Just Another Psycho

March 18, 2008
By Shane Buban, Centerville, IA

Howard Pierce had always told himself he would never go this far. No matter how disgusting they are, the point is to stop them; not to exact revenge, not to punish them; nothing so childish or petty as that. The point was simply to stop them. Besides this policy of his, if anyone ever did find him out, the “atrocities” Howard committed wouldn’t be quite so unbecoming were the victims not mangled so horribly as this one. Reserve, however, is a hard thing to maintain when you have a child molester with such a multitude of offenses kneeling at your feet and a knife in your hand.

The fun part was over now, and Howard was left with an awful mess. The plastic lining on the floor of the basement, the drain in the middle of it, and the delicacy with which he slashed the throat and other vitals—so as not to get any overspray outside the designated kill zone—would certainly make clean up easier, though. Still wearing his chemical suit and shoes much too small for him, Howard wrapped the body in the plastic, wrapped a large sheet of plastic around that, and carried the whole mess out to the trunk of his victim’s car. One hour and counting until Mr. and Mrs. Pierce would be home and expecting Howard to be there. He made it to the police station in about 10 minutes and, being careful not to walk through any grass on the way, dropped the body off at the back door along with the knife—a knife from the victim’s kitchen.

Nothing is black or white. Nothing and no one is completely wrong or completely right. If someone or something were, though, it would be impossible to prove. Arguments could be made back and forth for an eternity in attempts to justify or condemn an action. No nine people in the world can be entirely sure of something, and any nine people in the world can be bribed. That is why the court system hadn’t worked for these people. Still, If Howard tried to justify murder, he would have to admit that there is some, albeit meager, justification for the crimes of his victims. And that sure as hell was not going to happen.
“So how was your day, Howard?” asked Mr. Pierce, seated to dinner with his family a few hours later.
Howard had to stifle a chuckle. “It was good,” he said, twirling spaghetti around his fork. “I think I’ll have an ‘A’ on the physics test.”
“Good, good. Don’t slip up again, Howard. You know how hard it is to get back on track once you’re off.”
“Sure do dad.”

Howard was a normal, 16 year-old high school student. Howard got slightly above average grades, was involved in a few sports and clubs, had the occasional dispute with his parents and teachers; the whole shindig. He was different in just a few ways—just as every high school student is. He had an IQ of 150—officially genius—there wasn’t a genre of music he didn’t like in at least one way or another, and, on occasion, he killed people. Not just anyone, and definitely not… well, at least not just for enjoyment.
People would call him sick. People would call him insane. They would analyze him and stick him in a cell and destroy his mind with drugs and lies. What, he wondered, compels them to shun something as basic and primal and necessary as killing? Some misplaced sense of duty to a fellow member of their species? Do they really believe that justice is blind? Do they really believe that some invisible person in the sky will damn those who commit injustices? Or that a court’s verdict is right no matter what? No, he decided. They don’t really. They think they do because they have been told all their lives that that’s how it works. It is a good system—he had to admit. If people weren’t told not to kill, they would do it every time they need that promotion someone else is vying for. They would do it every time someone cut them off on the highway. Laws are products of the system and they perpetuate the system. It’s an awful cycle, and true, if one wishes to live in the cycle and reap its benefits, one must also play by its rules. Of course, he couldn’t avoid it all together, but Howard had unconsciously decided when he had first decided to kill almost seven years ago, that he would do his best not to be taken by the system.
After dinner, when Howard was alone in his orderly room, bare of much personality, save a painting he had made of a scene from an Ayn Rand book, he turned on the TV. “Businessman Brutally Slain” was the title above a picture of a chalk outline as the news anchor began speaking of a local murder. The piece told of a few of his accomplishments, gave some quotes from a couple of his co-workers they managed to round up regarding his character, and basically built it up to be quite a tragic event. “Why would someone do this,” was one such quote. “He didn’t deserve this.” The end of it said: “Police are still without a suspect, and are searching for possible motives.”
Howard had once, after a few kills, asked himself just that. They are awful, these murderers, rapists, etc., but do they really deserve death? Yes, he had decided after some deliberation. Once they’re dead, they surely don’t care. All that hurts them is the fear of death, and well, the knife. So in exchange for their plethora of evil, harmful deeds—and they all had a plethora, these were the only ones Howard killed—they are punished with fear and a quick moment of pain. He had actually wondered if he should do worse on occasion, and this last time he had slipped, and did. No, the question he really had to ask was if the people around them deserve their deaths. More often than not, the answer was yes, but for the sake of the potential victims’ families, Howard had in the past refrained from punishing a few of them.
Howard had once decided to talk to his guidance counselor about a “dream” he had in which he killed a murderer. He walked into the room that smelled distinctly and unexplainably like school—a compilation of papers, the walls coated generously with that lead based paint, and various other smells emanating from everyday school objects, most likely—and sat down nonchalantly under the UV lights.
“Isn’t that kind of hypocritical?” she asked.
“Yes, it is,” was his response.
“This gang banger killed someone because the poor guy cut in front of him at a grocery store. The punishment didn’t fit the crime. This man had a family, and this gang member had nothing but his own arrogance and his “homies.” How many times has he done this already? What if he did it again? Would the world honestly miss such a man?”
“I’m sure someone would.”
“Would it really be worth risking innocent lives to save one we can only guess someone would miss?”
“Look, that’s not the point,” she insisted. “It’s not just legally but morally wrong to kill.”
“Don’t you understand?”
“…Certainly. It was just a dream.”
He hadn’t expected a different response, but he was hoping if he reasoned just a little with her, maybe he’d be able to get her to concede to some of his truths. Why, he didn’t know. He didn’t need her approval; he didn’t even want it.
“I suppose it’s hard to convince yourself you’re sane when most of the world isn’t,” he thought.


