HEADLINE FROM THE TIME PICAYUNE, NEW ORLEANS EARLY ADDITION
The so called “political” murders are still taking place, and are maintaining their rapid pace of at least one murder a week, being linked to some sort of local political figure. Following the deaths of controversial St. Tammany Parish clerk Lyn Davidson, and local "open carry" supporter Christopher Snell, yet another high profile member of outspoken political affiliations has been found dead, killed in a strange and somewhat archaic method. This morning at 4 AM, police in the suburb of Slidell responded to the home of Felix Jones, a local man who gained much attention in the media for his radical and somewhat controversial demonstrations throughout the city, as well as his local Podcast and YouTube Channel. Police are withholding details of his death, though they have been described as “unusual and gruesome.”
Detective Calvin Drexler
The man reading the paper rolled it up and dropped it off in the nearest trash can. It was an old copy, something he had just grabbed from the break room when he arrived at work. Since that addition went into print, there had been at least one more of these so called, "political murders." He had been following these murders with a professional interest. Calvin Drexler had been with the New Orleans Police Department for sixteen years now. Fourteen of those had been spent as a regular patrol officer, also known as a beat cop or a uniform. He enjoyed his work, but always wanted that detective rank. Since he was a small boy, growing up in the part of town known as Gentilly, he had always admired the way police detectives could just take over a crime scene. All the uniformed officers would be out there, sweating away in their uncomfortable looking uniforms, and suddenly this guy would roll in wearing a suit and tie, walk right through the police tape, and start barking orders. Something about that always appealed to Calvin, so as he grew, he decided to pursue that dream all the way.
Upon completing high school, Calvin took a couple security guard jobs. He had to wait until he was 21 years of age to apply for the NOPD, and he wanted some degree of uniformed experience before going in. The security guard jobs were unsatisfying though. They seemed to be staffed by either the elderly, retired old men that needed something to do between feeding the pigeons in the morning and watching Jeopardy in the evening. Calvin took all of his tasks seriously, and when there was nothing better to do, which was often in security jobs, he would study for the police academy.
By the time he was old enough to apply, he’d memorized the academy handbook back and forth. He could tell you anything about Louisiana Laws, Federal Laws and pretty much anything else related to police work. So, it came as no surprise that he was hired, and graduated from the academy as an honor graduate.
He loved his work, but what he truly lived for was his family. His wife, Simone, and his teenage daughter, Marissa, were his real motivations. He planned to retire at 20 years and take on a safe line of work. He spent 14 years walking the beat. He was assigned to the 8th District, which, in New Orleans, is the famous French Quarter. Over the years he’d developed a strong reputation within the community. He was, according to anyone you’d ask, a good cop. So, in late 2013, he’d been promoted to police detective. He was seasoned, he was professional, and everyone who knew him knew that he cared deeply for his community. He always closed his cases quickly, so it came as no real shock when his Watch Commander called him in late one evening, handing him a manila envelope with a young man’s photograph attached with a paperclip.
The young man, identified as Craig Morgan, was already seated in the interrogation room, waiting to be addressed. The Watch Commander explained to Calvin that Craig Morgan had turned himself in, stating that he was somehow attached to the string of murders that had recently taken place across the city and possibly even some that had taken place elsewhere in the state.
“So he’s confessed?” Calvin asked.
“Not quite,” the commander responded. “He says that he’s connected, but that he’s innocent.”
“Do we believe him?” Calvin replied.
“Honestly, no,” the commander answered. “I think he’s trying to use us as a confessional booth, clear his conscience without actually confessing to murder, if you know what I mean. The kid seems disturbed though, and I would imagine that he’s likely going to keep you here late tonight, so you’d better go brew some coffee before you question him.”
Calvin took the advice and went into the break room and made himself a fresh pot of coffee. He filled up two thermoses, one for him, and one to offer to the young man waiting for him in interrogation. It was just one of Calvin’s methods that he’d perfected over the years. Make the guy feel welcomed, make him comfortable. Have a conversation rather than an interrogation. It had worked well in the past, and he saw no reason that it shouldn’t work well tonight.
Calvin was good with these types of cases. If the kid was in fact disturbed, he could cozy up to him, make him feel safe. It was an easy enough technique when you got good at it, and Calvin was confident that his years in faithful service to New Orleans had made him quite competent. The commander thought he’d be here late, but with any luck, he could still make it home in time for his wife’s meatloaf. Calvin was a family man after all, and he always tried to get home in time to say goodnight to his daughter and kiss his wife before bed. It was, after all, the little things that made a man’s home his castle.
Before entering the interrogation room, Calvin sat and leafed through the envelope. He didn’t need much, as he was confident that his conversational approach would pull out whatever cold hard facts were required, but he at least needed to know where to start. He stepped outside, into the cool night, and sat down on the steps outside of his station. He lit a cigarette and began to look through the papers.
According to the Watch Commander, Craig Morgan self-admitted to be connected to the recent murders that everyone was calling the political killings. Calvin was well aware of them, but they’d all taken place outside of the 8th District. As he recalled, all the victims had been brutalized in ways that were almost, well, medieval in nature. Beheading, disemboweling, and drownings had been a common trend. However, some of the murders were a bit more archaic in nature. One victim had been drawn and quartered, though that one was still a mystery, as the body had been found inside of his apartment, and there would have been no room for something large and strong enough to rip a man’s limbs off like that.
There were a few others, all similar in nature. The words serial killer had been whispered, but nothing was official yet. All the victims had a few things in common. They were all outspoken in their politics, and they were all killed in unconventional methods. The press was pushing the serial killer angle hard, the idea that some maniac was out there, murdering people with strong and outspoken political agendas.
