“Ever seen anything like this before?”
The investigator looked up from a jumble of books and CD’s he had been rifling through. “Like what?”
Jackson wiped his face with his sleeve trying to hide evidence of the sudden nausea that had forced him to leave the room earlier. His eyes whispered for one more glimpse downward but he willed himself to focus on the wall before him rather than what lay on the floor.
“Captain … we’re in Oak Park for goodness sakes. This isn’t supposed to happen here. I mean … well … I grew up here. People in Oak Park don’t do this kind of thing. “
Jackson’s words trailed off. His eyes had succeeded in finding their way back to the floor. Three bloody bodies lay neatly in a row. A man, a woman and a child perhaps four years old. Arranged in an orderly fashion like some grisly monument to the basest of human capabilities. And once again the nausea returned. He tried to check his impulse to gag but couldn’t.
Finally, regaining control, Jackson looked at his Captain. The last pretence of professionalism now forgotten. “How can you walk through … “ Jackson held his hands outstretched … “though this and say, like what?”
The Captain stood up, pulled off his latex gloves and stuffed them in his pocket. He respectfully walked in an arc around the bodies until he was beside the younger officer. His face was as hard as the job he had to do. But his eyes. His eyes were warm and reflected far more feeling that the response he had given implied.
“So you grew up in Oak Park?”
“Yes sir. Played football for the Argos. We won State my senior year.”
What passed for a smile crossed the Captain’s face. “Yea, that was some team.” He looked down at the bodies. Almost like he expected them to add something. “Son. I grew up here too. Guess we can both say this is our home town. “
Whatever tension had been present in the room was gone. Jackson grinned. How had he managed that in the midst of such horror? An abrupt look of guilt swept his face. Like he had committed a sacrilege of some sort. His eyes fell and his smile faded.
“What’s a matter officer? You act like you’ve never seen anything like this?
“Like I said; I haven’t.”
“You’ve seen this plenty of times . Even here in Oak Park.”
Jackson was focused now and angry. “Begging the Captain’s pardon but I have never experienced anything even remotely like this.”
The Captain walked back to the pile of books he had been going through and pulled out a small leather bound Bible. A rough faced police captain thumbing through the fragile pages of a white wedding Bible seemed out of place. The fact that he was standing over the bodies of a once very happy, now very dead family only added to the ludicrous appearance of the whole thing.
“Son, you have seen all this before. Only you saw it outside in. “ the Captain said.
“That’s what I said.”
As the Captain spoke, his thick stubby fingers continued their journey through the thin, gold lined pages of the wedding Bible. Finding what they were searching for he stopped and pointed to the words on the page.
“Here it is. ‘The heat is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?’”
Jackson shook his head, “I don’t get it!”
“Jackson, in all of your life, you’ve never seen any evidence of man’s darkness? You’ve never seen a child abandoned by his mother; an aging couple forsaken by their children; justice ignored and injustice applauded?”
Jackson didn’t answer. He knew he had seen that and too much more. Even in sleepy, now suddenly not so innocent, Oak Park.
The Captain sighed. “Mostly, we see what man is with the outside in. Today, unfortunately we’ve seen what man is with the inside out. But it’s all the same. Just sometimes it kills more quickly than others. That’s why we need something or someone bigger than us to save us from all this. You’ve seen this before Jackson. If you looked in the mirror honestly.”
Left alone in the room to contemplate those words, Officer Jackson closed his eyes. He had never understood his wife’s gentle nudges toward Christ. Never saw the need. Not in innocent Oak Park. Perhaps now, he understood.
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