فصل 01

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فصل 01

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CHAPTER ONE

Gluttony

Somerset looked at the clock. It was almost 2 a.m. He had been in bed for more than an hour, but he was still awake. He had too much to think about. After twenty-three years as a homicide detective, it was never easy for him to go to sleep.

A homicide detective sees humanity at its very worst. He sees murders of every imaginable sort. People killed with guns, knives, poison. Husbands killing wives, and wives killing husbands. Children killing parents, friends killing friends, and people killing strangers. Sometimes to rob them, sometimes for no reason at all.

But now Somerset was leaving. He had only seven more days left before he retired. Then he could leave the city, forget the crime he had seen, and live quietly in the country.

He had seen enough of the violence and crime of the city. His pictures and his books were packed and ready to move to his new house in the country.

Only seven more days. He thought of how long he had lived in the city. He had been married twice. At one time he had wanted to have children - but not in the city. He knew what living in the city did to children. But deep in his heart, he felt that it wasn’t right not to have children. It isn’t too late, he thought, forty-five isn’t too old to have children. He still might meet someone. It was possible. Anything was possible once he got the hell out of here.

Suddenly his stomach was tight. Was he making a mistake? He’d lived his whole life in the city. What if he hated the country? He tried to stop himself thinking and go to sleep. It will all be OK, he told himself. Only seven more days of crime, of the noise and mess and violence in the city, and then his life would start all over again.

That afternoon he had visited the house he was buying in the country. The house was old and needed some fixing, but he liked it.

On the way back to the city, he sat on the train and watched the farms and fields go by. But the countryside became drier and the farms turned into desert. Soon he began to see burned cars out there on the dry, empty land. He knew they were getting close to the city.

Somerset could see smoke and dust hanging over the city like the hand of an angry God. When the train stopped, he didn’t want to get out. He wanted to stay in his seat until it took him back to his new home. But it was only seven days, he told himself. He could manage another seven days. After twenty-three years, what is seven days?

Out on the street, as he waited for a taxi, the terrible reality of the city hit him hard. The noise of the traffic, people running, shouting, screaming, and nobody caring.

A crazy, homeless man was trying to take a tourist’s suitcase. “I’ll get you a taxi,” the crazy man shouted. “I know how. I’ll get you one.” But the tourist, whose wife and daughters were afraid, didn’t want his help. They didn’t want him there. Somerset was going to help, but he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t be responsible for everything if he was ever going to escape this place. People had to solve their own problems.

He got into a taxi and told the driver to take him home. On the way they passed an ambulance and two police cars. Somerset could see a body on the sidewalk. He saw the bloody face and wondered if the man was still alive. On the next street a fight began. A crowd stood around the fighting men, shouting. As they passed, Somerset sat back in his seat and closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see any more.

“Where did you say you’re going?” the driver asked. Somerset opened his eyes. “Far away from here,” he said.


Yes, he thought. Far away from here. He closed his eyes, and started to breathe more deeply…

In the morning the phone woke him from a deep sleep. There had been another murder. As he got out of bed, he wished he didn’t care as much as he did. It would make the next seven days a lot easier.


When Somerset arrived at the crime scene, the workers from the police department were taking photographs and looking for fingerprints. The body was on the floor in a body bag, waiting to be taken out. There was a lot of blood on the wall, and a gun on the floor next to the body.

“The neighbors heard them screaming at each other,” said a policeman. “The man who lives in the back said it was going on for about two hours, which wasn’t unusual with these two.”

A young man with short hair and a black leather jacket came into the room.

“Detective Somerset?” he asked. “I’m David Mills. Today’s my first day on homicide.”

Somerset shook his hand, but said nothing. Mills watched him walking around the room. Somerset was a thin, middle-aged black man with heavy bags under his eyes and a sad face. Everyone at the precinct had smiled when Mills said that he was going to start working with Somerset. Mills wondered why.

“Where was your last job?” Somerset asked him.

“Springfield. It’s up north”

“How many homicides you get a year up there?”

“Oh, about sixty or seventy.”

“We get that many a month here.”

“Yeah, but we only had three homicide detectives up there.” Mills didn’t want to get into a fight in his new job, but he had left Springfield because he thought that it was too small and unimportant. He wanted to do real detective work. He wanted to feel that he was doing something that mattered.

Somerset thought Mills must be a fool for wanting to work in the city. “For the next seven days,” he said, “I want you to remember that you’re not in Springfield.”

Early the next morning, Mills was awake, sitting up in bed. Tracy, his wife, was asleep by his side. She didn’t like the city with its noise and dirt and crime.

Mills studied his wife’s face. There was always something about Tracy’s face - she had big eyes and a small mouth - that reminded him of a child. He thought that it made her more beautiful when she smiled. But she didn’t smile so often now that they had moved to the city. Her face always looked worried. Even in her sleep she worried.

Maybe this move is a big mistake, thought Mills. Maybe Somerset is right. Maybe Springfield is a better place.

No, he thought. He was right to move. But he was happy that Somerset was retiring. He understood why everyone at the precinct wanted him to go.

The phone rang. Tracy jumped up. “What is it?” she cried.

Mills picked up the phone before it rang twice. “It’s OK,” he said. “It’s only the phone.”

It was Somerset. “Meet me at 377 Baylor Street,” he said. The way he spoke annoyed Mills. “What’ve we got?” he asked.