Calvin personally believed it could be the work of a serial killer, but he didn’t want to be the one to suggest it out loud. Such ideas carried large amounts of panic, and Calvin was far fonder of easing anxiety than causing it. Still though, if that were the case, and this gentleman, this Craig Morgan, was in fact guilty, well, Calvin couldn’t help feeling a slight sense of thrill at the idea of collaring such a monster.
Inside the folder were photographs of the victims, with a small biography and their method of death. Calvin didn’t need to look through them, as it had been well documented in the news. He finished his cigarette and took in a deep breath. It was game time, and he was ready to go in and meet this possible monster wearing the face of a man. Calvin was good at his job, and promised himself that tonight would be an early night.
Detective Calvin Drexler entered the interrogation room and observed the young man sitting behind the metallic table. He appeared to be in his mid-twenties, maybe even younger. He was thin, sickly thin, his skin was a sallow pale, his complexion was shit and he gave off a stench that was a tepid mix of body odor and fear. He had a thin, ratty beard, not really a beard at all in fact, but rather some stray hairs that, if doused in milk, could likely be licked off by a cat. In short, the man identified as Craig Morgan looked like refried crap that had been left out to harden in the sun. Calvin immediately thought drugs or mental illness when he finished his visual observation of Craig, but didn’t want to jump to any crazy conclusions just yet. The night was young after all.
Calvin walked in and sat down across from Craig. He produced a small tape recorder, and placed it in the center of the table. He looked over at Craig Morgan, smiled warmly, and stated, “Mister Morgan, I understand you wish to speak to the police. My name is Detective Drexler, and I am all ears.”
Origins of the Queen
The following is the police interview of possible suspect Craig Morgan, conducted by NOPD Detective Calvin Drexler.
Drexler: So Craig, they tell me you came in tonight to talk about the string of murders that have been going on here lately, is that correct?
Morgan: Yes, yes I am. I think I may know what's going on, and why they've been happening.
Drexler: Now, just to make sure we're on the same page, you are talking about the... well, political murders, right?
Morgan: I suppose you can call it that, after all, politics is sort of what started all of this. My interest in politics, you know, sort of started all of it.
Drexler: Fair enough, just making sure we're on the same page here. Before we start, can I offer you some coffee, maybe a Coke or something?
Morgan: Coffee would be nice.
The sound of a cup pouring liquid can be heard.
Morgan: Thank you, and thank you for listening to me.
Drexler: Of course Craig, that's my job. Now, I have to ask you this, did you, did you kill anyone?
Soft laughter can be heard from Morgan.
Morgan: No, at least, not directly, I don't think.
Drexler: What do you mean by "not directly?"
Morgan can be heard laughing again.
Morgan: I should probably start at the beginning, if this is going to make any sense to you at all Detective.
Drexler: Sounds like a plan. I always say, well begun is halfway done.
Morgan: Okay, so, are you familiar with, like, the internet?
Drexler: I am aware that such a thing exists, of course.
Morgan: Okay, well, like memes, do you know what a meme is?
Drexler: (chuckling) Oh yes, I have a 16 year old daughter, I am familiar with memes.
Morgan: Okay, so, have you seen this one picture, it's all over the internet if you Google it, it's called, Queen Justine.
Drexler: I think so. I believe my daughter has mentioned her once or twice. She’s always on the art site… Deviantart. Let me pull up the image on my phone, just to make sure we’re all on the same page.
A moment of pause as Drexler looks up the image on his smart phone.
Drexler: Lots of pictures here, she’s the blonde cartoon character that looks a little like a Greek Goddess?
Morgan: Let me see... yeah, that's her, that's Queen Justine.
Drexler: She sort of looks like, I don't know, how I would picture Athena in cartoon form.
Morgan: Yeah, that was the idea for her, when I came up with it. I wanted a strong, fearless figurehead for our group, and when the image was drawn up, well, that's the one I went with.
Drexler: So what does this have to do with these murders?
Morgan: It all connects, but first, let me tell you how she even came to be, how all of this came to be.
Drexler nods for Craig Morgan to begin his story.
This all started about six months ago. I was at work, downtown New Orleans, typical office shit. I'm an audits technician, which sounds great on paper, but in reality, I get paid to sit around and correct other people's clerical errors. Sometimes I think that half the lazy assholes at my job treat me as some sort of editor, when really I am just there to make sure some client doesn't get overcharged or whatever. You'd think our management teams would want to correct these problems, but sometimes I think I am the correction. What's the point of expecting your staff to do their jobs when you've got me, right?
Anyway, that was my job. My friend Aaron Murphy worked in marketing; he was a real smart dude, great at these viral marketing campaigns. He knew how to sell for millennials without pandering too, which was impressive. You know those fucking anti-smoking ads, Truth or what it's called, they pander hard. They recently jumped on using memes and shit to try and make not smoking look cool to college kids or whatever, and of course, they look like fucking assholes, you know? But Aaron, he knew how to sell to the 00's without a problem. Maybe he had a great grasp on irony or something, but he could make the internet light up.
There was Beth Lamal, another friend of ours. She worked in special community projects. It was her job to create street buzz about whatever was being sold. She was also good at what she did. She could go out and hit a few bars, restaurants, bookstores, hotels... shit, whatever the company was pushing, and before you'd know it, there would be signs up and all sorts of chatter around town. You combine that with Aaron's talents with the internet, and those two could sell water to fish. But, we were all young, most of us fresh out of college, which meant that we didn't make nearly as much as other members of staff that had seniority, although they produced about a quarter of what we did. Fucking corporate America, you know?
