Murder and Salutations

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For Teresa



Hudson, Wisconsin, December 2004

The profiler would not shake hands with the priest. It was unacceptable, intolerable if he was to go in for the kill. And the profiler always went in for the kill. That was the thing that excited him most. It never ceased to enthrall him, even in retirement.

The priest had swept in, cassock whirling, smiling and pumping familiar hands, trailing an assistant “to puff himself up with more power,” the profiler noted. The Father was a large man, commanding in his black garb; bearded, youthful face cracked in a welcoming Midwestern smile. Next to him the profiler seemed shrunken, emaciated, pale as a ghost. He coughed up a lung with each cigarette, at least three times an hour. He also was an atheist, sneering and quite cynical about the whole question. But that was not the point.

The point was moral standards must be upheld as a matter of honor, a point of manhood. The more immediate point was control, and the thin man would not let the psychopath acquire it, not for a moment. Each moment in life, he believed, was a choice: a step toward good or evil, dominance or submission, authenticity or falsehood. He did not tolerate the lesser choices. He did not tolerate those who crossed the line invading common decency. This made him a lot of enemies. He was proud to have enemies. “One should never apologize for being right,” he said.

Now the big, fleshy hand near to God was outstretched toward the thin man in fellowship. The others, the police chief and two detectives, were watching.

The profiler wrinkled his aquiline nose in disgust, “as if I was being offered a piece of dog shit.” Swiftly he withdrew his hand and turned away. He was pleased to see a stricken look fleetingly cross the priest’s face. Then, “composure returned like a sheen coating the hollow man.”

It was always all about control. The profiler had instructed the chief how to introduce him. No name, no city or rank, only “this is a man from out of town who is an expert on murder.” Once the detective introduced the profiler as instructed, the thin man shook hands with the priest with Victorian courtesy, like the old-school gentleman he was. Then he sat in the corner, legs folded, lip turned in a sneer, quietly watching as the police asked the priest about the murders.

The police were no closer to an arrest than they had been that afternoon in broad daylight when the town was shocked from a century of innocence in such matters, unimagined