The following is the official transcript of the testimony from the lead detective, Detective Lashmont, on case 100616.
This man barges into the precinct, screaming, hollering, hooting—I think someone may have even tooted. Officer Humphry, probably. And this man makes the most outlandish, outrageous, out-of-his-mind claim.
‘I’m here to report a crime. For someone stole my heart right out of my chest.’
That’s what he said. Honest to God, that’s word for word. Verbatim, as my wife likes to correct my lack of conciseness. They’re the same number of syllables, but whatever.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Because we all thought that same thought: No way. Not possible. I’m starving.
Don’t let that last one trouble you. We’re no cannibals. I’m only including that third thought for accuracy’s sake. It was lunchtime. I’m trying to recount the event as specific and to the truth as I can, that’s all.
I say to the man, ‘Guy, you’re nuts. You’re beyond nuts. You’re a wicked, wicked prankster who’s just winding us up. Go back to work. Go back home. Go back to wherever you came from because no one stole your heart.’
‘They did. I can prove it,’ he said.
‘How so?” I asked.
By this time, the rest of those around stopped what they were doing and began listening intently to what this man had for proof. Because his claim wasn’t some broken-hearted, it’s-Valentine’s-Day-and-I’m-alone type of nonsense. He was stating, explicitly, that someone had excavated his heart from within his chest cavity. Not a commonplace claim. Yet, it was one he could easily prove. So…
The man slipped his arms through his coat sleeves, folded the coat over the back of a chair—I think it was Detective Abrams’s chair—and unbuttoned his shirt to reveal a red-raw, still-seeping-blood scar tracing up to his collar bone. It was gruesome. If this man had moved the wrong way, his wound would have opened and burped a smell so foul, forcing the entire room to double over in sickness.
However, since we’re all cops, we swallowed it down. And since we’re all detectives, we did some deduction stuff. Maybe it’s a wound from something else. Maybe this man is a talented make-up artist. He’s just pulling a fast one on us to test out the viability of his art. Maybe this man’s just a crazy man. One of those masochists who likes to pee on people, or something like that.
As I said, though, his claim was easily proven or disproven. All we had to do was check to see if he was telling the literal truth or not: if he had had his actual heart removed from his body.
I grabbed his right arm—no, it was his left arm—and pressed my index and middle fingers against his wrist, checking for a pulse.
A second passed.
Ten seconds and the only thing I could feel were the grooves of his tendons.
I checked his other wrist. I checked both sides of his neck. I even pressed an ear against that stitched-shut hole in his chest and nothing, no pulse, no heartbeat. Which meant—he was telling the truth. For someone had stolen the heart right out of his chest.
What did we do after that?
We did what we cops always do after something exciting happens—the worst of our wear, the main of our misfortune, the real reason cops drink coffee spiked with cheap Scotch—we did paperwork.
We took down a statement by the victim. We also took down his information. In the commotion of the heart missing from his chest, we’d almost forgotten the basics.
His name was Trevor Love. He lived on Mulberry Lane, south of Crossing Street. He had a tattoo of an owl with its wings outstretched across the small of his back. Trevor tried to make us take down what he’d eaten for the past three breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, but we assured him that wouldn’t be relevant. If only we’d known, right?
Yes, Trevor spelled with an -OR. Not -ER. I had to ask him myself actually. And Love is spelled exactly how you’d think, how you hope.
Luckily, there was already a Trevor Love in one of the searchable databases, so we fingerprinted him, ran the prints, and confirmed this man to be that Trevor Love.
Then what did we do?
We sent Mr. Love to the hospital to get him checked out. We didn’t know how Mr. Love was still alive without having a heart. Actually, we didn’t know if Mr. Love was actually without a heart or that he was just without a heartbeat. But there was still the possibility—to us—that he’d drop dead at any given hour and the case would lose its urgency.
It wouldn’t have been a bad thing, necessarily. The case losing its urgency and all. Him dying wouldn’t have been great, of course. But the urgency is what really gets us. The only thing a detective hates more than an unsolved case is an unsolved case with a deadline.
What was that?
No, sir, pun unintended.
After that, our job was simple: we needed to find out both where Trevor Love’s heart was and who had stolen it.
To the layperson, the job of the detective seems easy. I blame the detective novel and the buddy cop movie. The Big Sleep and Jake and the Fat Man really screwed us.
My partner Griff blames his father. Although, he blames everything on his father, so I don’t know how important that detail is. One day he wouldn’t stop talking about how his father had—sorry. My apologies, sir. I’m prone to digress.
Continuing, despite the casual relationship the public has with the criminal investigation, this case was trickier than normal.
The list of potential suspects was lengthy. The clues were evident that it was done by someone close enough to Trevor not to wish him dead since they’d only stolen his heart and hadn’t killed him. Damning someone to death isn’t homicide. In fact, in most cultures, we call that marriage.
Also, it had to be someone with a rudimentary knowledge of butterfly stitching. These two clues narrowed the list of suspects to family, friends, co-workers, med students, tailors, and grandmothers with an affinity for knitting or crocheting. Basically, if any old lady had gifted a blanket or sweater for a birthday or Christmas present within a hundred-mile radius, we had to know about it.
Pretty easy, right?
And on top of all that, Trevor Love didn’t remember anything about having his heart removed and only remembered a few details about the hours and day before the crime, but he did remember having been at work that morning.
Griff and I went to his place of employment. A real dump if you ask me. Which you are asking me, I guess. So, again, a real dump. The bookstore off 7th. The one with the sign out front featuring two vultures—I suppose they could be crows—pecking the guts out of a splayed, open book. The name of the store is Food for Thought.
When we arrived, the store front appeared as if it was closed. Not just for the day but for good. Newspapers were pasted over the windows and the brick face was crumbling and eroding away. A stiff breeze might have done it in.
Griff tried the front door, pushing in but it was locked. He knocked. He knocked hard. So hard that some plaster fell from the door frame onto his head and shoulders. It had fallen from the store sign as well—the one with the birds—so I joked that maybe it was bird shit. Griff didn’t find it funny.
Griff knocked even harder. I thought the door might come clean off its hinges, but it held true. A little like the shop itself.
Thud, he knocked.
Thud, he knocked.
Thud, he knocked.
Griff exhaled impatiently, placed his hands on his hips, and turned to me.
‘Should we just go?’ he inquired, more suggesting than asking.
But before I could answer, the door opened, remaining just ajar.
‘What the hell is all this racket?’ the man snapped as he stood behind the door, exposing his head in the open space between the door and the frame. He smelled a bit like booze. His voice sounded like he’d been either asleep or unsuccessfully working off a hangover. His hair was somewhere back in the late 90s. His stomach resembled a prize-winning pig’s.
‘We were wondering about a current employee of yours,’ Griff stated, snapping back.
‘Don’t have any employees,’ he said. ‘I take care of this shop all on my own. Can’t you tell?’
He smiled and winced under the weight of it. Griff huffed and pushed at the door. The shop owner matched Griff’s force with resistance.
