms. Mancy was led into the jailhouse. She walked without giving in, which is unusual. However, as I chatted with Smithers, we heard the most god-awful of screams. It was Ms. Mancy as she was led into the jailhouse. She struggled with the guards. She kicked them, bit their arms with her teeth, screaming as if being abused. I got out of the car quickly. I ordered my men to aim their pistols at the suspect in custody. She screamed—wailed—fought her way to freedom as the straightjacket ripped loose from her body. She stood in the darkness, under the threshold of the jailhouse, in the blinding white light, seemingly possessed by a demon, grabbing the cuffs of her hair.
“GO TO HELL YOU FUCKING MARSUPIALS!” she screamed.
She ran toward us, flailing her arms, crying.
“Ready—aim—fire!” I ordered.
Forty-two rounds pierced her body. Blood squirted from her veins. She dropped dead upon the gravel stoneyard, “deader than a doornail.”
Smithers walked to the limp body. “What do you suppose that was about?”
“I have no idea, Smithers,” said I.
“Maybe her story does have truth.”
“I doubt it.”
12:10—Case was closed. Back in my office, I shut it down for the rest of the night. Time to go home. Smithers met me in the hallway.
“Goodnight, Sergeant,” he said.
“Goodnight, my lad,” I said.
“Do you think she was insane?”
“I don’t know. We’ll have to examine her story in the morning. I need rest now.”
“Yeah—I have four little Joeys at home waiting for Daddy.”
“Ah yes—children! The fruit of life!”
“Shall we meet for breakfast?”
“Sure. Macropus Hall, nine sharp?”
As we neared the door, we had one last dialogue.
“What do you suppose she meant by ‘Go to hell, you fucking marsupials?’”
“Maybe she has a thing against kangaroos.”
DRURY LANE TIMES
Two deaths spark controversy; Drury Lane Police taken to court!
Strange marsupial taken into custody to nearby Zoo—Page F1!
“A kangaroo court will be held today at New London, in the wake of a hideous
shootout by Drury Lane Police last night at Macropus Jailhouse. The victim,
thirty-year-old Crystal O. Mancy, graduate of NYU, was shot to death by Sergeant
Miles Minus Minutes and his unit after Ms. Mancy was taken into custody, on charges
of the murder of Mr. Jasper Johns, who died in his bungalow yesterday evening in
his bedroom. The unit, seven large kangaroos dressed in Victorian England police
uniforms, will meet with the Connecticut Police Commissioner this afternoon.
A strange kangaroo was spotted in the woods of Drury Lane this morning.
Connecticut State Police claim it matches the description found in the notebook
of P*I* Smithers, a member of the Drury Lane Police Force. The kangaroo was
taken peacefully, and caged in the New Haven Zoo for the time being. Scientists
from Australia are doing experimentation with the animal, to see what is causing
its strange anatomy and coloring. The kangaroo, named ‘Laverne,’ is said to
be the murder of Jasper Johns—autopsy reports show that Mr. Johns’s rib-cage
was broken by a ‘forceful, powerful punch,’ evidenced by the boxing gloves found
on Laverne’s two front paws—subsequent reports show blood on the kangaroo’s lower jaw.”