1. Where does it start?
They used to come at night, the creepy things, they'd come with groans and rattling chains and distant screams, whose effect was, as the creepy things intended, dismay and fear. Why would anyone want more of those? most everyone asked in genuine puzzlement. It seemed unfathomable but I suppose that's why they're creepy things. Because it's creepy to want fear and worry. Yeah, okay but why are there creepy things? How'd that crap get started? I'm Chief Detective Inspector General Rosy Gee and my partner is Detective Sergeant Brakly Goat and that's the case that was given to us. Just how did that crap get started?
Sgt. Goat and I began our investigation by visiting the creepy center of a creepy neighborhood. It was a total creep-out and much more terrifying during the day than at night, where you mostly can't see them. We approached a group of likely suspects and demanded, “Take us to your leader.” The nearest creepy thing began emitting clouds of green smoke through various orifices and we were deterred. I saw other creepy things just beyond that were doing stuff that should only be done at night or better not done at all. Things like turning into a slavering wolf and eating a pigeon, or into a bat then reappearing right behind you and smiling grimly when you jump. That's some scary stuff for broad daylight. We moved on to avoid the green smoke. After a while the creepy stuff began to seem banal, meaningless, a useless debasement of life with no winners.
Finally the creepy stuff was creepy and I wondered if investigating what was likely just the symptom of something much deeper was a good approach. Maybe a way to see into this darkness perhaps but oughtn't there be a better way?
“Let's get out of here,” I tell Sgt. Goat and we head for the squad car.
I think of Yin and Yang, the two opposing forces that are forever dancing around each other. One is light and the other is dark. Neither is totally good or totally bad, about equal that way. It's in the extremes that the angelic or devilish energies can emerge, dangerous energies that are often indistinguishable from each other. Energies that seem divine and good or divine and bad. Two sides of the same coin which is divinity. One side light, one side dark, one side active, one side passive but in all cases the center is divine.
“Where're we heading?” Sgt. Goat asks as we enter our vehicle.
“Let's just sit here in this creepy neighborhood for a while,” I answered. Truth is, I had no idea where to go next. Where do you go to find the source of evil? You can hear and see its effects everywhere. Even on short strolls through relatively affluent neighborhoods you encounter suffering, pain, need on practically every corner. What makes it all happen? What nurtures the creepy things?
“Greed, exclusion, indifference to the feelings of others, hate, these are all what you see around us, Ma'am,” Sgt. Goat commented.
I was startled as he seemed to be answering my thoughts and I looked at him curiously. “So where you figure it starts at?” I asked him. “I mean back to the beginning sort of thing. The source, the original source I guess you could say.”
He shrugged, then said, “I dunno. The more you see the more you see.”
I looked at him curiously again, “What's that mean?” I asked.
“Well, it's almost like just paying attention leads to seeing more creepy than if you didn't pay attention.”
“The only thing different being the amount of attention you give it,” I add.
“But the creepy level is still the same, regardless of the attention you give it,” he finished with a frown.
“Actually it seems to be increasing,” I said, looking around at the creepy neighborhood. “And not just here either. Everywhere.”
2. A believer's view.
We sat in silence for a while. Then I told Sgt. Goat to take us to the High and Holy Church of Lenfast the Speedy where the Lennard Graklen, the church's spiritual leader, had his offices. Lennard is the highest rank in the church, then Lenny, then Len. A Len is a church member, a Lenny would lead a congregation, and the Lennards, only four at this time, are the spiritual leaders so Lennard Graklen was way up there and I figured he'd have some valuable input on this. After we left the creepy neighborhoods, where reception is usually pretty bad, we phoned ahead to make sure he was in. He was and when informed that this was police business, he agreed to see us.
I was optimistic and energized when we pulled up in front of the stately cathedral that was, in fact, the number one main Church of Lenfast the Speedy. Lennard Graklen is the number one main guy, even more than the other three Lennards, and the spiritual leader of all the Lens everywhere. He'd know for sure where the evil started at.
Lennard Graklen was frowning when we walked into his spacious office. Giving me a hard look he said, “This better be important Inspector.” He watched with a wary expression as I sat in one of the two comfortable chairs in front of the desk while Sgt. Goat took the other.
“It is Lennard, it is probably the most important investigation ever undertaken by the greater Elvenstead Police Force's Criminal Investigations Unit.” I liked throwing that impressive stuff out there. The EPF always gets their attention and I could see the Lennard sit up, his expression turning to one of concern.