‘We’re detectives,’ Griff pouted. ‘You have to let us in. Show him your badge.’
Griff waved a hand in my direction. The shop owner followed and looked to me.
‘Doesn’t matter,’ the shop owner said, pleading but stern, ‘if you don’t have a warrant.’
This angered Griff further. He corrected his expression but pressed heavier into the door. The shop owner pressed back. Griff stopped and sighed. He turned to me, but I offered no suggestions other than a dismissive shrug. I could see the gears turning in his head before he addressed the shop owner again.
‘It’s kind of cold out here,’ Griff said, clattering his teeth and rubbing up and down his arms, ‘may we come in to warm up?’
‘It’s August,’ the shop owner said.
‘Well—the sun’s in our eyes. It’s giving my partner a migraine,’ Griff said. He turned to me, raised his brow and nodded imploringly. The shop owner looked to me too. I shielded my eyes and acted as if I were in pain. How does one even fake a headache?
‘It’s overcast,’ the shop owner said. ‘The only way you could see the sun today is if you shot a rocket through the cloud cover.’
‘How would you know?’ Griff yelled, facing up with the shop owner. ‘You probably haven’t been outside in weeks, you fat, drunk son of a—’
‘Sir,’ I interjected, pulling Griff away from the shop owner. ‘We need to talk about a crime that’s been reported to us. A man was brutally assaulted and told us that his last memory was having worked here this morning. His name’s Trevor Love. Please, can you help us? We’re only trying to do our job.”
Behind the door, the shop owner leaned to his right, reaching for something. The hand that held the door gripped tighter. He swallowed hard and exhaled a dejected breath. I didn’t know what any of it meant, but I presumed Griff was thinking he was a threat and would peel his pistol from his hip faster than the shop owner could close the door on us.
‘Please,’ I pled.
‘What about him? Is he in trouble?’ Are you guys really cops?’ the shop owner asked.
I showed him my badge and, while he looked it over, asked what he meant by being in trouble.
‘Is he wanted by you guys?’ he asked.
‘No,’ I answered.
‘Is he wanted by the mob?’ he asked.
‘Not that we know of,’ I answered.
‘Are you the mob?’ he asked, handing me my badge back as if it meant nothing.
‘No,’ I said, affecting as much honesty as I could. Kinda like faking a headache, however.
He closed his eyes and took a faithful breath. Opening the door wider, allowing us entrance, he stepped aside.
Griff barged in, marching straight past the shop owner, into the middle of the shop. Something felt odd about it, so I stayed in the doorway. I didn’t take my eyes off this guy. He was holding a baseball bat, but when he saw me notice, he tucked it back into the nook behind the door. The scuffed-down wooden floorboards flexed and winced under Griff’s weight, each step filled the dusty silence of the bookstore with the ominous beat backing a horror score. I stepped inside. The shop owner closed the door behind me.
Griff and I turned to the shop owner. He leaned an elbow atop and his body against the wooden checkout counter. The cash register was black and rusted. The rest of the surface was empty, but one book—The Days of Yesterday are the Days of Tomorrow.
‘Then what can I do you for?’ the owner asked. ‘Because I’m the man you’re asking about. I’m Trevor Love.’
I know, sir, this was where you were hoping I’d begin. In fact, this is where you asked me to begin. Sometimes, somethings need to be contextualized though. I needed to explain a bit before I could begin at the beginning. Paradoxical? Perhaps. I know it’s confusing—beginning before the beginning—but, frankly, this whole damn case was confusing.
At this point, Griff and I had two Trevor Loves. This meant, in a way, that we had no Trevor Loves. Damn, I’m getting ahead of myself again.
‘You are not Trevor Love,’ Griff scolded. He rounded on the shop owner, the man claiming to be Trevor Love.
‘I am Trevor Love,’ the shop owner Mr. Love scolded back. ‘And where do you get off telling me that I’m not the man I know I am?’
‘We have a man without a heart,’ Griff yelled, closing the distance separating them. ‘A man who had his heart stolen right out of his chest. He could be dying at any moment, and you’re playing games with us.’
‘I don’t know anything about a man without a heart, but I am Trevor Love,’ the shop owner Mr. Love yelled back.
Clenching his fingers into his palms, his hands into little fists of fury, Griff stood in the face of Mr. Love. Spittle spewed, sticking to the cheeks of Mr. Love, as Griff snarled and scowled and shook indignantly at this man’s reassurance that he was Trevor Love. The tension was high. I thought they were about to come to blows. And, dammit, I swear someone tooted again.
Pulling Griff away, I told him to stand in the corner, calm himself down, and catch his breath.
He hadn’t done all that much to physically exert himself to the point of being winded, but, boy, was Griff winded. He sounded like one of those chugging-along coal engine trains that ran a little low on coal and sped a little slow as it climbed high up a hill. It wasn’t unexpected that Griff would have been winded, of course. The shop owner Mr. Love had Griff’s blood pressure boiling. Plus, Griff is in terrible shape. I mean that his fitness level had bottomed out. His actual shape is actually quite magnificent. Like a meatball stuck on two toothpicks.
But, I’d intervened and separated them and with Griff in the corner huffing and puffing and blowing the dust from the undusted, untouched bookshelves around the room, making everything look like the inside of a snow globe, I questioned this Mr. Love.
‘Mr. Love,’ I said.
‘If that’s even your real name,’ Griff gruffed under his breath. I lifted a hand. I meant the gesture to be a warning for Griff, but Mr. Love assumed that I’d motioned to him, pleading for him be the bigger man. He nodded apologetically and crossed his arms in deference. Griff grunted unapologetically and crossed his arms in defiance.
‘Mr. Love, we have a bit of a problem,’ I said returning to Mr. Love and turning my back to Griff. ‘Earlier today, a man came into our precinct claiming that someone had stolen his heart right out of his chest. Now, this seems like an absurd and impossible claim, but he didn’t register a pulse and has a sizable wound across his chest that had yet to scab over. His story, although absurd, had enough indicators of truth to it. He’s at the hospital now—having x-rays done, scans, probes, whatever they do down there. At the hospital, they’re checking to see if he is as he’s claiming, that he’s without a heart. Yes, without a literal heart.
‘However, here’s where our problem lay. Because it’s our job as detectives to solve this crime and do so in a timely manner—to return his heart to his body—we’re following up on his story and verifying his claims. Working the few clues we have. One of his claims and our clues is that his name is Trevor Love and that he works here. We took his fingerprints. He is Trevor Love.
‘Two Trevor Loves in the same area is not impossible, but two Trevor Loves working in the same place while one says that he’s the only employee is suspicious. Therefore, we need your cooperation, not your obstruction. After all, a man’s life may be at stake. Again, therefore, is there anything you can tell us about the Trevor Love who is or was or is claiming to be an employee here?’
Mr. Love uncrossed his arms and looked from me to Griff. He looked from Griff to the door. He looked from the door to the ceiling in the back corner opposite him and the top shelf housing a row of books. All the books on that shelf had black spines with no titles of authors or anything discernible. Mr. Love sighed and returned to me.
