The Witch Hunter General
CW: Police Violence
Gavin Marshalls is a man who loves his job. He was a police officer, a very specific kind of officer. Gavin Marshalls was a witch hunter. Gavin brought in about 2-3 convictions a year, while most of his contemporaries only managed to find 1 if they were lucky; some hunters could go years without actually convicting someone of witchcraft. There weren’t many witches running around, about half a percent of the population if the studies are to believed. It is assumed among the force that these witches normally associate with each other. Magic users attract other magic users. However once one witch is caught the rest of the coven immediately goes into hiding. So instead of bringing in an entire coven every few months, Gavin brings in some poor soul and interrogates them. Sometimes it’s a false alarm, someone doing slight of hand to trick passers by or a drug trip gone wrong, but the real witches are always a sight to behold. They don’t have any specific qualities that tie them together, some look like they haven’t eaten anything in weeks with their skin gaunt and heavy bags under the eyes; while others are bright eyed, healthy, like they just got back from the beach. Some had tattoos and others had skin untouched. Occasionally they leave the interrogation room in tears begging that there has been a mistake; sometimes a witch leaves with quiet defiance, head held high with clear and dry eyes. But no matter how they look or act the other officers knew when Gavin got it right. “Oh yeah, look at that one.” They would say to each other. “That definitely a witch, just look at ‘em!” The other hunters would agree that there was something about a witch that a good hunter could just tell instinctively. The more senior members would tell their juniors that this was a skill that needed to be cultivated, and if you could train this 6th sense to detect the remnant of magic on a person they could bring them in like old Gavin Marshalls.
Old Gavin Marshalls thought this was bullshit. Officer Marshalls, Chief Hunter of the 3rd precinct, knew that witches, in all likelihood, were not real. He had never seen a single shred of evidence that witches, or even magic, were anything more than a boogeyman put forth to allow him and his fellow peacekeepers to do what was necessary to keep the peace. Without the threat of witchcraft, most people would think twice before letting them go rounding up drunks, vagabonds, and other degenerates. Gavin knew that if he didn’t at least rough up all the undesirables that came under his purview, the regular upstanding population of the city would be wading through the filth to get to their jobs where they managed to mine prosperity out of various groups of ungrateful layabouts. Gavin admired the dedication and hard work of these citizens a lot, and in order to protect their way of life he would go out, find someone who looked a bit off, declare them a witch, and bring them in for questioning.
Today he found a woman planning to commit a crime in an alley way near a group of apartments believed to house a coven of witches. The department did not have any evidence of this yet, but if Gavin could prove that this woman was a witch, he could take down a dozen of potential witches. This would be the biggest bust of his, or anyone’s, career. “They might even give me an award for this one,” he thought to himself very self satisfied. Gavin flipped open his holster, opened the door to his patrol vehicle, and stepped into the alley.
“You waiting on someone ma’am?”
She turned her head to meet his eyes. Her eyeshadow looked like it was put on days ago, and created a cloud of black around her dark brown eyes. If there were bags under her eyes, there was no way to know with the amount of makeup she was wearing. Her bloodshot eyes took in Gavin. He was man of average height, in reasonable shape. Her eyes focused in on the green sash covering his uniform, the tell tale sign of a hunter. “I’m meeting someone...” she answered, thought about it for a second and added “officer” with some force. The woman moved from squatting into standing up. She was quite tall for a woman, towering over the hunter, and her brown skin seemed to absorb some of the light surrounding her, turning her into a silhouette in the already dark passage.
Gavin was undeterred by her surprising height. He assumed he could easily subdue a single woman if needed, although he hoped it wouldn’t be needed. “Well, we’ve been getting reports of some mysterious happenings in this area, strange noises, shadows where there shouldn’t be, things that point to someone doing some things they shouldn’t be. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that would you?”
“No, I wouldn’t”
“Do you normally sit like that when you’re waiting for someone? People might get the wrong idea about what you’re up to.”
“It’s a comfortable way to sit, I wasn’t sure when who I was waiting on would show up.”
“Alright, I’m gonna need to see some ID. Standard procedure ma’am, gotta make sure you’re not some wanted criminal right?” He smiled when he said this, like he was telling a joke to a waitress who hadn’t laughed at any of his other jokes. Gavin often tried to make a suspect feel comfortable while he came up with a pretext for bringing them in for questioning.
