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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” – Albert Einstein

Submitted: April 07, 2017

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Submitted: April 07, 2017



Fort Myers: a vacation town to native Floridians, and sometimes, rarely, Georgia folk would mosey their way down past state lines on the long weekends, too. This is where I grew up. Fort Myers is a quiet, humid, lazy tourist town – a fact that’s always been just fine by my family’s standards for living. My dad grew up here, and so did his father before him. My mom’s Cuban, but she fell in love with the place just as much as Dad had growing up.

Uncle Chaz – my dad’s brother – grew up here, too. Only he was far more restless about it all. Chaz was quick to chase excitement and adventure – which is why he became a cop, so he’s always told us. Me and my sisters used to love when Chaz came to town for Thanksgiving and Christmas and any other holidays that he could get the leave for. He told us the most enrapturing stories about life pounding the pavement as a cop.

Miami sure seemed a hell of a lot more exciting – not to mention terrifying – than the country towns scattered all over the state. But since I had no intentions of going there until maybe spring breaks during college years, we let the true horror stories wash over us, enthralled by the entertainment that we formerly thought only the TV could provide. Almost all of his stories were thrilling: robberies gone wrong; high speed chases; gang and drug related disputes that Chaz had to respond to – and he didn’t mind retelling or reliving them so long as the endings weren’t too grim.

But I remember one Christmas, when I was 15, when our uncle returned home far gloomier than his usual sunny demeanour. We knew exactly why, though, on account of the ordeals that had been plastered all over the news for weeks. We’d been watching, eyes glued to the TV, the newspaper, and online articles for over a fortnight. The first sordid case was a violent throat slashing in Miami – and the Metro PD were quick on the case, as expected. Chaz had just been promoted from Vice to Homicide, and we all had our fingers crossed in the hope of his safety. This was the first murder that he’d had to deal with, and boy, did it sound brutal.

A week or so later, another vic turned up, and so on, in closer intervals, until just about all of the Sunshine State residents were needlessly quaking in fear about this new, ‘real life’ Dexter. It didn’t last a whole 8 seasons of Showtime TV, though, and the killer was discovered just two months after the first body turned up, and precisely seven innocent lives had been taken. There was never a whole lot in the news about the killer’s take down – just that the police had apprehended the suspect – or, more ambiguous and more often, had ‘someone in custody - and then the murders simply ceased. Everyone seemed at ease once again after ‘the worst serial killer Florida had seen since the foul, licentious Aileen Wuornos had been at large’ was behind bars and on death row. Not us kids - we were busting to know what the real horror show entailed.

So, naturally, when Christmas rolled around, we begged our uncle to relay the whole account, omitting no detail that he was aware of – no matter how gory, chilling, or plain sickening. Chaz nodded solemnly, knowing full well that this would be the request of his nephew and nieces when he came home for the holidays. Even away from work we didn’t let him off the case. He threw back a Jack Daniel’s, muttered a nonspecific grievance about us all being too young, poured himself another finger of whiskey, and then settled back down into Dad’s TV chair.

“You may have noticed that the press started calling him ‘The Judge’ a little later on in the case – but at the station we don’t like to give a perps a nickname or claim to fame – they’re all just scumbags to us. I’ll get to more about that later. Anyway,” he cleared his throat, “I had to be there at every crime scene, as one of the primary officers on the case. At first we didn’t even know they were connected, on account of all deaths being so different. But I guess you kids just want the messy details, not the boring ones?”

We nodded eagerly, and the thrilling list began.

“The first death, a throat slashing, you remember, was nothing really out of the ordinary for Miami Metro – our initial theory was that it was drug related – some kingpin getting revenge on a competitor. Another detail that we didn’t release to the media was that the victim’s genitals had been mutilated – you know… cut off. After looking into victimology – we found that the man was a banker, with no kinds of shady drug deals going on in his personal life – the guy barely used aspirin. The techs dug a little deeper, and came to realise that he was having an affair – which made how he was mutilated make sense a little more. Naturally, we questioned his wife, but she was devastated by the news, and seemed to have no idea about it. Still, we kept in the back of our minds such a plausible reason for a motive.

“The second victim turned up just over a week later, but like I said, we were unable to connect the killings at the time. Even so, there were some similarities. It was a middle-aged man, from the harbour area, but that was about it. He was a diner owner, unmarried, and while our first victim seemed to have kept in shape, this guy was morbidly obese. Not only that, but his throat wasn’t slashed – he was mutilated by a dozen slashes across his belly. So as we hadn’t solved the throat slashing murder, Detective Miller – my supervisor – started to have an inkling that this might be related in some way. Unfortunately, the only real way to find out was to wait for another body.” My sister Kayla scoffed, “are the cops allowed to do that?”

Chaz shook his head, “it’s a little more complicated than that. We weren’t just sitting around waiting for another corpse, we were ordering DNA sweeps and looking deeper into victimology all the while. But it wasn’t long before we were presented with another body, this time with more of a lead.

