“Point and Click! What the hell do you think is so hard about it?! ” Jack Heeley roared in his office. “A photographer that can’t grasp the Goddamn concept! You could’ve had the front page! Instead you get nothing! Get out of my office!”
The man being verbally insulted for the last ten minutes was Villanus Hero, his parents must’ve had a sick sense of humor as his first name was the Latin translation of villain. He was a photographer for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. As he timidly walked down the aisles of his co-workers, some looked on in pity while others wrote him off as a failure. He was constantly being berated for this or that in the office, and it was no secret that Jack, the big time editor, hated him. The only reason that he was allowed to stay on was his parent’s unprecedented donation to the paper a few years ago.
This time his mistake was not getting a picture of the alleged serial killer instead having his mouth open wide, full of a hoagie he had just gotten from a street vendor….
The police were at the scene of yet another murder on Euclid Avenue. The throngs of people around the police tape made it difficult for Vill to get close. He had snapped a few pictures from afar of the torn apart being in the middle of the sidewalk, but got nothing very good and decided to grab a snack while waiting for people to vacate.
Hero was a short, stocky guy. A large layer of flab covering whatever muscle he had had in the past. His thick glasses were constantly causing him to take them off and go through the arduous process of cleaning them with his lens cloth. Short stubble that had no chance of growing a beard for the office “no shave november” of which mother had told him to shave.
“You’ll never find a girlfriend with ten whiskers on your face, dear.” Vill scoffed at the prospect. Girls were a mystery to him, one he would never understand. They seemed terrifying. Rather live a life alone than see himself through a series of awkward exchanges, full of frowning and uncomfortable stares.
As he ate his delicious hoagie coated in sauce that seemed much too good to come from something on wheels he glanced out among the crowd. They were all jostling to see the newest sheet covered victim that no doubt had been butchered. One person stuck out. He was a young man with a Cleveland ball cap and long coat on. He stood on the outskirts of the stampede of people and as just observing, his tan brown coat flapping in the late October breeze.
It was during a particularly strong gust that his coat tails flipped upwards revealing scarlet splotches on his pants and shirt.
Vill coughed, losing almost half of his sandwich in the process. His eyes shot wide and he looked around stupidly for a place to put his hoagie down. In the bustling and fidgeting the man saw him and his putrid attempt to get the camera out. Hero’s thumb jostled his camera, but the man had turned and was quickly moving away from the scene as Vill pointed and choked on his meal.
A policeman saw the look on his face and his eyes followed the cameraman’s gaze to the retreating suspect. He jogged over, unclipping his sidearm and grabbing him by the back shoulder. Suddenly the man in the long brown coat lashed out, steel glinting under the streetlights. The policeman crumpled holding his throat as blood spewed from between his fingers. With a gasp and final swallow, Vill ran forward and started screaming for help, his camera up and snapping shot after shot of the coat and sneakers from the back .
After he had filed the report of what he saw, his editor was notified of the incident. Not only had he not gotten a thing of worth on the assailant, he hadn’t even gotten a picture of the now deceased officer. To Vill, it seemed highly disrespectful to take that picture, but Jack didn’t care. He wanted them all.
Beaten and berated by his editor he retreated himself to his lair, as he called it. The place where he worked, uploading his pictures to his computer. Fan art of famous photographs littered the walls of the small office and fast food remnants and receipts piled up on the desk. The desk facing his was spotless and sitting there was Renny McCoy, a cocky photographer that seemed to get whatever story he wanted and always got priority,
“Don’t worry, you won’t hear it from me too. One question though…do you do this sort of thing on purpose?” His long slender face grimaced in disgust. He had a hooked nose and unseemly large, pointed ears that made him look like a giant Keebler elf.
Vill shook his head in assent, as he knew he shouldn’t have even acted like he was listening. He lazily sat down and unpacked his camera, plugging it into his Mac desktop. The photos started showing up, and just as he had looked before at the station…zip. There was a bunch of the mysterious murderer as he fled, even a picture with the delicious hoagie in the corner as he must have taken it while fumbling with everything.
But wait one second, what was that………
Nope. Just more hoagie.
Vill sighed, exasperated at his own deficiencies. Even looking at the picture of that sidewalk delicacy was making him hungry again so he decided to visit the food cart that was no doubt rolling around a floor above at this hour.
Ten minutes later he was back with a microwaved bean burrito and large coke. Renny looked on in disgust as Vill smiled hungrily at his treat. After unwrapping his beautiful highlight of the day, he made the mistake of elbowing his coke all over his keyboard.