“Am I under arrest...officer?” The woman was not comfortable.
“Well now, you don’t have to be, but I’ve got you loitering on private property, a failure to identify, and if you don’t comply we can added drug trafficking on top of that. I’m sure drugs are the only reason anyone would be caught dead in this shit hole; thus I have reasonable cause to believe that if we test you for an illicit substance you’ll come up for something. So I’m gonna need to see some ID.” He was still smiling. His smile and tone was that of a cashier telling a customer that their coupon was expired.
“Fine.” She knew that most of that wasn’t true. She hadn’t been there long enough for loitering, failure to ID was not a real thing, and her system was clean; but she also knew if she didn’t cooperate, there was a decent chance she got her shit kicked in and she didn’t want that. So she reached into her skirt pocket, and pulled out an ID.
“J-? You don’t look like a J-. In fact you, don’t look like this picture either. What is this some sort of shitty fake?” Officer Gavin started to drop his polite facade.
“No, I just haven’t managed to update the picture.” She was becoming clearly agitated, which was good for Gavin. When people are agitated they say things they shouldn’t. “and I can assure you that J- is my legal name.” She continued. The phrase “legal name” finally lead him to connect the dots. His smile came back, grew more genuine for a split second, and then dropped.
“Ma’am, I’m going to need you to come with me,” he reached one hand down towards his nightstick, implying what may happen if she refuses. Once again her eyes met his, but this time they glanced briefly towards the opposite exit of the alley. Her shoulders tensed, and it looked like she might run; but she clearly thought better of it and let out an exasperated sigh.
“Fine. Am I under arrest, or is this just questioning,” she brought her hands by her face and did air quotes around the word “questioning”.
“I just want to ask a few questions, you’ll be back in time to meet your” he paused long enough for her to know what he wanted to say, then finished “friend.” ‘There’s less paperwork this way too’, he thought to himself. He held out his arm in an exaggerated fashion, and lead her to his police car.
The woman’s wavy black hair covered her face when Gavin brought her in the precinct. The other officers carefully watched her walk slightly hunched over into the interrogation room, and started to place bets with one another on if she was a witch or “just a drugged out bitch”. The interrogation room was small, consisting only of a chair, a light on the ceiling, and a set of drawers tucked in the corner. She quickly sat down in the chair without being prompted. Officer Marshalls shut the door and immediately started with questioning.
“So what should I call you?”.
She looked up at him through her hair, “Why do you care, just ask your damn questions so I can get out of here”
“Well, we here at the department care about the comfort and dignity of those we bring in. You haven’t been charged with any crimes” Gavin paused, giving the impression of checking the veracity of the claim, “so as a representative of this department I would like to treat everyone who comes in here with respect.” She didn’t reply to this, but he also did not want to spend too much time on this since his shift ended in half an hour. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to call you J-.” He paused to check her expression, but her eyes just tracked him as he paced around the room. “So tell me J-” he once again paused, letting the name sit in the air, “what were you doing by that building?”
“I already said, I was waiting on a friend.”
“Right, right. And do you or your friend live in the building I found you near?”
“No, we each live a short walk away. That building isn’t too far from a coffee shop we like”.
“Ok, what were you meeting about?”
“To go to the coffee shop” she looked at him as if he were an idiot. A small smirk formed on her face. This got to Officer Marshalls more than he would like to admit.
“I bet if I ask about any drugs or prostitution you’re gonna keep sing this same song,” the women looked away, disinterested, “so under the law the only thing I can do before letting you go is a simple witch test” Her hair covered her face as she slouched down. Her shoulders stared heaving up and down, and the Chief Hunter thought she was crying. She threw her head back, and he saw tears streaming down her eye, and a wide smile on her face. She let out a boisterous laugh.
“Me!” she choked out, “You think I’m a witch.” She put her head back in her hands and continued laughing.
“I’m just doing my due diligence ma’am”. Gavin had enough of this women. She was about to find out why he was the Chief Hunter of the 3rd Precinct. He walked over to the cabinet and opened one of the drawers. The drawer had several devices laid out neatly, stainless steel rods of various thicknesses and lengths. Gavin grabbed the second largest tool, carefully considered it’s weight, and brought it back with him. “This is one of my favorite test, mostly due to it’s simplicity. You see, a small blade pops out” he pushes a button on the side of the rod and a small blade appeared from the end, “and it should pierce the skin. However, a witches body will protect them, preventing the blade from piercing the skin. So, essentially, if you start to bleed you’re in the clear. Of course, you need to have evidence that I actually pushed the button, so we put the counter on the top to ease the mind of the innocent.” He showed her that the top of the tool read 518. She watched him push the button again, and saw the number raise to 519.