‘I hate to be of no help, detective, but I’m the only Trevor Love who works here, who had ever worked here, and who will ever work here.’
It happens all the time. Despite teaching and instructing otherwise, this is where bad detectives act the bad detective. At the point of seeming resistance, they’ll jump right into interrogating like a skinny dipper in a spotlight and lead the witness into either a blatant lie or a false confession. They do this because they’ve already made up their mind, assumed a presumption, and are bending, flexing, forcing the evidence to fit their preconception and conclusion.
It turned out that this moment with the shop owner Trevor Love became a crucial point in our case. What was the case number again? Yes, case number 100616. The details—that place the devil dwells—were and still are odd but Griff and I didn’t want to make a mistake by making an assumption. Simply, coincidences may be just simple coincidences. But I still had to probe.
‘What are the chances,’ I asked, ‘of there being two Trevor Loves?’
‘What are the chances of a man not having a pulse or a heart and still walking and talking? Why is two Trevor Loves more improbable?’
‘Because,’ Griff said, still hot but trying to act cool, ‘we’ve already accepted the one improbability, you great big ass. Two, now, seems preposterous.’
‘Mr. Love,’ I interjected, ‘we fingerprinted the man and his fingerprints verified him being Trevor Love. If we already have his fingerprints in the system and, thereby, have all his information—address, social, driver’s license—why would he then lie about working here and lead us to you? Why would he lie about anything?’
‘If I knew that,’ Mr. Love said, showing the first sign of some personality, smirking, ‘I’d be the detective and not a book seller.’
Griff nearly lost it. I thought he was going to pull down the whole damn wall of shelves and the books lined along them. I kept my composure and played along.
‘Very good, Mr. Love,’ I said, feigning laughter. ‘Would it be possible, however, for you to come down to the precinct with us? You know, just to help us out with this misunder—’
‘What!’ Mr. Love exploded. ‘Why in the hell would I come to the station with you two—you pair of boobs?’
I thought Griff may shoot him, so I stepped to my left, blocking Mr. Love from Griff.
‘To clear up this misunderstanding,’ I said.
Mr. Love’s face turned so red and grew so swollen that if a dermatologist saw it they would have plucked and popped and drained it empty. He reached over the counter, grabbing a broom stick, and waved it back and forth, brandishing it between me and Griff.
‘Get out of my shop,’ he screamed. ‘Get out of my shop.’
I ordered Griff to stay where he was—basically not to shoot him—because I hoped to alleviate the situation again. However, Mr. Love was beyond reachable. He was past irate. Cobras are less fierce than he was. Lions protecting their young are less intimidating. Bears protecting their porridge aren’t as angry as this guy.
‘Get out of my shop,’ he bansheed, blood-letting my ears.
Luckily, Griff obeyed my order and the next when I signaled that we leave. He swung the door open, pulling it into the shop, and skipped out.
‘Get out!’ Mr. Love bellowed louder than he bansheed.
I did as he demanded and followed Griff out of the shop.
‘You fascist slime,’ Mr. Love bawled louder than he’d bellowed and bansheed.
My feet hit the sidewalk and the door slammed shut, rattling the hinges, raining plaster down as before.
‘And stay out!’ we heard muffled through the door and windows.
It was certainly an overreaction to what felt like a benign enough request, but it fit the shop owner Mr. Love’s character. He had a whimsy to about him that made me believe there was no telling or making him do anything he didn’t want or previously agree to do. We had no cause to bring him in—and it wouldn’t have done much good anyway—so we got in the car and drove away from Food for Thought with more confusion, more questions, and less answers than when we arrived.
Since we weren’t going to get any further answers from him directly, we phoned the precinct and asked them to run a profile on him to see if he had any priors or, simply, if he was a ghost.
While we waited, Griff and I went to the house of the Mr. Love with the stolen heart to see if forensics had discovered anything worth discovering. Meaning, something more than a computer full of shameful browsing history, a fridge full of poor dietary habits, a bathroom full of worse sanitary habits, and a house full of impossible spots splashed with forensic’s favorite substance. You know the deal.
Also, there’s a great Thai place on that side of town, and it was about dinner time—what choice did we have?
Yes, sir, of course Griff and I suspected that the shop owner was lying. Griff wouldn’t shut up about how I had shut him up in the shop. But what was I supposed to do? Let him pop off until he popped a clip into our only lead’s guts? Then what would we have? One with a chest without a heart and the other with a stomach full of bullets and nowhere to go but home.
By the time we arrived at the Love without a heart’s house, forensics was finishing up. Typical report of typical things. You have the filed report and read through them, I presume. Despite the lack of interesting, Griff and I wanted to walk the premises ourselves. It gives the case some more depth that way. Allows the detective to make some more connections, get to know the case a bit more intimately. Wine and dine the damn thing.
What was his house like when we arrived?
I don’t know how many specifics you want me to list. It had two bedrooms, two baths, a half. That sort of a place. Single-story home with shutters matching the front door. One interesting detail was a painting hanging above his fireplace that Griff eloquently titled, “Unshaven Muff.”
The important bits—no, sir, pun unintended—were in the hallway and the top drawer of his nightstand. I checked the drawer. Inside the drawer were three pay stubs from Food for Thought, all paid to Trevor Love—signed by Trevor Love—as well as an employee handbook from Food for Thought. The handbook was inscribed by Trevor Love and addressed to Trevor Love. The inscription read, “Read the words carefully. Discern the meaning diligently. And apply the practice liberally.”
By this time, Griff and I had received an email of the shop owner Mr. Love’s information. Just the basics—simple life stuff, license, social, no priors, etc.
Inside the drawer with the pay stubs and the handbook was an expired license and social security card of Trevor Love with the stolen heart. And, to make the weird weirder, the strange stranger, the funky funkier, the two Mr. Loves’ license numbers were identical. As were their dates of birth, their social security numbers, their eye colors, their signatures. On paper, they were the exact same person.
I sorted through the rest of the drawer—just your usual bedside junk, spare glasses, lost bookmarks, tissues, some smut stuff—Griff called me into the hallway.
‘You’re gonna wanna see this,’ Griff said.
Nearing him, Griff had the smile of a doomsayer during the apocalypse, someone whose instincts had proven premonitory and allowed them to gloat until the end of time. He was certainly feeling himself in that moment.
No, sir, not literally.
‘I knew that son of a bitch at the store was a damn liar,’ Griff boasted.
And there they were. Under the glass, inside the frame, hanging in the hallway, was a picture of both Mr. Loves standing side by side, arms draped atop the other’s shoulders, with smiles as wide as Griff’s.
Griff wanted to pull a panzer up to the curb outside Food for Thought, parallel park it in between whatever junkers would shop there, and invade like one may Poland. He wanted to arrest the shop owner Mr. Love for obstruction, aiding and abetting, and conspiracy against the United States.
‘I want to pull a panzer up to the curb outside Food for Thought, parallel park it in between whatever junkers would shop there, and invade like one may Poland. I want to arrest the shop owner Mr. Love for obstruction, aiding and abetting, and conspiracy against the United States,’ Griff said.
