Omertà

Omertà

~ a short story

Joe sat down where the officer told him. Nerves still in a rattle, the middle-aged man waited for John to close the door. He was tired. He was manic.

“Thanks… for agreeing to speak with me,” Joe whispered.

Blankly, he looked around the office. Chief of police. The setup was shabby, to say the least. Smell of bad coffee permeated. Pink empty box wafted sugars in the air between the two men.

Mid-morning chatter filtered through the window as the station prepared for the day. Two officers walked out toting shotguns on their shoulders casually, just before the blinds were shuttered.

Files sprawled out over an oversized desk. Stains dried on disheveled manila folders. Clearly, they’d been lying in the same place for days. Joe didn’t notice any of the titles, but he saw black and white photos of bags full of powder. SUVs. Broken glass. A few chalk outlines of bodies.

Chief John wheeled around, keys jangling on his utility belt beside his handgun, taser, and cuffs. He plopped down into his chair with a heaving sigh. An empty mug loosed itself from his sausage fingers. Short cropped brown hair and a giant mustache glared down at Joe, shivering. The chief chewed on something. Perhaps a donut, though Joe did not see him take one. They were probably within 5 years of each other, with Chief John being the younger of the two.

While he waited for his counterpart to get situated, Joe’s eyes wandered at last over a motivational poster with a cat directly behind the man’s chair. He could not see it, however, the kitten hanging precariously on the edge of a tree branch. His shattered mind raged at recent sights unseen. At the moment, Joe wasn’t seeing anything but his memories.

“So what do you got? Detective Martin said something about a party… gone wrong,” Chief John casually croaked. Hazy eyes were away, glancing to the empty donut box. Disappointment painted his pupils as he washed some of the papers from the desk’s center to the corners. The large man steepled his fingers and finally looked across to Joe, who looked about as uncomfortable as a man could.

Longer copper hair, greying, furled over his ears. The visitor wore a discolored white tee and blue jeans. Joe itched his stubble, eyes frantically searching for a place to look while he tried to begin his tale. Neither man seemed to notice the other.

Chief John chuckled, “Look like you just came from a Springsteen concert. Are you a mechanic?”

“Please be quiet,” Joe muttered, eyes closed.

“What’d you just-” John began, angered at his impertinence. He let it slide when he finally noticed the shaking. “You need a glass of water, man.”

“Later. Yes… I… uh… Need you to listen to me first,” Joe managed. His eyes met the Chief’s. “Shouldn’t you have some paper? For notes?”

The chief slowly shook his head. “Just tell me what happened.”

“Ok,” Joe muttered. “Ok.” His frantic look of despairing remembrance only got worse.

The chief leaned forward while Joe began.

“I met some new people at work the other week. Inspectors. Real official looking. There to see about the men at the factory. Layoffs probably. Least I thought so. They started calling us down to interview…”

Chief John reached for his mug without looking. When he lifted it and noticed it was empty, he raised his finger. “One moment… What was your name?”

“Joe. Joe Richardson.”

“Richardson, eh,” Chief John mumbled absently. He rose from his chair, with some effort, and walked to the door. He peeked his head through and shouted to a nearby woman. His secretary. “Coffee reload, Mildred. Now. Please and thank you.” John returned to his seat and Joe continued.

“Well, to cut to the chase-”

“And please do,” the chief smiled.

“I made some kind of impression in our conversation. The black suits invited me … to one of their… ‘shindigs.’”

“‘The black suits’?” John repeated.

Joe waved his hand quickly, “That’s just what we started callin’ ’em. The corporate guys.”

“And what company you workin’ for?”

“Two Peaks.”

Chief John nodded in confirmation and motioned for his guest to continue. Practically everyone worked for Two Peaks in this town.

“I thought I was getting promoted…” Joe smiled to himself. It was full of pain, fear, dread. An unhappy memory. Chief John yawned, looked outside. Overcast grays sprawled over their little suburban haven. It was getting darker outside. John frowned.

“But not like… Not that. Did they expect me to… to…” Joe gibbered. His eyes were on the floor. He was remembering it all.

Chief John watched him. The horror contained within his gaze was unfathomable. The grimy little man was traumatized. A creeping dread rose up the policeman’s spine like a spectre, tickling and cackling silently. He began to sweat. The sweet smells of his office drifted into the past. Joe and John were alone now, with only each other’s babbling to spell the sorrow.

Joe turned his weepy, wretched mug up to the chief.

“Tell me, Chief… Do you believe in the devil?”

The chief’s hand shivered as he reached for a pen. He reached a loose, coffee-stained napkin with his other.

“Where was this… party?” the chief stammered his question with rote procedure. “With the suits. Downtown. After midnight.” His words slowed, the meaning behind them summon a titanic bout within his soul. Chief John began to taste blood. His struggle would not last long.

Joe opened his mouth to speak. “The-”

But no words could follow. An abyssal hand clamped his tongue. It waggled in vain. Joe’s teeth ground dust. His jaw began to snap and recoil, shiver and fracture. Red drops started to trickle from the poor man’s tear ducts. His hair fell from his scalp.

“…L-odge.”

This was the word Joe’s last bit of conscious strength could muster. With it, Chief John’s final seizure left him with the realization of the horrors Joe Richardson had seen within those walls. At the party, with the suits, downtown, after midnight. At The Lodge.

Joe’s form rocked with pain as he tried to continue with his report to the authorities. With his confession.

Chief John breathed his last. The policeman straightened himself, put his pen down. He smiled and rose from his chair. Looking down with blackened eyes at the wreckage of the man before him, still crying blood and falling apart on the floor of his office, he wiped his hands together and said,

“This never happened.” ~