The following story is by guest contributor Frederick K. Foote, Jr. Frederick has published over forty works since 2013. You can find his work online at spectermagazine.com, akashicbooks.com, pikerpress.com, everydayfiction.com, Cooper Street Journal, The Fable Online, So Glad Is My Heart, birdspiledloosely, Sirenzine, The Blue Falcon Review Vol.2, CMC Review, and Freedomfiction.com. He has three other stories on Short Fiction Break: here, here, and here.
I’m Detective First Class, Faith Garner. At three-thirty in the morning, in an alley in the low rent district, in the hot and sticky part of August that promotes mayhem and murder, I attend my first homicide of the day.
The alley is blocked at both ends by patrol cars and guarded by officers at each end. I see two crime scene technicians working in the alley.
I thank the patrol officer for giving me a lift. Jameson, my partner of two years, steps out of his unmarked police car.
Jameson is at his jocular best on these occasions. “Jesus Christ, Garner. What is that you’re wearing? Is that a Sears of Roebuck original? You didn’t have to do all that for me. Jeans, hiking boots and a Dickies’ men’s work shirt. If we have to be up at this time of the morning, I expect my female partners to show a little tit and shake a little ass, for Christ’s sake.”
The patrol officer starts to grin until I shoot him a look that transforms the grin into a grimace.
I ignore Jameson in his rumpled gray suit and stained tie. I use my phone/com in the speaker mode to check in on our computer system. “QT, this is Officer Faith Garner Badge Number 3218 with Officer Harold Jameson, Badge Number 2675 at Lancaster Way and Third Avenue. Possible homicide, do you have a case number for us?”
Good morning Detectives, your case number is, 08-2025-QUT-088-76T. Would you like me to repeat that?”
“Hey, QT, can you see us?”
Yes, Detective Jameson. I can see both of you via two surveillance cameras.
“QT, check out Garner. Is that regulation work clothes? I mean, we have to maintain some kind of dress code. The public expects at least that much of us. Shit, we don’t solve many crimes at least we can dress well, QT?”
Your union contract allows detectives great latitude in dress. There is no dress code specified in your contract.
My partner is an acquired taste. I have not yet acquired that taste, but Jameson is a very good murder cop. A little too physical at times and talks too much all the time, but we solve murders.
“QT, who’re the technicians on-site?”
Ramona Caldwell and Moses Foster. Would you like their arrival times on-site, Detective Garner?
“No thanks. Let’s go to work Jameson, and try to impress the public with our accomplishments even if we’re already a failure in our attire.”
“Us? What do you mean us? You the- What the fuck?”
Ramona and Moses have stepped back to reveal the body. It is a burnt black crisp child size figure in a fetal position with the skull smashed into a dozen burnt bones.
Ramona points at the ribs of the victim. “See the break there and there. The victim suffered extensive trauma to the torso prior to being burnt. The poor bastard.”
“Of course there is no wallet or ID or fingerprints to identify the crispy critter. Hazard a guess fellows. What was the cause of death?”
Moses responds to Jameson as he gathers, up his gear. “We can’t tell you shit. We can’t get, sex, age, time of death or how the body got crisped. The Chief Pathologist is coming out of the office to work this one.”
“Come on guys, you leaving us? The party’s just getting started.”
The Techs ignore my partner but Ramona stops for a moment as she passes me. “Sister, this shit ain’t right. This is some weird, scary ass shit. Pass on this one.” She pats me on the shoulder as she moves by me. I watch the two techs walk a little too fast as they leave the alley.
I approach the charred remains and sniff for accelerants, but there is only the charcoal burnt smell. I look for the remains of clothing or jewelry, but there are none. I sit beside the body to try and relive the events leading to the persons’ death. I get a sense of dread, malice, and fierce, implacable anger. I quickly move away across the alley and study the body from a distance.
“Harold, you’re quiet. You haven’t said a word in two minutes. That’s a new record for you.”
“What? What, I, I just kinda went blank there for a minute. Shit, those cowardly techs deserted us. Fuck em we’ll solve this one the old fashion way with good solid, basic police work. Right, partner? Hey, QT, give us a cause of death. You got the techs’ notes and the fucking Royal Library of Alexandria. Give us our first clue.”
I’m unable to provide a cause of death.
“What? You worthless hunk of junk. You need more information or what?”
Detective, I’m unable to establish that there is a death.
“Don’t fuck around with me machine. I will unplug you and sell you for scrap.”
I step in with my question for QT. “Are you saying that this carcass here is alive?”
There is the essence of life in those remains.
“What the fuck is the ‘essence of life?’ Is that a new perfume for the burnt, brutalized, bag of briquettes we have here?”
Detective Jameson, my analysis shows the remains still have a life force.
Jameson turns on me. “Oh, oh you got me. You got me good. This is some game you are playing with me. Sure, you and your Dr. know it all girlfriend rigged this shit. Well played Garner. Well played. Now let’s get for real and- who are you calling?”
I motion for Jameson to be quite. “Hello, Kenya, yeah, look check out QT’s conversation with Jameson and me. What’s up with QT’s artificial intelligence program? Has QT lost his way somehow? OK, thanks.”
“Wait, wait this is no joke? QT has gone bonkers, is several shy of a six-pack, is delusional. Come on, this has to be a joke.”
I shake my head no. I have other questions for our deranged computer. “What else can you tell us about the victim? Age? Sex? Identification?”
Of course, Detective. The being is over 4,000 years old and-
“Bullshit! What the fuck is wrong with you? Why are you fucking with us like this? This is fucking unbelievable.”
