Bezum | Teen Ink


December 8, 2020
By 3e00, Gilford, New Hampshire
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3e00, Gilford, New Hampshire
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Author's note:

This piece is very dark, especially near the end and describes a brutal truth about some of the darker parts of early 1900s New York and the backbone of the whole story is based on the child abuse of a mother forcing her child to take barbituates to fall asleep each night so he doesn't know she goes to drink. This story isn't based on any real story, but it is based on careful research and a passion for writing darker stories.

“In twelve years he had solved six hundred murders; he was never once wrong.” Everyday when my mother gets home she tells me the stories of a detective who would solve crimes that no one else could. I wish she was home more often, I don’t like her being all alone on this side of New York. I see her confronted every day by men with guns and clean suits, zips I’ve heard them called, the Italian Mafia. She tells me that they’re actually good people, that they pay for our apartment and food, but I know they kill families for less money than their jackets are worth. The story was coming to a close “The detective said to the owner ‘It was simple really, once I knew what pub the murderer went to all I had to do was drink until he came to me!’ He laughed uproariously at his own joke. Knowing they had to rid the floors of glass, alcohol, and blood, the pub workers didn’t share so much as a smile with the detective.” My mom finishes the story of the detective by telling me once again that everything in it was true and told me to go to bed. She still treats me like a child even though I’m in my early twenties and looking for my own job to support us. She still gives me that pill that everyone takes as a kid when they need to fall asleep, although I can’t sleep without it so I guess it’s not too bad. As I drift off to bed I hear someone tell me it’s not safe to sleep today, and like everyday since I was nineteen, I ignore it and pass out anyway.

I never dream, I always fall asleep and wake up as if night wasn’t real, but tonight I woke up drenched in sweat and shivering long before the sun rose in the morning. I don’t know why I’m awake, but I can’t fall back to sleep. I sit on the couch cushions I call my bed for hours thinking about static until a bright orange shot through the sky letting me know it was time to eat and start looking for any kind of money I can come by. As I’m eating I hear someone walking to my door. I freeze. Panic sets in. I don’t know what to do. I hear a second set of footsteps, either police or mafia as they usually send two people to your door. They knock. I wait. thirty-two seconds pass. They knock again, “We just need to tell you something, they say Maci lives here.” My mom must have gotten into trouble, I feel my entire body shake, I feel my stomach turning over and my head is spinning like crazy. “Bezum listen, we know it’s too early for you to be at any job, we just wanted to tell you that we found your mom on her way to get a drink.” I hadn’t noticed she was gone. “She’s dead.” I felt my entire body sink into the floor. I threw up.

I must have been in shock for hours while slowly every thought turned a bright red until I ran out to confront the cops, it must have been them who killed her, no one else was going to kill her, she had no enemies, she couldn’t have, everyone loved her, those cops must have been bored and thought that killing someone would be fun, that has to be it, it has to. I got to the hallway and only saw the drab, rotting walls and caught a dreadful whiff of the deplorable stench of cheap prostitutes and cigarettes from packs that cost as much as a bar of chocolate. Quickly the helpless rage that welled up inside me drained out to be replaced with tears, I could do nothing, she was gone. Truthfully it could have been anyone that killed her, she owed the zips thousands and never paid so much as a grain of sand, she couldn’t afford a grain of sand, and they knew that. I just wish I had been there, then maybe I could take her place. I wish I was dead, but I know she wouldn’t live with herself if I had died in her place. I could no longer hold the tears inside me, they came rushing out, but it wasn’t just grief that took over, it was the unbearable thought of loneliness. I had no one now.

It was night when I walked back into my apartment, I couldn’t sleep. I thought about the detective my mom told me about, he was never given a description, but I imagined he wore a coat that went down to his knees and dark hair that was always a little messy. He probably has his strange tools in a belt he wears under his coat but above his white shirt and tie through the loops of his pants, the color of which matched the tan suit coat. My mom said she knew him, that she told the stories that he told her, maybe he’d help me and solve the case. I need to sleep, I have to take my medicine, but looking at them just brought overwhelming sadness, I’d rather not sleep than think about her not being here, ever again. I threw them out the window, I watched each one slowly fall to the street, I counted each one as they fell, seventeen in total, it cost so much but I needed it, my mom told me I did, that’s why I took it every night.

