Flash Fiction: “Bring in the Inquisition”

Somehow, I don’t think CBS would pick up this concept for a police procedural anytime soon. But I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t mind seeing something like this on TV.


Bring in the Inquisition, by Alexander Paul Willging

Word Count: 1,345

As he emerged from the interrogation room, Nelson rubbed his eyes with irritation. “Jones!”

“Yes, sir?” the eager young lieutenant replied. He came toward the captain with a fresh cup of coffee, which Nelson gratefully accepted.

After taking a sip—and finding it too bitter—Nelson sighed and said, “He’s not cracking. Get on the phone and call Elric.”

Jones frowned. “You sure about that?”

“What other goddamn choice do we have now?”

He shot a tired look at the one-way mirror, through which he could see a free-hanging light bulb, a card table with chairs, and the cool smirking face of Tony Luther. It had been almost seven hours since NYPD had dragged him in after he’d violently resisted arrest. Forensics had compiled a large package of evidence to connect Luther to at least five murders in the last year—three girls and two boys, all minors. All of whose bodies had been found buried or dismembered upstate.

And now, as Nelson had barely managed to learn, there was a sixth victim. Jessica Sotomayor, age thirteen. A girl who was still breathing—and still trapped wherever Luther had stashed her.

But damn it all if that grinning bastard refused to tell them where she was.

“Uh, boss?” Jones’s voice had risen an octave. “About Elric—”

“I know he’s a freak, but you gotta admit he can get the job done.”

“No, I mean…” Jones jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “He’s already here. He’s been sitting in the lobby this whole time.”

Nelson froze. “Are you kidding me? When’d you call him?”

“That’s the weird part. I didn’t.”

The two officers stood for a moment in silence. Nelson almost forgot about the coffee in his hand. He closed his eyes and drank as much as he could in the next ten seconds. Then he threw it into a trash bin and shouldered past his lieutenant.


They found Vincent Elric sitting comfortably on a plastic chair in the precinct lobby. The pale, raven-haired man turned and offered the policemen a gentle smile. “Good evening, officers.”

It was hard to put into words what exactly disturbed Nelson about the guy. Sure, he looked like one of the Goths that his daughter seemed to like hanging out with, but he dressed and spoke like a gentleman. He might as well have walked out of the pages of a Sherlock Holmes story. But beyond that, Vincent radiated something like an aura.

He just felt wrong. There was no other way to describe it.

“Listen,” Nelson said, “we need your help—”

“You want my help with Tony Luther,” Vincent interrupted casually. “He’s not talking and you have only hours to find Jessica Sotomayor.” He glanced at Jones. “That about right?”

Jones shuddered. Nelson wanted to join him, but kept his cool. “Yeah,” he replied shortly.

Vincent got up from his chair, slowly moving with the grace of a lion. He waved for Nelson to lead on, even though the guy probably knew where the interrogation rooms were by now. Lord knew he’d been there plenty of times.

As they passed through the precinct offices, Nelson observed the way off-duty cops and staffers were glancing at them. Everyone had the same reaction when they saw Vincent—they smiled and immediately looked away, completely ignoring him.

Nelson wondered what the smiles were about. Were they actually scared of him?

When they reached the outside of the interrogation room, Vincent stopped and looked through the one-way mirror. He took one look at Tony Luther and smiled.

“Hmph,” he grunted. “This should be interesting.”

“I’m so glad you think so,” Nelson muttered and reached for the doorknob. “Don’t overwork the guy. Just find out where Jessica is.”

Vincent kept smiling. “It would be my pleasure, Captain.”


Nelson watched the interrogation from behind the mirror, still tasting bitter coffee. But the coffee wasn’t the only thing that tasted bitter.

From the moment Vincent started talking, Tony Luther’s whole demeanor changed. His eyes were wide and his mouth hung open. Sweat and tears poured down his faces. His hands were gripping the table for dear life.

All Vincent did was talk. It was hard to hear what he was saying through the room’s speakers. Nelson caught snatches of the one-sided dialogue.

Yes… so many pieces… broken, I know… ah, so that’s where it began… how interesting… and when you look at them, you see this…?