I told him that there wasn’t anything necessarily criminal about the shop owner Mr. Love lying about the other Mr. Love’s employment and their relationship to one another.
‘Griff,’ I said, ‘there isn’t anything necessarily criminal about the shop owner Mr. Love lying about the other Mr. Love’s employment and their relationship to one another.’
Nevertheless, it was suspicious and gave us enough cause to bring the shop owner Mr. Love in for questioning.
We sirened our siren and carred our car to Food for Thought.
Yes, sir, that is indeed proper English. Sirened a siren. Carred a car. Well—true. You’re correct. It isn’t traditional English. However, it’s my improvement to English. It simplifies everything. Which is better, no?
The rule is that the noun is also its own verb. Instead of sleeping in a bed, you’d bed a bed. Instead of reading a book, you’d book a book.
What was that? Well—I suppose—I never really thought—yes, writing a book would also be to book a book. Okay, so it requires some work. There’s no need to laugh, sir. Yes, very funny, sir. Can we get back to the case?
Anyway—arriving at Food for Thought, Griff unholstered his weapon and crouch stepped across the sidewalk, shouldering himself beside the front door. I remained at the car. I stood idle and watched him.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked.
‘What does it look like?’ Griff asked.
‘It looks like you just pooped your pants and are leaning against the wall because the shame of pooping your pants is too much to bear. Subconsciously speaking,’ I said.
‘And the gun?’ Griff asked.
‘Umm… you’re really mad about it?’ I answered.
Approaching the entrance, I saw that the door was already ajar. It looked like someone else had wanted to get to the shop owner Mr. Love too. The lock had been kicked in. The door handle tilted. The frame splintered and torn in. And—
I understand then. Griff testified yesterday? And he admitted that we kicked the door in ourselves? So, sir, Griff didn’t lie to protect me, his partner, and corroborate the stories we agreed to corroborate? Because, sir, Griff’s the one who kicked the door in. It wasn’t me. It would never be me. I have bad ankles and the bottoms of my feet are highly sensitive to pressure. That’s why I wear cushions.
See, right here.
Okay. As long as you understand. I don’t want there to be a misunderstanding about the events of the case.
Yes, sir, no more lying.
Yes, sir, even if it protects my partner—who, apparently, isn’t willing to lie for me and protect me. Who, apparently, doesn’t appreciate the courtesy eight years together is, frankly, entitled to. Who, apparently, is ungrateful for all the thing I do for him.
You know, I mow his lawn sometimes.
Absolutely not. That was absolutely not a euphemism. I will not be spoken to like this—
Yes, sir, I understand the chain of command.
Yes, sir, I understand that this is bigger than me.
Yes, sir, back to the story.
So, we entered Food for Thought and called out to this Mr. Love.
‘Mr. Love?’ Griff called out.
‘Mr. Love?’ I called out.
With no immediate answer, Griff and I performed a sweep of the store. The backroom was empty. The bathroom was empty. And, despite the misgiving that hung over us and the shop, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Everything was where it was left. Where it had been—to the best of our memories—when we were there earlier. It was just empty of people, that was all.
Griff walked behind the counter, yanked open some drawers, jostled some junk around, and noted that the only item on the counter was the cash register. Oh, and a book. The book I mentioned before. The Days of Yesterday are the Days of Tomorrow.
When Griff mentioned this book, I remembered how I’d seen the shop owner Mr. Love’s eyes wander into the back corner and up to the top shelf. The shelf with the black-spined books. I remembered how this Mr. Love had looked up to that shelf and those books when I questioned him about the Mr. Love with the stolen heart.
Well, what do you know, those books were gone. Everything was where it was except for Mr. Love and those black-spined books.
I told Griff about the shelf and the books, so he slid the ladder attached to the shelves over and made his way up.
‘You’re right,’ Griff said when he reached the top. ‘There’s an outline of dust where a row of books had been. And judging by the mound of surrounding dust, they’d been there for a while. That bastard took the books all right. The books must be important.’
Now what happened next still astounds me. Perhaps I’ll forever be astounded by what happened next—Griff had an idea. He said to check the rest of the books on the rest of the shelves and that maybe, like the black-spined books being distinct from the rest, there would be another set of distinct books. And that these would then be revelatory to finding both Mr. Love and the other Mr. Love’s heart.
Griff and I skimmed the titles, searching for something out of the ordinary. There was the usual bookshop fodder. The to-be-expected best-selling titles that every American mantle displays. The books of poetry no one reads but people anyway. The detective stories and the romances and the ever-growing collection of ways to fix our shitty lives.
Mostly, though, on the shelves Griff checked were simply characters printed on pages bound between cover art. On the shelves I checked were books all the same. Like Pale Fire, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Sot-Weed Factor, Mason & Dixon, Orlando, Don Quixote, Edwin Mullhouse, Recognitions, Naked Lunch, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Sixty Stories, and Metamorphosis. No, sir, that was not entirely necessary to list each of those books. But, yes, sir, I did it anyway.
If you have no further objections to how I’m telling my story, then I’ll continue. Any further objections, sir? No? Good.
We skimmed and we searched and we sought something out of the ordinary. We compared shelves on genre and book size and author name and titles and none of it matter. We compared whether books received positive critical reviews or whether they sold well enough to become best sellers and none of it mattered. No matter what we did to try and discern clues from books, none of it mattered.
It was bullshit.
‘This is bullshit,’ Griff said.
We’d had enough. We grew so frustrated that we could have flung all of those books into the garbage and washed our hands clean of that case.
‘I’ve had enough,’ Griff said. ‘I’m growing so frustrated that I could fling all of these books into the garbage and wash my hands clean of this case.’
He began pacing.
‘I don’t care if one Trevor Love,’ Griff said,’ has had his heart stolen right out of his chest. I don’t care if there’s another Trevor Love lying to us about knowing the Trevor Love without a heart.’
He began gesticulating about, pantomiming his anger.
‘I don’t care if the black-spined books were taken and that we probably won’t be able to find Trevor Love before Trevor Love finds his heart before he dies. I just don’t care.’
Griff swung his arm at the shelf nearest him. His hand swept the books from the shelf. Griff pushed the contents to the floor, but, instead of the anticipated thud shump rip thud, the books hit the floor, crying hollow like empty wooden boxes.
We both stared at the books on the floor and ignored our jaws that did the same. He was confused. I was confused. He’d found his lost sense of urgency. I’d found my lost sense of urgency.
Bending over, Griff lifted the books as if they were as light as they’d sounded when they’d landed. Opening the cover of the top book revealed nothing more than the vacant inside of a hollowed-out musing. A shelf without contents. A casket without a corpse.
I watched from afar. I watched Griff’s bemusement with equal bemusement and sprung my hands to the shelf nearest me. Pulling the books away, they were all light and empty, shells, caskets, all without insides, without the substance one suspects when peeling back its soft or hard cover.