She was right. I can’t stop thinking about her, I am starting to feel nauseous again and my stomach is tightening itself into a ball. Holding my stomach I keep flipping over in my bed, always uncomfortable no matter how I laid down. My entire body was shaking, I must be suffering from grief. I could hear the knocking at the door throughout the whole night, everytime it would take thirty-two seconds between each knock. I couldn’t take it anymore and I rushed to the door, just to prove to myself that no one was there, as I open the door it seems to move in slow motion, I saw a shadow and panic set in, someone had been sitting outside my door for two hours knocking once every thirty-two seconds, what kind of person does that, what kind of person could do that. Suddenly he was standing there, I hadn’t realized that I was still opening the door while I was thinking, and standing in front of me was very clearly a detective, no, the Detective. “I heard she’s gone, I’m sorry.” Simple words but they meant a lot coming from him, someone I’ve, up until now, revered as a fairy tale “I knew her, I didn’t know her for very long, but I knew her.” 

He told me his name was Arthur and that he lived farther upstate, I didn’t have any reason to, but I believed him. I told him about my mother and what she did everyday and how I wished more than anything to find out who killed her, and he promised he wouldn’t leave until we knew. From that moment on we looked at each other as brothers, I knew I could trust him, the sadness in his eyes told me everything. I was calming down and began thinking more rationally, I knew where we needed to go first. We discussed how to find out where she was, deciding that just asking the detectives on the case would be the best idea because there wouldn’t be any reason for us not to be able to go there, after all I was her son, “it’s just my way of grieving” I told them, to which they responded “An alley just off of Mott Street, third one, some police are still there, just tell them who you are.” The officer looked bored, his face drooped with drowsiness and his eyebrows overpowered him and fell over his eyes the whole time we were talking, I could tell he didn’t want to talk to me, but I’m glad that he did. I met Arthur outside and we walked to Mott Street, “Do you know what we’re looking for?” I asked “I’ve never seen these specific alleys and I don’t think you have either, so how can we tell what’s out of place if even the police haven’t?” He looked at me and I wondered if I had said that in another language, his eyebrows seemed confused. “You’ve seen an alley though, haven’t you?” he asked

 “Of course I have”

“Then you should have no issue finding what’s wrong”

“Well I can point out things out of place as well as anyone, but I’ve never done it without relying on memory, I don’t think anyone has”

“I have, and you have as well, for example, just now you looked at that man over there, I could see you notice he was having trouble with his pocket watch, his arms moved strangely as if he almost missed his watch, because he put it in the wrong pocket this morning, how could either of us noticed that without ever seeing him before? Because we’ve seen a man check his pocket watch before, and we’ve seen an alley before, we’ll be fine.”

“You say we, but can’t everyone do that?”

“We’re here”


Our conversation must have been longer than I realized, because we were standing in an alley, and all the cops seemed to have turned their attention to me. “I’m here to grieve my mom.” That seemed to satisfy them, now we could get to work. I surveyed the walls and the garbage and noticed something, “The garbage, it’s tops are all facing South!” I yelled to Arthur “Except the ones taken out today, they’re mixed!” He responded “that can only mean a car went through here to Hester Street and cut down to our left!” That can only mean one thing “The mafia was here that night, they saw her Arthur!” He looked very happy, but the expressions on the cops faces couldn’t decide between being amazed and scared, they must be on the zips payroll, which is why they didn’t figure it out sooner. I could feel my own face fall as I realized what that meant, I ran, fast. Panic set in. Death never left this alley. As he saw me start to leave I could see the smile on his face fade, the hair on his head fall and his two brown eyes start to dart to every cop, he was looking for weaknesses, my panic subsided when I realized he intended to fight, and that he knew he could win. The cops looked at me, their faces had chosen fear, they were more scared of Arthur than the mafia. We knew it was over when we turned to leave and not one of them moved, paralyzed.

Finding and confronting the mob would be hard, but Arthur assured me it was no harder than shooting fish in a barrel, which seems impractical, but easy. I had actually already been tracking them, but they seem to move meeting locations every time so I would have to speak to their grunts working at the fronts for money laundering. We got into the best clothes we could find and headed to the casino. I knew the one on Broadway was run by the zips, an attempt to extend their reach through New York, but I also knew it would be a weak point thanks to its distance. We could force our way in or we could sneak our way in, either way, they won’t be getting reinforcements and there won’t be many of them. 

“How do we know they’ll tell the truth when we ask?” 

“You ask them yes or no questions, then I’ll tell you if they’re lying.”

“That seems too easy, how can you tell?”

“I’ll teach you before I leave, but you already know the basics.”

“How do you know?”

“When I introduced myself to you, did I tell the truth?”

“Well, I think so.”
“Exactly, and how much did the cops tell you without saying a word before you started running?”