This was the sort of dialogue that Vincent always used on the toughest perps in the precinct. No one knew exactly if he was a psychic or a wizard, or just a really good psychologist. In fact, the more Nelson thought about it, the more it occurred to him that he had no clear idea of what made Vincent a qualified interrogator.

He just knew that the son of a bitch always got his answers.

Now Luther was shaking his head like a frightened child. “Please, stop…”

Again, Nelson heard only part of Vincent’s reply. Almost finished… just one more thing…

And then, with an anguished gasp, Tony Luther collapsed onto the table and sobbed. Vincent leaned over and put a comforting hand on his shoulder.

She’s…” The serial killer wept like a baby, choking on every word. “She’s in aa public storage unitJamaica Avenueoh my God, oh my God!”

Vincent patted the man’s shoulder. “Thank you,” he said clearly and turned away.


One hour later, they’d found Jessica Sotomayor bound, gagged, and covered in her own filth inside a public storage unit registered in Luther’s name. It was late in the night when the girl was finally reunited with her parents and Luther was thrown into a private cell.

The murder suspect never said a word. He just wept silently and did as he was told. Whatever defiance was in him had been burned out completely.

Nelson stopped by the lobby on his way out, having finished his reports and sent Jones home. He found Vincent sitting in the exact spot they’d found him earlier, still smiling like a bastard.

“You did good,” Nelson told him.

The other man smiled and got up. He brushed at his overcoat and said, “Think nothing of it, Captain. Good evening.”

“Hey.” That feeling of wrongness hit Nelson hard as Vincent turned to leave. He reached out and grabbed the man by the shoulder. “Answer something for me, will ya?”

Vincent turned back.

Nelson licked his lips. A sudden headache sprouted right between his eyes. He almost couldn’t bring himself to speak.

But with persistence, he managed to say, “I… I can’t remember. How do you do it? And how…” Sweat beaded on his brow and past his eyes. “How did we even meet?”

Vincent leaned in. “Don’t you remember, Captain?”

“I’m… I’m trying to…”

Vincent stared at him. Inside his own head, Nelson heard the man’s voice as clear as day. I’ll bet you are. But don’t worry. You won’t even remember this conversation in a few minutes.


I get into people, Vincent replied, smiling quietly. I got into you the same way I got into Tony Luther. We’re on the same side, Captain. We just use different tools.

Nelson blinked. That headache was getting worse now. He almost feel Vincent’s hand squeezing the back of his brain.

It wasn’t that hard. As he spoke into Nelson’s mind, Vincent took a few steps backward. I just walked in one day and made everyone my friend. And now I do what I love most—reaching into people’s minds and picking up all the broken pieces

Dimly, Nelson struggled to remember the conversation they’d been having. Why had he come to see Vincent in the first place?

Why had he ever doubted him? The guy was a miracle worker.

I hope we can remain friends, Captain. Vincent Elric swept out his arm and bowed at the waist. Such a gentleman he was. Good morning. I’ll be seeing you soon.

The headache passed and Nelson smiled with relief. “Okay. Take care, Vincent.”

“I always do, Captain.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


4 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: “Bring in the Inquisition”

  1. Interesting vignette, and possibly a seed that will grow into something greater. Who knows, the character strikes me as a viable series-detective type, with the right hooks.

    The thing I would advise, if you wanted to make something of the character and his world, is to print this out and as you reread it, highlight every detective movie/novel cliche. You don’t have to get rid of them all, but I think if you see how cliched it is in an obvious way, you will be able to find some alternate elements that are fresher. That, and avoid “casting” the lead. Cumberbatch is great and all, but your protagonist should be built from the ground up to match the story(ies).

    Obviously, if this is just a quick one off, ignore everything I have written. Cliches and “casting” can be a great help in very short works because they do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, which you would otherwise have to burn words on. But it did read like an introductory chapter in the first of a long series starring Vincent Elric (might have to change that name, too) and that means be very careful about which cliches you choose to embrace, which you choose to avoid and which you choose to subvert.


    1. Well, this really was meant to be a one-off story. I was just being facetious about a TV series with CBS (which sadly I can’t even get in my area now, thank you very much, Time-Warner Cable).

      But I digress. I appreciate your thoughts and would consider them if I ever come back and decide to expand on this vignette. Thanks for reading!


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