“You slob! Don’t just sit there with your mouth open, fucking grab something to clean it up.” McCoy snarled.
Vill made a rush to grab a bunch of napkins, looking graceful as ever. He was dabbing up the remnants when something on the computer caught his attention. He had inadvertently zoomed in on the picture with the hoagie in the top corner. Distinguishable underneath the jacket of the man as he ran was numbers he couldn’t quite make out.
Hero squinted his face in concentration as he zoomed and tried to clear up the resolution as best he could. Barely decipherable was a phone number printed on the back of his shirt. With a few trial and error calls with different area codes he finally got “Warner’s Auto-body, how can I help ya?”
With a squeal of delight that granted the attention of McCoy, Vill hustled his things into his bag and left the office. After driving his “classic” tan ’98 Oldsmobile to this Warners place, he parked across the street. And he waited. And waited. And made a fast food run to taco bell. And waited.
The man in the long brown coat never showed up.
Just old men and what looked to be their sons worked at the shop. Disappointed he vowed to back the next day, maybe try the morning. Day after day he returned to this spot, always ridiculed endlessly by Renny and then screamed at by Jack.
It only strengthened his resolve to finally prove his worth. Months turned years of being berated had turned this squat, young man into chasing this killer. Oh, he would have the front page all right. That much was certain in his mind.
And then after weeks of waiting, he saw him. Gone was the baseball cap and trench coat, replaced with that shirt with the company number and logo on it carrying with him a gleeful smile. He looked about as ordinary as normal would allow. He truly smiled brightly as he walked around to each of what looked like his family members and hugged them long and hard.
What the hell is going on? Vill thought to himself. They must not know what he is. He took the liberty of snapping a few pictures of this event. Prodigal son returns?
He finally managed to get one of his face, clear as day. The man had sandy blond hair and a more innocent expression couldn’t be found anywhere. He carried himself with unburdened confidence among his family, much different than the skulking, murderous rat Vill knew him to be. He waited as they went out back and prepared some sort of barbecue.
Vill opened his window and sat up, smelling the sweet scent of meat on the grill. His stomach grumbled loudly, and he allowed himself a brief break to snack. As he returned, paper bag filled to the brim with cheeseburgers, he saw the killer on the phone outside the door and continue walking down the sidewalk. His eyes and snapping camera followed the man as he spoke very evenly, although Vill couldn’t catch a word of what he was saying.
And then quite suddenly, the man stopped. A serene face turned to violent complexion, and he whispered a series of things into the phone before snapping it shut. His fury was tangible and he proceeded to strike the wooden fence lining the street with his fist.
Vill’s eyes widened, snapping more and more, he couldn’t believe such a change coming over the man. His knuckles bled, but he didn’t seem to be in any pain. He fumed for a moment before straightening up and heading back towards the door. It opened before he got there and a short, dark haired woman came out inquisitively. He grinned apologetically, innocence leaking from between his teeth, and motioned to the curb and the street before lightly tapping his own head in embarrassment.
What must have been his mother laughed and he took her by the shoulder and led her back to dinner.
Hero had gotten all of this on camera and immediately uploaded the photos to his email, giddy with delight. Any one else would have taken this to Jack straight away, but he lingered day dreaming about his own face side by side with the serial killer’s on the front page. A pay raise and priority over pretentious Renny McCoy filled his thoughts and he smiled to himself.
He had to catch him himself.
Hours later and after a brief nap, Vill caught the party coming to an end. With his scope trained tirelessly on the man he followed it to his car, a deep blue sedan of some sort. He snapped more pictures and got the license plate in doing so. He slowly followed the man to downtown Cleveland as the tall buildings towered over him, adding to his excitement. Vill saw him park in one of the garages outside of an illustrious building containing very expensive lofts.
With camera in tow he paid the meter and stepped out a hundred feet away from the evil man. He zoomed in on the lens through the glass doorway and saw him retrieving mail from 13B. Aha! He thought, maybe he should switch careers to private investigator or something. This excitement was almost too much for the squat cameraman.
He walked through the front door and into the lobby surveying the scene. Much better than his dumpy little 20 X 20 lobby in his building. He disregarded this and sat in a particularly comfy chair and sat waiting, for the man to make his move.
After another hour of flipping through such magazines as Southern Living and Healthy Dieting (an idea he scoffed at), looking for recipes he saw the man arriving down the flight of stairs. Vill quickly pulled the magazine up to his face to hide and waited until he had left. He pulled the camera from under the chair and grinned to himself as he climbed the first flight. He strode down the hallway, until he found 13B and stood outside suddenly disappointed as he hadn’t thought about how to get inside.