So, we all sort of stayed, I guess, fed up, you know? We were always complaining about something or another, it was just sort of the nature of our positions in the company. The executives all had their heads up their asses, so complaining did no good. So we all just sort of became our own little support group for each other. We'd sit in the break room and chat about work, about the executives that bothered the hell out of us. Beth in particular had been getting hit on by the upper-management dick, a guy named Reynolds, thought he was God's gift, you know the type. Now though, now I really wish we would have stuck to that, just complaining about work. But, being young and idealistic, we would often find ourselves chatting about politics and things of that nature. I think that's when the trouble started; I think that was the day all this began.
It was like any other Friday, me and Beth and Aaron, just hanging out in the break room. We were watching the news, and they were talking about how this dumb bitch, Lyn Davidson, over in St. Tammany Parish, Slidell to be exact, was refusing to issue marriage certificates to gay couples. I'm sure you heard all about her when it was happening, she made national news. Most people with a brain saw her for the intolerant religious fanatic that she was, but a lot of people were supporting her.
I remember Beth got really upset. She was the most idealistic of our group, and she often got really worked up over this.
I could tell that Beth was going into one of her political rages, "Can you believe this bitch, this is 2015 and she thinks we're living in the damned dark ages. And you know all these tea-party fucks that are jumping on with her are just using this as an excuse to substitute the 1st Amendment with hatred. You guys can see this, right?"
That was Beth all the way, man. Once she got her hooks into something, she was into it hard. Now, both Aaron and I agreed that this woman, Lyn Davidson, was off her rocker. She was an elected official and was being paid by the taxpayers to do her job, yet she was actually getting away with this sort of shit. Using loopholes and anything else she could find. It didn't help that our governor, old Bobby Jindal himself was publicly supporting her. We were all annoyed about it, but, being small timers, what could we do, right?
I recall Aaron joining in. I suspected he always had a thing for Beth, and perhaps he figured agreeing with her would get them closer. He chimed in, "We could do something, you know Beth, and we have the means. Between you and me, we're both marketing experts. We could, I don't know, start some sort of campaign or something; really stick it to people like Lyn Davidson and all the rest."
Beth was nodding. She was one of those avid blogger types, but I had a feeling that Aaron was thinking beyond blogs. He kept going too, giving her a whole speech. "We could go beyond just Lyn Davidson. I mean, what if we did activism, but did it right. No extremists, we keep this very... marketable. We could touch on equal rights, police violence, corporate and government corruption."
I saw where Aaron was going, and I started to see his point. See, all these groups out there, like Copblock, for example, they're all so freaking wrapped up in their own ideals, that they come across as radicals and they totally scare away the moderates in America. Half of these guys look like homeless people that just woke up and pulled out a cell phone camera. They piss off too many would-be supporters because they are too far out there. Too fringe, in other words. But something that Aaron said just made sense to me; make it marketable, a justice group that everyone could get involved with. We certainly had the ability, between the three of us, to make something amazing. We were all sick of people like Lyn Davidson, we were sick of gun nuts wanting to openly carry their weapons in Wal-Mart, we were sick of people like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump selling their hateful politics all while standing under an American flag.
That's when I chimed in. "We need to do this through the internet, really get to the young people that aren't ready to sell their soul for a buck. We could go through Reddit, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, all of them. If you guys can make a shitty razor or the newest brand of gum appeal to the masses, we can certainly make justice equally as inciting, right?"
That day, in the break room, that started it all. We made plans to meet later and go further with it. At first, I honestly didn't think we would. We were always coming up with ideas and plans that didn't seem to go through, and part of me really believed that this would be the same. However, that night, we met over at Aaron's apartment, and began laying out all of this groundwork, all of these ideas. We didn't want to just appeal to fellow liberals and progressives, no, we wanted to really reach the moderate, the undecided. That was where the real power comes from anyway, the moderate voter. If you can win them over, you can win the whole damn thing.
We came up with our basic plan, which was to grassroots a pop-up internet sensation. We wanted people on 4Chan getting into this, we wanted people on Deviantart to jump on board. For that, we needed something to really grab their attention. There were thousands of internet based activism groups out there, one for just about whatever flavor you could ask for, so we knew that we had to come up with something that would grab the public's eye. Make us seem nice, trustworthy and caring. We certainly thought, at the time, that that is exactly what we were going to be, a force of good. We turned out to be very wrong.
A couple weeks went by, and we had most of game plan laid out. It took a couple weeks, because as I said, we didn't want to rush this. It evolved a bit more each and every time we talked. Every time I thought that the project would lose steam, I'd meet with Aaron and Beth, and boom, we were back in business. We had some great ideas. We had spoken to a few other, lesser known activists groups in the area, with the idea that they might want to team up with us. We wanted to make sure that our agenda was broad, justice and equality.
Our mission statement wasn't to target or single out people that opposed our views; it wasn't to demonize others, but rather, to open up a real forum, ripe with education and access to answers. Like I said time and time again, we weren't trying to be extremist. We wanted to present ourselves as well dressed, well-educated Americans that cared about the betterment and progression of the nation that we loved. It all seemed ready to go live, when I came up with the idea for... well, for her.
I told Beth and Aaron that we needed a mascot, a symbol or our cause. But unlike other activists groups that used harsh, forceful imagery to make their point, we wanted something that could be soft and inviting, while still radiating a strength and beauty. They both agreed, and I sat down and came up with her, that easy really. I wanted something that was strong, to show our cause, yet human enough to show the world that we weren't a bunch of nut job radicals, but real people with real ideas. So, I came up with the idea of a... well, like you said, like Athena, sort of mixed with Minerva. Someone beautiful yet powerful.