“Yes, yes, of course,” he muttered, “Always glad to help the police.” He seemed nervous.
“Well, yes,” I continued, “We're looking for the cause of evil. Where it comes from, originally, I mean, and why we have it, that sort of thing.” He seemed to be giving me an odd look. “It's rather your . . .” I stopped as he was now giving me a look of genuine amazement.
“The source of evil, you say?” he asked in disbelief. “Why it's clearly predators! Fast predators! Everyone knows that. Is this really what you're investigating?”
“I, uh, yes,” I answered. “Yes, it is. We'd, uh well, we'd like to put a stop to it. Evil that is. We want to stop evil.”
“You want to stop evil from existing in the world?”
“Well, it doesn't sound so good when you say it,” I murmur. “But, well, yes, yes we do.” I could feel myself blushing under his stern gaze.
He stared at me without expression for a few long moments. I could hear Sgt. Goat shuffling his feet nervously.
The Lennard Graklen stood, “Well that was nice,” he said, “I'm sure you'll be chasing other important clues, despite my comprehensive answer. Please do keep me informed. Good day Officers.”
Quicker than you'd think we were outside and heading toward our police car. “He makes a good point, Ma'am,” Sgt. Goat remarked. “I mean the whole predatory thing does seem, well . . .”
“Seem what sergeant? Bad? Do you think it seems bad to the predator who's just trying to make a living?”
“Well, no Ma'am. Not when you say it that way. I mean I see your point, I guess the predator would see it as good.”
“Life affirming,” I concur. He just nods.
3. A Royal opinion
Back in the police car I tell Sgt. Goat to take us to the capitol where the King lives. We are lucky and the King is home today, but very busy, the front door guard explained. “Perhaps you could tell me the nature of your visit?” he asked. My prestigious title, CDIG, grants us access without revealing our mission. To the Third High Minister anyway.
The Third High Minister is more adamant and will not grant us further entrance without a full explanation.
“It's a police investigation,” I say, “You must not obstruct justice!”
“Yeah, and this here's the King, so what'ya want?”
Darn, I don't like bureaucrats. “We're looking for the source of evil and we thought the King might have some ideas, okay?”
“Really? That's what you're investigating?” said King Overwood himself from behind me.
I swung around, “Your highness!” I sputtered, too shocked to say more. I sure wish people would stop asking me that question, especially in that tone of voice. He was looking at me expectantly. I started blustering, “It's just that . . . I mean, well, we are, I'm sure you're aware probably and I thought but just in case you're not, we, we are, yes, we are, in fact, looking for the, uh, source of all, uh, well, evil.” I suspect I sounded pretty lame. I knew I did when I glanced at Sgt. Goat and I was blushing horribly.
“Well that's simple enough,” the King said nonchalantly. I stared, dumbfounded. “It's Joten.” My jaw hit the floor. “Just look east to Joten if you want to see where evil comes from Inspector. Now if you'll excuse me, I am busy.”
Joten is the troll kingdom way east of us. It was evil for sure but the source of all evil? For the whole world? Then I thought of the Grimn-Leapers in Joten, those demonic creatures who create the trolls. They are about the vilest creatures one can imagine, except maybe orcs and then there's . . . I realized that there were many evil creatures. Creatures driven by evil, reveling in evil, wallowing in evil but are they somehow collectively the source of evil? Sgt. Goat poked me in the back.
I snapped out of my revery, “Oh! Yes, your highness. Thank you, that makes sense.” I bowed but he was already gone so I turned to leave, Sgt. Goat behind me.
We were both silent until we were in the police car then Sgt. Goat asked, “So is that it, Ma'am? Is Joten the ultimate source of evil?”
“I'm gonna have to give that some thought Sergeant, seriously, some thought, but I gotta tell you, I have my doubts.”
He nodded, then asked, “Where to now?”
“Head for Brad Tower,” I answered.
4. Corporate climbing
I knew Brad Puffup was the CEO and CCG (Chief Executive Officer and Chief Commander General) of Brad Incorporated, reportedly the biggest and wealthiest corporation in the world. Brad himself has claimed it's the biggest in the universe but has refused to elaborate on that claim rather turning again, and again, to how great it is that Brad Industries is here to care for us. No one actually knows what Brad Inc. does specifically or perhaps better said, what Brad Inc. doesn't do. It has its proverbial finger in every pie while never being itself an entire pie. Brad, or Lord Brad as he is known, likes to keep his businesses private, compartmentalized, out of the news, behind the scenes, but always there, always ready to step in. Lurking some would say, predatory even and I thought of Lennard Graklen saying predators were the source of all evil. Now I'm not saying this guy, this Lord Brad fellow is evil but I do think he'd at least have some insights into it.