“Well, I saw they were scared, so I figured they were fearful enough to betray the city’s trust to stay alive.”

“See? Well, we made it.”

“Before we go in, first, I’m still feeling nauseous, so if I start to look bad, come save me. I say this because I want you to come in through the roof, there can’t be much security up there and if there is, you can handle it.”

He nods in agreement, without saying another word we go to the building. The casino shines a brilliant yellow and green, I feel dirty in clothes just moments ago were expensive to me. My only hope is the money I was supposed to use for rent, thirty-five measly dollars, but still enough to get into this place, I hope. I felt like a child, men in suits surrounded me, I had time to create a lie however, one that no self-respecting criminal could ever turn away from the door, “This is my first time gambling, I’m told I should be prepared to lose my money, but I didn’t want to on the way, so I dressed poor, I have a couple hundred in my pocket, I’ve seen you turn away a lot of people, so how about a thirty dollar deposit as a promise I won’t steal.” He seemed skeptical, but the faces of truth-tellers bounced around in my mind and my face imitated them perfectly, he was searching my eyes for a lie, but they told him the same truth I saw in the eyes of the cops who told me my mom was dead. My perfect disguise worked, he stepped aside to let me in while clutching my deposit. The inside was even richer in color than the outside, I tried to focus on our mission, but my eyes darted back and forth to every light in the room, I felt like I was losing myself, my hand tightened around my five dollars as if it had suddenly become looser in my pocket, my mind was overwhelmed with lights and noise, spinning like crazy, I was gonna throw up. “Hey kid, not here” I heard a thick Italian accent, almost mocking me. I looked up to The Detective standing there with his hand mockingly adjusting a tie that wasn’t there, I would have laughed if I wasn’t so worried I’d get kicked out. “Did you find anyone?” I had to shout over the crowd even though he was standing a foot away from me. “No, but I’m guessing there’s some-” I didn’t catch the rest as a table next to us began to laugh, certain they were laughing at my choice of clothing, I decided we should move around to avoid too much attention from one group. 

Arthur brought me to the bar and pointed at the waitress “seduce her and she’ll tell you everything you need to know about her boss.” Shocked at his statement I wasn’t looking where I was going and ran into the bar, a bludgeon to the abdomen was not good for my stomach and I could feel my face turn green, the waitress went behind the counter and asked for my drink, because of what the detective had said my face flushed a brilliant rose red as well, the two feelings clashing, “are you ok? You look terrible!” She sounded genuinely concerned and as much as I don’t like the idea, I can tell I have an opportunity to get her alone with me, so I swallow back my nausea and manage to say “No, can you please help me out back.” She accepted and I had time to create a lie once again, but as I almost told her how I needed to talk to my dad’s friend who owned the casino, I realized the truth may be a little more effective this time. “I’ve been feeling sick because my mom died yesterday, actually, she was murdered, and I came here in hopes to talk to your boss because I believe he’s connected to the mafia, my prime suspect.” She looked at me for a second, she had sadness in her eyes, that’s what I wanted, but this was too much, her eyes seemed to search between my eyes and her own memory, quivering and beginning to tear, “My Uncle Tom was killed in front of me by those damned zips, he owed them just twenty dollars and he told them he couldn’t pay it, and when he found out he was telling the truth, they shot him, the only reason I even have this stupid job is because some mafioso felt remorse and thought this would make it all better.” Her balance was off, I held out my arms to support her and she fell right into me, the moment my arms were around her, I felt that panic again, or maybe it wasn’t, it felt off, a special kind of panic I’ve never experienced before, she must be messing with my mind, she had just admitted to being under their payroll, but why would she tell me about her uncle, she must have lied. Our eyes locked, suddenly I realized we were both searching for the same thing, we were looking for a lie, with both of us focused on each other I realized that she couldn’t be lying, I had given her that same unearned trust as Arthur when he told me who he was. “What’s your name?” “Bezum.”

Sophia and I talked for twenty-three minutes about our dead before moving on to what I needed to ask, “What can you tell me about your boss?”

“Not much, I know he doesn’t know anything though, he’s just a middle man who does what he’s told, no questions asked.”

“Did you ever find anything out about your uncle?”

“No, but I found out by accident where the next meeting would be, I was planning on going alone and eavesdropping, but I didn’t think they’d talk about him since it was so long ago.”

“My mom was murdered two nights ago, if this is their first meeting since then, I’m sure they’ll talk about how great it was to get rid of her, she took a lot of their money.”

