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Authors: Andrew Vachss

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BOOK: Born Bad
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He called the next day. Frankie listened in on the extension. He told me how he was a sick man, How the girls had led him on, how Mom wasn't any good for sex anymore, what with all her plumbing problems. How he was going to see a psychologist, get all better. It wasn't his fault.

I told him I didn't know what he was talking about.

When Frankie called later to tell me the old man went out with Mom, I drove over there.

Frankie and I went in the back door, quick and smooth. I popped the fuse to the basement lights and went downstairs. I opened my briefcase, took out the sheets of clear soft plastic, like cloth. We wrapped the plastic around ourselves and we waited.

It was late when he came downstairs. We heard the click of the light switch. Nothing. He came back with a flashlight. Made his way into the little back room.

We heard the sound of the brick being moved. He made some beast-noise in his throat and ran out. Frankie and I took him before he got to the stairs.

We left him there on the concrete floor He was just bloody pulp, no face left. A corpse, clutching the suicide note he wrote years ago.

Anytime I Want.

Born Bad

 

 

T
he man was husky, with a big chest and thick wrists, wearing a tweed jacket over an oxford–cloth white shirt and plain dark tie. His hair was cropped short, eyes alert behind aluminum–framed glasses. He handed his battered leather medical satchel to the guard standing by the metal detector.

"Morning, Jackson," he said.

"Good morning to you, Doc. Carrying any weapons today?"

Doc tapped his head, smiled. The guard looked carefully through the satchel, ran his electronic wand over Doc's body.

"Everybody there?"

"Waiting on you, Doc."

He threw a half–salute at the guard and strolled down the sterile concrete corridor, the bag swinging at his side, taking his time.

He came to an institutional green door with a hand–lettered sign taped on its front: Task Force. He knocked. The door was opened by a heavyset, thick–necked man wearing a shoulder holster. He stepped aside and the man the guard had called Doc entered.

The room was long and narrow. He was facing a row of windows. Barred windows. The wall behind him was covered with corkboard, littered with randomly fastened charts, graphs, maps. A battered wood podium stood at the head of a double–length conference table; behind it, a small movie screen pulled down like a window shade. In the upper corner of the room, a TV set stood on an elevated platform, a VCR on a shelf underneath. Cigarette smoke hung in the air, blue–tinted in the slanting sunlight.

Doc took his seat, looked around. They were all there, waiting.

"How come you're always the last to show up, Doc?" Oscar asked. The slim black investigator pretended an irritation he didn't feel. "We moved the Task Force into this looney bin just 'cause you work here, the least you could do is make the damn meetings on time."

"Sorry, hoss. There was a little problem on one of the wards."

"Never mind that now," a red–haired woman said, the chief prosecutor in the Homicide Bureau. "Tell him what happened."

A tall blond man stepped to the podium, moving with the authority he carried from his long–ago days as a street cop, a sheaf of papers in his hand. He carefully extracted a single sheet, smoothed it fiat, flicked on an opaque projector. One page of a neatly typed letter sprang into life on the screen.

"It's from him?" a Hispanic with a duelist's mustache asked. He was the group's forensics expert.

"Yeah," the blond man answered. "We Xeroxed the whole thing. Seven pages. The lab boys went over it with an electron microscope. Typed on a computer, probably that laptop he carries around. It was printed out on a laser printer. Generic paper, standard number ten business envelope. Untraceable. But we know it's him—he left us a perfect thumbprint below the signature."

"Damn!" the black man said.

"Postmark?" the redhead asked.

"Tucson, Arizona. Four days ago," the blond answered. "Central Post Office. He won't be there now."

On the screen, the letter stood out in bold contrast to the darkened room. Justified margins, single–spaced with the paragraphs indented.

"He's always so neat, so precise," the woman said.

"Yeah," the blond agreed. He looked across the table. "Looks like your idea worked, Doc. When you wrote that article about the Surgeon—the one where you said he had to have been an abused child—it made him mad. Smoked him out. Look at this letter—he's boiling over. Slashed at your theory like he's been doing at women all around the country."

Doc nodded, waiting patiently for the recap he knew was coming as soon as he'd spotted new faces in the room.