Brad Tower is so tall that you cannot actually see the top from the ground, even on a clear day. The receptionist machine inside the lobby offered no 'visit Brad' options so I phoned and punched zero until an actual being answered then gave them my own rather impressive title followed by the 'official police business' phrase. As expected, I was fairly quickly, around twenty minutes I think, connected to the great man's private secretary, a prim and proper sounding young elf named Elvengud, who told us we could have five minutes with his Lordship in one hour then abruptly broke the connection. The receptionist machine issued me a pass and told me to wait out front. Soon a helicopter landed to take us up to Brad Puffup's palatial penthouse estate.
By the time we got to the landing pad located inside a giant bay under the penthouse twenty-five minutes had passed. A quick one floor elevator ride and we were in the penthouse reception area facing a wall-sized plaque with the words, Here is the Great and All Powerful, the Puissant and Mighty Lord Brad, in large gold letters. Below that in smaller gray letters was 'Please make a selection' and below that was a vertical row of buttons, the top being, 'Receive Wisdom and Blessing'. The next down was, 'Buy Autographed Book – My Amazing Life! by Brad Puffup'. The next down was 'Watch Fascinating Video about the Amazing Life! of our Founder the Lord Brad'. Next down, 'Listen To Encouragement from Lord Brad - This week: Life is a Plum.' The last button was 'Other'. That is the one I pushed.
The wall-sized plaque turned out to be a giant flat-screen monitor that became the face for the prim and proper young elf we'd talked to earlier.
“You're twenty-five minutes early,” he snapped. “Sit in the comfortable lounge and enjoy a beverage from one of the vending machines.” The screen returned to introduction and choices.
I sat down and Sgt. Goat went for coffee. When he returned with the coffee, he told me it'd cost three times what coffee stands charge. I told him to keep the receipt. After twenty-five minutes were up, there was a gong and the screen showed the young elf's face again.
“The Lord Brad will see you now.”
The screen changed to that of a lush garden with a bubbling fountain. A weighty man sat in a golden recliner next to an ornate desk under a canopy protecting this outdoor office from the bright sun overhead. An attractive young woman sat by the desk with an open note pad in front of her. They both watched us with wary expressions. That garden must be on top of the building, I thought.
“Yes, hello then,” I said. “I'm Inspector Gee and this is . . .”
“I know who you are,” Brad said sternly. “What are you investigating?”
“Well sir, we're looking for something,” I answered. His eyebrows rose with interest. “We need to find the source of evil in the world.” It was somehow easier to say it this time. He continued watching me without changing his expression. The young woman wrote something down.
Finally after a long moment he asked, “Really? This is your investigation?” I nodded meekly. There was that dratted question again asked in that same tone of voice. He continued, “You want to find the source of something that's existed in life since the very beginning?” It did sound daunting the way he said it. I nodded again. “Well, it's competition and stupidity. Same thing really. That's what causes evil.” The image disappeared and the original introduction screen appeared.
Suddenly our pilot was there. “You ready to go then?” I wasn't sure if it was a question or a command. We stood and were ushered quickly into the elevator then into the helicopter and just like that we were walking over to our police car.
Sgt. Goat looked back at the retreating helicopter then at me, “So is that it, Ma'am?” I could see the doubt in his eyes. “Is it people competing for resources, maybe cheating, maybe . . .” We both looked upward at Brad Tower whose top is so high it cannot be seen from the ground and wondered.
5. The troll business
Ronny, Gorjy and Donny Gipper, three generations of Gippers in fact, run a factory in the wilderness to the east of Elvenstead called Gipper's Grand Old Goods. Their factory ostensibly makes gewgaws and trinkets to sell to the booming tourists in Elvenstead's booming tourist industry. We on the force have long suspected that they are running a troll factory in the basement but have never been able to prove it. So far, we haven't even been able to find the basement. I decided that we needed to visit that factory again. Then, when a call came in about a new troll causing trouble in lower Elvenstead, I knew how to do it.