“Ok, tell me about anything you find”

She smiled, in all that time I hadn’t realized that my arms never stopped holding her, that weird panic set in again, this time I didn’t know why, my heart was racing and my head was spinning for what seemed like no reason. “Wait, are you not coming?” I could tell she hadn’t thought about that, “Well I have to stay for my job, but you can meet me out front tomorrow at sunset and I’ll take you to the meeting” I watched her walk back inside, her dark hair had fallen down out of her headband while we were sitting together, her dress was well-worn, she clearly only had the one, probably paid for by the casino. She looked back and I once again stared into her sea green eyes and I noticed that she was smiling, then I realized that I was smiling too.

I met Arthur at the dingy apartment I used to live in, this place seems to be getting more putrid by the day. I expected him to be angry because I was gone so long, but he seemed happy to hear what I had learned. “Well, are you ready to go tomorrow?” he asked the shadow covered window. 


“I’m a detective, it wasn’t hard to figure it out.”
“Ok, she’s going to lead me to them, but I don’t know how I can get them to even talk to me.”

“Easily, Sophia works for them, she’s part of their family, so earn their respect and threaten her life.”



“No, I’m not going to, she wouldn’t work for them, they killed her uncle”

“But why should we trust her, she works under them, didn’t anything feel wrong when talking to her, I know I felt it when I saw her for only a few seconds”

“What, a faster heartbeat, a spinning head, and a dizzy gut? Do you know what those are the symptoms of, because I do. I love her.”

“Love her, Bezum, you talked to her for twenty-four minutes, you don’t even know her!”

“Well I trust her, the same way I trust you!”

“Do you know why you trust me?! Because I don’t have a reason to lie, she does!”

“That’s ridiculous, she wouldn’t lead me to my death, she doesn’t have a reason to.”

“I’m sorry, but I know more than you Bezum.”

“How do you know that?! How do you know so much about me?!”

“Because I know me.”

His speech was slurred and I began to feel nauseous. As my vision blurred I threw up on the floor. I looked up to question what he meant but he was gone. The dust was at a standstill and the door never opened. My head was pounding so loud I couldn’t think, why was I still throwing up, it makes no sense. I ran outside to try and find Arthur and found my old medicine. “You know what they are, don’t you?” His voice was loud and seemed to come from my own mouth, “You know why you’re sick, why you knew I was telling the truth, why deep down you know I’m always right.” It’s true, I do know. I’ve seen what it does to people on the street, I watched my mother struggle with it, I know what happens when you stop taking your medicine. My mind slowly shifted back into place as I accepted what I knew, I am the detective, and Arthur is me.

I waited for sunlight in my bed, I couldn’t forget about my mom just because Arthur is gone. I started walking to the casino to meet up with Sophia to have her bring me to the mafia, I couldn’t figure out how to confront them, everything I thought of was flawed. I couldn’t get his words out of my mind, but I refused to believe she worked for them, but Arthur seemed convinced and that’s what worries me, he’s never been wrong, but that means neither have I. As I was walking I felt like I was gonna black out, strangely I didn’t feel tired, I just noticed that my vision was blurring and I was losing my balance. I came up on the corner before the casino, the brick walls plastered in advertisements for Ford and different banks in New York, here I lost my vision completely as I rounded the corner and ran into someone, they seemed pissed so I just kept moving, somehow I ended up on the same corner, I must have gotten turned around while I blacked out, but finally I round the corner and see her. We talk briefly and she starts to move, I follow her through the busy streets of early morning traffic, everyone trying to get to the stock market or some brand new invention, I’ve never paid much attention to how systematic the traffic was, everyone took turns and weaved through each other without ever even bumping. While waiting for a car to pass by my vision blurred again, when I tried to move with Sophia I couldn’t, but she didn’t turn around. Then I saw him standing next to her, I saw him talking to her, I saw Arthur towering over her with his tan hat and emulating my emotions to trick her. It made no sense, he wasn’t real. I blacked out.