I came up with Queen Justine.
None of us could draw for shit though, and we wanted this to be good. So, Aaron, being the internet marketing wiz that he was, set something up locally through Deviantart. A contest, open to residents of New Orleans and the surrounding area, we really wanted every aspect of this to be local. I described Justine to Aaron. Flowing, thick blonde hair, crystal blue eyes, silver armor with a sword in her hand. I figured this would be great. She looked a bit in my mind like the scales of justice image that is often seen outside of courts, minus the blindfold of course. Aaron worked his magic, and within a day or so, our group email was being flooded with pictures. Honestly, they were all good, but one just stuck out. It captured exactly what I imaged of her when I thought the idea of Queen Justine up in my head. She was, well, stunning. The artist submitted the picture anonymously, no signature or anything. We wrote back, thanking him or her for the effort, and on that day, Queen Justine, as she would come to be known, was born.
Trust me Detective; she was the real reason that we were successful. Once her image went live, once we used her as our, well, as our fucking Mickey Mouse, people took notice. She was everything that we could never be, do you understand that? She was gorgeous and soft, feminine and tender, yet also rugged and fearless. Is it strange that I felt myself almost falling in love with her? Is that bizarre?
About a week after our site went live, QueenJustineJusticeForAll.com, I had a dream about her. I was just lying there in my bed, and she came into my room. I remember feeling no fear in this dream. Seeing her come to me was like, like seeing your closest loved one returning from a long shift away from home. I remember what she said to me in the dream too. She walked over to me, sat down on my bed, and began to stroke my hair. Her hands, they were so soft, so delicate, yet, underneath that, I could sense they had the power to crush stones.
She spoke to me, and her voice, it was lovelier than I could have ever imagined. Intelligent, determined, yet cultured and classy, she really was a queen.
She said, “My champion, you have summoned me, and I have answered. You breathed life into me, to come and fight by your side, to be your sword of justice. Will you accept me, my champion?”
I responded, “My Queen, lead us, lead us as you will!”
Strange, I know. I don’t talk like that, and I certainly wasn’t trying to in the dream. The words just sort of flowed from my mouth. I suppose it’s the logic of all dreams, you sort of just go along with what the dream wants. Once I accepted her offer, I remember she smiled, a cold, rather harsh grin. The sort of expression I would expect you’d see on the face of some salty war general who just watched the enemy lines get crushed by his soldiers. She nodded once, those blue eyes, so powerful, locking onto my own. She kissed me on the lips and gently stroked my cheek one time, before the dream began to break up.
Her last words to me, as I began to wake up were, “I will smite your enemies my champion, you need only call upon me.”
Drexler: Let’s take a break, shall we?
Morgan: Yeah, can I use the restroom?
Drexler: Of course, I need to step out and make a phone call. I’ll have an officer escort you to the men’s room.
Remembering What Matters Most
Calvin Drexler steps outside of the police station for the second time. He dials home and lets his wife know he won’t be back until late.
“Hey baby, I got a late report, this guy is pretty out there, but it may lead to something big. I might not be home until after midnight,” Drexler tells his wife after she answers.
“Okay Cal, I understand. I know you’re working hard down there. I’ll leave the meatloaf out for you, just in case I am in bed before you get home,” Simone Drexler responds.
“Thank you. I can’t say too much about this right now, because honestly I think this guy is just a looney, but, it might have something to do with the political murders we’ve been hearing about the last few months.”
“Really?” Simone replies, “That is something worth staying late for I suppose. Marissa will be disappointed though.”
“Actually, I was hoping to speak with her,” Calvin adds, “I want to ask her about something on the internet.”
Simone laughs. You go from parent to student over night when it comes to teenagers and technology. She understood though, it was, after all, Marissa Drexler who showed Simone how to operate her smartphone when she first brought it home.
“Okay baby, she’s right here, I’ll put her on. I love you, be home as soon as you can,” Simone finishes, before placing Marissa on the line.
“Hey Daddy!” Marissa shouts once she has the phone.
“Hey princess, how’s everything going?” Calvin asks.
“Good, school was fine today, are you going to be home tonight?”
“Not sure yet, it may be a late night. I am talking to a guy that I honestly think is a few cans short of a six pack, if you know what I mean.”
Marissa laughs. She will always be her father’s best audience when it comes to his dad jokes.
Calvin continues, “I wanted to ask you about something online.”
“Sure daddy, what’s up?”
“What do you know about Queen Justine?”
Calvin has to remove the phone from his ear, as his daughter goes into a fit of excitement.
“Wow daddy, you know about Queen Justine? She’s like, the most popular thing online right now. Lots of people are drawing her, even writing stories about her. She started off as a mascot for some sort of justice group, but then she just sort of took on a life of her own.”
“Ah, so you’ve heard of her then?” Calvin asks jokingly.
“Of course, me and anyone else that has the internet,” Marissa replies.
“In these stories, does she ever do anything… bad?” Calvin responds, trying not to sound too much like a confused adult.
“Oh no daddy, she’s a total ass-kicker… I mean BUTT-kicker… sorry daddy,” his daughter stammers.
“Forgiven, so, no one has drawn her or written her doing anything… sketchy, in any of the stories or pictures you’ve seen?”
“No, she’s all about justice and saving the weak,” Marissa answered. “Why all the questions about Queen Justine?”
“No reason, just something I am following up on. Speaking of which, I need to get back to this guy, so that I can hopefully be home before sunrise. I love you Marissa, take care of mom while I’m at work.”
