A Song of the Past: Thirty-six

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Sunday, 1:00 PM
Deirdre sat in front of the TV and half-heartedly watched some talking heads discuss the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. While she mulled over whether she had enough evidence to present to a prosecutor a decent case against Jacob, her home phone rang. She answered it, and found to her dismay that the caller was Chuck.
“Yes, what is it?”
“Look Deirdre, I’m really, really sorry, but I’ve got to go back to Seattle and give Harriet one more shot. I’m wrapping up my practice here and heading back in a week or two. I’ve put too many years into that marriage to let it go when there’s still a chance.”
A feeling of cold certainty came over Deirdre—this was over. But still, see it through, taste every drop of it. “Hasn’t she gone through rehab before?”
“Once—but it was only an outpatient program. This time she went for two weeks at one of the top clinics in Seattle. They have a 70% success rate.”
“Well, I’m sure a 70% shot at her is preferable to 100% of me anyway.”
“Deirdre, if it wasn’t for my wife, I’d definitely want things to continue with you. But, it’s all the history… ”
“Yeah, bloody fookin’ history.” Deirdre slammed the phone down.
She rose and began pacing the room. She wanted a drink badly, but she also knew she might want to head in to work yet, so she resisted the urge to pour herself one. Perhaps she could walk it off?
As she mulled this over the phone rang again. Fearing it was Chuck again, she let it ring five times before she picked up.
But it wasn’t him calling back; instead a male voice asked, “Detective O’Reilly?”
“This is Officer Higgs of the Hamden police. If possible, we’d like you to come up here today.”
“What is it?”
“Well, we’re at Jacob Tyler’s house, 23 Elihu Street.”
“Yes, I know where it is. What has happened?”
“Apparently he’s hung himself, Detective. He left a suicide note… addressed to you.”
“OK, I’ll be there in maybe twenty minutes.”
Luckily, Deirdre had not returned the car she had checked out earlier, so she grabbed the keys, threw on a jacket, and headed back to Hamden. When she turned onto Elihu Street she saw that, as she had expected, there was a police cruiser parked behind the Volvo in Jacob’s driveway. She pulled up to the curb and walked across the lawn and on into the house through the open front door.
A voice called from the living room where she had sat the day before. “Detective O’Reilly? In here.”
She entered the room to find a uniformed Hamden police officer awaiting her. He stretched out his hand. “Rob Higgs, Detective, how are you?”
She took it and said, “Deirdre O’Reilly. I’m fine. What do we have?”
“Looks pretty straight forward. He hung himself in the basement – my partner is down there looking around. But no signs of anyone helping him or anything like that. However, he left this note here on the coffee table, addressed to you. Of course we’ll need it as evidence, but we thought we’d let you look at it first.”
Deirdre saw a folded sheet of paper on the otherwise bare table. On the exposed fold was written, “For Detective O’Reilly, NHPD.”
Higgs offered her a pair of rubber gloves, and she slipped them on before picking up the paper and unfolding it. She read aloud:
Detective, as you have already guessed, I am a terrible sinner, a man of iniquity, and I can only pray to God for annihilation as I take my own life. Yes, I had Evelyn killed by Ben Moore, and then I killed him. But ask yourself: How could a man as weak as me have done these things? I could not have, Detective, not on my own. However, my very weakness made me the perfect tool in the hands of a man I can only think is Satan himself, come to walk the earth, perhaps because we really are in the final days. You know who I am talking about, Detective: I am not going to write his name, for the very sight of the letters turns me to ice. So great are the wiles of the deceiver that there is not a single shred of evidence I can give you to help you convict him of anything. Yet he is far more guilty than the worst person you have ever locked away in a prison cell. Find some way to stop him!
Higgs looked at her with a troubled expression. “What’s this about? Do you know who this devil is that he mentions?”
“No, I have no…” Then she stopped and stared out the window. Her dream of that morning came back to her, but now she could see the face that had been behind the mask. And she knew why she had tried to turn the face to a mere void, to a dark vortex: knowing that evil actually has a personality is far worse than thinking of it as merely some impersonal, inhuman force. God, he had been playing her from the very start, hadn’t he? It was all an elaborate drama, and he had been directing it, mocking her as she unwittingly played her part.
She dropped the note back onto the coffee table. She looked up at Higgs and said, “That’s wrong. I do know who he is talking about. Look, I’ve got to go see him. If I find out anything related to this mess, I’ll let you know.”
She stumbled back out into the splintered sunlight leaking weakly through the low autumn haze.

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