The Man Who Never Sleeps - Chapter 2 - The 'Arse Bandit'

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The Man Who Never Sleeps - Part I - Chapter 2 - The Arse Bandit title Perhaps a week into Chaz's absence I bought a newspaper with the headline, “Woman Murdered In Street”. The accompanying photo filled just about the entire front page. It showed a rainy city street, and the dead woman being whisked away on a stretcher. Police officers were all over the scene. The photo actually gave the impression that the photographer had to find a gap between cops to take the shot. I'm not the kind of person who buys the paper every day to keep up with the news, but the next day I went past a newsagent and saw an equally urgent headline: “Second Murdered In Two Days”. The photo showed a suburban house taped off and a group of police officers standing at the front. One of them -- a barrel-chested man -- wore plain clothes. His size and broken nose gave him the appearance of a simple brute. The picture caught his beady eyes and stiff lip in a look of unspecified annoyance. The article identified him as Detective Chip Dushan, the man running the case. Two weeks later the tally reached four victims. By then there was little doubt that the murders were connected; there were four factors consistent with each. The victims were killed during heavy rain, all were slit at the throat, the killer/s took no money, and in the cases of those killed in their homes --- the killer/s left no trace of entry or escape. By this time the whole city was following the case - and you can imagine how I felt about it after my run-in with Chaz. The most significant aspect was withheld from the press. Nowadays it has leaked out, and there are all sorts of theories about what really went on. I'm talking, of course, about the blood. In all cases the victims were drained of a large quantity of blood, although the killer/s left barely a stain behind. It was because of this that Dushan -- the detective -- consulted Lars Yenin, who was already known then as an authority on the occult. Now Dushan didn't for one minute think that this clown (or clowns) was a vampire, and that's what he told Yenin. “No?” said Yenin. “No,” said Dushan. “But there may be an obsession.” He and his partner --- Detective Gus Branchflower -- were at Yenin's inner city library. It was crowded with books and periodicals, either organised neatly on bookshelves or stacked in piles on tables and in aisles. It was closed. This is where Yenin stayed when he was in town. “The reason I'm here,” continued Dushan, “is to ask you about vampirism in general.” “Okay.” “And to ask you, if you would be so kind, to try to recall if you may have dealt with a possible suspect. Maybe a mental case or something.” “Anything I can do to help.”  Eyeless Yenin was a peculiar looking man. He had one glass eye, his right, the iris of which was a little clock face --- and it actually ticked. He was perhaps thirty then with sunken cheeks and big mutton chop sideburns. He also had heavy eyelashes that you couldn't help notice. When Dushan first met Yenin, he asked him why he had a clock in his eye. Yenin said, “I'm a reminder.” “Of what?” asked Dushan. “Of how long you have left,” answered Yenin. Dushan looked at his watch presently. “What time is it?” he said, suddenly turning to Branchflower. “I don't have a watch,” said Branchflower matter-of-factly. Branchflower was a short man with a long, brown fringe and sunglasses with round lenses --- kind of like a brunette Andy Warhol. “What kind of a man doesn't wear a watch?” said Dushan. “The band broke.” “Oh. Well mine's run out. You got the time, Yenin?” “Four o'clock,” said Yenin. When he said that, Yenin was looking out of the window. He did not wear a watch. “How can you tell?” Dushan said. Yenin turned to him and tapped his glass eye. “I'm guessing.” The door to a back room opened behind them and a pale man of thirty something came out. His tie was loosened around his neck and the top buttons of his shirt were undone. “Four o'clock, is it, Spaper?” Yenin said to him. The man named Spaper looked into Yenin's eyes, smiled and said, “Right on the chin, chief.” Yenin introduced the newcomer. “This is my associate --- John Spaper.” The two policemen shook hands with him and introduced themselves. “They're asking about vampires,” said Yenin. “It's in relation to those murders.” Everyone took a seat. Spaper took a cigar out of his pocket. “Think it might be vampires then, do you?” He sounded earnest. “No, no,” answered Dushan. “But they might be imitating them. Say, do you mind not smoking?” Spaper stopped himself from lighting up. “Not at all.” “Say, these people were murdered pretty close to each other weren't they?” said Yenin. “They were all killed within three suburbs,” replied Dushan. “Glenelg, Camden Park and the City.” “Is there a cemetery between those suburbs?” Dushan thought for a moment then said, “Yes. Why? What are you getting at?” “A vampire, as far as I can remember,” said Yenin, “would take his victim's blood back to his body, which would most likely be buried in the cemetery.” “What do you mean? Don't they break out of their coffin and suck the blood?” “That's the movies. The vampire is an astral spectre that hasn't fully separated from the physical body at death. To sustain his physical body he will take the energy of the living, through