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.