“Of course daddy, I love you too. When you get home, I can show you some of the Queen Justine artwork and stuff, if you’d like?”
“I would baby, I would. We’ll do that tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay daddy, I love you, be safe at work,” Marissa stated, and Calvin disconnected the call.
Calvin takes a moment to appreciate his family. They are his rock, his wife and daughter. They anchor him to the good of the world, protecting him from the violence and hatred that he sees on the job. Without them, who knows where the things that he sees each and every day might have taken him. He removes a small picture of his family from his wallet and kisses the face of his wife and daughter. Feeling renewed, he returns to the interrogation room, where he finds that Craig Morgan is back, seated, and waiting to finish his story.
The Actions of the Queen
Drexler: So Craig, you created the concept of Queen Justine, and then an unknown artist put her together for you, that’s basically her origin, right?
Morgan: In a nutshell, I suppose. But she grew from there, trust me. That dream I told you about, that wasn’t just a dream, no, that was an omen.
Drexler: Why do you say that?
Morgan: Everything took off after that night. Our group grew in a matter of weeks. Like I said, other groups joined on with us. Shannon Dires contacted us; she was the founder of Women Work, a small feminist group. She loved the image of Justine, said it was the perfect banner for her group. She asked if she could join us and use the image. Of course we agreed. We never intended to copyright or make any money off of Justine; we just wanted something that would unite people.
Drexler: And it did?
Morgan: She did, yes. We went from the founding three members to well over 50 in just a month’s time. Once we had the groundwork down, we decided it was time to really take action. You may recall our protests out in Slidell, against Lyn Davidson.
Drexler: The clerk, the one that was refusing to issue gay marriage certificates?
Morgan: Yeah, her. That bug-eyed freak show. We picketed her office, surrounded her when she left to go to her car. It was great. We had so many supporters. The cops had to come out just to make sure nothing happened. We felt like we really sent a strong message. Of course, she claimed that she was just a victim of religious discrimination. The bitch had the nerve to suggest that we were like the Romans, and she was like Daniel, from the bible, being thrown to the lions. And that was fine with us; it even made sense, since Justine had the look of a Greek or Roman Goddess. So, we went with it.
Drexler: What do you mean by, went with it?
Morgan: We had pictures drawn up of Justine, sitting as a Roman Emperor, giving the classic thumbs down gesture, as lions surrounded a mocked up image of Lyn Davidson. We made that our banner when we protested her office. We saw it as bitter-sweet, giving her just what she wanted.
Drexler: What happened from there?
Morgan: Well, that’s when Christopher Snell got involved. He rounded up all of his gun nut friends, and they staged counter protests in support of Davidson. It just proved that he didn’t really care about gun rights as much as he just cared about supporting hatred. His buddies stood there, armed to the teeth, taking full advantage of Louisiana’s open carry laws, and tried to intimidate us from protesting outside of Davidson’s office. I remember looking at one of the protest signs, it had the picture I told you about, of Justine sending Davidson to the lions, and thinking that I wish she really would have to face Justine’s wrath. It was just a thought brought on by frustration; I didn’t really want the woman to be killed. But as you know, a day or so later, she was found…
Morgan: Yes, killed in a gruesome fashion, torn apart.
Drexler: Who did you think was responsible?
Morgan: No one in our group, if that’s what you’re asking. We assumed that it was probably a fringe group, someone out there that had just had enough of her shit and snapped, took matters into their own hands. We actually tried to step away from the Lyn Davidson scene after that. We figured it would be easiest to just move on to other things.
Drexler: So, what kept you from doing that?
Morgan: Snell, that’s what. He was convinced that the protesters had killed her. He made a lot of threats publicly, dressed up as finding the truth. He said that the police were incompetent and that only “the people” were capable of bringing the killer to justice. He had a Facebook group with a lot of like-minded idiots, all clamoring for the truth in Davidson’s murder. They started sending us a lot of threats on social media. Saying that we had a time line to confess or that he and his group would come and get us personally. He even sent us pictures of him and his radical friends, all locked and loaded, standing below one of those yellow “don’t tread on me” flags. He said that his group didn’t need the law, that the Constitution gave them all the law they needed.
Drexler: Why didn’t you report that to the police?
Morgan: Because we didn’t want to appear weak. At this time, we still had a strong membership base. Lots of support, and with Queen Justine as our unofficial “leader,” I certainly didn’t feel a need to be afraid. I guess it’s sort of human nature, you know. This guy, he didn’t know where any of us lived; he was just sending us threats on the internet. None of it felt real, I guess is what I’m trying to say. I remember sitting at my computer one night, looking at his Facebook page, this angry, pathetic man, making threats against strangers. I was annoyed, and seeing his ratty little face only annoyed me further. I remember gazing over at a picture of Justine that was taped next to my computer, and thinking something like, “you missed one.” About two days later, they found Snell.
Drexler: The next victim?
Morgan: Yeah, killed in similar fashion to Davidson. Medieval style, you know?
Drexler: I do. My station didn’t personally investigate the matter, but it certainly made all the news.
Morgan: Yep, that it did. That’s when the Felix Jones got involved. You’ve heard of him, right? He does an extreme right wing radio talk show.
Drexler: Honestly I’d never heard of him until he was found, well, you know how he was found, don’t you?
Morgan: Of course. He’s based out of Slidell, and he’d been following the Lyn Davidson story. Once she died, he jumped on the Christopher Snell bandwagon, trying to make them both martyrs for his ridiculous cause. Jones was a Constitutional Extremist; we all knew that, but his radio and YouTube show gave him a huge support structure. Once he found out that Snell had been targeting our group, he jumped on that and rode it hard, so to speak.
