I've been a strict vegetarian for around ten years. I grew up eating meat. In fact, I loved it. My family turned up our noses at people who didn't eat meat. We knew they were missing out. But ten years ago, I gave it up cold turkey. Seeing other people eat it even makes me a little sick. I'm not an ethical vegetarian. My animal free diet does not steam from a love of the creatures. I grew up in a small town surrounded by farms. I know the horrors some animals go through but I would drive around and see the happy cows and chickens so I was able to overlook the unseen horrors.
There was also the Fisher's barbecue restaurant. It was the single best plate of food I ever had. If I were on death row, I would have requested it for my last meal. Everyone put up with how weird they were because the food was just that good. The Fishers were a large, isolated family. They mostly kept to themselves, to the point where nobody really knew how many of them there were. In such a small town, this was a remarkable feat. The only one I really knew was Jedediah. He was in my grade at school, even though he was probably around two years older. From elementary school through graduation, I don't think I ever heard him talk. He probably would have been bullied if he didn't intimidate people so much. It's hard to make fun of a guy years older than you who has a stare that cuts through you. Something about the way he looks at you makes you feel naked. No, it was more than that. You felt like his eyes were peeling your skin off. The only reason people put of with the family was for their restaurant. It was a small dirty building that was probably a crack house in a former life and was now covered in old barbecue sauce and crucifixes.
They always had a line out the door. There was just something about the meat. It was tender and juicy. Signs boasted about how fresh the meat was. They had their own farm just outside the border of town. They raised the cows from birth till death. I figured that's what must have made the difference. My favorite was the ribs. I would eat all the meat then suck on the bones, trying to get every last morsel of flavor.
After graduating, around fifteen years ago, my last five years of eating meat, I didn't have many options. I wanted to stay close to home. Not seeing many other options, I became a police officer. It was fairly enjoyable job and eventually I became a detective. I'll admit that my town has a pretty colorful history when it comes to crime. We have more than our fair share of drug users and homicides but that's not what is most notorious. Since before I was born there has been an interesting string of missing people cases. At first, it was fairly random. Old women, young men, children, drug abusers, teachers, anyone. People often chalked it up to runaways and accidents and moved on, only slightly unnerved.
Then a pattern formed. Only women would go missing. Then the age range became smaller and small. No more drug users. It was a strong string of young, athletic women. Women who had great lives and no reason to run off. The frequency also increased from about one a year to several. By the time I became the lead of the case, it was several over a two month period.
Everyone pitched in to help with the searches. Everyone fit enough to join the search party did. People made signs, manned phones. Even the Fishers provided food, the one bright spot of the whole ordeal I will admit. I put on more than a few pounds when the number of searches went up.
After four missing girls across a month, we finally got a break. A letterman jacket with "Heather Mills" scribbled across the back. It had to be from our newest missing girl. Finally, we found something.
The dogs lead us to the Fisher farm. I wish I could say I was surprised. After scouring the premises for any sign of any of Heather, we only found Jedediah and his deaf/mute younger sister. We took them both in for questioning.
You can guess who we interrogated first.
I took it upon myself to question him. Find out how someone can cater the search party for a girl they kidnapped. How he could help search for Heather knowing that he was the one who took her.
After nearly who hours of getting nowhere, no idea if any of the victims were alive, why he did it, how long it had been going on, I let him lead the conversation for a bit. Maybe he would accidentally give something away.
"Are you religious?"
I paused before shaking my head, not sure where this was going.
"I am. You see, I think that the devil is in me. He was acting through me. I was doing his will."
I scoffed at the idea. "Jed, I think the devil is in all of us."
"So is Heather."
My mind shot back to the rich stew I had been slurping on earlier. The ribs I spent almost half an hour sucking on.
I've been a strict vegetarian for around ten years.
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