The metal chair screeched on the ground as Detective Lohelm pulled it out from under the aluminum table. His job was a simple one until a few months ago. Just a small-town detective waiting for retirement, investigating petty thefts in the meantime. All was good in his life until the first pair of bodies showed up. Two teenagers skinned from the neck down and hanging from nooses off of the town’s memorial bridge. That’s when his life started to become a lot more interesting and his job became a whole lot harder.
The pattern of two mutilated bodies appearing ever so often in a public place has continued for several months, although the actual cause of death was never the same. The department has worked through every possible suspect they could think of, and more always appear after new bodies show up. Lohelm knew that this investigation was getting nowhere. It started to seem ridiculous when they decided to pull the town’s priest, Father Johansson, in for questioning. Although Lohelm already knew he was innocent since the two dead kids that showed up had nothing, well, “priestly” come up on forensics, but this was a part of the job and if Lohelm could get one of the few reassuring voices back out into the town and clear him of suspicion then by that priest’s God, he was going to do it.
“I’m sorry, Father, for having to call you in here, but I assure you this is all just a formality due to the location of the bodies that were found near the outside of your church,” the aging detective said as he flipped through a manila folder that was placed on the metal table in front of him. “We just want to know if you saw anything. You know, if you’ve seen suspicious people around the church before the bodies turned up, or if any of your flock have been acting differently, that sort of thing.”
Father Johansson carefully removed his red scarf from around his neck as the detective spoke to him, revealing his clerical collar underneath. He folded and then smoothly placed the scarf on the table, each movement of the man’s arms being as smooth as water running down a stream. Johansson took note of the room before he spoke. Noticing every detail – from the chipping white paint and the cameras to the pipes protruding from one wall, running like rusted up snakes from one side of the room to the other, and disappearing into another wall once they reached the end. It was truly an ugly room to Johansson, but he knew justice had wrought itself against the wicked many a time here and that added beauty to it.
The young priest spoke. “If you were referring to the bodies, I believe that the respectful terms to use when referring to them are their God-given names of Jeremiah Duart and Marissa Zilc. The two murder victims who died of electrocution and were later found hanging from the fence of my church by dog leashes this morning and the link between the two of them being that they were both around the ages of 65 then, yes, I know who you were referring to.” The young priest relayed to the aging detective. A cold emotionless face being worn throughout the entire elaboration.
“Well. Yes,” Lohelm, responded lighting up a cigarette “That is exactly the situation and individuals that I am referring to. By the way, do you mind if I smoke in here?”
“Detective, I am very up to date on the case of the twin age killer, and no, detective, I don’t mind if you smoke. I’m sure there are much worse things than smoking that can take the breath out of a man’s lungs before they reach the Lord’s home,” Johansson uttered glancing from the cigarette to the detective’s neck. “Allow me to list the victims off for you in the order that they were discovered by your department.”
“Please, Father Johansson, I appreciate your zeal for this case, but there is absolutely no need for that. The details are messy, and the less time spent dwelling on them, the better.” A disturbed detective Lohelm responded holding his hands up in a stop gesture, which caused smoke to trail after them.
“Well, detective, I just wanted to make sure you knew all the details before I told you if I know about the killer,” Johannson calmly retorted. “The answer is a plain yes. I know the killer, in fact, I know him quite well,” the priest said with a prideful nod. “That knowledge and passion for this case come from my personal relationship with the murderer. You see detective I am the twin age killer,” Father Johansson proudly exclaimed. “Although I believe the term Noah’s age killer would be much more appropriate to the selection of victims.”
“What?” A dumbfounded Lohelm coughed, causing the cigarette to fly out of his mouth and extinguish itself on the table.
“Oh!” Johannson barked in surprise, his eyes widening. “Noah’s Arc! It’s referencing Noah’s Arc! I thought it would be obvious, but I suppose that the connection between two of each animal and two of each age group was not as obvious to those who are not as versed in biblical texts as I am. Still, now that I have pointed it out it must make sense to you… Surely.”
“Father, you just admitted to the murders of eight people and then proceeded to go on a tangent about an old man and his zoo boat like the two subjects make any type of god damn sense being paired with each other,” the detective gasped, his face shifting from one of confusion to one of rage. “I don’t know if you think that these jokes are funny, but I expected more respect for the dead from a man of God. This killer has left eight brutalized bodies in his wake and you think that it is somehow appropriate to-.”
“Eleven.” Interrupted Johansson his body not even portraying a hint of discomfort.
“The amount of people I have killed is more than the bodies found by your department. Just because the number eight is written down does not mean that you have located all the bodies,” the priest announced, his eyes twitching with a slight hint of annoyance.
“Two are strapped underneath a bridge downtown, although I hope you don’t want the matching heads. The last one is located in her home. I’m almost done, you know. Just one more and I will have completed the preliminary task before I move onto my God-given destiny.”
Lohelm was stunned. The detective had been in the business for twenty years, and in those two decades, he had gotten very good at telling when people were lying. None of those alarms were going off with Johannson. Sweat began to drip down the fifty-five-year old’s face as the full magnitude of the situation began to unfurl itself within his mind. The man sitting across from him was not just a priest but a beloved figure in their town. Everything about this situation seemed wrong and perverse in a way that he had never expected to experience during his career or even his life as a whole. Serial killers are known to take pride in their work, but this man casually admitted what he had done in a way that made it seem just that casual. Like it was going out and getting groceries or mopping the floor. One word raced through the detectives’ mind and onto his lips.