their blood, and feed it to his own body.” “I see.” Dushan considered for a moment then said, “But that doesn't work.” “What do you mean?” “This bloke has taken the blood out of four people. If the killer is keeping the blood, he's storing it somewhere. Where are you going to put it in a cemetery?” “Won't he take it to his body?” Spaper intervened, again sounding sincere. “Yes Mr. Spaper,” said Dushan. “Perhaps it would be easier for us if vampires did exist.” “What do you mean?” asked Spaper. Dushan looked annoyed. “It sounds like Yenin's already gotten to you.” Yenin smiled. Dushan stood up and buttoned his jacket. “Well, we must be off. We have some other things to check on.” Branchflower followed. “I'll get that information to you by the end of the week,” said Yenin. “Very interesting,” he said, once alone with Spaper. Anything strange and unexplained interested Yenin. “Perhaps it's best we follow this up,” said Spaper. “That Dushan doesn't exactly strike me as…well… a genius.” “Dushan's a smart man,” said Yenin. “I've met him before, about two years ago. We weren't working together then -- more like competing with each other to solve the same case.” “Was it solved?” “Yes, by Dushan. Of course, he restricted my access to a lot of evidence, but all the same he proved to be more perceptive than I was -- Even if he's also more opinionated.” “But he won't even consider the vampire theory.” “That's true,” said Yenin. “We'll have to make that our task.” “As usual, I'm completely at your service,” said Spaper. “Thanks, John. I want you to check on all local deaths that happened two weeks prior to the killings. I'm going to the cemetery.” As I said previously, Yenin had an incredible abnormality. He didn't need sleep --- not a wink. It's true. This was because of something that happened in his past, of which I will explain later. He accomplished a great deal in his life in a short time simply because his working day continued well into the night. His nickname among those who knew of him was `The Man Who Never Sleeps', and this was of course how I decided to title this account. Nobody who used that nickname then, however, knew that it was literally true. It was just thought that he worked hard and had late nights. I don't expect you to believe it. Just wait until I finish the story. Yenin went to the cemetery that night and waited until dawn for the vampire to show. If there was a vampire, it didn't come.  Eyeless The next morning Yenin got a call from Dushan informing him that the killer had struck again in the night and to meet Dushan at the crime scene. The latest crime-scene was an entire block of units. There were nine units all up in the building and every single tenant who was home the night before was found dead. It was, as it happens, the very block of units that I lived in. Luckily I'd been out with another of the tenants, attending a birthday party. There were signs of struggling, and a large percentage of blood was extracted from each victim, a knife being the apparent tool. Once again the intruder/s left no trace. The reason why Dushan wanted Yenin in on it was because of the situation with unit number four --- Chaz Darf's unit. Here's the situation: Chaz wasn't home, yet there was a stain of blood on the carpet --- a recent stain. This was after Chaz hadn't been seen for a month, since that last time I saw him. Chaz didn't work, and he had no known next of kin; Dushan was thus unable to find him. To add to the mystery of Chaz's identity, his home was cluttered with over three hundred paintings, all of which were pictures of the same subject: a beautiful but strangely deformed woman. Where her arms should have been, this woman instead had another pair of legs and feet about the length her arms would have been. Every painting was titled `Marietta'. She was mostly depicted nude. She was within landscapes, posing on chairs, in religious and historical scenes, in fantasy scenes, and in portraits. She was painted with realism, in cubist style, in abstract, in impressionist and futurist styles. She was done with all the colours and in black and white. She was also painted in a variety of positions. There was one painting (the only one amongst them all) wherein Chaz depicted her with arms and hands. It looked to be his last, remaining unfinished because of his absence.  Eyeless When Yenin arrived, a uniformed officer led him to number four. Dushan was there, tugging on his moustache while he studied one of the paintings. Yenin took a handkerchief from his pocket, wiped his artificial eye then replaced the handkerchief. He looked around the room. It was very small, apart from the paintings there were ashtrays here and there full of cigar butts. “This place is…worrying,” said Yenin. “Do you recognise her?” said Dushan, referring to the paintings. “I mean she's not a Hindu god or anything is she? They have arms all over the place, don't they?” “No,” Yenin replied. “She's not a Hindu god.” “Egyptian?” “None that I've heard of…” “So far there were no witnesses. Nobody heard a thing. I certainly hope that will change.” Yenin knelt and looked at the bloodstain on the carpet. It was only as big as his fist. “Do you think the killer took the man who lived here?” he said. “I'm still trying to find out who the man was,” said Dushan. “I suspect he might be an illegal alien. Might even be mixed up in all