“You are a very sick individual. I’m not going to honor you with prison; you don’t deserve it. No, I will be recommending a maximum security mental institute for you,” said the psychologist in the UV light of the dreary grey, interrogation room.
“It would only be fitting,” responded Howard.
In spite of his delicacy and precision, 9 years of killing had inevitably led to a small mistake. Howard watched his new target closely for a time before, as he did all his targets, to make sure he was in fact what people had accused him of in the court. When the time came, however, Howard had let his anger and sureness get the best of him. He had been torturing the serial rapist, and had taken a break to eat, leaving him alone. This wouldn’t have been a problem; the phones were nowhere near the man. There was still a drug in his system keeping him relatively paralyzed, and he was barricaded into his own basement.
Relatively was the key word, however. Howard, not having one of his own because of a hate for the things, had neglected to check his target for a cell phone. It was a simple mistake the simplest of people would have caught. A genius, however, concerns his or herself with so many more details than the simplest of people that one as tangible and practical as a cell phone was bound to be overlooked. Being able to move enough to dial those fateful three numbers on his cell phone, Howard’s last victim, John Sharp condemned Howard to a life behind bars. By the time the police had arrived Sharp was all but unrecognizable—but alive. That was the second mistake Howard had made—he had let his emotions get the best of him again.
Howard didn’t fight. There was no use. He told them who he had killed over the years to save them the time and money trying to solve murders they never would. Ten murders would result in quite a few life sentences, but since Howard was so cooperative, the prosecutors were nice enough to cut that in half for him, and grant him the possibility of parole. Not that Howard expected to ever get out anyway. There was just no reason not to tell them. He didn’t even try to justify it; for if he did he would be deemed delusional and mentally unstable, among things.
The press glorified Sharp and his courage, and showed America his recovery in the hospital for the next couple of months. He got a book deal out of it. Howard hadn’t mentioned the fact that Sharp was a rapist; there was not point in that, either. No one would listen, no one would care, and he had no evidence; the man was nearly as thorough as Howard—which is one reason Howard had chosen him as he had the rest of his targets.
“Why would someone do this to him?” the man’s wife flaunted her question to the media. “He’s such a kind man.”
“They always are,” Howard thought, watching the T.V. during his social hour.
“Why did he do it? Who was he, anyway?” the wife would ask police of Howard. The response was usually the same; “Just another psycho, ma’am.”

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