Every book on each shelf was empty. Just covers and the air in between. As it turned out, all except a row of fifteen nondescript classics that didn’t even have full covers—just the spine and the top. Upside-down capital letter Ls. A covering. A tent. Concealing a bi-folded note card that faced out into the shop, that faced me and Griff. It read:
To whom it may concern,
In the beginning, there was nothing. By the end, there will be nothing. So—make the middle something… bizarre.
Neither Griff nor I knew at the time what to make of any of this. It all seemed so odd, even after the two Trevor Loves and all that. Even after Officer Humphry’s toot when Trevor Love barged into the precinct screaming and hollering and hooting. Even after all that, Griff and I still stood gaping in awe at the note card on the shelf and the seeming taunt of two detectives standing agape at its message.
Thinking back on it, I still get the shivers.
And I don’t know why, but in that moment, it hit me.
‘The book,’ I said to Griff. ‘The book on the counter. That was there when we came earlier. And it’s the only item—other than the cash register on the counter. What’s the book say? What’s inside the book?’
Griff marched to the counter. He ran his hand down the cover and read the title out loud. The Days of Yesterday are the Days of Tomorrow. He lifted the book off the counter. His eyes met mine when it had weight to it, when it wasn’t just a shell, was more than a casket. He flipped the cover over, past the end pages, to page one, and his mouth fell open. He looked back to me, back to the book, back to me, to the note card over my shoulder on the shelf, and back to the book. He flipped page after page, folding them back onto the one before, and his mouth fell farther and farther, opened wider and wider in wonder, with each passing page.
Slamming the book shut, Griff held it out to me. As if it were a soiled pair of underwear. As if it were a dead fish. As if it were proof that things beyond our understanding, our reasoning, our ways of making sense of the senseless existed and haunted our pitiful human means of understanding, of reasoning, of making sense of the senseless.
I took the book from him. Unsure of what he expected of me. Unsure of what awaited me. Skeptical about the severity of Griff’s reaction.
Resting the book in my left palm, I rubbed my index and thumb over the title page and the printing information and the dedication, and turned to chapter one, page one. Just as Griff had, my mouth fell, my body went numb, my heart pounded and that pounding throbbed in my ears, that pounding pinballing about my rib cage, pushing my stomach into the floor.
Page two, page three, page eighteen, twenty-seven, forty-nine, seventy, one-hundred-six, one-hundred-ninety-three, two-forty-two, three-hundred, every page read the same thing:
To whom it may concern,
In the beginning, there was nothing. By the end, there will be nothing. So—make the middle something… bizarre.
Detectives Lashmont and Griff
Honestly? Would you like the truth?
Well, if I’m being honest and telling the truth, I didn’t know what to think other than: How bleeping cool is that?
I didn’t know how they’d done it. I didn’t know what any of it meant. I wasn’t particularly concerned with the long game I presumed they were playing because damn did these guys have a penchant for style. They were the magicians and I was the willing audience seeing only smoke and mirrors.
I’ve given it a lot of thought since, obviously, and now wonder how they knew we’d search the bookshelves to see their note first then check the book and see our note. And I don’t think it matters. The order of discovery, that is. Whether that passage was written by them or us first is beside the point. What counts is that that passage was written. Ascription doesn’t really matter, does it?
Take this for instance. Right now. I’m here telling my story about someone else’s story, to you, sir, who will then provide your account—or tell your story—to someone else. The most vital piece is the story, not the teller, right?
Regardless, there we were—standing slumped and slouched, struck and stung by the intensity of feeling the full weight of fate, two-step dancing into exhaustion with destiny.
Griff sighed and bottomed his palms in his pockets. He turned around and walked straight out of the shop. Man defeated.
Back in the car, I looked away from the road when we slowed to a stop at a red light and turned to Griff. I told him it was going to be okay. That it’ll always be okay.
‘Maybe so,’ Griff said to the window and the nothing beyond it as much as to me, ‘but are they right? The two Trevor Loves—or the one Trevor Love—or another Trevor Love? At this point, who gives a shit about Trevor Love? But are they right? That the only thing set between the nothingness of beginnings and endings is the bizarre?’
Normally, Griff likes to talk about football and gambling and broads with lower back problems and broads with built-in seat cushions and broads with particular dispositions to positional gymnastics—as he refers to it—so when even he began waxing weird about the note care and The Days of Yesterday are the Days of Tomorrow I knew we had to take a break, to call it a day. Instead of driving back to the precinct and chugging coffee to the point of diuresis, I drove him home.
‘Thank you for today,’ Griff said while the car idled in his drive. He opened the door, stepped out, and leaned over, looking back in the open door. ‘I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, how this case will end, but let’s end this son of a bitch like the bastard it is.’
I nodded and, when he walked away, watched him stagger, wounded and weary, up the drive, along the path, to his front door before closing his house and himself off from the world.
What happened next is entirely my story. Griff wasn’t around to corroborate it. Other people wouldn’t be able to identify me because they didn’t pay close enough attention because they never pay close enough attention to other people. I suppose there’ll be cameras, surveillance, but, as my wife likes to say, ’You’re farting in your sleep again, baby.’
What was that, sir?
You already know what happened?
How in the world can you possibly already know what happened?
Deduction? Sure, I know what deduction is. You take that, yes, and extrapolate until you find the most possible outcome. And then play the odds. Well that’s very good, sir. But that still doesn’t prove you know what happened after I dropped Griff off and before I entered the precinct the next morning.
Fine, go ahead. Make my day. Tell me what happened that night.
Okay. Uh-huh. Hmm. Uh-huh.
Meh, fair point.
Yup, I see.
So that’s what you think?
You think that I drove from Griff’s house to the hospital where the Trevor Love with the stolen heart was? That I parked the car down the street and walked half a block to the front entrance because I just felt like getting some head-clearing air? That the night was humid but not as humid as the day had been, so it felt like a break from the overwhelming weight of the case?
Trevor Love was under guard supervision, just in case the heart thief visited and decided to finish the job—or perhaps visited to see the result of their crime, the fruits of their labor—thus, I went to talk to him about the developments about Food for Thought and the shop owner Mr. Love?
This is your guess, sir? That I rode the elevator up to the third floor and walked the corridors, the three left turns, the two rights, and arrived at Trevor Love’s room? An officer was sitting aside the door, across from the nurse’s station, and I walked past all the nurses, past the officer, and into the room? The room keeping Trevor Love secure and alive? The room the hospital staff would have brought him to after they examined him and determined that he, indeed, had no heart within his chest? That his body was impossibly alive? That they didn’t know how he wasn’t dying or dead? The room that the hospital staff would have wanted to keep him within, so they could keep him alive, with an artificial heart, and so others could study his bizarrely working body? That I walked past the guard, past the nurses, into the room, to find it empty? Without a single soul inside?
Trevor Love was gone because he’d escaped and I didn’t know either where he went or where he was or how he’d escaped? Because the officer on duty didn’t see him leave? The nurses didn’t see him leave? But someone, surely, had to have seen him leave? Cameras? Eyewitnesses? Someone, something, somewhere, somehow had to know the whereabouts of the Trevor Love with the stolen heart?