Drexler: How so?
Morgan: Well, like I said, he had a huge following. Our group started getting some real threats, ones that seemed like they could actually turn into something dangerous. I mean, he tried to label us as domestic terrorists. Can you imagine that shit? This fucking guy, Jones, is out there telling people to arm themselves against the government, yet somehow we're the fucking terrorists? He was determined to make an example of our group, and that is when some of our members started getting scared.
Drexler: Like who?
Morgan: Shannon Dires. She didn’t want her girls to become targets. So, she backed out of the group, and with her went a lot of our membership. We were all pissed off about that, all because of fucking Felix Jones, some fat ass sitting in his living room pretending that he’s the next Rush Limbaugh or something. I was furious, and, well, I’m sure you can imagine what happened next.
Drexler: Are you saying that’s what caused the death of Felix Jones?
Morgan: It began to make sense to me, especially after they found his body. Drawn and quartered, can you imagine that? Inside of a small apartment at that, something that should have been impossible. That is when I began to finally believe what was happening, but it was Shannon’s death that brought it all home.
Drexler: What do you mean?
Morgan: In a moment Detective, let me finish please. This is the part of the story that gets… hard to tell.
Drexler: Take your time.
Morgan: Shannon was found dead, just days after she abandoned our group. Disemboweled, if you followed that story. I knew at that point that it had to be Justine, I just knew it. Just like in my dream, she said she would smite my enemies. If you don’t call those murders a form of smiting, then I don’t know what fucking smiting is.
Drexler: Do you need another break?
Morgan begins to raise his voice, sounding hysteric.
Morgan: No, I need to finish this, and you need to listen. It gets a lot worse.
Drexler: Okay, okay, calm down Mr. Morgan, I’m listening.
Morgan: Justine was giving me confirmation that she was taking care of my enemies. Oh God yes she was. Lyn Davidson was called Bigot, Christopher Snell was called Fanatic, Felix Jones was False Prophet and poor Shannon, she showed up as Coward.
Drexler: What do you mean?
Morgan: May I remove my shirt Detective?
Drexler: If you wish, does this relate to what you’re…
Morgan: Oh fuck yes it does.
Morgan can be heard removing his shirt, Drexler can be heard gasping.
Drexler: What the hell are those…?
Morgan: Scars, scars spelling out words. Honestly, when Davidson was killed, I didn’t even make the connection. I was freaked out by it, but, I don’t know, I just thought it was… shit, I don’t know what I thought. I just know that I was sitting there, watching the news, when I got this intense itching. I ran into the bathroom and looked at my chest. That itching, it turned into a burning pain. I applied cold water, creams, you name it. It wasn’t until the next day though, when the swelling went down, that I saw it for what it was. The word… BIGOT, right there across my chest. I found out on television the next night that Davidson had been killed.
Drexler: And the other ones?
Morgan: They appeared on the same nights of each death. Like I said, a word relating to the victim, always in the same fashion, itching into burning into scaring. Once it was there though, the pain stopped. I thought about going to the doctor, and I guess I always planned on it, but you know how it goes, once the pain stops, you just sort of ignore it. Plus, I was scared, scared shitless by all of this. Hell, I didn’t even make the connection at first, not until the third or fourth word appeared. It was because the words were appearing when Justine killed them, not when the bodies were discovered. I didn’t even know they were dead when the scars showed up.
Drexler: You have two more, both of them say TRAITOR, who are they for?
Morgan: I don’t want to say… oh God; I don’t want to say…
Drexler: Tell me Craig… who do you believe they are for?
Morgan: After Shannon was found, Beth and Aaron backed out of the group. They said it was just too much, you know, and that they were afraid they might be accused of involvement. They were scared too. I should have seen it coming. After Felix Jones was found murdered, we pretty much stopped talking at work. They avoided me. I started to think they might have actually believed I had something to do with it.
Drexler: Why would they think you were involved in the murders?
Morgan: My mother lives out in Slidell; she has a big piece of property out there. You know, maybe they figured I was going out there, killing these people, and laying low at my mom’s house. Fuck, I don’t know. I just know they told me they were leaving the group, and that very same night, the two TRAITOR scars showed up on my chest. They haven’t been returning my calls. I know, because I know they’re dead.
Drexler: Write down their addresses. I’ll send someone right away to check it all out.
The sound of pencil or paper can be heard. Drexler can be heard leaving the room, and returning a few moments later.
Drexler: Officers in the area are going out to check their homes now Craig. They’ll be knocking at their doors in the next five minutes. I am sure they’ll be fine.
Morgan: They’re not, I already know. She won’t let me escape now, you know that Detective?
Drexler: What do you mean?
Morgan: I’ve tried to kill myself three times before coming to see you. Crazy, right?
Drexler: … Can you… explain?
Morgan: Once I put the pieces together, once I realized that somehow, someway, we brought Queen Justine to life. I figured if I just, ended it myself, that she’d vanish. If she were somehow a living figment of my imagination, as I believe that she is, I assumed if I die, she would cease to exist as well.
Drexler: Go on.
Morgan: I tried pills at first. My mother had back issues, and she has a lot of pain killers. She doesn’t really keep track of them either. So, I just drove out there, used the key I have to her house, and took one of her big bottles. She had about 60 Vicodin in there. I went home and swallowed about 12 of them in two big gulps. I figured I could just go to sleep and all of this would end.
Drexler: But it didn’t.
