I used to always wonder how the quiet, furtive guys on the nightly news became the killers described in court. Then I heard this story, from a down on his luck weasel who was living off the dead fish that sweep up on the Lunt Avenue beach...
He was twelve when sex and sin became all mixed up in his mind. Joseph's adolescent hormones were driving him to obsessed Spring Fever at the same time his family converted, whole heartedly and five nights a week, to a fundementalist congregation, The First Church Of Christ Bleeding, which was intent on convincing all the young people that they were warriors fighting an epic battle of good versus evil. Sex was only discussed in terms of AIDS and Satanic Impulses and other dark, horror stories that the adults in the church used to try to keep heathen impulses out of their children.
Joseph was a quiet child, prone to going off by himself for long hours out in the woods behind his Hammond, Indiana house. No one knew much about him. His family and his church were both convinced that his intense, eye popping hatred of all sin
was the sign of rightous man, and he went to school and got a job and wasn't no trouble, like some of their other kids.
At eighteen, he decided, after a particularly grueling shift at a Dunkin Donuts working under a short, distempered boss, to join the Army. He loved the discipline, the training, the guns. At first he was pretty sure he could be a soldier. Then he stabbed some guy. A fag. In the bathrooms at a state park, where he was having a picinic. They let him off with a dishonorable discharge. His family understood. He just told them that he had killed a sodomite.
He finally left the church at twenty-four, after meeting a woman who introduced him to sex and drinking. Took him six months to realize that she was a Jezebel out to get his soul. She took out restraining orders against him, wouldn't let him ever see the kid. Next year he got a notice in the mail saying his wages were going to be garnished for child support. He hunted her down and put an end to that shit. She was the first woman he killed. Most everyone seemed to know he did it. His best defense was his quiet demeanor and his furtive mannerism of never looking anyone in the eye. There was not even enough evidence to take him to trial. He wasn't about to tell the cops no lies, so he just said nothing to them. He had seen about that on TV and it worked. They just quit bugging him after a few weeks, and the kid was put up for adoption.
They called him the Hell Killer, because he used the various circles of Dante's Hell to kill people. In his mind he was merely making a display of their sin, trying to warn children to keep satan out of their heads. As long as he killed in the service of the lord, he felt important... unlike his work day or when he was talking to other people. He was an instrument of god and nothing else on the earth could compare to that feeling for him. This was the spirit world where he had a place of high, high standing; where he was an avenging angel. He spent a lot of time thinking about his place in the heavens and praising god for making him so important in the grand scheme.
He killed nine people, freezing some, burning others, and then kind of eluding to the other circles... but no one in law enforcement or the press ever seemed to realize what he was doing. Unbeknownst to him, though, they indeed were following his case and calling him the Hell Killer, but the detective who was in charge of the case was keeping everything out of the papers, in the hopes of using the information to find the murderer.
Other than his first wife, no one ever did associate Joseph with the murders in his home town of Hammond, Indiana' in this respect he was like most serial killers who toil along in obscurity rather than let man's laws interfer with their heavenly mandates.
Joseph's illegitimate son, Cedric, started seeing ghosts as an infant, when his greiving mother's soul refused to leave his side. Her connection to the child was still strong enough to keep her ectoplasm in this realm for almost six months. During this formative period in the development of his brain, he started tapping into a generally unused portion of the human brain that can talk to ghosts. He generally ignored the phenomena, thinking he was just making things up... until he was sixteen,
and a strange man appeared at his door. Dressed all in black, pale and tall and thin with a hooked nose and sharp, popping out red and blue eyes. "I'm your father."
Behind the strange man, the ghosts of the people Joseph had killed were quite clear to his son. The ghosts were doing their damndest to slash and bite the man's black suited body, but he didn't notice them at all. Soon after this encounter, Cedric started seeing other people walking by with the souls of those they'd murdered clinging to them, waiting for their mortal coil to snap so they could avenge themselves... he started attending a church about then, sitting in the back and hearing a fundamentalist preach fire and brimstone; the black and white world they described was a lot different than the secular humanism his adopted parents had raised him to believe...but something else about it seemed so natural, so right, that he was able to convince himself that there was a god, and he had a plan... .
After much prayer and a conversation with a television program that may or may not have been a Twilight Zone, he decided that he was fated to hunt down these killers and set their souls free... so the murdered could get their revenge. A ghostly grudge match.
And he did just that. . . even though all the ghosts were manifestations of a defective conduit for a certain hormone in his grey, squirmy brain.
While he was awaiting trial, the connection to his father was discovered by a happy accident of dna testing -- both of their profiles came up on a skin sample under the nails of one of Cedric's victims. The detective who was heading the case took the story to the tabloid press and made a killing for revealing that Cedric's first victim was the Hell Killer, who was indeed his father....
In the last months leading up to his execution in Joiliet Prisoner, Cedric began painting his father over and over again, as well as his different victims surrounded by the ghosts they had themselves killed.
At 12:01 am last night he was put to death. As he crawled out of his body and looked around the afterlife, he saw a huge crowd of ghosts -- who turned out to be all the people who he had helped avenge. They surrounded him and protected him as the evil ghosts he had killed tried to get at him, and then whisked him away to a rather pleasent spot in the universe, where he reincarnated as a sun baked toad on a peaceful, bountiful, breeze laden planet.
copywrite 2006 john scott ridgway