Tristan refused to touch the policeman’s car, as he did not want to leave fingerprints. Yet, he knew that a corpse was very good at telling stories, so he decided to take it with him. Tristan hid the body in a temporary spot on the beach, so he could return to deal with it when his head was clear. Luckily James had returned to the US with his bodyguards, leaving Tristan alone with two local hired guns. They were asleep in the house when Tristan walked out with a pair of sneakers and some fresh clothes in a backpack, and pulled away from the beach house in his small motor boat.
Just as he had read in his crime books, Tristan wrapped the body in several layers of plastic before taking it to the boat. His destination was a tiny island where he went when he wanted to be completely alone. It was only three acres in size and uninhabited, so there was no electricity either. It was pitch dark when he arrived so he lit a small fire. After carrying the body to the shore, he went back to the boat and got out the tools and chemicals he had brought with him.
He placed the body in a hole where the high tide would not reach it, soaked it with the acid mix his servants used to fight rust, and destroyed the dental arch with a hammer. He may have overdone it here and there, but by the time he was finished, the body was unrecognizable.
It was unlikely that the police would search this spot, but Tristan did not want to tempt fate. He buried the tools and the chemicals in the same hole, and burned the policeman’s clothes and shoes along with his own. He considered keeping the gun, but thought better of it and later buried it on another part of the island.
Three days later, Tristan awoke to the intoxicating aroma of omelets. James had ordered breakfast for the two of them and was sitting with the morning paper and a cup of coffee.
“Apparently some of these drug dealers are retaliating on this island.” He showed Tristan the article he had been reading. “A policeman disappeared a couple of nights ago. He was last seen patrolling this poor neighborhood where a famous drug dealer lives. His car was found abandoned by the road, with blood a few feet away.”
Tristan nodded indifferently, concentrating on his omelet. James continued. “There’s always a corrupt asshole in every police force in the world. I bet this man tried to blackmail the dealer and ended up getting killed.”
Tristan involuntarily flexed his bruised knuckles. He wasn’t worried about James noticing them—they were something the man had grown accustomed to now that Tristan had regular kickboxing practice. But James was very good at predicting how the authorities’ minds worked, so when he read out another paragraph, Tristan probed: “Couldn’t it be just someone this police officer stopped on the road?”
“You mean someone he would have given a speeding ticket to?”
Tristan ignored James’s sarcasm. “Maybe someone who was drunk or drugged and got mad at him.”
James put the paper aside. “Stay focused, Tristan. You are going to be a lawyer one day, so for Christ’s sake try to think like one. You know tourists don’t frequent that type of neighborhood. They come to this island to have fun. And even if they are drunk or high, they wouldn’t kill police officers because of a shitty ticket. Besides, you heard what I read. The body was removed from the scene of the crime. It seems a little too professional for some hot-blooded idiot with a gun in his hand, don’t you think?”
Tristan nodded. “Does it say he was shot?”
“No. In fact, they aren’t even sure if the man was killed or kidnapped. The police won’t admit the possibility of corruption, but they are quite convinced it might have been revenge. The only thing they found at the crime scene—aside from the blood—were broken teeth. The man had been brutally beaten, which usually means that whoever did this, knew him and was very angry with him.”
The telephone rang and when James went to retrieve it, Tristan sat back in his chair. He closed his eyes, and thought back to the moment he murdered the police officer.
When his hands involuntarily slid down the man’s neck and started to squeeze, Tristan discovered why God had never answered his prayers. The God of the Bible was a character invented by someone who had been there, in the place he found himself now, with the power to decide the life or death of another person. That night, the policeman represented the abuse of power to which Tristan had been a victim all his life. Killing him was like freeing his spirit.
Later at the island, after burying the body, he had extinguished the fire and sat naked on the sand. With his eyes closed, Tristan absorbed the fresh breeze, the salty smell of the ocean and the wild sounds of the night. The stars were shining so close he had the impression he could grasp them with his hands. He was the king of this deserted universe, so he rinsed himself in the ocean, trickling water onto his head like a pastor baptizing his congregation.
Tristan Donovan had just been reborn, and he felt invincible.
The next three summers were not fortunate for the population of Nassau. Murdering that police officer had opened a door that Tristan could not close. He had never understood what life really meant until he saw it fade from that man’s eyes. He felt as though he could fly from one continent to another, and he knew that even if he lived to be a hundred, he would never experience anything more empowering than killing another human being. The moment that man’s eyes closed, he became God.
But Tristan knew he could not take on every abusive idiot, like he had done to the policeman, or he would soon be caught. So he found a quieter way to overpower his victims—a light anesthetic traded in the black market, which he’d administer by shooting his target with a small dart. He also stole a few license plates from junkyards, and on some nights, he would replace the license plate on one of James’s cars and patrol different parts of the island, dealing out his own justice.
He looked for arrogant, aggressive men who enjoyed intimidating others and hurting the weak. They were normally locals who congregated in dirty bars, in the poorest parts of the island. Wearing cheap clothes and a low baseball cap, Tristan would sit at a counter and quietly observe. Normally, before finishing his second drink, he had already spotted his next victim. Once he was sure of whom he wanted to remove from this earth, he would wait outside the bar and follow the soul to his car. When the man was alone, Tristan would pull over and ask for directions. Before the subject could react, Tristan would shoot him with his dart, drag him into his car, and drive him to some remote place on the island.
The victims remained conscious while Tristan talked to them, the same way he had always wished to talk to James. But just like James, those men would not listen to him and Tristan’s hands always ended up around their necks.
He found justice when he looked into his victims’ dimming eyes.
Fall of 1991
When Tristan started law school, he had long quit his adventures in the Bahamas. Serial killers have cool-off periods that could vary from a few days to several years, and Tristan had been quiet for the past eighteen months.
Looking back, three years after his first crime, he regretted having taken so many risks. Nothing had alleviated his hatred for James or empowered him enough to confront the tyrant who dictated his every move in life. But one warm afternoon in June, a simple event showed him that there were “safe” ways to murder his father, and he realized that all of his crimes in fact had made perfect sense. The array of cruelties that Tristan had engaged in since his coma had cooled his nerves, and provided him with a new set of skills that would come in handy to accomplish the mission of his life.
In the early ‘90s, the field of forensic science was booming. New chemical products and forensic investigation technologies were flooding the market at a frenetic pace, and James found it important that Tristan become familiar with them. The FBI was giving a lecture on the subject to criminal lawyers in Boston, and James called the organizer of the event to ask him to allow Tristan to attend.
Tristan grew fascinated by DNA profiling, a new technique for determining who was at the crime scene at the time in question. Gloved hands were no longer enough to cover one’s tracks. A criminal could now be identified by clothing fibers, sweat, saliva, and other invisible traces they left behind.
The only reason Tristan had never made an attempt to kill James was because he knew he would get caught. Now, with all these advanced resources, it was definitely easier for authorities to catch a murderer. But if such a murderer were familiar with that universe, he or she could not only erase their tracks, but even plant fake evidence to incriminate someone else.
Tristan absorbed the FBI agent’s words, writing down the names of the recommended books and the techniques used to investigate each type of crime. With a broad smile on his face, he left the lecture hall, thinking of the irony of James sending him there.