“Third one in a fortnight. Jesus Christ,” said Taylor. “I’m getting to know this area of woodland too well. Am I mad, or is this-”
“The same tree?” said Griffin. “Yes.”
“Any I.D. on the vic?”
“You don’t recognize him?”
“The light’s not so good here. Hang on.” Taylor changed his footing on the step and angled the flashlight better. “Sweet J- Is that Frank Quinn?”
“Was,” said Griffin.
“So what’s that? One serial rapist. One child killer.”
“And one gangland don.”
“Someone would appear to be clearing up shop.”
“That’s how it would appear, but all of the forensics point to these being suicides. No foul play. No tracks. No defensive wounds. No tracks. No signs of anyone else being around or making these wastes of space check out against their will. We’re getting the CCTV from the parking lot checked now. Won’t be much to look at. Midweek, middle of the night, middle of winter, it’s not exactly a hive of activity here. But if the other two cases are anything to go by, we’ll see the scumbag arriving on his own, of his own volition, calm as you like, with a length of rope in his hands.”
“Makes absolutely no sense,” said Taylor.
I’ve been indifferent to people for the most part. Jogging past. Walking past. Using me as something for their dogs to piss on. For them to piss on. Or for them to fuck against. It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally run out of patience. Quite the achievement really, in the greater scheme of things. I’ve lived through war and famine, through all manner of disease and pestilence. I’ve seen them use sword and spear against one another, bow and arrow, fire cannonballs and bullets. Had my fair share pierce my thick skin or cost me a limb. They’ve killed each other, buried each other, right in front of me.
Maybe it’s my size. My age. But I’m like a magnet. A beacon. A vessel. Used to be only squirrels that got on my tits, those parasites, crawling all over, up and through me, but then I found I could communicate with them, channel a particular way of thinking, convince them to move away, stay away, or when needs be, come back and clean up around me. In time, I discovered my powers of communication and suggestion stretched beyond bushy-tailed rodents and extended to slightly higher forms of life, that on this particular day took the form of two bickering children arguing over who saw which fallen acorn first and who deserved to have the most in their respective pails. I settled the argument for them by advising one to shut the other up permanently with a branch I had discarded in a storm the previous winter.
I’ve seen all types. And whether they were lords or ladies, kings or queens, stable hands or kitchen hands, peasants or paupers, they were all the same to me. They still are. Like blades of grass, people are indistinguishable. And just as expendable. Mow them down and they just grow back. Like weeds.
After a thousand years rooted to this spot, I have at last realized my purpose. My calling. This is my garden. Slowly but surely, I will rid the garden of all the weeds and return it to its former splendor. It may take another thousand years. But I’m not going anywhere, am I?
“Must be something in the air,” said Griffin.
“Well whatever it is, we need to fan it away,” said Taylor, climbing down the ladder. “I don’t want another spate of copycat suicides.”
“Remember St. Colm’s in ’05?”
“Exactly what I’m talking about. High school kids are impressionable, do inexplicable things. Last thing we need is them being reminded of stringing themselves up as a way to be remembered.”
“Think the horse might have bolted on that one,” said Griffin, directing Taylor’s attention to the growing assembly of onlookers. In the front row: half a dozen teenagers.
“One of these kids is doing their own thing,” Griffin said under his breath as one of them broke ranks and ducked underneath the cordon, walking directly toward them.
“That’s no high schooler,” said Taylor. “It’s Frank Quinn Junior.”
“Hoodlum in training,” said Griffin.
“Hoodlum in mourning,” said Taylor. “Which makes him even more dangerous if not handled right.”
Two uniforms rushed up to stop the advancing youth, but Taylor stopped them. “Let him on through.”
Their sigh of relief was visible even in the dark. Frank Junior was no child. Six-four and two hundred fifty pounds or roided-up rage waiting to blow a gasket at the best of times. And now here he was, faced with his idol, his father, the only man he respected, hanging dead from a tree.
“Frank?” said Taylor. The boy didn’t respond. He was on autopilot, eyes and attention focused only on his dead father. He gripped the ladder and climbed up onto the second rung, wrapping his arms around his father’s dangling legs.
“Frank, this is technically a crime scene, CSIs need to process before we can take him down. Sorry,” said Taylor.
The words didn’t get through to the boy. He climbed another rung and heaved his father’s body onto his shoulder, loosening the knot in the noose around the older man’s neck, and then letting the dead body drop unceremoniously to the ground.
He looped the rope around his own neck then, climbed up onto the bough and launched himself out into the blackness, his weight and the force of the drop being more than enough to instantly and very audibly snap his neck.
I hardly had to try with that one. Much too easy. Maybe it’s time to step my game up. Get a little more ambitious.
It all happened so fast.
No sooner had Frank Junior’s body stopped swinging, all manner of criminal, deviant and lowlife began to show up, like flies to shit, in legion, blindly making their way to climb the tree and join their kindred spirits in the spirit world. How quickly a crime scene became a battlefield. Crime scene investigators were stood down in favor of crowd control and riot police.
Oh this is getting fun now. All those battles I witnessed as an uninterested audience member. I had no idea what I was missing out on. One must make up for lost time.
“Look around,” said Griffin. “It’s this tree and this tree only.”
“Christ, you’re right,” said Taylor, firing off another warning round that had zero effect on the wave of scum heading their way. “They’re not interested in any of the other ones. All practically killing themselves to get up into this tree and kill themselves.
“Get me the fire department or a demolition crew or whatever,” said the detective. “Think the quickest way to end this is to cut the thing down.”
Wait. What? Oh. Shit.