Unclean

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“The man who killed your boss stands among you,” the police consultant announced. The man was making himself a spectacle: a huge megaphone, a boyish attitude…a completely ridiculous spectacle. “Soon enough, the murderer in this room will be revealed.”

“This is just a trick you know,” the man beside him whispered, and Luis had to remember who he was. It finally struck him--Michael something-or-other, from accounting. God, there was so much to hate about accountants. So much to do with money. Thin bits of not-cloth and not-paper and not-copper that mean nothing but have a value assigned to them. It wasn’t bad enough that it wasn’t really anything either--the dollar bills were covered in cocaine and dirt. Just like the people who worked with them. Luis didn’t even know why he was listening to this idiot…

“Just a trick. They do this all the time.” Michael continued, “It’s not like they catch anyone.” The man was intolerable, the way he didn’t shut his mouth. Showing off his yellow teeth, and the broccoli that was stuck between them. Luis couldn’t take his eyes off of them, his gaze stuck in indescribable horror.

“Still,” Luis said, finally able to turn away, “It’ll be nice to see the show. So if you wouldn’t mind?” He hoped that Michael would stop talking if he politely told him, but it seemed that he would not get any relief from the man’s insufferably high pitched whine.

“I mean, how many people actually admit under such a showy exhibition that they killed a man? It’s not likely to happen, is all I’m sayin’.” he continued. And that was another thing Luis hated about accountants; the way they mixed words--‘exhibition’ and ‘sayin’’. It made him want to shoot Michael and all other accountants. But Luis didn’t shoot people. Guns were so…violent.

“Yes, I understand,” Luis replied, “Still. It’ll be nice to see the show.” He patted his pocket, checking for his wallet and the other item he always had with him. When he felt the familiar shapes underneath his hand, he was comforted. Luis could handle huge gatherings, but they made him nervous. It was nice to know that he had--

“Yeah,” Michael agreed. “Still, hah, who would admit to murder?”

“Do you hear that?” the consultant called out. “Listen closely. It’s very faint.” There was a dramatic pause, “It’s the sound of the last heart beat of your boss. Sometimes the speeds are different, sometimes it’s faint, but if you listen, very closely, you can hear the heartbeat of those taken from this world in a violent manner.”

Luis knew that wasn’t true. To be honest, he didn’t care much about who killed his boss. Whoever did was sloppy and probably as nervous as Michael next to him. You don’t kill your boss at your place of work. That makes the motive so clear. Honestly, it’s like screaming ‘catch me! catch me!’ to people like that idiotic ‘consultant.’ The murderer was obviously a newbie at killing. One rule. One simple rule--was that too hard to follow?

After that, it’s all technicalities; differing opinions. But the first rule is to not let your guilt be seen by the police. Don’t let them work out that you shot the idiot in the head and watched his blood splatter across the room; don’t allow the police and their consultants to get inside your head as you carefully mopped up the brain that had hit the wall…Not that Luis would know, of course. Guns are violent.

He bet that the murderer didn’t even try to get rid of the blood stains on his clothing. Luis felt disgusted at the mere thought that someone would just try to get rid of a blood stained shirt. It was so simple to clean the clothing and then give it away. Proper, even. Hydrogen peroxide breaks up the stain; then rinse the article of clothing in the regular wash. Once or twice or a few times, even. Then take it a state away and give it to a Good Will. Clean, that was the word Luis was looking for. A clean get-away.

Luis knew all about those. Luis wore gloves and a cap; Luis always covered his shoes; Luis sterilized the entire room. He left the corpse--body wasn’t a clean word--the way a mortician would. No trace evidence, not a speck of dust.

He had learned from all of his father’s mistakes.

He also didn’t kill a specific sort of person either, like bosses. Not his boss. He didn’t kill only red-heads or only communists…that wouldn’t be clean. Organized, certainly, and Luis had to admit there was a certain appeal there, but it didn’t lend itself to a clean get-away. That was what mattered when all was said and done. You didn’t get caught.

Michael started shifting his weight, “That heart beat is really annoying. It’s almost like it’s getting louder. ”

“Mmh.” he agreed, lost in thought; he didn’t hear the heartbeat. He didn’t listen for them, unlike others. He made certain that the person had really turned into a corpse. Of course, you couldn’t leave the corpse in the room where it had been killed, which meant that it had to be transported and ‘dumped.’ Such an unclean word. Removed. That was better. It had to be removed to somewhere secluded. River beds were nice places to put corpses. He had never used the same one more than once. Running water washed away anything he may have accidentally left behind.

He didn’t leave the body in a bag either; a trash bag he’d bought wasn’t clean. Taking one from anywhere else might lead back to either the location or him. Instead, he would weigh the corpse down with stones he picked up wearing a new pair of gloves. Any materials used would then be burned; then taken, secretly, to the next state with the clothing for Good Will and thrown in the dumpster.

“The murderer will hear that heartbeat and will be overcome with guilt,” the consultant continued, “The sound will grow louder and louder. One…Two…they’ll hear it continuously until it takes over their mind. Unless they confess to their crime.”

“It’s insane anyone would believe that,” Michael told him. “Once they turn off the speakers, it’ll go away.” Luis glanced over at the accountant to see him anxiously rubbing his ears, as if he wanted them to fall off.

“Thank you for your time,” said the consultant. “And if you do know anything that could help the police, please call them. However, since I already know who it is, you do not need to inform me.”
Then came the boyish wink. As the consultant walked away from the podium, and out towards the parking lot, the police officer he worked with walked beside him.

