After the screams fade and the blood has cooled, there is a uncomfortable moment of moral uncertainty. He is wiping off the knives, trying not to let himself fascinate too long with the rigid stares on their stiffening faces. Doubts crowd. And then the flies. He is always surprised by how quickly the flies are drawn. They live inside, he once read, burgeoning, always just ready to burst out.
That is what he does. The media calls him the Butcher but he is nothing so mean or savage. His study is the careful art of release. First the pleadings. Then the sobs. Then whatever secrets need to be shared. And only finally, the blood.
The news people get it wrong. He is not depraved. He doesn’t act only for the blood and terror. People carry secrets, things they need to confess but don’t know how to begin. He shows them the way. The inspiration of steel and a cruelly sharp blade.
Once they start, they often do not know how to stop. Unburdening themselves of every petty crime, every mean thought, every venal act. Some of these are saints, compulsively lamenting ridiculously small sins. Unbecoming thoughts, moments of uncharitable, unsavory decisions. But more than a few are genuine monsters — molesters, abusers, thieves, perverters of truth. These kinds of people beg the loudest and hardest for mercy. These he opens deeper and wider, letting the blood spill faster.
He works quickly, cleaning up the mess with bottles of bleach bought by the case. He has three wholesale club memberships and twelve deep freezers. He does not eat the bodies. That would be monstrous but one does not always have the time to clean up and bury the bodies. Freezers are a necessity. They are a public health amenity. He is always thinking of the safety of others. How the neighbors would want to know he had taken great precautions to avoid a public health emergency.
The news people were the worst. Always sensationalizing. Always conjecturing on identity and motive. The FBI had the wrong profile and the news people couldn’t keep themselves from sharing it out. A middle aged white man with long white hair and narrow set eyes. Hilarious, really. He was in his late twenties. An early bloomer.
The motives they ascribed. A profound psychological disfunction. A obsessive tendency toward neatness and order. An intolerance for disorder. Wrong, wrong and wrong.
It made him want to laugh except he wanted to cry. And he would scream at the TV when they showed his computer generated face which looked nothing like him. He had written two dozen letters to the local papers explaining how far off they had been and why they so desperately needed him to be a middle-age white man. But he did not mail the letters. That would have been folly. That’s how men like Gaussier and Grundy messed up. They told somebody. They wanted to be caught. Not him. He was doing a great service but he did not seek the credit. The world was improved by the working of his art, which was the careful application of selective release. The world could not understand, indeed, would not need to understand his work to benefit from it.
That is the true nature of real art. It changes the world even when the world does not see it. It changes the artist. It changes the canvas.
And the secrets that are confessed in those hurried, anguished minutes of exsanguation are carried with him as a special burden. A tax he carries for his work. He will carry those last whispers with him to his grave, knowing the world is better for having each part of the story revealed.