“Do you know what happens when you burn a piece of wood, Mr. Barnes?” asks our villain.
“How do you know my name?”
“You just showed me your ID,” he explains. “Now answer the question.”
“What happens when you burn a piece of wood?”
The other man twists his jaw to the side in thought. There’s a scar from when he cut himself shaving this morning. “It turns to ash, I guess.”
“Not just ash, Mr. Barnes.” This is the answer that our villain in some ways wanted. “You’ve forgotten smoke! You set a piece of wood on fire, you get ashes and smoke.”
“I know what you’re going to say.” He always knows what other people are going to say, and most of the time he just finds it annoying. “–But those are only the physical things that are left behind. What do we burn wood for?–You’re quite right to ask that, and this is precisely my point, Mr. Barnes. What else are you left with? Heat. Heat and light.” Our villain speaks these words with a triumphant tone and looks into the sky. The weather forecast promised rain, but all he can see above him is a pair of harmless cirrus clouds.
“I don’t get what this has to do with me arresting you,” says the police officer, both feet planted firmly on our villain’s welcome mat.
“You’re so boring!”
It has been a slow day so far for Dr. Mortimer Hex–or Martin Harris, as his childhood friends might have called him if he had had any childhood friends–but, he thinks, every day is a slow day when your mind works faster than everyone else’s. Clearly this Barnes cannot engage in elevated conversations; his mind is better suited to police affairs, having an argument with his wife affairs, and probably–judging from his physical fitness and the paper bag visible through the window of his car–donut affairs.
“It looks like you’ll being spending another night out of the house, Mr. Barnes.” Mortimer reaches his hand over to the doorbell and pushes it. Nothing happens.
“How did you know that?”
This mishap embarrasses our villain. “Hold that thought.” He turns his back to Mr. Barnes and pushes the button again. Still nothing. Finally, he slams the wall with his open palm.
The last thing Mr. Barnes hears before falling through the trapdoor is a loud click. The last thing he hears before the trapdoor closes is Mortimer explaining, “You cut yourself while shaving this morning in the side mirror of your car. Some flecks of blood have dried on it. Why would you shave in your side mirror? It would have to have been the only mirror at your disposal. Thus, you slept in your car. Also visible on your face is a red swelling from where you’ve been slapped. The hand was small, so either that of a child or a woman. A child of that size, however, would not be able to reach so high, as you’re a tall man, so it must have been a woman. So, you were slapped by a woman and you slept in your car last night. Any nincompoop could put the rest together.”
The door slams down and darkness engulfs Mr. Barnes.
This is part one of Vile, a new novel-in-progress. A new part will be added each day. Want to read part two?