Facing this defeat, I walked back to my car, phoned the precinct to put in an APB on Trevor Love, and drove home? I slipped my key into the front door lock and entered my home, kicking my shoes to the side, the second one thumping against the wall, before landing on the first? That I walked up the stairs, slowly and methodically? Walked how one does when they’re confounded and search like hell to find the answer to the problem that plagues them?
Inside my bedroom, my wife lay sleeping, snoring only ever so slightly? The snore that only those attuned to her every sound and step and movement and being could discern from the white noise of the working air vents and the footsteps and the clinking of the buckle of my belt and the swooshing of my slacks slipping off my waist and down my legs and folding around my socked feet and the groan of the bed under my weight and the wind-swept whisper of the sheets dropping, conforming to my body? You think I wrapped an arm around my wife, tucked my hand into hers, and moved into the curve of the woman I love, the woman I said ‘I do’ to, the woman I’d die for, the woman I’ll grow old with? That I told her I loved her and that I knew she was sleeping but I had had a long day and wanted to say aloud something concrete, something far removed from doubt or speculation, something I was positively sure about? I kissed her cheek, ran my other hand through her hair, and lowered my head onto the pillow before falling fast asleep?
That’s what you think happened before I woke the next morning and came into the precinct, sir? You would guess that if you had to guess?
Oh, no? You don’t need to guess because you know?
Is that what happened?
Are you asking me or telling me?
You’re asking me. You’re asking me if my story can be told by you despite you not having lived it. Despite you not having evidence that any of that happened, despite—
What? No, I’m talking.
Yes, sir, that is exactly what happened.
Yes, sir, you’re perfectly accurate, that that is exactly what happened.
No, sir, I shouldn’t have to say that. It seems unprofessional to make me—
Okay. Okay. Fine.
Sir, yes, sir, you’re the better detective.
I awoke the next morning to an empty bed. My wife was already up and exercising downstairs, running on the treadmill. She says, ‘do the thing you like the least first.’ The subtext of sex in the morning has always stung.
As I was leaving, she asked about the case. She said she’d heard about it on the news. She also said she thought it was so sad that that poor man had had his heart stolen right out of his chest.
I said I was running late, so that was that about that—the conversation, that is. Yet, on my drive to the precinct, I ruminated on her sympathy for a man whom I was beginning to despise. He’d embarrassed me time after time and my wife was feeling sorry for him. She didn’t care about me or my ego or pride, only a strange man who’d had his heart stolen right out of his chest. I mean, I was being castrated, doesn’t that deserve some pity?
The precinct was different that morning. People were down. Cops were down. Cops never get down. We’re the happiest people in the world—with all that power and all—and yet we were slumming in the dumps. Tragic, just tragic.
We have guns and doughnuts and shiny badges, why in the world would we ever dump slum? We wouldn’t, unless something subverted the convention that is the cop.
And these two Trevor Loves had done exactly that. They were the monkey wrench, the sixties hippies’ powerful flowers, the brisk wind dumptying Humpty about. Which meant they, somehow, despite having no extrinsic influence before, took full control of happenstance and consequence. They were, in their own words, the bizarre something made in the middle.
Griff was already at is desk. His chin rested in his hands and his eyes were closed. I expected to hear a snore and see a drool dribble, but when my chair squeaked as I sat down, he greeted me.
‘Morning,’ he said. His eyes still closed. His posture varied slightly in the displacement of his weight from his left to his right. He was the epitome of agony. ‘I’d say good morning but nothing about today and this morning feels good.’
‘Don’t be so hard on yourself,’ I said, hoping to inspire him. We’d need to be better detectives from that moment forth and feeling defeated or not giving a damn doesn’t elicit better detective work. ‘It isn’t our fault.’
His eyes jumped open. He leapt into the back of his chair.
‘Whose fault is it then?’ he asked angrily.
‘Well it certainly isn’t ours,’ I answered, trying to remain calm, ebb when he flowed, pull when he pushed.
‘But why not?’ he asked, rising to his feet. ‘Because this is our case.’ He pushed his index finger into his chest and turned it to push it into mine. ‘This is your case. And we’ve been defeated at every flash point.’
He started pacing. I wondered why people paced. Nobody ever paced when things were going well, when they were contented. Perhaps it was the blood flow. To get the blood flowing. Or maybe it was just the need to do something when they felt helpless, long without hope.
‘Because we haven’t had anything to go on,’ I answered to what I imagined was the best of my ability.
‘We lost both Trevor Loves,’ he spat.
‘You can’t lose what you don’t have,’ I retorted enigmatically, hoping he’d find something worthwhile about it.
‘We’ve found no evidence,’ he spat some more.
‘You can’t find what isn’t left,’ I retorted enigmatically some more.
‘And what in the hell are those black-spined books?’ he spat more some more.
Before I could respond in what would most definitely be my best attempt at bullshit yet, a woman approached Griff and I with a white cardboard box. The top lay askew. Its heft assaulted her arms. She looked like she was in good shape—not a meatball on two toothpicks type of shape, but physically-fit shape—so the box she grappled with must have contained something of serious weight.
‘Excuse me,’ she said. Her voice pure and rehearsed. She smiled but that too was rehearsed. ‘Are you Detectives Lashmont and Griff?’
‘What’s it to you?’ Griff snarked. I could tell he was well beyond his breaking point. People in rural China could tell he was well beyond his breaking point. If there are aliens on Mars, they could tell he was well beyond his breaking point. I don’t need to keep telling you that he was well beyond his breaking point, do I?
‘I’ve been instructed to deliver a package to Detectives Lashmont and Griff. I’ve been instructed to deliver a message to Detectives Lashmont and Griff,’ she said, looking from myself to Griff, questioning, seeking confirmation that we were the detectives she was instructed to find and deliver whatever it was she was to deliver to us.
She lowered the package to Griff’s desk. Leaning forward, I saw fifteen black-spined books. I nearly jumped out of my shoes. Griff, after seeing the spines, took a seat. He ran his hands up and down, over his face, sighing from underneath.
Every development of this case was unexpected, sir, but this felt the most so. That morning, I’d entered the precinct thinking that everything we’d needed to solve the case had disappeared and for good. Not just lost-car-keys disappeared but, rather, lost-sock-in-the-dryer disappeared. Once there but never ever more. So, this woman arriving with a box of the fifteen black-spined books—I don’t know. Suddenly, everything turned out of body. An ethereal experience people confuse with heaven and God and other accepted supernatural high camp.
