by Tim Britto
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Lou is a taxi driver who begins to see his passengers’ true selves in his rearview mirror. The visions frighten him at first, but he soon begins to enjoy his views into people’s lives. He even begins helping some passengers with kind words and deeds. But one passenger’s dark secret terrifies him, and he decides to do something about it.
This time, I wasn’t questioned at the detective’s desk, and I wasn’t offered watery coffee. I was in a small interrogation room with one bare light bulb and a large, one-way mirror on the wall facing me.
“We know you weren’t there by accident or coincidence,” Detective Rogerio said as he stood over me and his partner leaned against the wall next to the door. I expected a good-cop, bad-cop routine. I guess I watch too much TV, because they just seemed to do a “one cop talks, one cop watches” routine instead.
“But I was,” I replied without any hope of being believed.
“Because one guy we found said he saw you parked there for over two hours,” the Detective spoke as if I’d stayed silent. “He said he asked if you were on duty, but you said no. He found that really odd.”
I remembered the guy with the bushy moustache. I didn’t say anything to the Detective.
He pushed his already rolled-up sleeves further up his arms.
“Another thing, Lou, why didn’t you buzz him? Several tenants told us they were buzzed at the same time as the incident in Kyle’s apartment. One guy said a man told them he forgot his keys. Why didn’t you just buzz Kyle if you wanted to be a Good Samaritan?”
“He didn’t answer.”
“And you just couldn’t wait?”
I didn’t say anything, and the Detective pressed on.
“We can come back to that. Why didn’t you just throw the letter in the mail?”
“There was no postage.”
“It would’ve been returned to the sender.”
“This seemed like the right thing to do.”
Detective Rogerio nodded his head and smirked. “Did it? Well, here’s another odd thing: we never found the letter.”
I stared at him, too stunned to speak. I remembered having the letter when I entered the building but, after that, I had no idea what I’d done with it.
“It got lost in all the confusion,” I tried.
“Do you know what we did find, Lou?” Detective Rogerio asked with a smile on his face that I knew meant I was in trouble. I didn’t answer. His smile didn’t fade as he tossed some photographs on the table in front of me. I saw a takeout food container and then realized that it had a severed human thumb in it. I nearly vomited and pushed the photograph away from me.
“Why are you showing me this?” I asked in a whisper.
“Because it’s yours.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Your employer has copies of your fingerprints. We subpoenaed them yesterday morning. It didn’t take long to match them to prints on this container. The container was in Kyle’s fridge.”
I felt I was going to faint. I remembered telling Kyle he could take the container just to get him away from me.
“I had it in my cab when I picked Kyle up. He asked if he could have it and, since I was just going to recycle it, I said sure.” I explained knowing full well the detective would not believe me.
There was a real chance I would be going to jail, but all I could think about was the look Lauren gave me when the cops handcuffed me and began reading my rights. She was surprised, no doubt about it. But more than that, she was hurt and... scared. She was scared of me, and that hurt me more than I could possibly explain.
“Tell me why you were really there, Lou. Were you his partner, and you had a falling-out? Did you buy the body parts for something?”
“I already told you, I wanted to return the letter but then I got a... a bad feeling about him.”
“A bad feeling?”
“Yeah, he was ranting about how women are trying to steal men’s souls. When I saw the letter... I don’t know. It’s like staring at a car accident. I wanted to see him again. When I saw him on the street with that Charlotte woman, I got this sick feeling in my gut and followed him.”
Detective Rogerio leaned on the metal table in front of me. “I’ve been doing this for a while, Lou. I’ve learned to trust my gut. But a civilian with no training? Come on, tell us the truth. We have your prints, and we have the witness stating you staked out his apartment. We have enough to take you to trial. A confession would make this easier on you.”
I looked at the detective and knew he wouldn’t let this go. Even if they didn’t have enough to hold me for very long, he was going to be a constant in my life. But what I saw in the mirror... that was something I just couldn’t share with him.
“I’m waiting for an answer.” Detective Rogerio snapped me out of my thoughts.
I sighed. “You’ve had a lot of experience as a cop. Well, I’ve had a lot of experience as a taxi driver. Eleven years will teach you a lot about people. At first, I just wanted to return the letter but, as I thought about Kyle, I realized he gave off a dangerous vibe. I knew I couldn’t go to the cops with that, so I waited around hoping I would see something that would allow me to call you guys. When I saw him with Charlotte, there didn’t seem to be enough time. I just acted to save her and didn’t think about anything else.”
The detectives listened without interrupting. When I finished they stared at me for several moments and then looked at each other. The other Detective, I can’t remember his name, but he looked like a heavier version of Detective Rogerio, shook his head and chuckled a little. Rogerio looked at me with contempt before speaking.
“You’re really gonna try to play up this hero crap, aren’t you? It may sway a jury, Lou, but it may not.”