Morgan: No, I woke up the next morning, feeling fine. I figured that I didn’t take enough. So, I swallowed 30 of them. It took me almost an hour to get them all down, due to gagging. Finally I did though; I’d taken enough pain killers to kill an elephant. Once again though, I fell asleep, this time, sure that it was all over, only to wake up that evening. Once again feeling refreshed.
Drexler: And you believe that Justine was keeping you going?
Morgan: Oh, I know she was. Each time I woke up, there was a little rose next to my bed. Wrapped around the rose was a long blonde strand of hair, just as I imagined Justine’s would appear in real life. She was leaving me little “get well” cards.
Drexler: You said that you tried suicide three times though.
Morgan: Yeah, my last attempt, I wanted it to work. So, I filled up my bathtub with warm water, I took the remaining Vicodin, plus a good deal of aspirin, climbed into the tub and slit both my wrists. I really thought it worked that time, you know, I really figured there was no way to survive that one. I felt myself sliding under the warm water; I felt a smile come across my face. I would go and take Justine with me. No more murders.
Drexler: Well, since you’re in here with me now, I can assume it didn’t work.
Morgan: She saved me. As I was fading out, drifting away, she came into my bathroom. I was partially under the water, and I was fading out quickly, but I knew Justine when I saw her. Gorgeous blonde hair, blue eyes, armor shining as a bastion of glory. I felt her soft, strong hands reach down and pull me up. I passed out, but when I awoke, the tub had been drained, and a rose was waiting for me on the sink.
Drexler: So that’s when you finally decided to come talk to the police?
Morgan: You’re my last hope Detective. See, I think I may have messed up again, that there may be another murder yet.
The interview is interrupted by a uniformed officer entering. He can be heard speaking low, whispering something to Drexler. Drexler can be heard responding with "okay." Drexler can be heard exiting the room, with approximately 20 minutes passing before he returns and resumes that interview. During that time, Morgan is heard weeping constantly.
Drexler can be heard re-entering the room, and a metallic clink is also heard, as he removes handcuffs from his belt.
Drexler: Craig Morgan, you are under arrest for the murders of Beth Lamal and Aaron Murphy. Stand up and place your hands behind your back for me Craig.
Morgan can be heard standing up and the handcuffs are placed on his wrists. Miranda Rights are read. Morgan agrees to continue the interview without a lawyer.
Morgan: I didn’t kill them Detective, Justine did.
Drexler: We will sort all of that out; you’re still innocent until proven guilty. But Craig, you knew they were murdered, not just dead, but murdered. My officers just found them; they were both in Aaron Murphy’s apartment, apparently watching a movie together. They were found on their couch, the methods that were used to kill them, let’s just say… they’re terrifying. You tried to kill yourself, by your own admission. You’re blaming these murders on a fictional character that you yourself conceived. Try and understand how this looks from my point of view.
Morgan: I understand Detective. I really do. I don’t blame you for doing your job.
Drexler: Homicide detectives will take over the investigation most likely. You will have to tell your story to them all over again.
Morgan: That’s fine; I will tell anyone who wants to listen. But I have to ask you for one last favor, just one more thing Detective Drexler.
Drexler: Of course.
Morgan: I was thinking, earlier tonight, it just popped into my head, you know, that this is all the artist’s fault that first drew Justine. You know how blame goes, right? For just a moment, I felt, anger towards the artist. I wished they were punished. It was a terrible thought, but, but what if Justine goes after them? We need to find out who the original artist is; we need to protect that person. Please, if you let me get my phone out, I can find the email address of the artist, and we can…
Drexler: Enough is enough, Craig. We’ve come this far, now, you have to know that there is no Queen Justine, right? She’s a character that you created. She isn’t the one going around killing people, and she certainly isn’t the one that etched a description of each victim onto your body. You did that Craig, you did that. You need to own up to it, confess to me before this gets dragged on further.
Morgan can be heard laughing.
Morgan: Detective Drexler, I thought you were going to listen, but you’re not LISTENING! I don’t care if you throw me in jail or not, but look into the FUCKING ARTIST! If I sent Justine after them, then you’re going to have ANOTHER FUCKING MURDER! Get me my phone, FIND THE ARTIST!
Morgan continues to scream.
Drexler: Craig, I’m going to go talk to my boss, okay. You need to just sit and calm down. We’ll have a lot more questions for you in time, don’t worry. As I said, you’ll have time to explain yourself, but sitting here and screaming isn’t going to solve this.
Morgan: YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE, LISTEN TO ME! FIND THE ARTIST BEFORE YOU HAVE ANOTHER CORPSE. JUSTINE IS GOING AFTER THE ARTIST!
Drexler left the interrogation room, with Craig Morgan still screaming his warning about the artist. Drexler though was confident that the only hazard was currently locked up in the small room with the metal table, handcuffed and under arrest. Sure, he would check the cell phone, check the email address and turn that information over to the tech guys to see if they could track down the original artist. He would want to talk to that person, find out if Morgan had communicated anything specific during the early inception of his movement. However, as far as Detective Calvin Drexler was concerned, this case was all but closed. The so called political murders would stop now that Morgan was in custody. Drexler hurried to the Watch Commander's office to tell him the news.
"Quite a commotion in there Drex, everything okay?" the commander, a man named Francis Lombardi asked.
"Everything is better than okay sir, Craig Morgan more or less just confessed," Drexler replied.
"Do tell," Lombardi inquired.
"Well, the guy is nuts, that much is easy to tell. I mean, he's going to have to be seen by the psych guys in the morning when they come in. Get this; he's convinced that this internet logo that he and his pals designed for their activist group has been doing all the kills. She even has a name, Queen Justine. According to my daughter, she's quite a popular art piece online. Either way, Morgan and his friends designed this political movement group, and came up with Justine as their mascot. Apparently she took off in popularity and really helped the group grow."
