Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Rebecca tapped line three and, without thinking, said, “9-1-1. What’s your emergency?”
Two years as the sole dispatcher in the sleepy little town of Frankfort, Illinois, and she had never had anything more exciting than the rare heart attack. On some days she was grateful for not having to bother with many serious problems, but on other days, she found herself wishing for some sort of excitement, anything to bring life into this withered, old town. The heavy breathing in her ear hinted that today maybe that day.
The wheezed breathing finally began to calm. Rebecca spoke calmly into the headset, “9-1-1. How can I help you?”
Only low sobs could be heard over the line.
Then came breathy whispers, “Please… oh God! He’s got a gun! There is a man with a gun out there!”
Silence was the only thing that passed through Rebecca’s dropped jaw for several moments. Could something like this really be happening? No. It must just be a prank, just some rowdy kids looking for some entertainment.
That wasn’t it. Rebecca knew every soul in this town, which is commonplace in towns as small as Frankfort, and she couldn’t think of anyone, child or adult, that would do something so foolish. That left one possibility.
“Sir, where are you?”
“In Roger’s…”
“The police are on their way. Stay calm.” They weren’t yet, but she thought that it would comfort the man. In reality, the on-duty officers will probably stare off into space, unbelieving, for several minutes before they begin to scramble around, trying to decide what to do. The small-town lawmen were by no means ready for something like this… then again neither was she.
Regaining her thoughts, Rebecca spoke again, “Tell me everything that you can. What’s happening now?”
One more sob, then feigned collectivity.
“The restroom… I’m in the restroom.”
“Have there been any shots yet? Are you hurt?”
He took a deep breath, “No, I’m fine. No shots. I think I’m the only one that saw… that saw the gun.”
“You’re the only one that saw the gun?”
“Yes, I think so.” His breathing was slowing getting louder. “He walked in. I looked at him and gave him a nod… but he just smiled a wicked, evil smirk. And then his eyes… his eyes! His eyes gave him away… then I saw the gun in his hand. I ran into the restroom and called you. Please, tell them to hurry!”
Rebecca sighed, “They will be there any moment. You said that you haven’t heard any unusual noises coming from the store?”
Strangely calm, “No… no noises.”
Rebecca then heard door hinges squeaking. He was leaving the restroom.
“Don’t go out there!” she nearly screamed into the headset.
A few footsteps, fewer sobs, and a gunshot.
Rebecca cried.
Rob Stittes looked down at his wallet as he slid his driver’s license under the clear plastic pouch that was created to hold IDs. He kind of liked the name, Robert James Stittes, or Rob. He just might keep this one a little longer. Maybe he could make Rob his new “real” name. Why not? He was the only one that would know, the only one that would call him, Rob.
He thought, for a moment, about his “real” name. He only had a vague idea as to what it was exactly. The information had long ago become jumbled in with a vast pile of fake identifications. But really that pile was him (so in that sense, they really wouldn’t be fake, right?). He was all of them: Coop Smith, Jim Oliver, John Henson, etc. His “actual” name was of no importance. So he had forgotten it.
But his name was not the most important aspect of the man presently called Rob. No, it was the fact that he knew exactly when the man would walk through the door. You see, he was the master of predicting people, almost to the point of perfection. Unfortunately this ability failed to transfer over into games of chess, but that was okay. The games that he played were so much more entertaining then a silly board game.
Rob had gone through the convenient store’s doors and walked directly into the restroom. On his way into the store, he saw a car driving down the highway some distance away. Simply by the look on the man’s face as he was driving, he was able to make several conclusions about the man: the man had been driving for quite sometime, he likely needed to drain his bladder and stretch his legs, and he also may need to get gas. All of this told him that, if he was right, the man would walk in the restroom within one or two minutes at least or three or four at most.
He had to act fast, so he made for the restroom, reaching for his cell on the way. The simple number was dialed before he ever opened the door.
“9-1-1. what’s you emergency?”
FBI Agent Steve Clark watched as the man entered the convenient store. Fitted white t-shirt under a thick blazer, Levi jeans, and some moderately worn sneakers, it had to be him.
Clark had been following the trail of one of the most elaborate and elusive serial killers of all time. He was called Thanatos, after the Greek god of death, Clark was one of the few people, less than ten, who knew what is believed to be Thanatos’ real name. But unfortunately he is still one in the vast number of people that have never seen his face.
Before his first kill, Thanatos had taken the liberty of almost completely erasing his identity. This, of course, gave the authorities quite difficult time because it is very hard to catch a man that is virtually non-existent. But that was not the extent of the trouble he has caused agents and cops alike.
It was only after the eleventh of twenty-eight murders that authorities even pieced together that one man was responsible for all of the killings. The killings were done in different states and have occurred coast to coast, from Oregon to Vermont. Also each of the victims was killed in a different fashion. The first was beheaded with an axe. The second was shot execution style. The third received a screwdriver to first his neck, then his temple. The rest were even more creative, but just as quick and brutal.
In fact all of the Thanatos Killings had only two things in common: 1) each victim’s eyes were closed and 2) the killer, Thanatos, called the dispatcher himself.
When someone dies with their eyes open, their eyes remain open after death. Typically during a murder like Thanatos’ more recent ones (surprising and quick), the victim dies with their eyes open because they never knew what hit them. That would mean that Thanatos would have to close their eyes for them after they died.
Because of the manner in which the victims were killed, authorities also wondered how the victims had time to call 9-1-1. Most had been attacked from behind or were suddenly attacked in a secluded area. But later, after Number 22, when Clark joined the case, he suggested that perhaps the killer was calling the dispatcher himself.
Not much else was known about Thanatos for a very long time because he was so efficient at what he did. All the authorities had to go off of for first twenty-four kills was what they were able to infer from the crime scenes and the emergency call. It seemed as though dancing around the FBI and the various police forces was as simple as breathing to Thanatos…
Until Number 25, the murder of Scott Hodges was when Thanatos began to slip. Still most authorities thought that Thanatos was merely getting bored with them and was trying to make things interesting. But after Number 27, Clark and some local officers found Thanatos’ hotel room. In that room Thanatos had left behind something very valuable, his journal.
He kept everything recorded in his journal. While reading some of the more recent entries, Clark learned that Thanatos wasn’t making mistakes for the fun of the game, but rather he was having a mental breakdown. Apparently hopping across the country killing people for two years isn’t the best idea if one wants to maintain mental stability. The journal also served to confirm that it was Thanatos who called 9-1-1.
Needless to say Clark had been hot on Thanatos’ trail ever since. And now he was at, what he believed to be, the location of Number 29. He would, of course, like to stop it before it happened, but he simply couldn’t know for sure if he had the right man. The man that he followed to this convenient store might not be Thanatos. Besides Thanatos was very proficient with a gun, he would probably easily overtake Clark.
