Chastain Chronicles Chapter 1: Humble Beginnings

Tyler Jacobs, Features Editor

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Illustration by Makayla Tardie

A dank, cluttered, and musty communal office was the opening to officer Gabriel Duer’s days on the police force. He was surrounded by corruption, greed, wrongfully closed cases, racism, and cops itching to pull the triggers on their standard issue handguns. Officer Duer had expected most of this, but he had hoped he’d be proven wrong. Once in the force he had to walk on eggshells, unable to bring up real issues with the force to fellow officers. Duer sought to change the force and their representation for the better of the city and the people that live in it.

“Officer Duer! Get in my office right now!” was shouted from the scratchy voice of the chief from his private office.

“Right away, Chief,” replied Duer politely as he stood from his desk which was covered with miscellaneous folders and photographs from cold cases. He walked between the aisles of desks and cubicles, attracting a few dirty looks as he walked past.

“Close the door behind you,” Chief Braen grumbled quietly as he puffed out a mass amount of smoke from his fat cigar. Duer shut the door as he entered the dim office space which reeked of tobacco and cheap cologne. “Take a seat, Duer. Now,” the bulky man scoffed, taking another long drag from his cigar. Duer sat in one of the leather laden chairs before Braen’s desk and removed his hat.

“Do you know why I called you in here, Officer Duer? Hum?” Braen questioned, leaning back in his suede desk chair. It was a surprise that the chair hadn’t collapsed under the man’s weight.

“Can’t say that I do as a matter-of-fact, Chief,” Duer replied politely with a feigned smile. “Has it got something to do with the break room incident?” Duer held his breath as Braen exhaled another large puff of smoke, wondering how the man hadn’t suffocated from all the fumes locked into the poorly ventilated room.

“No, although you shouldn’t have broken O’Malley’s arm-” Braen started.

“All respect to you, Chief, O’Malley wrongfully grabbed Officer Rebecca Sawyer and has been sexually harassing other female officers without end and should have been suspended for a longer amount of time. Personally, I-” Duer began to get heated, despite the tight control over his diction.

“You lower your tone, officer Duer or I will have you suspended,” the chief snarled in a hushed tone, standing up. “I don’t need you to go around acting like a hero. This is me, the chief of this department, not some low-life new recruit who has a bone to pick with everyone on this force who may or may not have illegal infractions.” Duer took a deep breath and calmed his nerves, but showed no sign of weakness to the giant of the man who was now looming over the desk.

“As a matter-of-fact, Officer Gabriel Duer, I need you to stop re-opening cases that went cold years ago or have already been closed,” Chief Braen huffed, walking out from behind his desk slowly to look out at the officers under his reign. He closed the blinds and turned back to face Duer, deeply inhaling his cigar. “And stop digging around in the affairs of your fellow officers’ business. These are proud men and women who deserve your respect.”

“If I don’t?” Duer questioned, not turning back to look at the chief, merely looking at the man’s reflection in the picture frames filled with personal achievements. Duer could see the malice in the man’s eyes as he puffed on the cigar.

“If you don’t, Gabriel, then you’ll be losing more than just your job,” the chief warned. “And I know you don’t want that.” Duer sat in thought, running the threat through his mind, of how much he could lose and what he’d be willing to lose.

“I understand, sir,” Duer stood up, turning to face Braen. “You need not worry about me sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong. Not anymore.” The words tasted sour coming from Duer’s tongue. He felt like a traitor to himself. He would have to continue his work at a much slower pace from now on in order to not raise any more suspicions.

“Good, man, Officer Duer,” Chief Braen smiled like a loan shark standing behind a man with a bad hand of cards. “I’ll hold you to your word. You may go.” Duer feigned yet another smile. He felt his pupils burn as he made eye contact with Braen. Duer turned and exited the office, closing the door behind him. In truth he hoped Braen choked on the fumes that he exhaled like a dragon.

Once again Duer was faced with several sneers as he walked amongst his comrades. No doubt they had hope that he would have been fired. Duer sat down at his cluttered desk and leaned back in his chair, taking a deep breath as he gazed emptily at the piles of folders and paperwork.

“Hey, Duer, psst,” a fellow officer beckoned quietly. He tossed a wad of paper over into Duer’s lap and waved him over as he stood behind a corner going into the hallway. “C’mon, man. I don’t have much time. That means get over here!” Duer looked around cautiously and hurriedly climbed from his flimsy desk chair and went over to the officer who was calling him.