He moved suddenly towards her, grabbed her arm and pressed the tool into her arm. The tool was cold against her skin. She braced herself for the pain. This was his favorite part. The part where he knew that he was in complete control. He relished in seeing her brace for the pain without knowing when it would come. Gavin let the tool rest on her arm for second longer than really needed, and, once it looked like she was no long ready for the blade, he pressed the button. And nothing happened.
There was a secret button on the tool, right under his index finger, flush with the body of the rod. The purpose of this button was to stop the blade from actually coming out. The Chief Hunter had this button installed 15 years prior, after a string of people he was sure were guilty of something passed the test. So Gavin decided to take matters into his own hands, after all he trusted his judgment enough to know when someone was a witch. He had considered just not pushing the button, but around the same time a hunter from another precinct was caught doing just that. This led to the city implementing the counter on top of the tool, so Gavin had to find a different method of conviction. A simple blade stop, was easy and elegant. It took a couple of tries to find how far the blade needed to come out to trip the counter, but he got it eventually, and became the most prolific witch hunter the world had ever seen.
“Ow!”, the woman exclaimed as she pulled her arm away, a trickle of blood dripping from her arm.
“What?” Gavin says a little too loudly, but she didn’t seem to noticed.
“Do you have a bandaid or something?” the woman questions, holding her arm.
“ Of course, of course,” Officer Marshalls said distractedly. He walked over and opened the top of the drawers. He handed her a single bandaid, staring at the blood on her arm.
“So am I free to go?” she asked annoyed.
“Uh,” Officer Gavin snapped back into the moment, “of course ma’am. Go ahead an grab your things. We’ll be in touch if we need anything else”. The woman didn’t really have anything to gather, so she stood up and let herself out of the station. As she walked out officers began to whisper to each other, money changed hands, and some one whistled at her. One younger officer murmured that he was sure she was a witch. An older hunter assured him that it can be hard to clock a witch and to not be embarrassed. “She even fooled old Gavin Marshalls!” he exclaimed.
Gavin stayed in the interrogation room after she left. “She wasn’t supposed to bleed”, he whispered to himself. He stared down at the hidden button on the tool. ‘Did I forget to push the stopper?’ he wondered. ‘Maybe it’s broken’. He held down the hidden button, and pushed the large one down with his thumb. He watch the counter go up to 521, and the blade stayed hidden in the tool.
Shortly after the woman left, Gavin decided to follow her. The address that was on file lead to an abandoned house, so that seemed to be incorrect. He couldn’t find anything on her employment, probably because she was employed under a name other that her legal name. He decided to stake out the ally where he initially found her. She told him she lived near there, but that could’ve been a lie. In a city of a few million finding one woman could be quite the task, particularly one that may not want to be found. There was a coffee shop not to far, but when he went by she wasn’t there. So he waited. Maybe he’d get lucky, he silently hoped.
It was dusk when she walked by. “Got her,” Gavin said to himself. He let her pass a reasonable distance, and got down from his car. She carded into a apartment building, and was careful to close the door behind her. Now that he knew the building, he could look up the occupants in the police network. He didn’t see anything rented out to J-, but there was a Jessica whose last name matched. It looks like she had moved in within the year, which would explain the address on the ID not matching her real address. Gavin went in, using his police keycard to enter the building. He knew that his scans were tracked to ensure that privilege of a universal keycard was not abused, but he also knew as witch hunter general he had access to these logs and could remove any non-official business.
He went up to the apartment belonging to Jessica and knocked.
The woman opened the door.
“You,” Gavin said full of spite. A sudden rage overtook him. Gavin didn’t plan to be this mad, but the thought of being outsmarted by this woman flipped a switch in his brain. He shoved her into her own apartment, and slammed the door shut behind them. Gavin’s heart was racing and his hands began to shake. “How did you do it you bitch!?” He shouted at her. “You weren’t supposed to fucking bleed.” She had fallen when he shoved her down, and he towered over her. She didn’t respond to him. “Answer me!” he roared.