“Excuse me, what are you doing here?” A maid in full uniform had shown up with a deep look of distrust on her face.
After briefly thinking of some of the perverse videos he had seen which featured maids, he snapped back to reality.
“Uh, Mr. Warner asked me to run upstairs and grab his sport coat for his shoot.” He pulled out his Plain Dealer credentials and prayed he had guessed right about the name.
“Mr. Warner does not have visitors, nor does he allow anyone inside his suite. Not even for a clean,” She seemed to slightly let down her guard though and Vill capitalized.
Sounding very official he swelled his chest and gave her a sideways look, “Well this is urgent and must be done promptly, you know how he gets about his appearance for the cover of the paper. We can call him, if you’d like, but he won’t be happy being bothered as he’s already getting ready…..” He trailed off and whipped out his cell phone.
“Oh all right. Just be quick about it, I don’t need any more trouble after the cat incident last week.” She thoughtfully spoke, dismissing that particular memory.
He silently congratulated himself, very very proud of his deception.
He entered the flat and could see it was absolutely spotless. The maid peered around the corner, also interested.
“It’s just in the bedroom no worries, I’ll be out in a jiffy.” He said over his shoulder.
He toted his camera through the large living room complete with a gigantic television and ornate couches that looked as if brand new. Vill imagined himself sitting there surrounded by beautiful women as he drank wine and they all laughed at his fantastic sense of humor.
There was a chandelier hanging from the ceiling glinting in the sunset through large windows that the whole city could be seen. The kitchen was spotless as well and Vill even opened the fridge, all health-nut food to his dismay.
“What on earth are you doing? Hurry up, please.” The maid plead with him.
“Alright just another moment,”
He found the door to the bedroom and opened and gasped.
There was nothing in there. A blanket and pillow on the ground in the corner with a desk lamp on the floor beside it. But on the wall were photos of his own. Grotesque pictures covered in blood and death that made Vill’s stomach churn. He snapped pictures of everything in the room and moved quickly to his closet. In the closet was a set of knives and a handgun. Vill greedily took photos and almost whimpered with happiness. Everything was here to convict him. He had done the police’s job himself.
Just then, he heard the maid grunt and start walking towards the bedroom. He whisked shut the door and bounded very unathletically towards the door in hopes of beating her there. He threw open the door and cried out the instant he saw the man he had been hunting.
He fell backwards and struck the floor, dislodging his glasses. From his view he could see the maids blood pooling on the brilliant white carpet, somewhere in his mind he found the contrast beautiful. The shades had been drawn on the great, big windows and a devilish smile looked down on him from above.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t the fat, little man from the street. And, I might add, from my parent’s place. You have been quite busy. Unfortunately you won’t be busy much longer, stand up fat man. ”
Villanus stood up shakily and pulled out his Plain Dealer badge out and thrust it in front of him,” Now see here-”
A murderous cackling filled the air as the taller man laughed with delight. “Let’s see how your weapon of choice does against mine.” He had pulled a long curved knife from somewhere behind him, no doubt the same one he used on the maid.
Vill dropped the badge as the man approached. As he was about to strike Vill lifted his camera and felt it deflect against the metal, the tip striking the flash and the man was greeted by a brilliant light.
“Aghhh” The man yelled in pure hatred.
Vill took the opportunity to push the bigger man and take off through the living room, leaping over the body of the dead maid. He was within ten feet of the door and suddenly stopped. It felt as if he had been punched in the right side of his back and he felt something wet trickle down the small of his back into his waistband. He found he didn’t have the strength to continue and fell first to his knees, then to his front.
His eyes blurred and colors morphed together as if in a dream. Suddenly he was yanked back to reality by the exiting of the knife in his back. He could sense the man behind him but couldn’t seem to move. Vill saw his camera and saw a close up of the last picture he had taken. The man’s face cringing at light was plastered on his small screen. He found strength enough to reach for his camera and click a button before darkness swallowed him whole.
At his funeral most people wept in some form or another. His mother beside herself. Jack quietly cursing, “Stupid boy, stupid, brave boy,” Renny hating himself for treating Hero so poorly.
Renny had looked through Vill’s email after he hadn’t shown up for a few days, which led to the arrest of Griffin Warner, evidence linked him to over a dozen murders in the last few years and many others speculatively.
Villanus Hero was on the front page of every newspaper in the country. His smiling image that was printed on his badge beside the last picture he ever took of the killer. All he did was point and click.