Saturday, November 13, 2004

Painted Devil

-i-


"Hey, Jacobi," Malak said.
"Captain, what’s up?" Jacobi said, answering his cell phone.
"There’s been another murder. Check it out!"

-ii-

"What have we got?" Jacobi says to the coroner.
"According to the wallet, this is the late Martin Tours."
"What else?"
"Just like the other four," said the coroner, pulling back the victim’s shirt. "See ‘Legion’ carved into the chest?"
"Same MO. But the way the papers have been playing up ‘The Legion Killer,’ could be a copy-cat murder as well."
"After I get back to the lab I’ll page you if I turn anything up."
"Anything else?"
"This is not the primary crime scene. The victim was executed elsewhere and dumped in the alley to cover his tracks."
"Also consistent with the ‘The Legion Killer.’ Well, I’ll go knock on doors."

-iii-

"Pastor Morgenstern--I saw your name on the plaque outside," said Jacobi.
"Yes, that’s right," he said, shaking Jacobi's hand. And you are..."
"Inspector Jacobi," he said, flashing his badge. "I’m a homicide detective."
"Ah, this must be about the crime scene down the street," said Morgenstern.
"Sorry to interrupt."
"No problem! You boys continue with your singing while Inspector Jacobi and I have a little chat."
"Have you ever seen this man before?" showing him a photo of the victim, as the choir went about rehearsing Mendelssohn's "Es wird ein Stern aus Jacob" in the background.
"Can’t say that I have. "What’s his name?"
"Michael Tours."
"Doesn’t ring a bell. Sorry I can’t be more helpful."
"Maybe you can. Does the name of ‘Legion’ mean anything to you?"
"’Legion’ was the name of a demoniac on whom our Lord performed an exorcism. Does this have anything to do with the ‘Legion Killer’?"
"I see you’ve been following the news."
"To be honest, I don’t have time to keep up with all the headlines--but word gets around. I get most of my info from the parishioners".
"Still, if the killer took the name of a...of a...what was that again?"
"Of a demoniac."
"Yes, of a demoniac," Jacobi continued, "then it might have some ritual angle. That could be helpful."
"What were the names of the other victims?"
"Max, Dennis, Diomedes, and Steven."
"That reminds me of something, but I can’t quite place it at the moment."
"Here’s my card. If you remember, give me a call."

-iv-

"Ah, Inspector Jacobi. I guess you got me message. But you didn’t have to make a special trip."
"No problem. I’m not finished canvassing the neighborhood. So what did you have to tell me?"
"Well, this may only be a coincidence, but the five names you gave me correspond to the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus."
"The Seven Sleepers of...what?"
"It’s a feast-day, based on an old legend. During the reign of the Emperor Decius, seven saintly young men hid in a cave to escape imperial persecution. The authorities walled up the entrance. But when the cave was unsealed several centuries later, they walked out alive—not having aged a day."
"What were the other two names?"
"Antonio and Constantine."
"So, assuming that the killer is following this blueprint, that would leave two more victims--by the names of Antonio and Constantine."
"Looks like you need to spend some time in the phone book."
"I wish I had some cue as to when he was going to strike next."
"When were the five victims killed?"
"Let’s see," said Jacobi, flipping through his notebook, "Mon-day...Tuesday...Wednesday...Thursday...Friday."
"So he’s killing a victim for each day of the week."
"And in that order,which leaves Saturday and Sunday. What’s the connection?"
"Off-hand, I can’t say."

-v-

"Jacobi," answering the phone.
"Yes, this is Pastor Morgenstern."
"Good to hear from you."
"I was thinking some more about the days of the week. The only connection I can see is numerical...the seven sleepers of Asia, the seven days of the week."
"Well, that’s another coincidence."
"May be more than a coincidence, especially if, as you say, the murders have a ritual angle."
"How so?"
"Seven is a highly significant figure in Judeo-Christian numerology: the seven-day crea-tion, the seven-day week, the seventh day of rest, the sabbatical year, the seven weeks from Passover to Pentecost, the seven devils cast out of Mary Magdalene, the sevenfold sprinkling of blood, the seven-pronged Menorah, the seven-day feast of Tabernacles and unleavened bread, Enoch as the seventh from Adam, the year of Jubilee, New Year on the seventh month. The Book of Revelation is chock-full of sevens."

-vi-


"What have we got?" Jacobi said to the coroner?
"According to the wallet, this is the late Antonio Padua."
"Number six...that leaves one more to go."
"How do you mean?"
"This is a serial killer with seven designated targets."
"Then it should be possible to catch him before he kills again."
"I’m afraid it’s not that easy. I've only got first names, not last names. Have any idea many ‘Antonios’ live in a city this size?"
"I see your problem."