I lowered my head and closed my eyes.
I spent just over 48 hours in the small cell in the precinct. It seemed small, at least, because there were over twenty guys in there with me. There was a lot of glaring and cursing, but no fights broke out while I was there, and no one tried talking to me.
I stayed awake the whole time nonetheless. When I was released, I considered knocking on Lauren’s door right away but figured it was a bad idea. I’d been wearing the same clothes for over two days, and the lack of sleep really hit me on the way home. I showered, ate a frozen dinner, and then slept for twelve hours. When I woke up it was late afternoon and I had three messages from my supervisor.
“Lou, Lou,” the final message said, “I don’t know what’s going on with you, and I don’t wanna know why the cops subpoenaed your fingerprints. All I know is we need you to come in. I would’ve already fired most guys for pulling the crap you’ve been pulling, but we have history, so I’m giving you a chance. If you’re not in prison or on the lam, come in tonight or don’t bother coming in again.”
I looked at the clock and realized I could still make my usual shift. My boss didn’t care about any explanation. He pointed at my usual car and told me I’d better start bringing in some hefty fares if I wanted to stay out of the red.
I drove around in a daze. It seemed so unreal that in just over two days I’d saved a woman, help catch a serial killer, gone on a date with the girl of my dreams, been arrested, lost said girl, and was right back where I’d started. My mirror was still showing me things about the people in my backseat, but I barely looked at it.
I was halfway through my shift and making decent money when the passenger door opened and a man slid in next to me. He didn’t say anything at first. I turned my head to ask where we were going, but the words never made it out of my mouth.
“Hello, Lou,” Detective Rogerio said with a fake smile.
“Where to?” I asked after a moment of silence.
I merged into traffic and started driving uptown. I didn’t bother with the meter.
“I spoke with your boss. He let me know where I’d be able to find your cab. GPS trackers can come in handy.”
“Yeah, well anyway, I don’t think you’re telling me everything, Lou. I want to know why you were really at that psycho’s apartment.”
I sighed. Then I remembered my mirror and looked at it with interest for the first time all night. What I saw wasn’t very encouraging.
In the reflection, Greg Rogerio stood on two legs like a man but his head and face resembled a dog. He was biting down on a black bone. There were shadows of people around him, most were in chains, and behind him was a city bathed in light.
He saw me looking at the mirror.
“Is the truth hiding in your mirror?”
“In a way,” I muttered.
“What was that?”
“Nothing. I’ve told you what happened. If you’re going to arrest me, arrest me.”
“I’ll keep asking until I get the truth.”
“I’m pretty sure I’ve already answered your questions, Detective. Since I’ve been released from custody — thanks for arresting me while I was on a date, by the way — and since we’re having this conversation in my cab instead of in that cozy interrogation room, I’m assuming you confirmed my Chinese food order through my credit card. That explains my prints on the takeout container. I pay my taxes, recycle what I’m supposed to, and I even help women carry baby carriages up and down the stairs to the subway.”
I pulled the car over and turned to look at him. “So, unless you’re here about some traffic violation I’ve committed and don’t know about, I suggest you stop harassing me and spend your time and my tax dollars finding actual criminals.”
“You’re hiding something, Lou. I’m gonna find out what it is.”
“I’m not hiding any—” I stopped talking abruptly when I looked back at my mirror. I stared at it for a moment and nearly jumped when Detective Rogerio spoke.
“Why do you keep staring at that damn thing?”
I figured I had nothing to lose. If he thought I was crazy or if he thought I was involved in Kyle’s killing spree, Detective Rogerio would stay a part of my life regardless.
“You’re right,” I said quietly. “I am hiding something.”
“Are you ready to confess your involvement in Kyle Feller’s murders?”
“I had nothing to do with his murders.”
“Then what are you hiding?”
“I can see people’s true selves in my rearview mirror. It showed me that Kyle was... disturbed.”
Detective Rogerio stared at me, glanced at the mirror, and then shook his head.
“You’re gonna try to plead insanity, huh?”
I sighed. “This is where you get out, Detective.”
“Very well,” He opened the door and put one foot on the sidewalk before turning back and speaking. “But I’ll be seeing you again. Sooner rather than later, if I’m not mistaken.” And then he was gone.
I can’t tell you if what happened next was an accident or if I did it on purpose because I’m still not sure myself. I know I didn’t want to hurt myself or anyone else. If some unconscious part of my mind had a plan of its own, well...?
After Detective Rogerio left my cab, I waited for several minutes. Eventually, I began driving slowly as my thoughts wandered to the recent events of my life. I ignored people trying to wave me down. They most likely cursed me, but if they’sd known what was going to happen, those curses would turn to thanks. I was crossing Second Avenue when an SUV smashed into my door.
After that, I remember broken glass, blood, and a loud, incessant car horn.
* * *
Copyright © 2018 by Tim Britto