The blond man swept his eyes around the table, willing everyone to silence. "Mark Anthony Monroe," he began, nodding his head toward a blown–up black–and–white photograph on the wall to his left. "White male, age forty–one last birthday. Five foot eleven, one hundred and sixty pounds. Blond and blue. Undergraduate degree in physics, graduate work in computer technology. No scars, marks, or tattoos. No known associates. Mother and father divorced when he was two. Mother remarried when he was five. Divorced again when he was eight. No contact with either father or stepfather since, whereabouts of both unknown. Mother died when he was in his late twenties. You with me so far?"

Nods and grunts of assent from around the room. Doc drew a series of tiny boxes on his notepad, not looking up.

"First arrest, age thirteen," the blond man continued. "Fire–setting. He convinced the juvie officers it was an accident—dismissed. Next time down, he was fourteen. He put a cat in a shoebox, poured gasoline over it, dropped a match. He got probation, referred for counseling. The counselor said he didn't mean to hurt the cat—some kind of scientific experiment. At sixteen, he was dropped for attempted rape. Attacked a schoolteacher on a stairwell right outside the gym. Cut her too. Sent to a juvenile institution. Did almost five years. After his discharge, he was quiet for a while. We have an admission, voluntary admission to a psychiatric hospital when he was in his mid–twenties. He was treated for depression, signed himself out after a few months. Nothing since.

"He went to college, like I said. Far as we can tell, he's never worked a real job.

"For the last two and a half years, he's been roaming the country. Killing. He kills them different ways. All women. But no matter how he kills them, he always cuts out the heart. Neat, clean cuts. He knows what he's doing. That's why the newspaper guys call him the Surgeon.

"We got thirteen confirmed kills, and a whole bunch of Unsolved that may be his.

"He's smooth and slick. Talks nice, got a lot of employment skills. And a good deal of cash…money his mother left him when she died. He don't look like a killer…hell, he don't look like much of anything. He could be anywhere."

He looked around the room. "Any questions?"

"You do a profile on him, Marty?" the redhead asked.

"Profile? Yeah, we did a damn profile, Suzanne. Nomadic, prolific driver, rootless, pathological hate for females. Serial killer…that's what we got. Big deal."

The Hispanic looked up from his place at the end of the table. "He…do anything to the women? Besides kill them?"

"No. At least nothing we can tell. No semen found on or in any of the bodies."

"Why's he do it, then?"

"Because he likes to," Doc said, so softly some of the assembled hunters had to lean forward to hear his voice.

"Yeah, well let's all see what he says about it," the blond man said, stepping to the corner and switching off the overhead lights. He adjusted a dial until the letters on the screen were big enough to read from anywhere in the room.

 

My dear, ignorant Dr. Ruskin:

I read your fascinatingly stupid "analysis" of my motivations in the June 15 issue of
Parade.
It was so pathetically uninformed, so lacking in insight, so bereft of logic that I felt compelled to provide the education you so obviously neglected in medical school.

It is my understanding that you have been "studying" my case for some months now. How unfortunate that your politics interfere with your judgment—that is highly unprofessional. You are clearly one of those irredeemably ignorant individuals who takes it on faith that nobody is "born bad." You believe there must be some etiology of a monster—some specific cause and effect. I quote from your purple prose:

"There is no biogenetic code for serial killer. There may be some hard–wired personality propensities, but the only way to produce. such a monster is early, chronic, systematic child abuse." How I pity your lack of intelligence—and what contempt I have for your cowardice. Like all liberals, you hide your head in the sand of religion, convincing yourself that evil does not exist.

Pay attention, you little worm: I
was
born bad. I came out of the womb evil. My only pleasure is power, and I learned early on that the ultimate power is to possess life. To extinguish it at my will. You know how some men break hearts? Well, I
take
hearts. And I keep them.

Was I an "abused child"? Certainly not. My mother was, if anything, over–indulgent. I was always treated with kindness, love, and respect. And I repaid that investment in blood. I am not insane, and never have been. When I admitted myself to the psychiatric hospital, it was to avoid the consequences of my own act—the rape of a little girl. I was never caught. Never even charged. And I probably never will be.