“Who are you? If you are going to ask me to rough up some one on the force like I did O’Malley, you can forget about it,” Duer whispered, glancing back over his shoulder at his comrades who were too busy horsing around to notice his little meeting.

“It doesn’t matter who I am, man. What matter is that I have a contact for you,” the man explained with great urgency, his eyes wide like a rabbit hiding from a fox. “You’ve gotta go east three streets over and answer the pay phone closest to the southern end of the block. The call will begin when you arrive there. Be prompt.” Then, the nervous courier turned and began to make his way out of the office.

“What is this? Who are you? I need answers!” Duer replied to the hasty commands, stepping towards his messenger.

“You’ll get answers at the phone. Be prompt,” the messenger stated once again before entering the elevator to leave. The doors closed before Duer could ask further questions. It could all be a set up by one of the other officers, but there was no way for a cop with intentions like Duer to turn down such a mysterious opportunity. Duer grabbed his jacket from his chair and pulled it on. He clocked out and left the building after saying bye to the receptionist, Martha. He didn’t care if he was written up for leaving early. At least he actually clocked out unlike other officers who don’t in order to receive pay for working overtime.

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Illustration by Makayla Tardie

Duer ran the meeting with Braen and then the messenger through his head. It couldn’t have been Braen to set up the meeting, otherwise it would have went much smoother. O’Malley was too much of a moron to try anything, let alone set up a messenger.

Duer made his way down three blocks heading east. Once on the street he heard one of the pay phones ringing. Duer rushed to grab it, pushing away a civilian who was going for it. “Sorry, ma’am. Official police department business.” He closed himself in the phone booth and picked up the phone.

“Hello, Officer Duer,” answered a very calm, and collected voice. It was electronically masked, yet there was something quite soothing about it, motherly almost. “Since you are here, I can assume you would be interested in a lead.” Duer froze in thought. He could be walking into something terrible or maybe something to help the common good. He took a deep breath.

“Depends on what rabbit hole the lead will take me,” Duer replied calmly. He had to be level headed and discreet in order to keep an informant. He knew that.

“It’ll lead you towards solving cases that ran dry, hundreds of cases that either went cold or were shut without any concrete answers,” the voice explained. There was no way Duer could turn it down.

“You’re giving me this lead. What are the strings attached?” Duer questioned sharply. “You have got to be wanting something out of this.” There was silence on the other end for several moments. “Hello?” Duer stated into the phone, fearing that he’d lost the key to almost all of his problems.

“I want people to be safe,” the voice said simply. “I want the good guys to win. That’s what you want and that’s why you’ve been contacted. Some new files have been delivered to your apartment.” There was silence on the line for some time, as Duer became lost in thought with the wants presented to him. “Don’t mess this up like other before you.” After that the caller hung up. Duer put the phone on the hook slowly and he stared at the machine for a few minutes.

This is fantastic, he thought, this might be the help I need to get my work off the ground. Duer exited the booth and closed it. He zipped up his jacket and cracked his neck. With light footfalls he made his way through the cityscape and went to his apartment. His door was ajar and the lights were on. Duer lived alone, well, except on weekends. He crept through his door, pushing it open. The residency was still spotless, immaculately clean in fact. He glanced over to the umbrella holder and pulled out an umbrella from it. He realized it wouldn’t have been the most effective weapon, but it was something to put distance between him and an intruder. Duer searched the first floor of his apartment, which included the living room, kitchen, and a small guest room. Nothing was out of place.

Duer kept the umbrella out in front of him defensively and he made his way upstairs, making sure to check around every corner. Using the umbrella’s metal tip, he pushed open his bedroom door and entered slowly. As soon as he stepped over the threshold there was a loud crack and an explosion of pain at the base of his skull. Duer found himself face down on the floor, groaning.

“How’s that feel, huh?” taunted a familiar, Irish voice. “That’s the sound my body made when you snapped it!” O’Malley paced back and forth in front of Duer, holding a baseball bat in his only available hand as the other arm was in a sling.

“Listen O’Malley,” Duer managed as he pushed himself to his hands and knees, still dazed from the blow. “No hard feelings, man.” Duer received a kick to the jaw and he was sent back to the floor.