“Jameson, I think-“
“Fuck what you think Garner. Somebody is playing games here. That thing is deader than a fucking door nail.”
Detectives, if the being is dead and therefore harmless, why are both of you standing against the opposite wall as far as you can get from the body?
Jameson uses his handkerchief to wipe sweat from his face. We look at each other, at the body, back at each other and we stay where we are.
‘Sex? Do you know the sex?”
Detective Garner, the sex is developing or not yet determined. The being was in the process of selecting a sex.
I slide down the wall until I’m sitting. Sweat is running down my neck and dripping from my nose.
“Identification please if you can.”
Of course, Tvastr, Abyzou, Zeus, Hades, Jehovah, Satan, Jesus, Lucifer-
“Enough, please.” I pull out my shirt tails and use it to wipe my face.
Jameson is undoing and removing his tie. “Jehovah and Satan? Jehovah and Satan what are you saying? What the fuck are you getting at here? You have fucking lost it. We need to shut you down. Fuck!”
The being has been known by all these names at one time or another. This is only a partial listing. There 3,332 names for this being that I have discovered so far. I continue my search and-
“QT, it is getting oppressively hot. What’s happening with the temperature?”
Outside of the alley the temperature is 88 degrees Fahrenheit. It the alley it is 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Fuck the temperature bullshit. How do you know all this shit anyway?” Even as he speaks, Jameson is removing his suit jacket.
The being matches the descriptions in ancient text and-
“This is fucking insane. The fucking ‘being’ is a lump of charcoal.”
The being is manifesting itself in a flowing series, apparently in chronological order, of its previous forms. It is-
“Fuck! You can see it? Where the fuck is it?”
Detective Jameson, I can see the being. It is near its body. Don’t worry, the being is primarily interested in Detective Garner. The temperature in the alley is now 102 degrees. I continue my search-
“What is its interest in me? I need to know that, now.”
Based on my accumulated information to date, which is in a large part, myth, fable, and legend, it is interested in occupying or possessing your body and soul. Alley temperature is now 103 degrees.
I laugh. I can’t help myself. Jameson joins in. A tension breaker. My phone rings. I answer.
“Kenya, are you listening to this, this is ludicrous, bizarre… All computer functions are within normal limits… Kenya I love and respect you, but this, this is not normal… I don’t know. I don’t know what I want you to do. Don’t leave us. Keep an eye on us. Don’t leave us… Backup? For what? To do what? Ok, ok, Kenya, I love you.”
“Jesus, Garner, I didn’t know you had a tender side. I could use a little tender side myself right now, you know?”
“Call, Enola, Harold. This may not end well. Harold Call. Call now.”
Harold Jameson looks dejected, absolutely miserable.
“Harold, you didn’t break up with her? You did. Yes, you did you poor sad excuse for a human being.”
I stand. I pat Harold on the back.
“QT, how do I stop this 4,000 year old thing from possessing my body or soul? Or, can I stop it?”
“Come on, Garner, you are not falling for this shit be-“
“QT, I need answers now.”
Detective, you may be unable to stop this being. Aboriginal peoples of the far north, Australia, native people of the Kalahari and isolated tribes in Central and South America may have the ability to effectively confront this being, but that knowledge is apparently lost to more developed societies. Alley temperature is now 106 degrees.
I wipe away the sweat flooding my face. “Are any of those talented Aboriginals within a hundred miles of us?”
“Fuck this shit. Hey, you, uniform, bring me your fucking shotgun. Now, right fucking now.
“Jameson, wait- patrolman stay there-“
I’m too late the officer has the shotgun in hand and takes one step into the alley, and he goes up in an intense, too hot to watch, flash. There’s the smell of burnt meat and the sound of the shotgun hitting the blacktop followed by the thud of the cop’s body falling across the shotgun.
For a moment, there is literally dead silence. My phone rings. Jameson screams. The being stirs in my mind.
In my mind. My mother greets me. My young, vital mother, before cancer before she died ten years ago, greets me, embraces me. I can smell her shampoo, count her freckles, feel the strength and warmth of her arms.
Her father, twenty years dead joins us. My first and only dog and my best friend from elementary school are there all dead, but in the prime of their lives in my mind. It’s a joyous and wondrous reunion. I’m nearly lost in it.
It changes, changes. I rape my mother with a club and beat her to death with that same club. I force her father to watch. I slice my grandfather to death slowly with hundreds of cuts. There is an embryo, mine from my abortion. I make a stew of it, and I add my dog to the pot. I force my best friend to share the meal with me.
Cycles, endless cycle, elation, salvation, derogation, destruction, resurrection, euphoria, redemption, debasement, corruption and on and on…. No respite. No rest. No exit. No death. No release.
A new cycle starts Jameson and Enola, Kenya and I in a glorious double wedding celebrated by our friends and families dead and alive, heaven on earth and it changes- I bite through my bottom lip to concentrate on my mouth, my tongue and lips to carefully form the words I need. To anchor me before I slide into the cycle forever.
“QT, talk to it!”
Yes, Detective Garner. What-
I gasp out my last words before the cycle changes again and drowns me in despair.
I’m on the blacktop; I have lost control of my stomach, bowel and bladder. I can’t speak. I’m having a seizure of some kind. I squirm and vibrate in my own excrement. My mind and body are on fire, but I hear QT speak, but it’s not QT. Not at all.
Call me what you will. You can choose from over 3,332 names.