So Clark walked with his cane in hand and sat down on the bench outside. Then he slowly slipped on a pair of very dark sunglasses. Now he was just a local blind man sitting outside of the convenient store and nothing more.
He felt the gun hidden within his jacket and relaxed. Now all he could do was wait and hope that Thanatos would walk right past him on his way out of the store.
Bingo! Yahtzee! Jackpot! An amateur. Rob could always point out the inexperienced ones before they even finished reciting the simple three digit number that so calmly flowed from their lips.
He wanted to chuckle at himself, at this town, at the woman on the other end of the line, but he couldn’t. He was too refined for silly things such as that, so he slowly let the grin fall from his face. Begin scared, heavy breath.
Rob was almost completely in character when she finally managed to say, “9-1-1. How can I help you?”
His own voice trembling as he repressed the sobs, he whispered, “Please… oh God! He’s got a gun! There is a man with a gun out there!”
Scared to death. Her trembling voice, the long awkward silence, it all clearly showed that she had never had someone that may be in some life-threatening danger. And she was scared to death… well maybe not quite yet, but she will be, of that he was certain.
He looked down at his rough hands, he was trembling. Normally he would just be getting into character but not this time. No, this time, this once, he was letting his adrenaline take control. Typically, in a larger city, he would keep his body completely under control because if he made one mistake… Seeing the town and hearing the dispatcher’s voice had confirmed to him that he could just enjoy this one, and that he wouldn’t have to be so overly careful this time.
After a long moment, he heard the dispatcher’s voice once again, “Sir, where are you?”
He quickly recalled the name on the front of the building, “In Roger’s…”
“The police are on their way. Stay calm.”
Oh, he was calm alright, but as for them being on their way… not at all. He knew that in town like this, in a situation like this, the local cops would certainly not be prepared to deal with… him.
She collected herself, “Tell me everything that you can. What’s happening now?”
He pretended to do likewise, “The restroom… I’m in the restroom.”
Her voice came over clear, with a hint of authority this time, “Have there been any shots yet? Are you hurt?” She was really getting the hang of this. Perhaps that’s why he was here, for training.
Deep breath, “No, I’m fine. No shots. I think I’m the only one that saw… that saw the gun.”
Disbelief reverberated through her voice, “You’re the only one that saw the gun?”
“Yes, I think so.” He began to let himself go, this was his grand soliloquy, “He walked in. I looked at him and gave him a nod… but he just smiled a wicked, evil smirk. And then his eyes… his eyes! His eyes gave him away… then I saw then gun in his hand. I ran into the restroom and called you. Please, tell them to hurry!”
She replied quickly, “They will be there any moment. You said that you haven’t heard any unusual noises coming from the store?”
The adrenaline coursed through his veins. His heart was pounding, lungs exploding. What was about to take place was what he lived for. Forget drugs and their cheap, overused highs. This was the greatest high imaginable. A surge of power. He had the power. He always had.
He allowed himself to calm, he heard footsteps coming for the restroom door. He looked at his cell, call duration- two minutes seventeen seconds. Perfect. He was, indeed, the best.
“No… no noises.”
It was out of character, but he didn’t care. He just let the silence settle in.
The doorknob twisted slowly, and then the door began to creek open.
“Don’t go out there!” Silly, silly girl. She had no idea what was happening.
Today was the greatest day that Thomas Johnson had ever known, even after the already seven hour drive with two more still to come. All he needed was a little gas, to go to the restroom, and to stretch his legs.
He pulled into a local convenient store. He got out of the car. His legs were absolutely killing him. Seven hours non-stop will do that to you. He stretched for a good while then turned to the pump.
He was headed for a family reunion in Ohio. He was excited about this because he loved getting together with his family. There was only one problem. Tom lived in Nebraska. The family got together every year, and every year Tom desperately wanted to go. He simply couldn’t take that much time off of work.
This year was different. Tom had received two well earned promotions this year, and along with those came respect. So he told his new boss, Mr. Cross, that he would be taking a two week vacation to see his family in Ohio. Mr. Cross assured him that that would be just fine.
Yes after three years of hell, it looked like his luck was finally turning around. When Christa left him, everything had gone downhill, his job, his health, everything. But now everything was looking up (a cute girl, whom he had recently been flirting with in accounting, even gave him her phone number yesterday).
Everything was beginning to turn around for Tom. He couldn’t believe that he was actually going to see mom and dad tonight, not to mention all of his nieces and nephews. He wondered how big they could have gotten in five years. He simply couldn’t wait to see everyone. Five years is far too long to not see your family.
He was in the store now, walking toward the restroom, head down lost in his pleasant thoughts. He slowly opened the door, forgetting to knock.
As he took a few steps he looked up. There was a man already in there. Tom dipped his head as if to say, “Sorry” and then leave… but before he could apologize, realization hit him like a ice cube down his spine.
He looked at the man. Tears were running down the man’s face. His chest heaved once or twice. In one hand was a cell phone, and in the other a gun, pointed at him.
The last thing Tom saw before the bullet tore its way into his heart was the man’s wicked grin and his eyes…
Tom grunted. Pain ripped through his chest. His vision went black.
Today was the worst day Tom Johnson had ever known.
Rob closed the phone, put the gun away, and then threw on some sunglasses. On his way to the door, he reached down and closed his victim’s eyelids. He hated the man’s eyes.
He quickly walked out the restroom door and made his way through the store. Once he left this store he knew that he was safe. They wouldn’t be able to track him. This town was to little, too back woods, to catch him.
Rob walked away from Roger’s Convenient Store home free.
This was just a game after all… And Rob always won.
The shot didn’t startle Clark. He merely slowly dipped his head in sorrowful acceptance. Thanatos should be coming out the door at any time now.
Sure enough only a few moments passed before the man in the blazer came walking briskly out of the store, this time wearing light shaded sunglasses. He took one look at the “blind” man and continued walking. No need to worry about blind men seeing you.
He was walking for a bicycle that was lying in the field to the right of the store. One would not have even noticed that it was there until someone pointed it out. His back was turned to Clark. Clark couldn’t help but smile at how things were turning out just like he planned.
Clark pulled the pistol out of his jacket, aimed at the man’s back and shot three times. The man fell hard, flinched twice, then lay still.
Clark took a deep breath and took off his glasses. He stood up and walked over to the body as the owner finally made his way out of the store and as the random drivers stopped to see what was going on.
He reached for the dead man’s wallet and stared at the ID.
Robert James Stittes.
So he had gone off the deep end after all. It seemed a little ironic that Thanatos had reverted back to his real name for his final kill.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Review: House

