Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chapter XV: Mr. Green

"Green." Benny paced back and forth across the hotel room. He clutched a Gideon's Bible in his meaty fist and held it up against his chest as if it were a talisman. "Green. You know, the name means something to me, too, but I just can't quite place it."

"Maybe you're thinking of Clue?" Gloria smiled.

"Clue?" Benny looked to Gloria.

"You know the board game? It was Mr. Green with the candlestick."

Benny smiled back to her. "No. That's not it. But Green, there's something... Did we run it through our database?"

Gloria lifted her eyes to the ceiling and rubbed her temples with her slender fingers. "Do you have any idea how many Greens there are in this area with records. Even if we narrow it down by violent offenders, it still leaves so many. Besides who knows if the guy's even in the database. He may not have a record. In fact, I'd almost be willing to bet he doesn't have a record at all. Think about it. How many of the guys we've gotten so far have had any records with anything besides traffic tickets or minor drug charges? One thing I know for sure after seeing these crime scenes: Our guy's meticulous. I bet he doesn't even drive over the speed limit. I'm betting he's an anal son of a bitch."

"I don't know about that." Bill heard his own voice and hardly recognized it. His tongue felt swollen in his mouth. It took concentration to form every vowel and consonant. "The lumber was strewn about everywhere."

"Maybe that's his home turf? Some of the most meticulous, clean-cut, seemingly most put together people have home lives that are wrecks. Look at that lady." Gloria nodded up to the television. An episode of Hoarders was on. "Look at the way she dresses. Her business suit has been pressed. Her stockings don't have any runs. Her make-up is perfect. She probably has some job requiring attention to detail. Maybe banking, maybe accounting, maybe medical billing, who knows? But look at her home. We can't judge books, or people, by their covers. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that this guy puts out a good front. With the exception of the feathers, every scene looks staged. Well, actually, even the feathers seem staged now that I think about it – just a few feathers here and there around the body parts. A calling card, I guess. That head placed just so to look out the window. That headband made out of briars –"

"The crown of thorns!" Benny thumped the Bible like a Baptist preacher in the heat of a fiery Sunday sermon. "Green! You don't think?" The blood washed out of Benny's face leaving him pale, almost green.

"What?" Gloria asked. "What is it, Benny?"

"Green." Bill nodded his head and looked down at the bed. The words were a struggle. "Can't be."

"What is it?" Gloria looked between the two men. "What am I missing?"

"You don't buy into our hocus pocus, G. You probably wouldn't know. Green's a big name around here. A whole family of preachers. I saw old man Green once at a revival. He used to even have a television program that was nationally syndicated. He spoke at a service attended by Ronald Reagan. In fact, he served in some capacity with George Bush the First as some sort of religious liaison."

Gloria nodded. "That guy? I think I know who you're talking about."

"I hope not." Bill said.

"Me, too." Benny looked at The Bible in his hand. "Let's pray not. They Greens are huge around here. Even have their own network and theme park, Jesus Land, or something like that. Families come from all over the country to watch a Passion play."

Gloria winced. "How nice. The parents and their kiddies get to watch a man tortured and maimed. Sounds like a great vacation."

Benny shook his head. "G, you don't get it, but, yeah, I think it's a little odd, too. Weird stuff. Important to remember what happened. I believe the torture, crucifixion, and resurrection are key events in my faith, but a theme park just doesn't seem right. In the Old Testament God got pretty pissed about the sculpture of a bull. Just imagine how he'd feel about a theme park full of statues and various representations. Sure, it's set up to glorify Him, but Jesus wasn't too happy about all the money changers and traders in The Temple. It was one of the few times that Jesus is shown to get really mad and lose his temper in his mortal life. I don't think he'd be too happy on a theme park set up in his name. Too much money exchanging hands for his taste, I'd assume."

Bill nodded his head. He focused on his lips and tongue and spoke: "I been there. Got free tickets from a client. Took the kids when they were little. They had nightmares for weeks after. Never again. Took weeks to get them to go back to church without screaming."

Gloria looked to Bill. She pulled her head back and lifted an eyebrow. "You go to church?"

Bill nodded. "Methodist."

She softened her voice. "Damn! Things change, huh?"

Bill smiled. "I'm not exactly the hellion I used to be. I grew up. Mostly."

Benny smiled. "He once was lost but now he's found."

"I don't know about the found part." Bill thought about all he had seen, all he had touched, and all he had experienced through his flesh. "I still feel pretty lost." He tried to imagine the out of focus person in his thoughts, the man with the obscured face. "Green."

Benny made a strange face and looked out the window. "Crap, I hope not. My uncle'd be pretty disappointed. He gives money to the Green's Jerusalem Campaign every Easter and has done so for years. I've seen some of the Greens before in person, one of the sons, Jeremiah, at a revival. He seemed like the real deal. Sincere, you know? I felt the Spirit."

"Sincerity's often nothing more than a mask." Gloria said.

Benny nodded. "I know. People are so damn deceptive sometimes. You never know where you stand with them." He looked over to Gloria with a serious expression on his face.
Gloria opened her mouth as if to say something and then shut it. She sat down and abruptly stood back up. She clapped her hands together. "I think I'm going to get some coffee. You boys need any?"

Benny's expression softened. He looked away. "Sure. Black, okay? I don't feel like anything sweet right now."

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