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give me power over angels

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The angle is good. Matthew hefts the bailiff upward. Drives the body into the antlers, and it's a bit of a struggle. But he eventually succeeds, and the result is rather picturesque: the corpse balanced there, blood dripping where the horns had pierced, and eyes staring blankly at the ceiling.

It would almost be a shame to burn it, but he knows that it wouldn't be complete otherwise.

 


 

It's the small things. Orange juice instead of the odd tasting tap water. A mint slid underneath the baked potatoes. A softer, bigger blanket instead of the coarse material that Matthew remembers chafing his skin, something too small to cover the length of his body. The hospital is not a place that would deign to offer comfort that would entail spending, or so ignorant as to give patients something they could shape into a noose.

Graham takes the presents without comment. He hasn't said anything, and perhaps hasn't noticed, but Matthew can't help but hide a smile when he catches a glimpse of Graham sleeping, wrapped in a blanket. Graham has retreated into his dreams - what does he dream of? - exhaling, inhaling, slowly.

Graham's eyes flicker briefly and then open. Their eyes meet.

"You're watching me," Graham says. His voice is a hoarse, sleepy rasp.

"Yeah. I am," Matthew says. He keeps his face neutral.

Graham, though, gets straight to the point. "You're the one who keeps giving me things."

"It's courtesy," Matthew says. "Y'know, sometimes wardens pay for Death Row prisoners' last meal out of their own pocket. Whether it may be fried chicken, lobster, a steak dinner."

"Sometimes," he continues, "the prisoners even share their meal." He shrugs his shoulders, rolling the muscles back, his hands still in his pockets.

Graham shifts to a sitting position on the cot, the blanket settling to the side like a rippling wave. “I’m hardly on Death Row. Well,” he amends, “maybe not yet.”

It’s that bitter smile of his. Matthew has seen Graham look at Dr. Chilton like that, his mouth a dry and biting curve.

It’s such a pity that Matthew’s alibi for Graham, his tribute, didn’t pan out. Matthew’s fingers play with the keys on the bottom of his pockets. They clink together lightly. He’s thinking.

He says, softly, “So it would seem, Mr. Graham. But in my experience, a caged bird is inclined to survival. Always a chance that they could stumble upon a hole in the wire meshing. Or they find that they’re not alone as they assumed they were.”

“A fowler,” Graham says, “or a predator?” His eyebrows are drawn together, as if he’s not sure if Matthew is mocking him or not.

“Neither,” Matthew says. He turns to walk away, calling back, “I’ll leave you to your rest, Mr. Graham.”

 


 

Graham’s lips look unmoving in the darkness when he says, “What does the bird in the cage discover beside him? Not a hunter or a carnivore, but another bird.”

He focuses his too-knowing, too-alert gaze at Matthew. “I solved your riddle.”

Matthew makes a complimentary gesture. “Yes. And not just any kind of bird, Mr. Graham. Hawks.” He adds, idly, “You don’t have to worry, by the way. We have our privacy.” He taps his ear, his mouth quirked.

Graham blinks. Says, “Hawks are solitary.”

“We don’t have to be,” Matthew says. And he’s happy - he can’t keep the excitement out of his voice when he says, “You can see me now.”

Graham does that bitter smile of his, but it’s different. “I could always see you. I didn’t...didn’t have a face or a name to put to it. The judge wasn’t yours.”

“Yes,” he says. “Although the bailiff wasn’t mine, technically. It’s yours. For you.”

There’s an imperceptible expression on Graham’s face. There is realization here: Matthew is at his disposal. Right now there is someone who will recreate his artwork, who will drape a blanket across him in the night, who will leave pieces of candy on his tray. There is someone who holds Graham’s wrists gently while handcuffing him, touching skin, and knows the gravity of these moments, the metaphor woven at a dizzying, exhilarating breadth.

You and me, Mr. Graham. You and me.

“Matthew,” Graham says, and Matthew draws out a breath. It’s the first time Graham’s used his name. “I’m not…” He pauses, and asks instead, “Why?”

“Honesty,” Matthew says, simply. “There was a serial killer who sent taunting letters to the police, to newspapers. Once he complained about a movie he watched. It’s a trivial thing, that, but I know why he did it. The need for an audience, Mr. Graham. The small things - mints and blankets - and the big things - the bailiff - alike.”

“You're not exactly searching for an audience,” Graham says, shaking his head. “You want a partner.”

Matthew sees: fear.

Interesting.

 


“You like your comparisons,” Graham says, the next night. “To predators, in nature or otherwise.”

“Building a profile of me?” Matthew says, grinning. “It’s flattering that you’re curious, even in here. You were clever, y’know, hiding in the FBI. I used to be in here, in my own cage. I got out. I’m back here again.”

“But on the other side of the bars.”

“Yeah,” Matthew acknowledges. “The food’s still shit anyway. But why don’t you tell me yourself, Mr. Graham? Why so many comparisons?”

He’s seen Graham disappear into his mind before. An FBI agent had come, left Graham a file, and Graham had shut his eyes, and his whole body language seemed to alter, to blend into something completely different. There’s something about Graham, at its core, that is empathetic - meant to merge with the mind of killers.

Graham does it for him, now.

“You were looking for yourself,” Graham says. “In news articles, in books, in hospital files. And you found...me.”

“You,” Matthew agrees. It’s the right answer. He settles onto the prison ground, into a crouch, making himself comfortable. “You were me, I think. A little boy with pieces missing. The same dark urges, and you didn’t act on them. Instead you worked for the police and for the FBI, and found relief in slipping into other killers’ minds.

“There’s so many of them, aren’t there? Those that strangle, or shoot, or rape, or stab, or immolate, or get creative in a hundred thousand ways. They can’t stop. They sometimes go on sprees that stretch over states. They hide it meticulously, or display it for the world to see. The boring ones just do it to get off. The interesting ones do it for the thrill, the darkness, the philosophy and artistry of it all.”

He’s never said this out loud to anyone before. He can feel his cheeks flushing, his eyes shining. These are the desires that he’s had, all his life. Graham looks at him with a steady, heavy gaze - and Matthew notices that he’s trembling.

Matthew says quietly, “You haven’t killed personally, though, have you? I made a mistake - the person who killed the judge was the real one, wasn’t he? But it’s okay. You’re still right. You still have it in you.”

Silence.

Graham rubs his hands on his face, and his breaths sound like they’re shuddering. He doesn’t say anything. It seems as if there’s a habitual condemnation on his tongue, because that’s what you’re supposed to say: you’re insane, you’re a monster.

But instead he says, “Matthew. I should tell them about you. I know I should, but I…” His voice is cracking. “Can you stay?”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Matthew says, and brings their hands together through the bars, squeezing Graham’s fingers.

“Will,” he says in a whisper. “Will.”

 


 

In the cell adjacent to Graham, there’s a new prisoner who shouts incessantly. He’s irritating, annoying, and Matthew has a feeling that he’s disturbing Graham with his blabber.

Matthew talks to him, in an undertone, through the bars.

The next morning, another orderly finds him in a pool of his own blood. He seems to have gone into a violent frenzy - he accidentally bashed his head on the sink, over and over again, until the pain stopped, until everything stopped.

Will offers Matthew a towel through the cell slot.

He still has blood on his hands.