this.” Yenin went into the bedroom. “Check this out,” he called. “There's a photocopier in here!” Branchflower entered the room. “Did anyone miss me?” he asked. “No, I covered for you.” said Dushan. “Thanks.” “But I can't do it for ever. How was the gig, then?” “Not too bad. Small crowd, but they were into it. I only woke up twenty minutes ago.” Branchflower was also a musician. It was getting to the stage where his two professions were clashing and a choice had to be made. Yenin returned from the bedroom. “Come on, Lars,” said Branchflower. “Let's have a look at the other units.” As they did so, Dushan kneeled to study the bookshelf. “At least the bloke read some fine literature,” he murmured. When they returned to number four, Dushan had found about fifty thousand dollars in cash stashed inside books. Theorising that Chaz would want to return for the money, the three decided they would stay in number four that night. My role in the story ends here but is taken up again later. I returned to my quiet routine of writing, and working part-time. The fate of the case was in the capable hands of Yenin and company, who each (except Dushan) told me their accounts in great detail.  Eyeless Up until one o'clock in the morning, Yenin and Dushan spent the time arguing with each other over Freud's psychology vs. Jung's. Dushan championed Freud. Branchflower sat quietly and played with his revolver. At regular intervals he got up and peered out the window. Four more officers were positioned in my room across the hall. I stayed at a friend's place. The argument eventually ran out of momentum. “What's in that case, anyway, Four-eyes?” asked Dushan. Yenin had brought a black case along, about the size of a saxophone case. “None of your business, Big-nose.” Three hours later Dushan was asleep and Branchflower was on the brink of it. Yenin remained wide-awake. Like Yenin, Dushan also had an abnormality. Some people have the condition of sleepwalking; well get this: Dushan sleep-smoked. He smoked cigarettes in his sleep. In fact, he chain-smoked them. While he was awake, Dushan couldn't stand cigarette smoke and would not even let others smoke around him. He was a fitness freak, a former Greco-Roman wrestling champion. But when he slept, occasionally he would reach for the packet of smokes that he didn't even know he had. A few people knew he did it (his wife, for instance) but he had no idea. He'd usually drop the cigarette from his lips upon waking and then complain about “who the hell's been smoking?” So, then -- as Branchflower dropped off to sleep, and as Yenin sat patiently watching the door, Dushan took out a cigarette and a lighter from his pocket then started chuffing away in his sleep. The cigarette just hung there, and in between snores he took a drag. Yenin saw it but didn't know what to do. “How very interesting,” he said. “Oh well. What are you going to do?” He clicked open his case and took out a short, shining sword. The blade was straight and double-edged, the handle big enough for only one hand. He admired it for a moment then walked over to the window. When he turned around again, there was a man standing in front of him. He was tall and wore a grey suit, with a crooked green bowtie. His face was pale and he had a pencil-thin moustache. They stood hesitating, both surprised to see each other. The stranger (Chaz, of course) shot a glance at the bookshelf then back at Yenin. Yenin opened his mouth to speak, but just as he did, the man drew a dagger and lunged at him. With a cry, Yenin sprang to one side and swiped with his sword. The blade clipped the attacker's shirtsleeve and hand. The dagger dropped. The man grunted in surprise and stumbled out of range, clasping his wrist. “Wichcfneg?” mumbled Dushan, a cigarette falling from his lips. “Coffee to start with,” said Branchflower, also dazed. But they quickly jumped out of their dreams and seized their guns. Neversleep illustration 2 Chaz, poised like a cornered animal, addressed them: “So! You've come to finish the job, have you? Damned animals! But I'll tell you -- you come inadequate; it took a whole society to create me and it will take the same to bring me down!” “Now just a minute,” started Dushan. But the man launched himself and dive-rolled across the floor, to the bedroom door. It slammed behind him. Yenin prepared to ram it. “Hold it!” shouted Dushan. Yenin stopped, looked back. Dushan pointed at the sword. “Put that bloody thing away! What do you think this is?” Yenin stood back while Dushan entered the bedroom, pistol first. The room was empty. The window was open an inch. The lights on the photocopier were on and it noisily pushed out some paper. Dushan swung himself around to face the wardrobe. He pulled open the door but found no one. He looked under the bed: no one. He went over to the photocopier and picked up the piece of paper. “He's taunting us!” Branchflower turned the light on. “Where'd he go, Chip?” he asked. “Wherever he went, he must have been fucking fast,” said Dushan. He showed Branchflower and Yenin the paper. On it was an impression of the man's buttocks. “He still had time to photocopy his arse!”  