The woman looked up at him. Her eyes were jade green. ‘Had they been green before?’ Gavin’s anger paused as he considered this. Then everything went black.
Jessica watched Gavin come to. He was suspended in air. She watched him struggle against invisible restraints as he opened his mouth to say something and found that no sound came out. His lips formed the shapes of help, fuck you, bitch, whore, please. Jessica chuckled, “you’ll speak when I want you to, but, in all likelihood, that time won’t come”. The space they were in was gone. They were no longer in her apartment, but they weren’t anywhere else either. The space around them was devoid of all color. Jessica and Gavin were the only things visible, but there was no lights or shadow. It should be pitch black, but Jessica stood in front of him as clear as when they were in the interrogation room.
She sat down as if she was in a chair, but there was nothing under her. “You probably don’t really remember me,” Jessica began. “Of course I look different than I did even a few months ago” her shape changed. Her hair was the same length, but some other features changed; her hairline moved, jaw became a little more square, shoulders a bit more broad. “But thanks to the marvels of modern medicine, and witchcraft of course, I’ve managed to make some slight adjustments,” she changed back into her original shape. “Before we get started with my story of woe and misery,” Jessica softly smiled, “lets make sure you are comfortable.” Gavin suddenly felt as if he was being restrained by invisible ropes, cords rubbing against his skin. Spikes slowly started to press into where the ropes were holding him. Jessica watched the panic in his eye as he realized that the pain would start soon.
“It all started about 8 months ago when you arrested a woman for suspected witchcraft. Her name was Xochil, she had dark brown skin, and you felt like that was enough to be suspicious of her. Do you remember Xochil, Mr Marshalls?” Gavin quickly tried to remember anyone he arrested in that time frame. “Actually, I don’t give a shit if you remember. It won’t matter. I don’t care if the memory of every person you have ever framed keeps you up at night, because it doesn’t matter. It won’t be justice. We can never have justice, because somethings, once done, have no justice. You can change your ways, the city can make reforms, the people can elect new leaders; but some actions can not be undone.”
“8 months ago you arrested Xochil for suspected witchcraft. I’m not sure exactly what happened. The way I found out was through a news story that evening, when she didn’t come home from work. ‘Local woman accused of witchcraft killed at police station’ is what the headline said. You brought her in and called her a witch. When she denied it, you framed her with your little test. The report said she tried to escape, you feared for your life, and she was dead.” The invisible thorns began to pierce through his skin. She watched him wordlessly scream in pain. His lips formed the words stop, bitch, stop, sorry, sorry, sorry. Jessica shook her head, “oh, oh, oh, it’s too late for that.” She stood up and was next to him. She put her hand on his cheek softly, tear were starting to fall from his eyes. Then pulled back and slapped him.
“I was devastated,” she continued, “but eventually I had to turn that energy somewhere. Some people would create movements, works of art, maybe start knitting; but I went a different path. You see, if you were going to frame people for witchcraft how exciting would it be for you to catch an actual witch? So I looked into it. It’s actually pretty hard you know, finding a real witch, but they’re out there. And they showed me wondrous things, they showed me magical things, and they showed me dangerous things. They helped me find myself through my sorrows, taught me to be me in a way I did not think possible, and accepted me. A few months of that, and I was ready to find you.” Jessica noticed Gavin looked like he was about to pass out, and pulled the thorn out with a wave of her hand. “I wouldn’t want you to miss the finale.”
“I need you to understand Mr. Marshalls, that I am not trying to scare you straight. This is not being done in the hopes that you will come forward and try to right the wrongs of your career. I already have all the evidence I need to prove what you’ve been up to, and I’ll be sure to include it in the suicide note next to your body. I need you to know Officer Gavin Marshalls, Witch Hunter General of the 3rd Precinct, that you are going to die. And I want you to die knowing that there will be no justice for you. Even if I am caught, it will not bring you back. If every witch in the world, real and imagined, is caught, you will still be dead. Justice, Mr. Marshalls, is for the living. It’s how we convince ourselves that something can still be done, but what you have done can not be undone. There is no justice for the dead. This is not justice for Xochil, this is revenge.” The ropes holding Gavin set aflame, and Jessica disappeared. He was left alone, immobile, and on fire in an endless space.
Jessica sat alone in her apartment, and cried.