“Possible homicide,” said Somerset, and hung up before Mills could ask anything more.


Outside the apartment block on Baylor Street, Somerset was already waiting when Mills arrived. “We’ll need some lights,” said Somerset. “The electricity is off inside.”

“Any guess about the time of death?” Mills asked Somerset. “No, but it seems he’s been sitting with his face in a plate of spaghetti for forty-five minutes now.”

Inside the apartment, there were dirty pots and dishes and open cans and boxes of food everywhere, and there were insects feeding on the garbage. The smell was terrible. A very fat man was sitting at the table with his face in a plate of spaghetti. They had never seen anyone as fat as this man.

Somerset saw that his hands and feet were tied. He couldn’t understand what had happened.

Then the Medical Examiner came into the room. He took no notice of the detectives.

“Do you think it was poison?” asked Mills.

Instead of answering, the doctor lifted the man’s face out of the spaghetti. “He’s dead,” he said. “We know that for sure. Point that light you’re holding at his mouth.”

“What do you see?” Somerset pointed the light and looked closer.

“There are little blue pieces around his mouth. See?”

“Yeah. So what is it, Doc?”

“Don’t know. I never saw anything like that before.” He let the man’s head back down into the spaghetti.


The dead man’s name was Peter Eubanks. The body was in the Medical Examiner’s room, where Mills and Somerset were talking to the doctor.

Eubanks had always been heavy, but not as heavy as he was when he was found dead: 304 pounds. The doctor said some of his bones were bending under the weight.

Mills wondered whether the man died of poison, but the doctor didn’t think so. He explained why, showing Mills parts of the inside of the body, which was cut open for examination. Mills had to make himself look.

“Are you saying that he died from eating too much?” Mills asked.

“Yes. I think that’s exactly how he died.”

“What about these marks on the back of his head?” Somerset said. “It looks like a gun was pressed against his head.”

“Very possible, if the gun was pushed hard enough against the skin.”

Somerset was looking at a row of glass jars on a table. “Doctor,” he said, “I want to ask you about one of these.” He picked up a clear glass jar. “Were these blue things found around the victim’s mouth?”

“No.” The doctor picked up another jar. “These are the ones from around the mouth. Those you’re holding I found in the stomach.”

“Any idea what this stuff is?”

The doctor shook his head. “I have no idea.” He covered the victim’s body. Now he had more work to do.

“Four bodies came in this morning,” the doctor said. “So we’ve been very busy here.”

“Let me know as soon as you find out anything about this blue stuff, will you, Doc?” said Somerset as he went out.


Back at the precinct house later that afternoon, the captain was sitting at his desk reading the papers on the “fat man” case. The victim no longer had a name. He was just “the fat man”.

Mills waited while the captain read the Medical Examiner’s report. The captain was about fifty, with big bags under his eyes and bad skin.

Mills could see that Somerset had worked hard on this case. He wondered what Somerset was really like. What would Somerset do when he was in danger? Would he think more quickly than Mills did on the night that Rick Parsons was…

Mills and Rick were old school friends. Rick was the best policeman they ever had in Springfield. But that night, when they were working on a murder case together, Mills thought that the murderer wouldn’t shoot at the police. When Mills saw that the man had a gun, he hadn’t fired quickly enough. He’d waited a little too long. The man fired at Rick, and now Rick would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. And no matter what Rick and Tracy said, Mills thought, he was to blame.

The captain was shaking his head over the papers. “This is very hard to believe,” he said. “Do you believe it?”

Somerset nodded. “The victim had to choose. Eat or be shot. The killer put food in front of him, and made him eat it. Perhaps this went on for twelve hours or more. The killer kept him awake and made him keep eating.”

The captain looked worried. Mills understood how he felt. He hadn’t wanted to believe it either.

“I think this is just the beginning,” said Somerset.

“We don’t know that,” the captain said sharply. “We have one dead man. Not four. Not three. Not even two.”

“Then what’s the reason for it?” Somerset looked tired.

The captain was angry. “Don’t start, Somerset,” he said. “Don’t start imagining things before they happen. You have no evidence that there will be another murder.”

Somerset was too tired to argue. “I want to be taken off the case,” he said.

“You’ve only got a week left,” the captain said. “What difference does it make?”

“This can’t be my last case,” said Somerset. “It’ll go on and on. I don’t want to leave it unfinished when I go. And, if you want my opinion,” Somerset pointed at Mills. “This shouldn’t be his first case.”

Mills jumped up. “This isn’t my first case!” he shouted. “You know that.”

“This is too soon for him. He isn’t ready for one of these,” said Somerset.

“Look,” the captain said. “I don’t have another detective I can give this to. We don’t have enough people. You know that.”

“Give it to me, Captain,” said Mills. “I can manage it.”

The captain turned and stared Somerset in the eye. “You serious about this killer? You think he’s just getting started?”

Somerset closed his eyes and nodded.

“Hell!” the captain said. “As often as I’ve wanted you to be wrong, you rarely are. That’s why I’m leaving you on the ‘fat man’ case, Somerset. As for you, Mills, I’m putting you on another case.”

“But Captain…”

“Not buts. That’s all. Now go.”

Mills was so mad he wanted to throw a chair through the window. He wanted to stay with Somerset. He just didn’t want them to think of him as a beginner. He wanted to show the captain that he could manage on his own. Even in the city.

“You heard me, Mills. Get going,” the captain ordered.

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