Lombardi chimed in, "And is that when the murders started, with his group?"
"Not according to him sir. According to Mr. Morgan in there, his mascot came to him in a dream, told him that she was going to smite his enemies and help his group grow. That is about the time that they started protesting Lyn Davidson out in Slidell. Shortly after, Davidson is found dead. And you know the gun nut, Chris Snell, seems that he had a run in with Morgan's little group too. He turns up dead right afterwards too. I don't need to tell you the details, you know those murders were grisly."
Next up we have Felix Jones, you know, big mouth asshole on YouTube, a real tin-foil hat type if there ever was one. Turns out he was giving Morgan's group a hard time, and guess what happens next?"
"Another gruesome death," Lombardi answered.
"Yep. Then, one of their supporters, the feminist, Shannon Dire, she backs out of the group and winds up dead. Finally, his two friends that founded the group with him decide they want to separate from his organization. Uniforms found their bodies just a little while ago. Morgan knew pretty much exactly where they would be, and that they would be pretty chopped up. They were."
Lombardi tented his fingers and stretched his back in his chair. "Sounds like we've got enough to send to the D.A. He knew where the bodies of his friends were, and he had some degree of connection to each and every one of the victims. The fact that he thinks some cartoon character that he came up with is the culprit, well, like you said, guy is nuttier than squirrel shit."
"You didn't even hear the best part sir. The guy claims that with each victim, Justine comes and brands their death on his chest. He's got words all over his chest and stomach, all look like they were branded or scarred on. Each one connects to a victim."
"Well, it's nice when our perps are kind enough to burn the evidence into their bodies, isn't it?" Lombardi added.
"Makes our job easier, although I would imagine this guy is going to spend the rest of his life weaving baskets out at the mental hospital in Mandeville. He claims that he tried to kill himself three times before he came down to see us. From what he described, he should be dead three times over, yet somehow, according to him, Justine kept him alive. He even claims that she left him a flower by his bed."
"Well, that'll give the psych guys something to play around with. Now, let's talk real evidence though. Besides his knowledge of the two latest victims, what can we use to build a case?"
"Well, the first three murders, all three victims resided in Slidell. Morgan's mother lives out there, and Morgan even told me that he has his own key to her house. We can get a warrant for the mom's house and see what's out..."
Suddenly a uniformed officer rushes into Lombardi's office. "Sir, it's Morgan, something's wrong with Morgan!"
"What?!" Lombardi screams.
"His chest, it just started... twitching. He was screaming, and I swear, I saw his skin blistering and bubbling, it almost looked like...."
Drexler exited Lombardi's office and walked quickly to the interrogation room.
Entering the room, he saw the other uniformed officer that had been left to guard Morgan standing across the table, apparently frozen in fear. "What the fuck is going in here?!" Drexler screamed at the officer.
The other officer pointed frantically at Morgan's chest. Drexler watched in amazement, barely hearing Morgan's own screams of pain and terror, as the scars lumped and formed, starting to become what could almost be a word. Drexler grabbed the other officer and screamed into his face, "Get a fucking medic in here now, GO, GO, GO!" The other officer quickly exited the room.
Drexler strained his eyes to see what was happening. A word was forming, that much was true, and how Morgan was doing it was a mystery for sure.
"Morgan, Morgan, calm down, what is happening to you?" Drexler screamed, trying to be heard over Morgan's own screams of agony.
"The artist... did you... did you find the artist?" Morgan gasped.
"No, not yet, what is going on with you though..."
Morgan cut him off, screaming, "IT'S THE FUCKING ARTIST, I TOLD YOU, I TOLD YOU THIS WOULD HAPPEN! JUSTINE GOT TO THE ARTIST, SHE'S TELLING ME NOW!"
The word was taking shape more and more by the second. As Morgan thrust his body in the chair that he was chained to, Drexler thought he could almost make it out.
"Where the fuck is that medic?" he turned to scream, when his cell phone began to buzz in his pocket. It was his wife, probably wanting to ask him something about dinner or whatever, he ignored it.
That word, that word was almost legible. If Morgan would just shut the fuck up, Drexler was sure he could figure it out.
He saw an S at the start, and what could be an ING at the end. He was struggling to concentrate over Morgan's continued screaming. Then his phone rang again. He gave it a quick glance, Simone, calling again. He pushed the ignore button for a second time.
Finally the medics arrived, pushing in past Drexler so that they could assess Morgan. They shouted questions to him, he ignored them, continuing to scream at Drexler, screaming that it was the artist; Justine had found and killed the artist.
Craning over the medics, Drexler watched the word continue to come into focus. He thought now, now that the medics had injected Morgan with a sedative, now that he wasn't twitching and thrashing as hard, he thought he could see it all.
A word that would read as nonsense to anyone else. A word that meant nothing to the medics, a word that really meant nothing to Morgan himself. To Drexler though, to Drexler it meant everything. When his daughter, Marissa, was a baby, he called her Shing. It was a little nickname he'd given her, a play on baby talk, as in, "Aren't you just the cutest little SHING?" He called her that because when she was learning to talk, that's how she pronounced "thing." So he called her Shing, his sweet, innocent little Shing.
He hadn't called her that in years. She was older now, no longer his little Shing. She grew up, she was a teenager, she went to high school, she loved science and math, but most of all... most of all she loved art.
Marissa was always online, always looking at art sites, always... drawing.
When the phone rang a third time, Drexler answered.
Written by K. Banning Kellum
Published September 12th, 2015