And then the woman read her message. She read from a lengthy script-signed paper. It read:
‘Dear detectives. As my scribbling ascendants afore me, I’m here to tell the truth. The truth of all things, as—to the very best of my being—I see it, without disingenuousness, forgoing indifference, in full zeal and zippity. Bound upon these black spines and within these darkened begins and ends are the most important texts to the Human. They are the sovereign and preeminent stories and facts to be confirmed. They are, as you’ll soon discover, all blank. Like the covers they sleep between. They are all blank because the best of us—the Human—is yet to come, because the best of us—the Human—is always seeing the idyll future in the imperfect present to present and print blue the means of preventing the days of yesterday from becoming the days of tomorrow. In that, you’ll soon discover, is an irony to irony itself. In that, you’ll soon discover, is a paradox of a paradox. In that, you’ll soon discover, is a question with exactly no answers. But before you wonder what the point of it all is, riddle me this: In the beginning, there was nothing. By the end, there will be nothing. So—make the middle something… bizarre. Yours truly, Trevor Love.’
At the mention of Trevor Love, the ambiguous, non-defining, undiscerning Trevor Love, Griff reached for his cuffs and slapped both tightly around the woman’s wrists.
‘You have the right to remain silent,’ Griff said, beginning the recitation of the rights the woman didn’t need recited to her. Not that she wasn’t entitled to these rights—she was—just that she wasn’t under arrest because there was no crime under which she should have been arrested.
‘Griff’ I reminded him, ‘you can’t arrest her.’
‘Like Hell I can’t,’ he said, mouthing the remaining rights.
‘You can’t,’ I stepped toward him. After all, I was lead detective and he needed to listen to me, obey my orders. ‘So stop. Now.’
By this time, Griff had finished the arrest. Therefore, he didn’t mind stopping. To him, he’d ended it and therefore my directive wasn’t interfering with anything. To him, he had the epiphanic experience of closure. To him, this case was closed.
I knew otherwise, of course.
I still needed to figure out the meaning of all of this. I still had a job to do. No matter how bonkers, bat shit, bury-me-up-to-my-pie-hole crazy this case was, I still had to do my job.
Also, at this point, there was quite a bit of professional curiosity about what in the hell was happening.
Removing the handcuffs, I asked the woman to sit at my desk. She was kind and did as I asked. Some people don’t need handcuffs to get off—Yikes. I mean, they don’t need handcuffs to tell the truth.
‘Who sent you?’ I asked the woman. Griff had left the room by this point.
‘Trevor Love,’ she said as matter of factly as a mail order on her wedding day.
‘Which Trevor Love?’ I asked. ‘The one who had his heart stolen or the owner of Food for Thought?’
‘There’s a difference?’ she answered by asking.
‘You’re God damn right there’s a difference,’ I said. Even though Griff had left, there still needed to be some gruffness in my proceeding police work. ‘I saw both of them and they’re not the same person. They may have matching identification, but we have a picture with both of them in it. We’ve seen both of them, talked to both, and they’re different people. So, again, which one sent you?’
‘By God, you are good,’ she said sarcastically.
‘Don’t sass me, missy,’ I threatened, ‘or else I’ll bring my partner back in here.’
She apologized. Griff was good for some things.
‘So who sent you?’ I asked again.
‘Trevor Love. The only Trevor Love,’ she said.
‘And who are you?’ I asked, frustrated but unwilling to argue semantics.
‘Do you want my birth name or my taken name?’ she asked.
‘Birth,’ I said.
And I’ll be damned if she didn’t go and say—
‘What’s your taken name?’ I asked to cover my bases. I already knew what she’d say but assumed I should ask anyway.
To which, of course, she said—
If Griff had been there, his head would have exploded. The amount of smug self-righteousness she aired was unreasonable. Part of me wished I were more like Griff because I would have cuffed her and celled that woman until the sun set in the East, but I knew there was something much larger happening. Something bigger than any of us could wrap our comprehension around. However, I wasn’t more like Griff, so I just waited for the next domino to fall.
And boy did it fall.
At that moment, the precinct flooded with people. All kinds of people. Every shape, size, race, style, age, you name it, walked in and walked right to me. At least fifty people stood before me, waiting for me to address them, to ask them the single question I was supposed to ask. To ask them who they were. And like the patsy that I am, I did.
‘And who may you all be?’ I asked.
One by one, as though they’d choreographed the order by which they’d reveal themselves did exactly what I knew they’d do.
‘Trevor Love,’ the first person, an old man with an elephant trunk for a nose, said.
‘Trevor Love,’ the second person, a teenage girl with red lipstick and a top hat on, said.
‘Trevor Love,’ the third person, a middle-aged black man with a face so pretty that I wish I could run my hands all over it because one sense isn’t enough to consume it with, said.
‘Trevor Love,’ the fourth person, an Indian girl with hair so straight and long and thick that you could lasso the moon with it, said.
‘Trevor Love,’ the fifth person said.
‘Trevor Love,’ the ninth person said.
‘Trevor Love,’ the thirty-sixth person said.
‘Trevor Love,’ the last person said.
A silence fell over the precinct. All except the Trevor Loves stood gaping at what was the strangest occurrence any of us could imagine. But, just as I was about to speak, the crowd of Trevor Loves parted and in walked the two original Trevor Loves—the stolen heart one and the shop owner one. They were followed by a woman.
Those two Trevor Loves approached me. The shop owner stepped aside. The stolen heart stepped aside. And the woman came forward. She carried an ornate box adorned with jewels and gems and gold and made of black timber wood.
‘My name is not Trevor Love,’ she said. ‘I’m Christina. And here’s his heart.’
She opened the box and lain atop the red velvet lining was a beating, pulsing, still-working, bleeding red heart.
Most cops avoid the paperwork like the plague that it is. Not Griff. Not that day. Not after that display. Griff arrested every last Trevor Love.
He took their fingerprints and every last one came up as—you guessed it—Trevor Love. He searched their pockets and every last one had a license with the same information, different picture, but all of them claimed their owner was—yup, once again, you got it—Trevor Love. Griff even tried prying the heart away from the woman holding the box, but he couldn’t get it out of her hands. Like magic, that’s what I say. Griff, however, says it must have been some sort of electromagnetic device. He’s still searching for answers, I think.
After every Trevor Love was arrested and crammed into our holding cells, I only needed to talk to three people. Probably only two, to be honest. But, the case called for the three: the first Trevor Love, the one with the stolen heart, the second Trevor Love, the owner of Food for Thought, and the woman with Trevor Love’s heart, Christina.
Inside the interrogation room, I sat across from the three of them. Each looked as if they already knew what I was going to ask and had written and rehearsed their answers. Each looked as if they knew—by some unseen, undetectable omniscience—the outcome before we’d even begun.
I attempted to wait them out. Sit there without talking until one of them gave me some nonverbal sign of wavering faith, but all three remained as stoic as a statue. Leaning into the flat back, cold metal of the chair, I laid one arm over the chair beside me and cleared my throat. I played it cool, but they were cooler.
‘Ma’am,’ I said to the woman holding Trevor Love’s heart. ‘Christina, correct? May I call you Christina?’
‘You may,’ she said, the box on the table set before her. She held it securely. No damage would ever come of the contents within. Not while in her possession, at least.
‘Why did you steal this man’s heart?’ I asked, pointing to the Trevor Love with the stolen heart.
‘If I may,’ the Trevor Love with the stolen heart interjected, ‘I’d like to say something.’