There was the usual police investigation of the troll, who denied everything and was sent packing to Joten, followed by the customary questioning of the Gipper's, the owners of the alleged troll factory, along with a search-warranted search of the aforementioned factory. Since everyone suspected them of making trolls a raid was pretty routine whenever a troll was discovered. Sgt. Goat and I joined the police raid as I wanted the freedom to look around that the search warrant offered plus this would be a perfect time to ask Ronny, Gorjy and Donny their perspectives on evil.
Ronny was the oldest, maybe seventy, seventy-five but he looked a hundred. He was stiff with a pale, waxy complexion and appeared to be always smiling or smirking behind seemingly vacuous eyes. I've never seen him stand or be wheeled around if he needed that. He just sits there behind his imposing desk, smiling through his obfuscations, boasts and lies, moving nothing but his arms and that rarely. This guy would know evil, I was sure.
Then there was Gorjy, the middle aged nice guy. He had a round, pleasantly mild mannered face with a near genuine smile and a firm handshake. Somehow his eyes never smiled.
The last and unquestionably the least, was Donny the delinquent. That's how I thought of him anyway. Thirtyish, pompous and vain, he wore his bottle blonde hair in a delicately styled pompadour and strutted instead of walking, posturing his image of alpha-male macho. He was never wrong and never apologized for anything, denying his myriad petty crimes in the face of solid evidence. The family's lawyers were very good and the Gippers were very elusive, having spent their lifetimes outwitting the law in their acquisition of wealth. This guy is evil through and through and I'll bet he'd have something interesting to say on the subject.
We arrived just after the police raid had begun and the Gippers' office was in a turmoil. Grandpa Ronny, the only seemingly calm presence, was perched in his traditional spot behind his imposing desk with his trademark smirk in place watching. The dutiful son Gorjy was pacing back and forth in front of the desk and scowling at the police while Grandson Donny was nowhere to be found.
I approached Ronny first. As always with Grandpa Ronny, I couldn't tell if he was alive or not until I saw his eyes turn to me.
“Hey Mr. Gipper,” I said. “I'm Inspector Gee of the Elvenstead Police, CID and this is Sgt. Goat. We've met before as I'm sure you remember.” Ronny's face remained impassive. “Uh-huh. Well we're looking into the nature of evil, specifically its source. We thought you might have some insights since you're, uh since you can see, I mean, well, we just thought that maybe you'd have something to say about it. About evil I mean, not that you're evil or anything like that, no sir. I'm not saying that at all but well, we just thought, you know, that you'd give us your insight.” I stopped but his face hadn't changed. I continued, “As founder of this big factory, you know, with its, well, er, basement, or maybe not but still you've seen a lot, done a lot . . .”
“Say, what's this all about?” an angry voice broke in behind me. I turned and was confronted by Gorjy's anger-distorted face, his hands on his hips.
“Oh, hey Gorjy! I was just asking Grandpa about his views on evil, what causes it, where it came from, that sort of thing and I wanted to get your views as well.” I smiled engagingly.
Gorjy's eyes went round, “Really? This is what you're investigating?” Darn, that question, that tone. I nodded. “Well, I'll tell you what evil is! Its police harassment, that's what! Pure evil, why just look around here.” He gestured at the policemen rummaging through their cupboards and cabinets. “That's what evil is!” Gorjy was beet red but Ronny's face remained unchanged.
“Thank you, sir,” I said, smiling reassuringly. “We'll add your insightful response to our investigation.”
“You wouldn't happen to know where Donny is at would you?” Sgt. Goat asked. Neither of us noticed that Gorjy was getting redder and redder, his fists clenching and unclenching, his neck tendons becoming prominent.
“Out!” he screamed, pointing at the door.
“Well, we do have a search warrant,” I said uncertainly as I was starting to notice his redness and the tension.
“Out!” he repeated, still pointing. “Go ask your stupid questions and search warrant intrusions somewhere else. Go!” Sgt. Goat and I both left.
Out front Sgt. Goat asked, “Where to now, Ma'am?” Just then Donny pulled up with a revving engine and squealing tires. We watched as he swung the door open and jumped out, running toward the office without closing it behind him.
“Donny, could we have a moment?” I called as he ran. He turned and looked at me incredulously, uttered an expletive and continued on.
Sgt. Goat looked at me, “I would assume, Ma'am, that they'd probably all agree with Gorjy's assessment, that police harassment is the source of all evil?” he asked as we stood there watching the raid unfold.
