They made fun of Joseph, because of his name. And because of his ears too. He had big ears, they told him he could get satellite with it. He began to wear hats all the time, inside outside. Hats were the first shield he found, a cheap one, but effective most of the time. Then he told everyone to call him Joe. There was no more Joseph. Joseph was nothing but a nightmare, a pathetic sod, a poor excuse for a human being. That was what growing up meant to him, and when people laughed about these years, he did not. He watched over those years as a precious jewel, his own personal treasure.
Jo wasn’t one of those typical man who had been bullied. He did not turn into a rebel or anything of the sort. There was something else growing up inside him, slower, in a more diffuse way. One could not tell what it was until it was already too late. And Jo himself never even realised it. But children and parents and grandparents, anyone who would see him crossing the streets, watching him with his cap turned backwards and the odd step in his walk, would contribute to a certain effective change. It first became apparent to his mother. She knew her son better than anyone, but by now, she has resigned herself – the boy who dreamt about the moon, about playing the violin, the boy who loved to go to the movies and chat with anyone he’d meet on the street, that boy is gone.
For a while she hoped it was nothing but a phase. Something he would get out of. But when things began to get serious, she knew there was no turning back. One Friday, she was on her way to the drugstore, as per usual. She met Mrs Martin, as per usual. But something was slightly off. They would generally stop for a while and gossip about the latest happenings in that small village of theirs; this time however, Mrs Martin barely looked at her. She did not try to pursue her and get to know why, she figured everyone had their bad days. And indeed, she was to understand how right she was. Mr Perez came out from the back of the shop and greeted her. His ways had always been rough and approximate. He looked serious, a trait remarkable enough to be underlined. How are you, he had asked. I’m okay, thank you Mr. Perez. Oh he was glad to hear, especially given the circumstances. Intrigued, she asked him what he meant.
There had been a sighting. A very strange one. Someone had been tortured the previous night, a body was found, and the cops called. But no suspect had been arrested. Mr. Perez said it had been the first crime in the village since 1879, he had spent his night looking for that, reviewing the historical timeline of the village from its foundation to the present moment. Still, it remained unclear to her what she had to do with it all. But Mr. Perez did not allow her to voice that. He went on and on about the story, and about how the body had been mutilated in such a way, that the cops told everyone they had only seen two things that were worse, and one of them was on TV. Amazed by his own story, he carried on and detailed how the cops and the detectives put in charge of the case managed to find, under the limit of two hours, that Jo had been seen talking with the victim in a rather violent way. What? she had cried. Mr. Perez did not pay attention and his voice, carried by the excitment and the power of storytelling straightened like a train going faster on its rails. She had left the shop and ran as fast as she still could to the police station. An officer was sitting behind the only desk of the station, almost asleep. She introduced herself, and upon hearing the name, more officers came out. Quickly, they all surrounded her, asking whether or not she knew about the whereabouts of her son. She was amazed she said, that she had had to find out about this through Mr. Perez at the drugstore. She thought the police would come looking for him at her house. They all laughed an hysterical laugh which frightened her, and someone said that it was pointless. They knew her, everyone knew her. She was old and tiny and nice. There was nothing to fear.
The night before at the bar, there was no real commotion. Jo had entered there for one single reason. She’d seen her enter many many times, and never dared following her. But it was different this time. Something had happened which incited him. She hadn’t talked to him, neither had she given him one of her looks. There was nothing of the sorts, it wasn’t about all of that. To him, it was about finding out. Finding out if he could get her, what type of men she was into. And if she was as depraved people said she was. The bar was known to be a place of trouble – every other Thursday, Len had to kick out some guy who tried to break something or someone. But that was part of the job. When Jo came in, Len immediately thought he would have to kick him out, just knew it. But things happened so quickly he did not even have the chance to throw a kick. Jo went to the bar and ordered a bourbon. He was served a whisky, and asked Len if he thought he was a sailor. Give me a bourbon he said, and slammed the drink on the counter. Len wasn’t a fan of that type of men, but knew how to deal with them. Sometimes, you have to leave your ego aside, and just think about the paycheck. After a while, a bunch of idiots came to the counter and started messing around. One of them said something to his friend about Jo, and he heard it. Things escalated, and that one called Jo a ridiculous mickey like faggot. When he heard the terms, Jo lost it. Totally lost it. He slammed his drink on the counter, and left the bar without looking out.
That was how it had started. Agent Ness had been able to gather that much, and the rest was fairly obvious. Instead of picking up a fight he would probably lose, Jo waited for the man to come out and followed him to his house. He proceeded to tie him, he used rather heavy chains and a particular type of duct tape. There was no premeditation in that, he simply lost it – the psych expert was clear on that point. And then, when he had gotten him where he wanted, he tortured him. He used pieces of shattered glass. Bamboo. A flame. A broken straw. Paper. Poisoned food. The whole scene looked like an experimentation lab. The early stages of a terrible terrible sin. The early stages of a terrible man. Can you still call that a man? Agent Ness doubted it, but his job was not to reflect upon what was right or not, not in that sense anyway. But his morals had a way of getting in the middle of everything too often.
They thought it was a one time thing. Or the start of something else. They thought they knew what happened. Something cracked, or broke, or both. They thought they could get in my head, or anyone’s for that matter. They always think they’re god powerful. They’re not. They’ve never found out about the animals, the dog, the birds, the many hedgehogs. They’ve never found out about Peter, never found out about Pavel. They all thought they died because they were drunkards. That should tell them something about themselves, but they are too busy thinking about they paychecks, about their accounts, savings, cars. That should tell them they judge everyone and everything way too quickly. Jo thought he could teach someone a lesson. Someone who would mean something to them, that would be a more interesting lesson to teach. He saw his mother talking to Mr. Perez. He was smiling and moving his hands rapidly. He looked Italian, although he had Spanish name. He was a living contradiction, and aberration and he needed to be erased, cleaned.Mr Perez., you’ve just made the list.
Nobody heard him when he called. Nobody came either. This is how it happens. Silently, slowly. He is the master of time, he decides when and how long. Will they ever realize that? That they followed his rules? That he was the game? Mr. Perez emitted another sound, one last before going. Nobody can help you, not them, not god, not even your own self.