“I’m suspended for sexual harassment, and I won’t even get to come back after that because of my arm!” O’Malley seemed to snarl as he kicked Duer below the ribs. “Then I have to start using my sicks days.” O’Malley continued pacing and ranting, waving the baseball bat around. Duer slowly recovered his wits and reached out, quickly grabbing his intruder’s ankle and pulling. O’Malley fell to the ground and Duer seized the baseball bat and bounded to his feet as fast as he could. O’Malley had gotten up as well and the men stood, facing each other, Duer having to look up at O’Malley who was 6’7”.

“Last time we got into a fight,” Duer began. “I broke one of those big beefy arms you are so proud of, like a toothpick. This time I have a baseball bat.” Duer swept his normally well-kempt hair off his forehead and then tightened his grip on the bat.

“Give me back me bloody bat, you do-gooding piece of garbage,” O”Malley ordered, his eyes like that of a rabid dog preparing to tear into one of its kin. O’Malley surged forward and Duer slammed the bat against O’Malley’s sling, making the man howl out in pain. O’Malley took a few steps back and Duer slammed the bat against O’Malley’s legs, sending him back down to the floor.

Duer kicked O’Malley in the side and then began hitting him with the bat. Every attempt to get up was reason for Duer to beat the man even harder. Duer wanted to see tears streaming from the dog’s eyes, making him pay for his malice. Duer didn’t stop until he saw tears.

“Get out of my house,” Duer panted, his eyes burning like hot coals. “Never come back to the department. You’re resigning.” Duer kicked O’Malley again and then made him walk to the apartment’s exit. “If you don’t do what I’ve said,” Duer continued, his eyes like freshly sharpened daggers, “next time I won’t stop until you stop breathing. Then I’ll resuscitate you and I’ll beat you until you’re nothing more than a smear on my carpet.” Duer shoved the broken and battered man through the door and onto the city streets.

Slamming the door, Duer turned towards his living room and noticed a package on his coffee table. He didn’t remember it being there when he was searching his apartment. Duer sat on his couch and pulled the package close, remembering his phone call from earlier. Cautiously, Duer opened the package and pulled out a stack of files, each with a label referencing some of the cold cases he was reopening. Other files were related to closed cases from as far back as the early 1900s. Duer pulled other miscellaneous documents, that were in highly protective lamination, from the packets that were clearly much older than anything he’d ever laid his hands on. “Are these from the 1700s? Earlier?” Duer asked himself in disbelief. “How far does this go back?” Duer began sorting the files by how old they looked and began creating a timeline.

“Last year- the case of the Three Day Killer is closed without a suspect being apprehended. Several people who mysteriously vanished in Central Park without a trace, returned with no recollection of what had happened to them,” Duer continued sorting through the cases. “Entrepreneur Maxwell Andrews disappears, name revealed to be an alias.” Duer sighs and leans back into the cushions and pulls a few more files. “Antonio Vasquez is shot and killed by his ex wife, Veronica, in their apartment. She isn’t questioned and is released from police custody, along with her son Julio.”

Duer began checking into the older documents, making his way into the 1800s. “Journal entry, 1892, Germany. ‘Marcus has flown into a blind rage, killed all of our men. He speaks of a man and kills any who dare utter the name of this fellow. I dare not even write it out, in fear that he shall read it and kill me too.’” Duer examines the blood stains on the document and sets it down. “What has that do with any of this?” Duer pulls another file, this one containing photographs. Very few seem related to the cases presented to him. Most of the pictures are blurry, but many feature a man wearing a long, black trench coat. “Who are you? Clearly you’re important if you’re in so many of these pictures.” Duer looked closely at the photographs, unable to make out any facial features on the mysterious man, almost like his eyes were being blocked.

“Writing on the back,” Duer mumbled to himself as he studied it. The majority of the writing was simply illegible, all except for the name mentioned throughout the scribbles and ink smudges. Duer put the photo down and leaned back, looking at the mess of reports, documents, and photographs. The name seemed to burn itself into his memory. Thinking of the name made him feel sick, anxious. Suddenly his phone rang and he jumped up to grab it, putting it to his ear. Duer was silent, waiting for that distorted female voice to speak.

“The Veins of God cast judgement upon who they deem as filth without mercy. When will they look to you?” questioned a new, male voice, not distorted like the woman who called on the payphone. “Find them, find him.” The call ended and Duer set the phone down, running everything through his head.

Duer ran his hands through his hair and leaned over the files he’d been given. “Who is Damian Chastain?”

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