I am not insane, despite your fervent wish that I be so. The behavior you so carefully chart is not the prodromal phase of psychosis, it is entirely volitional. Should you be interested in propounding a more accurate, precise diagnosis, you might check your holy DSM–III, your biblical attempt to quantify human behavior. I'll guide your dim brain to the right spot, Doctor: Anti–Social Personality Disorder, 301.70. Such high–flown verbiage to describe what I am. Dangerous. Remorseless. Evil.

By now I am certain you stand in abject awe of my protean grasp of psychiatric jargon. Do not be surprised, I have been studying your ancient tablets for many years—preparing my defense. You see, Doctor, I have none of the grandiosity that characterizes others who have walked my same road. Such subhumans are not of my ilk. Ted Bundy was a contemptible, whining worm—an obsessive–compulsive the media made into a criminal genius simply because he possessed the slightly above–average IQ sufficient to enter law school. Arrogance without intellect personified. And John Wayne Gacy, a repulsive gargoyle. Were the media not so utterly enthralled by high body counts, he would not have merited a line of type. Lust–driven cowards, with not the remotest concept of higher orders. Your pedestrian theories fit such creatures quite well, Doctor—both abused children, screaming in rage against their past.

As I said, I am not grandiose, or narcissistic. I acknowledge that capture is possible. Should such luck (and it will take considerable luck) befall you, I expect to be acquitted at any trial. You will all judge me "insane." Because you fear the truth.

So please spare me your insipid wish fulfillment. I am not a "sexual sadist," I have no "fetish." My rituals are of my own making, designed for my pleasure, not the subject of any compulsion. They are, in fact, private ceremonies—homage to my sociopathic genius. I am capable of modifying my behavior. Indeed, I have done so on many occasions. The unexpected presence of potential witnesses has caused me to forsake my trophies several times. But, if you look closely, you will note unmistakable forensic evidence of my passage even when I have not had the opportunity to take the hearts from my victims. Read the last sentence carefully, you stupid slug:
my
victims. They belong to me, forever.

My many homicides are not a "cry for help." I have no desire to be caught. I have taken great pains to avoid capture. But, should that unlikely event come to pass, I know I can rely on religious cowards such as yourself to leap to my defense, to stridently proclaim my "insanity" to a court. And should a different result emerge, my situation will not change materially. I have no need of sex, and less of human companionship. Serial Killer Chic has infected American consciousness. (Perhaps you should be studying
that
phenomenon instead of wasting your time trying to analyze me.) I will be an object of fascination. Women will offer to marry me. Publishers will clamor for my life story. Wealthy morons will buy my paintings, telling their friends they have seen into my soul.

You are not my nemesis, Doctor, you are my safety net.

Oh, don't you wish I were insane? Don't you pray to your ineffectual gods that I am the product of an abusive home? Doesn't the truth terrify you?

Let me appeal to your scientific mind—if only to that portion not clouded by your so–called "education." You claim to be an environmentalist, a determinist, if you will. I cannot, in your narrow–minded view, be "born" bad. It must be attributable to something in the way I was nurtured, yes? Unfortunately for your indefensible theories, there is irrefutable evidence to the contrary. My mother, despite her impeccable conduct toward me, was no saint. She had her own demons. I was, as I said, raised in an environment of total love. Yet my brother, my half–genetic counterpart (we had different biological fathers), was not. Unlike myself, he was the target of my mother's insanity. Yes, Doctor, my mother was conventionally insane. Bipolar, schizoid, with more than a touch of pedophilia. Ah, wouldn't your liberal heart bleed for my poor brother—locked and chained in a dark basement closet for literally days at a time, beaten with a wide variety of objects, burned with cigarettes. The poor tyke was violated by one of my mother's gentleman friends while my mother held him. A Polaroid camera provided many hours of entertainment for my mother, and, later, a considerable source of income as well. And yet, my brother is a fine, upstanding citizen. He has never committed a transgression against society in his entire life. A credit to the community, welcome anywhere. If your lamentably weak little theories had any basis in fact, my brother would have been a prime candidate for what your stupid article called the "negative fallout" from child abuse: drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, suicide, crime. None of the above ever occurred. Perhaps you should do some research, Doctor. Have you ever read the seminal work of Denis M. Donovan in the field of traumatology? His concept of "inescapable shock syndrome" is most illuminating, although I fear it would be wasted on a man of your distinctly limited scope.

BOOK: Born Bad
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