A husband and wife are on their way to marriage counseling, driving down a seemingly deserted back road. Wouldn’t you know it, their tires get slashed, and they have to make their way to a spooky, old bed and breakfast. Once in the house, they meet another couple that got their tires slashed as well and the very creepy owners of the house… oh, and did I mention the killer? Yeah, they also meet a killer named Tin Man that gives them his “house rules” (which aren’t too unreasonable… I mean, what’s so hard about giving him one dead body before sunrise?). Thus the frenzied terror begins.
House is based on the novel of the same name by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti. With Dekker being my all time favorite author, I had pretty high hopes for this movie (even though Thr3e wasn’t so great). Luckily for the most part, I was not disappointed.
Let’s start with the acting. Surprisingly enough most of the acting was very good. There were a few spots where the actors just couldn’t seen to get into character, but I think that those spots were scripting problems than an acting problems. The characters of Jack, Betty, and Leslie were played particularly well, with each actor giving just enough to be realistic while not over doing it.
The same cannot be said for Tin Man. I was completely content with his performance as long as he had the mask on. But he looked like he had no clue what was going on when his mask was off. In fact the worst part of the movie is the line in which Tin Man says, “I’m pure evil… 100%”. If you have ever read House, Showdown, Saint, or Sinner, you know that is classic Dekker-ish line. But the way that it was portrayed was not at all how I would have envisioned it in the book. In the movie it just sounded incredibly cheesy… and not even the good kind of cheesy.
The entertainment factor of the movie is very high. If you want to see a movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat with suspense and terror, than House is probably for you. It manages to drag you into the story and keep you entangled within it without using gore, sex, or language. It is a good, clean movie that is simply very disturbing.
The story of the movie is quite different from the story of the book. The movie feels like they took the basic story from the book and wrote their own new details. This is not a bad thing in my opinion. If they had tried to make the movie exactly like the book, they would have failed miserably. But since they went their own path, the story is comprehendible and works very well for the movie.
Perhaps the greatest achievement for House is that it does not feel like a “Christian” movie. Though the content most definitely does not warrant the R rating or even PG-13, it does feel like a hard PG-13. This is a real horror movie. When I’ve been talking to people about the movie, I tell them that it is both a Christian and horror movie. Almost everyone has responded with complete disbelief (I mean, who ever heard of a Christian horror movie?). We have the production to thank for this. House should make Christian media history as proof that Christian movies can be good and entertaining for both Christians and non-Christians alike.
Overall, House is a well produced, thoroughly entertaining movie. While it is most certainly not a great movie, it is a good movie… and quite frankly you don’t very many of those in regards to Christian movies. Not spectacular, but ground-breaking in its own right nonetheless.