“A simple question with a simple answer,” the priest said with a warm inviting smile. “I want to go to Hell.”
“Hell!?” The detective screamed his face once again shattering into surprise.
“Stop right there. I know what you’re thinking,” the priest said holding his hands up towards the detective in an explanatory manner. “Eleven seems like a lot of work when the sin of one killing is enough to end up in the eternal abyss once you croak, especially when you’re killing in different, difficult ways each time. Trust me flaying these teenagers weren’t easy,” Johannson laughed. “What I seek to do is the most righteous thing that any being short of the Lord himself could do, and the only way to ensure that the intent of committing this act of great good does not counteract my sins on earth is to commit several unforgivable sins.”
Lohelm sat silently feeling a mix between anger surprise and interest as the priest explained his actions.
“These murders on earth are simply a prelude to my grand finale,” Johansson said, as he raised his arms above his head. “I am going to solve the problem of humanity’s evil. That is why God put me on this earth and will later put me into Hell to do. I am going to kill the devil himself!”
This man was nuts. To Lohelm, that seemed readily apparent as soon as he first confessed to the killings, but this? This blows all expectations out of the water. Lohelm had to prod for more.
“And how do you plan to do that, you psychotic fucker” Lohelm exhaled each word as if it were an explosion but with an extra emphasis on the “fucker.”
“Well it’s quite simple really,” chortled Father Johansson, ignorant to the detective’s worsening mood. “The purity of such a task can never truly be lost and a shard of that pure goodness will descend with me into the pit where I will then use it to enact my holy purpose.”
“Well aren’t you just a saint, willing to kill us to kill the big bad devil yourself,” Lohelm hissed at the holy father. “You ended the lives of eleven innocent people just so you could stake your bets on your side, the coin flip of there being an afterlife, much less your fucking version of one, just so you could take a stab at Old Scratch with a sword made out of your self-righteousness! Hell! The only thing I don’t understand is why you didn’t rape the kids if you wanted to sin so bad. I mean how could a man of your persuasion not use this supposed destiny as an excuse for it!”
“You do not understand the glory of my actions, detective!” Johannson screamed slamming his hand on the table. “Your heretical beliefs, just like other troublesome aspects of human nature, will evaporate once I put an end to the source of all woe! And for your information, I would never do such things to children! I am a murderer, not a monster!” Johansson’s left eye began to twitch rapidly as he shrieked.
“You are just a sociopathic monster that is using religion as an excuse to justify your crimes. The fact that you can’t see that from your actions is the most dumbfounding thing I have encountered in my life,” Lohelm somberly stated as he watched Johansson let out his fire and brimstone. “You are not the first and you aren’t going to be the last to do what you did, but this is the end for you so if you’re done with your shitty little sermon, let’s get this over with.”
“How dare you use such language in front of a man of God!” Johansson slammed his hands on the table. “I was more than willing to ignore the first swear but continuing to do so is nothing but sheer disrespect to my position and I will not tolerate it. My eternal soul will be damned for you and you repay me with disrespect! You called me the crazy one, yet you honestly believe that a sane person would commit atrocities such as the ones I have if the cause to do so is not righteous enough to warrant such sacrifice!”
The face of detective Lohelm turned red as he listened to the mad man accuse him of being disrespectful, while still acting like the supposedly holy title of the man and the man himself somehow still deserved even the tiniest sliver of respect.
“Mister Johansson,” Lohelm softly hissed through clenched teeth. “You have the right to remain-”
“No!” Father Johansson screeched his eyes rabid and his face contorting in a fit of manic anger. “You don’t understand!” The crazed priest slammed his hands upon the table and stood up before grabbing his neatly folded red scarf and twisting it around manically in his hands.
“I’m going to behead Baphomet, lynch Lucifuge, stab Stolas, assault Asmodeus, massacre Mammon, bloody Beilial, burst Belzebub, mince Molac, and I am going to slaughter Satan!” Johannson screamed down at the steaming detective his facade of sanity completely slipping as he named his intended demonic victims.
Lohelm mimed the movements of Johansson and stood up in a flourish.
“Father Johansson you have the right to remain silent. And for the love of your god and all others I hope to fuck you observe that-”
“You fool,” Johansson shrieked once again cutting off the good detective. “Did you not realize that eleven is an odd number?!”
Johansson grabbed his side of the table and quickly flipped it with as much force as he could muster. The meal table smashed into the face of Lohelm instantly breaking the aging man’s nose as Lohelm fell backward with the table and struck his head upon the ground. Johannson ran to the door, his chair in hand, and quickly propped it up against it to hold off the other cops, who were no doubt coming after that last stunt.
The man of God turned to the disoriented man on the ground. Johansson knelt and wrapped his red scarf around the neck of the gasping man and began to pull it tighter and tighter while he prayed. As he squeezed the life out of Lohelm, Johansson lifted the man’s head into his lap. Then, Johansson’s eyes drifted up towards the phosphorescent lighting in the interrogation room. An act of the utmost holiness had just taken place within it. The prelude to the final miracle.
It was now an indisputable beautiful room.
The door burst open and dozens of nameless panicked police officers flooded in guns in hand and pointed at the praying man. Johannson slowly drifted his eyes down to the white linoleum floors while the officers babbled something at him about not moving.
“You’re next.” He whispered through a serpentine smirk, eyes not moving from the floor.