“I'd say for sure right now. But if that is truly their main concern then they must be hiding something,” I answered. “Let's go look around.” I led the sergeant into the factory itself. There were large machines that produced the various trinkets and gewgaws lined up in rows with their output in bins in front of each. The machines were humming but did not seem to be producing any trinkets. Various sullen workers, city elves and humans mostly, stood around watching the police who were looking into everything. The police appeared to be doing a very thorough job and I nodded approvingly. I had a hunch, as did the entire force, that these Gipper's were making trolls and one way or another we'd catch them.
6. The case is solved, for now.
In the police car I told Sgt. Goat to take us back to the station. We needed to make some sort of sense from all our answers, seemingly different, to the question where does evil come from. Back in the squad room I began naming our discoveries.
“First we experienced everyday creepy in a creepy neighborhood,” I grimaced at the memory.
“I know what you said, about it being creepier by day because you can see them but I think it's creepier at night, when it's dark,” Sgt. Goat said. “They can creep up on you easier in the dark.”
That made sense but I didn't want to admit it. “Yeah, okay,” I grudgingly agreed. “But the thing is, it was creepy and you couldn't tell where that creepy came from. It was just there.”
“It didn't grow there,” Sgt. Goat continued, “I mean there's no apparent reason for the creepy place to be evil, yet it is.”
“So it came from without,” I said, musingly. “So is King Overwood right when he says evil comes from Joten?”
“It is a nasty place and we know they make trolls there. And the trolls that make their way here from time to time are evil, intent on causing trouble.”
“Without being seen if they can manage,” I add. “So I wonder if those trolls somehow infect us with evil so that it spreads and creates creepy places?”
“It makes sense,” Sgt. Goat said.
“But then,” I continue, “how do we account for Brad Puffup's assertion that evil is competition?”
“And stupidity,” Sgt. Goat added. “He seemed to equate them, like competing is stupid.”
“Hmm, he appears to be saying we'd be better off if he was in charge and his business was allowed to function freely, unencumbered by competition.” I ponder this for a moment. “I suppose regulations or anything really that restrains his business could be classified as competition.”
“Can't blame that on Joten,” Sgt. Goat murmured.
“No you can't” I agree. “And police harassment, like the Gippers say, is also a restraint to their business, a competition you could say.”
“Trinkets aren't very important,” Sgt. Goat observes.
“But it's not about the trinkets, it's about the profit that selling them can bring and you gotta make them cheap to do that.”
“Yeah, that makes sense.”
“Perfectly innocent it would seem. Yet they remain under suspicion for making trolls. How could the trolls benefit them?” I'm stuck.
“They sure keep the police busy,” Sgt. Goat lamented.
“That's it!” I exclaim. “They're distracting the police so the police won't pay attention to them. Except they do.”
“Well, that's not it then,” Sgt. Goat said. “So why does Joten do it?”
“It's the Grimn-Leapers,” I answered. I knew a little bit about these guys. “These are creatures who've made a leap of faith that's so extreme they sort of meld into it. They literally become what they worship which is, in every case, a deity that only existed in their own minds so that they become trapped in some sort of sadomasochistic self-trance that is so distorted it can only exude evil. Professor Rivitir at Elvenstead University studied the phenomenon and actually managed to interview several of them. Elvenstead prison has a few still. But anyway he said they do evil because they love it. Evil looks holy and good to them. They're energetic in dispensing it, seeming to feed on the anger, pain and fear of others.”
“Wow, those guys are truly creepy,” Sgt. Goat said.
“They're ghastly,” I agreed. “So maybe some become evil through extremism but I sort of think that some are just born bad.”
“You're thinking of Gorjy, huh?”
“Yeah, I was,” I laughed. “but he's just one. There's more. I mean there's actually quite a lot of people who just seem to be born bad.”
“I don't see how we can find the source for that,” Sgt. Goat stated.
“Past lives maybe, but whatever it's out of our jurisdiction.”
“So what do we report?”
“That evil is ancient, something we've always had apparently because some are born to it, seemingly naturally, while new evil is created by greed, anger, stupidity, sloth and hate. We can't do anything about the first except defend ourselves and fight it but we can do something about the second. If we want a just society, we must eliminate poverty and massive wealth, all forms of supremacy and subservience. Most of all we much teach. Ignorance must never be normalized for that is where evil thrives.”
Sgt. Goat smiled his agreement and we filed our report. Another case solved. I wonder what we'll get next?