“The third victim – and there was a heck of a lot of media coverage for this one – was the priest of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. Again, a man, a little older this time, but by now we’d officially ruled the case that of a serial killer one. The reason being that now there was a pattern in victimology, and the killer’s mode of operating – a different way to kill each time. The priest had been poisoned – the wine given to him as a gift, as far as we could tell. Though this time, his hands were cut off, as well. We figured, like with the first victim, this could be something to do with the motive. So, again, our tech dug into this guy’s life. And what did we find? This guy’s had one hand on a rosary and the other in the offering plate for years! The guy had been stealing from his own congregation! And so we figured that was the reason for his hands being cut off. Now we were trying to find someone who knew all three of these guys, and it wasn’t long before we found it – they’d all attended the same Cathedral.

“Only days later did the fourth murder come to light. A woman, this time, but at the rate the kills were happening, we knew it had to be the same perp. The lady had been burnt alive in her own bed – her house broken into while she was sleeping. She’d been doused in gasoline while she was asleep, and then a simple flick of a match had been her demise. Like the diner guy, she wasn’t an adulterer or a thief, but she did go to St. Mary’s on occasion – according to her children, she was jobless and pretty much relied on her kids to keep a roof over her head. She lounged around the house and slept all day,” Chaz paused his storytelling and smirked at us. “Any ideas yet, you guys?”

I could think of nothing that connected these four people other than what Chaz had already told us – but my older sister, Sophia, was onto it. “Adultery’s a sin,” she thought aloud, “stealing’s a sin… I don’t know about the diner guy, but the woman? She sounds lazy – and the bible says ‘by the sweat of your brow you’ll eat… is laziness a sin?”

Our uncle’s smirk stretched into a smile. “Yes, Soph. Sloth is one of the seven deadly sins – and with as many Catholic Cuban’s as we have down in Miami, it was at this point that we figured it out. This killer was taking out people who were attached to these vices. And as for the diner owner – we realised he was guilty of gluttony, and that was why his belly had been all slashed up. Now we’d figured out this guy’s manifesto, but before we could go much further than that, he’d killed another.

“A young male victim was found at the bottom of one of the abandoned corporate buildings near the docks – he’d been pushed off from the 13th floor, by the looks of it. And this guy was not hard to find the dirt on – he’d been in and out of jail for bar fights and violent assaults. He was living with his aunt while he was being rehabilitated, and she was making him go to church. So that was the sin of wrath – and we only had envy and pride to go. It seemed this killer was devolving a little, making his kills messy and unplanned – not like the first couple. We thought we could find this vigilante before two more people needed to die.

“But that wasn’t the case. As we began interviewing and looking into the lives of everyone in the congregation, it was only a matter of two days before sin number six was brought out in the open. We knew what was coming this time – it was gonna be envy. It was a 17 year old girl – our youngest victim, and the one with the slightest paper trail to tell us about her life. But after getting into her Facebook account, we found messages of gossip and hate about her alleged best friend, and how she felt she deserved her friend’s loyal boyfriend all along. She’d been shot, point blank, in the face. Nothing to really signify the weight of her sin – except maybe that envy begins in the brain, and hers had been blown out of her head. It was terrible, but it was almost over. With one sin left, we didn’t know what he’d do once he’d dealt with the sin of pride – but with the prospect of him starting his pattern all over again – we really needed to take this guy down fast. Little did we know that he’d fall right into our laps once he’d done this final deed. We were applying the heat, and he was feeling it.

“A lawyer was found is his office, cause of death being strangulation, though he’d been hung by a noose. Suicide – the ultimate humiliation to a prideful man. And that was it, it was over. We knew it was all over, because before we even found the body, the perp – a young guy interning in the church – showed up at the station. He just walked right in, claimed to be a visitor. He walked right up to Miller’s desk, a real tired look in his eye, and said, ‘I think you’re looking for me.’

“Of course, it was plenty more political than that. We took him into custody, questioned him for about 12 hours before getting a straightforward confession. We found out about the lawyer. We found out that he’d been eavesdropping on the confession booths for months, and that was how he picked his prey. He was doing ‘the Lord’s work,’ he kept insisting. He was a real scumbag, you guys,” Chaz yawned. “Thought he had the right to play judge and jury in the lives of other people – which is why the press started calling him ‘The Judge,’ of course. He’ll be given a sentence soon enough, though, and I don’t think he’s batty enough to claim insanity. He’ll be on death row in a matter of weeks.”

That seemed ironic. Someone who’d just been apprehended for playing God with people’s lives was about to receive the same treatment from the state courts. It seemed as though it was just a spiral of the wicked fighting the wicked with evil deeds, and so on.

But we’d got out of the story what we asked for. We were horrified. We’d hung by everything he’d told us of this chillingly true tale. And now that Chaz was working in homicide, it was guaranteed that our overactive imaginations were to be entertained again and again. We were satiated.

© Copyright 2018 E Bowshall. All rights reserved.

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