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.