I told him that he was encouraged to speak. That that was sort of the point. But he didn’t speak. At least not at first. He stood from his chair, began unbuttoning his shirt, and shushed me from asking why or what he was doing. He lifted a single finger and gestured it to me.
Draping his shirt over the back of his chair, he revealed the once-wound of him having had his heart stolen right out of his chest as nothing but a thinning, faint line, the evidence of his incision healing so rapidly that it appeared as if the size or severity of the wound was of little or no consequence.
‘As you can see, Detective Lashmont,’ he said, ‘my health is not to be questioned. I’m okay. It’s true that my heart is not within my body and that Christina holds it and carries it with her, but that’s only because it’s safer there. My heart is safer in her hands. In her care. Thus, she didn’t steal my heart. I gave it to her. She’s not guilty of the grand larceny you believe her to be. But, rather, she’s the benefactor of love.’
He returned to his seat. He leaned to Christina. He kissed her and whispered that he loved her, that he’d always love her. They both smiled. That stupid smile of being in love. Madly in love. That wide-grinning, split-my-face-in-two, I-think-you’ve-broken-me type of smile.
‘You see,’ the Trevor Love who’d given his heart said, ‘I just wanted to tell a story. I suppose I just wanted to tell a story that told a story that told a story. But, you folks don’t let people tell stories anymore.
‘It’s bizarre. And with that bizarreness, I wanted to tell a love story. People think there’s only one way to tell these love stories, but here was another. This one. The love doesn’t minimize the rest and the rest doesn’t minimize the love. You see, these kinds of stories don’t always need bareback, bare-chested horseback riding along low tide beaches. Cold-shower scenes aren’t a requirement to tell a story to make people swoon. I wanted to tell a love story that was more than just a love story but a love story all along.
‘If it’s criminal to do so, then so be it. And if it’s criminal to be in love then lock me up for life.’
‘No, Mr. Love,’ I said, ‘there’s nothing illegal about love. However, the stunt you’ve pulled crosses the line of legality. You falsely reported a crime. You diverted police attention. You’ve disturbed the peace. You’ve obstructed justice. You’ve perverted the course of justice. I’m sure there’ll be a list of charges as long as your arm.’
‘That’s fair,’ he said, ‘but, can I have the last word?’
‘It’s yours,’ I told him.
‘There comes a day when you’re faced with a choice. To do this or to do that. Simple choice. Yes or no. As you may say, black or white. And we choose, not because we have to, but because we want, need to. It’s inborn to the Human.
‘However, when we choose this, people tell us to have chosen that. And if we had chosen that initially, they would have told us we should have chosen this. I guess—after belaboring about—my point is that there is no point. And there’s a point in that. I think. So, let us live.’
‘Yeah,’ the shop owner Mr. Love said, ‘you bunch of slime-spined fascists.’
There were charges filed, but everyone walked. Nothing stuck because it was all nonsense anyway. They didn’t care what we had to say. They promised never to do anything like that again. Crossed their fingers and hoped to die. Pinkie promised even. And they walked away just like that. The same way they came in, they went out. But boy was that middle part bizarre. Maybe even more bizarre because before them was nothing and after them has been more nothing. Just cases we’ve seen a million times. Nothing new. Nothing bizarre. Nothing curious even.
Griff took it to heart, of course. Took it to his soul. He’ll tell you that he took it right up the ass, but that’s neither here nor there.
‘What do we do now?’ Griff asked when the final Trevor Love exited the precinct—a curly haired ginger with dirty shoes, dirty shirt, and dirty pants. I bet his underwear were clean though. Because that’s just the way of the world.
‘We do as we did before,’ I said to Griff, slapping a hand on his shoulder, reassuring him that moving on is better than staying put.
‘But how do we do that after something like this?’ he asked.
‘I wish I knew. I wish I had the right thing to say, but I haven’t the slightest idea,’ I said.
‘But we checked his pulse? And the hospital checked his chest? And there was no heart beat and no heart?’ Griff grasped at something of sense. ‘How can that be? The fingerprints? The box with the heart inside? It was a real live heart. I saw it. How can any of that be?’
‘I don’t know,’ was all I could say. When considering, it seems it’s all any of us can honestly say.
Griff slumped over, dejected, knocked out, defeated.
‘Go home,’ I told him. ‘And that’s an order. Go home and get some sleep. You’ve earned it. You look like you need it.’
‘What I need is to fall into a coma for a month or two,’ he said. I laughed, but he wasn’t joking. ‘Do you think Trevor Love could do that for me? Put me in a coma? He put his damn heart in a box. Can he put me in a sleep so deep that it lasts a month?’
‘You’re talking nonsense, Griff. Go home,’ I told him.
He didn’t say anything. Just grabbed his phone off his desk, pulled his keys from his pocket, and went the way the Trevor Loves went.
I did all the paperwork. Because that’s what partners do. I did all the paperwork, filled out all those reports. Eventually, I went home. I was still hoping to be able to answer some of the same questions Griff still had. The black-spined books? The Days of Yesterday are the Days of Tomorrow? The girl who came in to read the note? The bookstore? The missing heart? I knew—I know it must mean something more. It’s saying something I haven’t been able to hear. Maybe I can’t speak that language, so it sounds like a whole bunch of gibberish. Maybe it’s showing something I just can’t see. I’m too blind. Or I’m oriented in the wrong direction.
It must be. Otherwise, why go through all that trouble? Why disrupt law and order? Why take it out on Griff and me?
But I still don’t know.
I really don’t.
I suppose it couldn’t have been anything personal. Griff or I hadn’t done anything to them. Didn’t know them from Adam, yet they subjected us to this. Whatever this is. Whatever that was.
Which—maybe, my best guess—meant they were taking it out on the metaphorical us, our symbol, what we represented, not us as individuals. They wanted to say something about the system and used two people within to do the talking.
Interesting, really. If you want to show something is broken or sick or dying, what better way than to climb inside and fester and rot until you break through the flesh and expose the twisted inner workings to the outer world. Very clever.
Trevor Love—the metaphorical Trevor Love—wanted to say something about the cop—the metaphorical, whatever policing authority, any policing authority it may be—and used a cop to do the telling.
Us cops try to enforce rules, but what if it’s a world with no rules? What if Trevor Love is talking about a world within a world—a story within a reality? Does that make his message any better or worse? Does it mean he’s right or wrong? Or does it simply mean that he just is?
Because I think—at least the way I see it—is that he did his job. He told a story and took a stand. What’s more important than that? Trevor Love went out of his way to tell a story, to take a stand, and tell someone something important. To tell someone that he loves them. What’s more important than that?
Where we go from here, I’m not sure. I’ll never be sure. When it comes to that, I’m forever sure.
There is something, however—one thing that has been paining me. It involves you, sir. I suppose, in more ways than one, it’s always involved you, sir.
May I ask you a question?
Thank you. I appreciate this. It’s only a single, simple question. One fundamental to all of this, to the entirety of this curious case of the missing heart. May I ask what your name is?
What’s your name, sir?
Hmm, I thought so.
Well then, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you.