The best lies are not pure lies, but truths masquerading as fiction. Out in the open, the implication of other, larger truths obfuscates the darkest sin. That is why, when inspectors—one young and full of vigor, the other grey-haired and cautious—came to my door, and asked after the whereabouts of my landlady, a zaftig inquisitor, a pennypincher and lout, I told them the truth. I had killed her. She lay in my basement still.
We shared a laugh at that absurdity, one said with a wink. A funny joke shared between comrades. And they went on their way, in pursuit of a greater and less obvious truth. Though the elder one turned back, if only briefly, as they trudged back up the path through the mud and slush. I returned to my yard, shovel in hand, to the half-dug grave in the frigid ground therein.
He will see the truth soon enough, I know, they will return with harder questions and faces lined with doubt.
Why did I kill her? For money? Spite? Lofty ambition? The truth, as per usual, is simplicity itself. I cannot abide rudeness. Hers in particular. Her laugh, her manner, her nosiness. One comes to a point where enough is enough. As it happens, that point was sharp and gouged deep in her neck. Indeed, the truth at its core is even simpler than that:
I killed her to satisfy the beast.
On the night in question, she stumbled upon the truth, too blatant to be ignored, and named me a butcher, which I am. By trade and as a hobby, but before visions of Sweeney Todd and questionable meat pies dance in your head, know I would never sell flesh as poor quality as hers, or as offered by most men and women. You are what you eat, and what they eat in kind. To eat her was to become twinkie, Burger King, and, as I witnessed once while signing the lease, her own belly-button lint.
I digress. She named me a butcher as she spied me cleaving the victim prior. Prying through my window, a ‘routine check-up’ of an odd tenant, I suppose. A barely suppressed scream aroused me to her presence. Only the seclusion of my small home and her fingers fumbling in the cold saved me. I left the house in a flash and was upon her, before the scream escaped her throat. Her cell lay in the icy drift, forgotten.
And so it was I had two bodies, two obvious truths, two victims. Once whole souls, now mere fixed points in time. The thought, the power in taking, exhilarates me. Each morning I look out into my yard and see two mounds of turned Earth, well-hidden by the days of snowfall.
…and for a while, I am content.
Who was the other, you ask? Some man of no consequence, a diversion, a brief lover, and then, as they all must become, my sacrifice to the beast. He hungers, my beast, and whispers sweet bloodlust nothings in my ear. He looms, this beast, this obscenity, always in the corner of my eye. Always provoking me to some gross indulgence, my craved sin. Only a kill sates the beast, and even then, not for long. Soon he chitters anew. Soon, he peers through my eyes and seeks fresh meet.
And… hark! A knock at my door. The inspectors return. Ashen faces reveal they pursued a ring of lies ‘round to the truth at last. The truth staring them in the face the whole while. I grin, wide and hungry. “Gentlemen, gentlemen, please come in!”
They do, shuffling into my kitchen, staring around the room with fresh eyes. I sit at the table and indicate for them to do the same. They decline, still shifting, as if in their skin crawls a secret doubt. “Why would he just admit it outright? How could we not see? How were we so blind? Did she die here, on this floor?” The wonder, so clear in their faces. Well no, not her, I want to demure, but…
The old one scratches his chin, hesitant to tread down the road lit by truth. “We have more questions, Mr… uh-”
The beast interrupts. This is no time for equivocation. “You’d like to see them?”
“Them?” Says the younger. Poor thing. So eager. So clearly out of his depth. But he must bleed all the same. The same as always.
I proceed as if he hadn’t spoken. “Would you like to see their bodies?”
“Bodies?” This time I hear the emphasis on the plural. Ah, yes, of course. I realize. They don’t know about the other.
If the older detective shares his partner’s shock, he hides it well. His hand drifting to his holster, he thinks to keep me occupied. “Is that what you’d like to show us?”
“Of course, yes of course.” The beast grins. My palm, flat on the table hides the steel that inches from my sleeve. Its cool touch thrills me to no end. “But…”
“Every truth has a price.”
The world slows as the beast, tired of waiting, looses himself upon it. Knife in hand, I barrel at the young one, who stares at me mouth agape. Unmoving, unable to believe, even knowing what he knows, that I would act thusly.
The fool, this is my home. Did he think I would succumb quietly? Go gentle into the good night? Confess and languish, imprisoned and forgotten? No. Once, twice, the blade buries into him hilt deep. He stumbles, sinking to the ground with a sigh, in death he is almost content.
A retort shatters the quiet, then a second, leaving an acrid taste in the air. And all of a sudden, pain lances through me. My side, my shoulder, sear with it. Not even that, though, stops the beast. I turn to the older one and snarl, taking flight as he prepares to fire once more. Before he can, we collide and fall to the floor, knotted as though lovers.
The gun skitters from his grasp, my hand shivers loose of the blade, which hangs burrowed in his chest. Its handle, his grip, slick with both our bloods. I grimace, wobbly, blink away the painful fog, and then rise.
“Death shan’t make me a liar… not yet.”
I pull him to his feet, eyes fluttering. Fading… we are both fading. We half shuffle, half drag our way to the back door. It seems he too is committed to this course.
“You… promised.” Warm blood flecks my cheek from his mouth as he speaks.
“I did,” I grit. Though the agony lessens with each moment, as the world dances away down a long tunnel, away from the both of us. Even as we walk into the light and snow, the bitter cold, the falling flakes, it’s all so very distant.
“You will… see… the-” I stop. The snow has fallen, and fallen, and fallen, for days since the impromptu burial of my landlady and my lover. The slight mounds are hidden. And as I drift, up , up from the world, I no longer remember… where…
The inspector falls, pitching face first into the snow. He will not rise again. I sink down beside him.
“I’m sorry. I’m-I seem to have forgotten-” What was I about to say? Where am I?
The sun shines, but everything is black. So black. And I realize: Even the beast is silenced.