Michael moved away as the two police walked by them. Luis caught a snippet of the conversation.

“A bit Edgar Allen Poe, wasn’t it?” the one dressed like a police officer should be dressed hissed.

“Best to go with the tried and true!” came the chipper reply. “Oh, come on. It’ll work.” Luis tended to agree with him. People were gullible like that. People like Michael.

Luis traced the outline of his pocket knife and quietly wondered where Michael would be later in the day.

No. That wasn’t clean. You never disposed of someone you knew; someone people may have seen you talking to.

It was the reason his father had been caught. He killed his mother; she’d been cheating on him, with a banker…Luis couldn’t remember his name. Odd. Weren’t you supposed to remember the first person you killed? His father had taken the fall for him and died in jail…of cancer, of all things.

Luis killed the first state official he had seen, then. Who was she? An auditor. He couldn’t remember her name either. Names weren’t important at any rate. Names made things unclean. The constant repetition of names added to the rampant pollution on this filthy planet. He didn’t give them a chance to scream, a chance to pollute the air with their noise. The police found her body a month later; no useable evidence they said.

He only knew this because he was the janitor at the police station at the time. He’d heard the chief swearing. “It’s the first unsolved murder in the area since, well,” and he’d glance over at Luis and stop talking. Luis didn’t mind, not really. It was almost a point of pride for him, in fact. My dad’s killed people; he’s tougher than your dad ever will be.

The kids left him alone in high school after that.

Later, after he’d failed out of college, and after the auditor, he’d gone to the big city to find a job. He was now a janitor here at an insurance company. He hated it, but they were the only ones to accept him. Luis didn’t see the point in insurance; they didn’t keep people from dying. The money that they gave a family didn’t make up for the missing person.

Money didn’t amount to the blood that poured from a person’s neck, or the flesh that rotted away from the bones.

Michael stood near him again. Luis had barely noticed him arrive.

“So, do you think that they will catch the guy?” he asked nervously. “Do you really think he knows?”

“Do the police lie?” Luis asked sarcastically. He expected the man to go away, but he didn’t. He just stood there looking nervous. “Is there something you want me to do?”

“No. No, it’s just, look.” The man fidgeted, and Luis rolled his eyes, “Could you turn off the loud speakers?” Michael asked, rubbing his ears. “That heart beat…one two…”

“I can’t turn off the loud speaker.” Luis didn’t even try to hide his annoyance, “I don’t have the keys. You’ll have to talk to the head of maintenance. Besides-” he attempted to continued, but the man, the idiot accountant, interrupted him.

“Who is that? Where could I find him?”

“He’s off today. Some one else has the key. I don’t know, but can I please get back to my job?” He snapped and touched his pocket. He was forced to internally remind himself--no. “This room is…unclean.”

“What?” Michael asked. “Yeah, it’s a mess. If you can’t turn it off, do you have ear-plugs?”

Slowly, Luis turned away from him towards his cart and pulled out his bag of ear plugs. He didn’t like giving them up; they kept the noise pollution to a lower level. He pulled out two and carefully handed them over. Delicately. Begrudgingly.

Michael took them quickly and skittered out of the conference room. He didn’t even pause to say thank you--he just shoved the blue and white foam earplugs into his ears as quickly as he could. He dropped one on the floor and just picked it up again. And then he forced it inside his ear. Luis could see the germs multiplying on the earplug, and they were growing across the idiot’s head.

“No,” he reminded himself out-loud. “I won’t.” He picked up his mop and began to clean the entire room. There was gum on the floor that he put on a pair of gloves and scraped up the nest of germs, then sprayed it with sanitizer ten times, and placed it in a small bag. He tied up the garbage bag he threw it into. There was a spot of sticky, spilled soda that he washed and re-washed.

Just as he was finishing, he heard footsteps walking up behind him. He could hear a clump of dirt fall from the shoes as he turned around.

“Hello!” came the cheerful greeting of the consultant, “Nice job you did here. Bit obsessive, I’ve got to tell you.”

“I like things clean.” he said slowly and then turned around to continue mopping. He’d have to redo that section of the floor. His boss never liked when he took twice as long as someone else to clean; they docked his pay sometimes.

The consultant walked up next to him and stepped out of the way of the mop, spreading the dirt around that was on his shoes. “I saw you talking with that accountant…Moose, Mike--”

“Michael. He was talking to me.” Luis kept his hands on the handle of the mop, methodically pushing it back and forth, ringing it clean, and then starting on the next section of floor.

“Looked a bit worried about something,” the man said. His hair curled slightly, and one of his shoes was untied. “Did he say anything about that to you?”

Luis shrugged, “Kept talking about your speech. And the heartbeat. Call me deaf, but I didn’t hear it.”

“Wasn’t played. No one to open the closet the loud speakers are kept in.” He grinned “I’ve been reading a lot lately. Great inspiration. So, he heard the heart beats?”

Luis shrugged noncommittally; “Can’t have heard it if it wasn’t played.” He straightened the hem of his uniform and stood up again. He wanted to hand the man a comb. His hair was a mess.

“Doesn’t matter. If he was talking about them, he heard them. We just caught a killer, you and me.” He grinned wider and winked, “Tell me if you run across any more.” He sprinted out of the room.

Luis shrugged and mopped the entire floor again. Maybe later tonight he’d meet someone from the Traveller’s building.

He took out his knife and cleaned it off. It was stained with blood that, no matter what he tried, could not be scrubbed away. A thin sheen of red was continuously visible to his eyes.





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