He lifted his cuffed hands to his face. “I asked the Desk Sergeant to do it,” he said in answer to the Chief’s unspoken question and nodding in the direction of the burly Sergeant Murphy. “For my own protection.”
The Chief nodded, “Well, Detective, you probably know best. What’s it all about?”
“It’s the suicides, Sir. We’ve cracked ’em. All one hundred and ten of ‘em. Tragic. A warning needs to go out.”
”Ah, so they are related. Didn’t think they would be. After all, they seemed to be spread so far apart.”
“Yes, Sir. World wide. You see, it’s this world wide web thing, the internet. All these people are online members of a weekly writing group. Once a week they are given a prompt and then each one writes a short story in response to this prompt.”
“Seems straightforward enough. And so they kill themselves if their muses aren’t delivering, aren’t co-operating? And this week all the muses are away at a conference, so no inspiration?”
“No, Sir. It isn’t that. None of them had any problems writing this week. Not at all. They all wrote a piece and posted their pieces on the host site. It’s not that at all.”
“So, it’s … , it’s what?”
“Sir, it’s the stories themselves. The content, the themes.
“Before I go further, Sir, can you place that letter opener in your desk drawer, lock the drawer and give the key to sergeant Murphy here. Humour me, Sir, just this once.”
“Very well. Now let’s hear what this is all about.”
“So the way this works is each member of the group writes a story and posts it on the host site for the others to read, and in turn each writer reads all the stories posted.
“All well and good and usually works out well, but this week, it was meltdown.
“We’ve inspected all the stories and placed them into sections according to themes,” continued the Detective, his shackled hands fumbling clumsily with his notebook.
He took a deep breath. He glanced at the Desk Sergeant who moved closer saying,“Don’t worry, I won’t let anything happen”.
“Well, what we’ve found is as follows: thirty stories are about wife beating; five about husband beating. Twelve stories involve zombies, eight feature werewolves and/or vampires. All seven deadly sins are on display. We also have man-on-woman rape, woman-on-man rape, man-on-man rape, woman-on-woman rape, plus other combinations; there’s bestiality, incest, child abuse – sexual, physical and mental – patricide, matricide, fratricide, sororicide, infanticide, alcoholism, drug dependency, drug addiction, devil worship and several variants of black mass. All in all there are eighty three violent killing scenarios resulting in one hundred and two bodies. We find suicides and fatal accidents and terminal illnesses. Any number of broken marriages, bitter divorces and family break-ups. No good news stories, no love stories, no happy family stories, nothing uplifting. All black, bleak, gloomy, full of unremitting pessimism. No wonder the poor things took their lives, reading all that.
“And if it weren’t for Sergeant Murphy here, I’d be a goner too.”
He paused, ran to the corner of the room and vomited into the umbrella stand. “Sorry about that, Sir. I’ll clean it up later.”
The Chief said nothing, but sat there as white as a sheet. He eyed the small tub of sleeping tablets on his desk. Fortunately the Desk Sergeant anticipated his next move and snatched them away. ”Now then, Sir. It’s actually all fiction. Nothing ain’t true. And you needn’t read them. You don’t want to that.”
After a while the Chief recovered enough to say, “Well, thank you, Detective. Case closed. Sterling work. Beyond the call of duty and all that. And a lesson for all of us – stay away from writing groups.”
As the Detective and the Desk Sergeant walked out of the room, the Chief used his tongue to free the cyanide capsule from its hiding place in the specially prepared cavity in his top left molar. He had known that one day he would need it.