-vii-

"Pastor Morgenstern, can I come in?" Jacobi asked, poking his head into the study.
"Why, of course! Any break in the case?"
"I don’t know. I’ve been having a lot of bad dreams lately."
"What kind of dreams?"
"In my dreams I’m being shadowed by a seven-headed, seven-horned monster."
"What does its face look like?"
"Can’t tell. When I turn around I only see the back of its head."
"The case is getting to you. That’s only natural."
"But there’s more."
"Go on."
"I also see it during the day...in the rearview mirror, or washroom mirror, or storefront window. But when I turn my head it vanishes from view."
"Do you see its face then?"
"Just a fleeting glimpse."
"What did it look like? Some diabolical fiend?"
"No, almost angelic. I mean, the face itself, if you leave out the horns and all, could pass for one of your choirboys. A little older, but that same innocent demeanor."
"I guess that makes sense. The best way to beguile is to be without guile."
"But what do you make of it all?"
"Well, that is uncanny--that’s for sure. But given the occultic aroma of the case, it’s not altogether surprising. You stand astride two worlds--of sense and spirit."
"Either that or an undigested apple-dumpling!"

-viii-

"Morgenstern here" he said, answering the phone.
"It’s Jacobi again. I've had another nightmare."
"Was it like the others?" Morgenstern asked.
"Yes, except that this time I was able to make out more background detail."
"What did you see?"
"It looked like a boarded up old church. You know, Gothic arches…stained glass windows, but broken and cobwebby."
"Anything stand out?"
"There was a sign...hard to remember now...something like St. Elizabeth."
"That’s the name of an old abandoned church in Chinatown."
"Funny, I don’t recall seeing anything like that down there."
"That’s because it was painted over a long time ago and turned into restaurant, which, I think, went out of business just recently. In any event, you should check out your premo-nition."

-ix-

"Sir, are you hurt?" Jacobi asked, as he untied a bound-and-gagged man inside St. Eliza-beth.
"I’ll be fine now that you arrived," he said.
"May I ask you name?"
"Steve...Steven Nichols."
"This is Inspector Jacobi," he said, dialing his cellphone. "Send a squad car and ambu-lance to the Fortune Cookie restaurant on the corner of Broadway and Easy Street. Mr. Nichols, you stay here while I step outside for a moment."
"Hey you--freeze!" Jacobi shouted, drawing his service revolver and pointing right at a jaywalker whose face resembled the face in his visions.

-ix-

"Harry Hesper," Jacobi said, looking across the table from the suspect in the interrogation room. "According to my file here, you’re a seminary drop-out."
"That's right."
"Was serial murder part of the curriculum?"
"You might call it an elective course" Hesper said, smirking.
"So why'd you drop out? Loose your faith?"
"No, I found my calling."
"I see. Is this another one of those Antichrist conspiracies to destroy the world as we know it?"
"No, to save the world."
"Saving by killing?"
"A necessary evil."
"How so?"
"In the Koran it is written that seven sleepers portend the end of the world."
"But wasn’t that centuries ago? They're all dead and buried by now."
"No, they’re immortal. That’s the point of the story. They can’t die of natural causes."
"How'd you find them, anyway?"
"Seven angels appeared to me in a vision."
"But what’s the connection between the seven sleepers and the seven days of the week?"
"It’s all goes back to the mystery of the seven stars."
"The mystery of the seven stars?"
"Yes, the mystery of the seven stars. If you read in Revelations, the seven sleepers are the seven stars...as well as the seven angels of the seven churches."
"That's all there?" Jacobi asked?
"Well, not the part about the seven sleepers--not in so many words, exactly, but John the Revelator lived in Ephesus, and addressed his prophecy to the church of Ephesus…oh, and the temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the world. The number seven--that's the key!"
"But what’s that got to do with the days of the week?"
"Isn’t it obvious?" Hesper exclaimed. "The days of the week were named after the seven planets--Monday for the moon, Tuesday for Mars, Wednesday for Mercury, Thursday for Jupiter, Friday for Venus, Saturday for Saturn, and Sunday for the sun."
"Okay then, what now?"
"Now the world comes to an end. I failed! Thanks to you, I failed! You kept me from completing my mission!" Hesper cried. "The sun will be black as sackcloth, the moon blood-red, and the stars shall fall from heaven."

-x-

"So, what happens now," Morgenstern asked, standing in the sanctuary. "Will he face the death penalty?"
"He won't be around that long," Jacobi answered.
"How come?"
"He suffered a seizure while in custody."
"What was the cause?"
"A head-scan revealed brain cancer. So much for that hokum and bunkum about angelic apparitions!"
"Well, it’s been a pleasure getting to know you. You’re welcome to stop in any time. Why not pick up a program on the way out?"

In the narthex, Jacobi pauses to peruse a program, begins to pocket a copy, then decides to put it back on the table. In the distance the choir is rehearsing the "Dies Irae" from Mozart's Requiem Mass.

Getting into is car, Jacobi switches the radio on as he drives out of the lot. "...the Packers beat the Red Sox 32-16. Tomorrow’s forecast: clear and sunny. Oh, and that reminds me--for all you amateur astronomy buffs, we’ve got a rare conjunction the next few days with a solar eclipse, followed by a lunar eclipse, followed by a meteor shower. And now for a message from our sponsor at Ace Auto Body-Shop..."

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