4.6 out of 7

Monday, November 3, 2008

Review: Chiodos- Bone Palace Ballet: Grand Coda

Chiodos is a great band (one of the best in the post-hardcore genre). Their first album All’s Well That Ends Well was by far one the finest sounds within their style’s scene. Soaring vocals, harsh screams, beautiful piano, tearing guitars, Shakespeare quotes… All’s Well… had it all. So the hype was high for the release of their sophomore effort, Bone Palace Ballet.
But Chiodos took a slight departure from the post-hardcore sounds of their debut. Yes, the screams were still there… just in a much smaller dose. Indeed “ballet” was a good word to use to describe the record as it had a, sort of, ballroom dancing feel to it. Luckily it was still Chiodos, and still very good music.
Now Chiodos is releasing a reworked version of Bone Palace Ballet (or maybe it’s more of a special edition… I don’t really know…) called Bone Palace Ballet: Grand Coda. With four new songs, two acoustic versions, and a bonus DVD, you are surely wondering if it is good enough to buy.
The four new songs are dispersed within the original songs and, overall, fit in very well. The style of these songs seems to fall somewhere in between All’s Well… and Bone Palace Ballet. They are each great songs (“Smitten For The Mitten” is by far my favorite), but because they are a little different, they seem to change the feel of the record. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but Grand Coda, sort of, has a different atmosphere than the original album, even to the point that Grand Coda almost feels like a different record. The acoustics are well done, but nothing to get too excited about.
The only real negative comment I have for the record is the absence of “Teeth the Size of Piano Keys”. I will admit that it is not one of my favorite songs by Chiodos, but I would have liked to seen it on Grand Coda. If they desperately wanted to keep the track listing at fifteen songs, I would have been more than happy if they threw out “We Swam From Albatross, The Day We Lost Kailey Cost” and let “Teeth…” come back.
The DVD is interesting enough. The main fare of the DVD is the documentary. It is shot pretty well, and it is fairly interesting. I tend to like documentaries quite a bit because they give you a good idea of how the band members normally act, and this documentary does just that. The live performances at Warped Tour are fun to watch and left me desperately wanting to see them live myself. The music video for “Lexington” concludes the DVD.
If you haven’t listened to any Chiodos yet, I would strongly suggest that you look into getting Bone Palace Ballet: Grand Coda. If you have already bought the original Bone Palace Ballet and liked All’s Well That Ends Well, then there should be plenty of new material for any Chiodos fan to justify buying Grand Coda.

5.7 out of 7

• Smitten For The Mitten
• Two Birds Stoned At Once
• … And Then The Live Screamed, “HELP!”