Eyeless Two mornings later Dushan and Branchflower were sitting at a café. Dushan was reading a newspaper with an artist's likeness of Chaz's face on the front page. Branchflower was sitting quietly, playing with his revolver. Near them was a group of Japanese backpackers, and some office workers getting their morning coffee fix. A waitress came over. Branchflower put the gun away. “Are you ready to order?” she asked. “Coffee to start with, please,” said Branchflower. “Strong and black.” “A large orange juice,” said Dushan. She went away. “What a load of bullshit!” grumbled Dushan into his paper. “Hmm,” sounded Branchflower. “Unemployment is the highest it's ever been world wide, and they're still saying young people just don't want to work. Bloody idiots! And look at the pensioner situation. I tell you we're on the verge of another bloody depression! I'm not sticking around here, Gus. I'm going to leave the force. Look after number one.” “Hmm.” Dushan turn a page. “Refugees? Don't get me started on fucking refugees!” “What do we do now?” interrupted Branchflower. “I don't think the Arse Bandit will show up before he kills again.” Dushan put the paper down. “We can only wait, my friend,” he said. The waitress came with the drinks. The detectives each took theirs. “He can't make a move now without being seen,” Dushan continued. “Somebody's bound to recognise him and step forward. In the meantime we still have to go through his unit. Might find something.” Dushan picked his paper back up. From the other side of the table, Branchflower studied Chaz's portrait. “Bullshit!” said Dushan. “All they ever talk about is creating jobs! It's going backwards I tell you!” “Hmm,” sounded Branchflower politely. “If I knock my juice off the table I'll create a job for the waitress. But the floor is already clean! You follow me?” “Hmm.” “A society built out of boredom, I tell you!” Gus was used to this.  Eyeless A week later Dushan and Branchflower marched into Yenin's library. A woman sat at the reception desk. “I'm Detective Dushan of the S.A. police,” said he. “Is Lars Yenin still in town?” “Mr. Yenin? Why yes he is. If you'll wait a moment…” The woman stood up. “That won't be necessary,” said Dushan. He went straight to the back room ahead of the woman and pounded on the door. “Yes?” said a voice. Dushan opened the door. “You have some explaining to do,” he said to Yenin, who was inside, sitting behind a desk. On the desk was a half full bottle of white wine, and a glass. “I'm sorry Mr. Yenin,” said the lady from behind. “That's quite alright,” said Yenin. “Come in, Dushan. Have a seat.” Dushan and Branchflower went in and closed the door behind them. It was an untidy but cozy room that reminded Branchflower of a gangster's hideout. They remained standing. “Where is Spaper?” Dushan demanded. “What's the idea?” said Yenin. “That friend of yours -- John Spaper. Where is he?” “Why do you want Spaper?” “He knew the Arse Bandit.” “The what?” “Charles Darf,” explained Branchflower, who found a seat next to Yenin. “The tenant.” Yenin looked confused. “How long have you known this man Spaper?” said Dushan. “Little over a year,” Yenin answered. “You're not implying he has anything to do with the killings, are you?” “Gus,” said Dushan to Branchflower. Branchflower produced a black folder from his coat and gave it to Yenin. “We found this in Darf's home,” he said. “It was written by him.” Yenin took it and opened it. Inside was a thin manuscript. “What is it?” “We can't tell whether it's an attempt at writing fiction, or whether Darf is psychologically sick,” said Dushan. Yenin flicked through the pages. “It sure sounds like he believes the things he writes,” said Branchflower. “And it sure sounds like he's our murderer.” “What's Spaper got to do with it?” asked Yenin. “Spaper is mentioned in the book,” explained Dushan. “Bloody carpet snake!” exclaimed Yenin. “What was that?” said Branchflower. “That's an expression he uses,” explained Dushan. “Like saying, `well I'll be damned!'” “Oh.” “I know: he's an idiot,” said Dushan. “Sit down, for goodness sake!” said Yenin. “What does it say about Spaper? Are you sure it's the same man?” Dushan found a crate and sat down on it. “That's why we have to interview him,” said Dushan. “But he fits the character.” Yenin sighed, took out a handkerchief and wiped his artificial eye. “I think it's more than that.” “What!” sounded Dushan. “What do you know, Yenin?” “When I first met him...” The detectives looked at each other. “What about it?” they said in stereo. “Well,” said Yenin. “I saw right through him.” “What do you mean?” said Branchflower. “I mean literally. He walked into my office and I mistook him for a ghost because I could have sworn I could see through him.” The detectives just looked at each other wide-eyed. “What does it say about him?” asked Yenin. “Read it for yourself,” said Dushan. “But first --- where is he?” “Right now, I don't know. But he'll be coming here this afternoon.” “Good. We'll be here too. But read the book --- I want to ask you about some metaphysical stuff mentioned in it.” The detectives started towards the door. Alone now, Yenin took a sip from his wine and opened the folder. The writing in it was done on a cheap typewriter. I, Lev, your narrator, have a copy of the manuscript in my keep. It has never been released to public eyes. I present it to you here for the first time. This is exactly what Yenin read, as written by Charles Aaron Darf: to be continued...  Eyeless To be notified when the next chapter of The Man Who Never Sleeps is published on sign up for the Neversleep email list here.