When I woke up I found myself sneaking through a doorway and I heard voices talking in hushed tones, I saw Sophia up ahead and pushed on through some big warehouse with machines that smelled of freshly cut wood. Suddenly she freezes, unable to react to what just appeared in front of her, a large man in a black and white suit had pushed a tommy into her forehead. “They’re here boss.” She had been working for them, he was right, I should have trusted him more. I grabbed a piece of broken glass and did the first thing I thought of, I pulled her back and held it to her throat. “How could you lie to me, you work for them?” She looked scared, “No, no I don’t, I don’t know why they said that.” The mafioso stared me down “no dipshit, the bosses knew she overheard them so we were waiting for you.” An easy lie to make for someone in his position, “I want to talk to them, I just have a question.” He didn’t seem to believe me, “I’ll kill her” I said this as I tightened my grip on her arm. It wasn’t true though, I didn’t have the guts to kill anyone, even traitors. I felt myself slipping, my vision was blurring again and I could feel myself getting pulled away from Sophia, I turned around to push off of the person pulling me only to find nothing. I was pushed to the corner and saw my worst fear, Arthur was holding the glass to her neck, he was so close blood was dripping off the glass knife. I could still hear her breathing from here, panicked and shallow, I hadn’t focused on the mafioso, but I realized that he might not have been lying, he was completely calm for seeing one of his allies being threatened, if not confused. The only thing that didn’t make sense is why he hadn’t shot us yet, and I think that might have Arthur convinced he was right. My hand started bleeding, he was gripping the glass so tight, she was crying silently, still frozen with fear, but I could see her tears hit the floor, bounces of light against the dark floor. He made up his mind, and the unmoving gunman had forced his hand, I could feel him move the glass quickly. I had killed her, almost instantly, I blacked out.

When I woke up I was still shaking, I was on my knees in front of a wall with a gun against my head, panic set in, but strangely I didn’t want to flee like normal, I still needed answers, I needed to fight. The wall was facing away from where we had entered, and we were still in the same building, judging from the poor lighting and the fact that this is a secret meeting there wasn’t much chance we were near a road, and therefore no people around to hear a gunshot, however, the heavy wood smell meant that it was still frequently used, blood would be hard to hide and could lead to a search of the place and the finding of something confinstactable from the mafia, they knew this so it must simply be a mock execution, they would shoot over my head to scare me and set me free, much easier than killing me and trying to dispose of me in the heart of the big city. That meant I had a few seconds of tinnitus to act while they’ll have a harder time hearing, One of them would have to be close to make sure they don’t hit me and give me solid evidence to bring to an officer that doesn’t work for them, I would have to react the second they fire a gunshot and kick the dust up into the eye of the shooter, the lack of vision and sound will be enough to take his gun and take out anyone else in the room. I waited for the gunshot. The crack was louder than I thought, I launched down to get the most dust up and he reacted as I thought he would, reeling back and bringing his hands up to his eyes, what surprised me was that he dropped his gun fast, unable to think outside the pain of losing your hearing and vision. I was fortunate that only he had attended the execution and I moved to where the voices were. I could see them inside a dusty office, the windows plastered in wood chips and dirt, I knew the door would be locked so I broke one with the butt of the rifle. I guess they only expected to need one gun because everyone in there was unarmed, I’ve never seen a godfather scared before, that’s how I knew it was just me and the people in the room in this building and around it. “Why did you kill my mother.” I asked in a cold voice to try and intimidate them into the truth, “Who was she?” His position at the table and posture told me he was the godfather, “Maci, I’m her son Bezum, you paid for my ‘medicine’ and when she couldn’t pay you back, you killed her.” He looked genuinely saddened by my words, his eyes fell and I could see tears forming in his eyes, the others dropped their posture, “Did you kill our brother?” He was looking at the gun and my bloodied hands. “No, I cut it on glass and he was trying to kill me too so I kicked dust in his eye and took this before I ran.”

“Well you told me the truth, so I will too, your mother worked here, that’s how she kept you alive, how she kept us from you, really.”

“She never told me that.”

“Probably because you’d start asking what she did, and she wouldn’t want to tell you.”

“What did she do?”

“She worked for our pleasure, Bezum, she was our stress reliever.”

The thought disgusted me, but it made sense. They didn’t kill her, she was still relatively young and they had no reason to really. I dropped the gun and started walking out, “I’m sorry that’s not what you wanted to hear, if it’s any consolation, she was a lovely woman.” Not knowing what to say I left, I knew that if they found Sophia’s body I would be killed, that gunman was too dumb to realize how dangerous Arthur is, how dangerous I am, but they weren’t. I got back to the apartment and I laid down on the couch cushions, the adrenaline was wearing off and the shock of what had happened subsided, I started crying, for hours, I couldn’t believe I watched someone die, I couldn’t believe she died, but most of all I couldn’t believe I killed her. I knew there was a new and only suspect for my mom’s death, Arthur, me. I couldn’t even get up, the weight of guilt was too much, my bed was too soft, and eventually, I drifted off to sleep.

Arthur was standing over me, “It wasn’t me, I killed Sophia and I’m sorry, I really thought she worked for them, but you know I couldn’t kill your mom.” I laid there quietly for a second, I knew it was a dream, a way for Arthur to communicate with me while the withdrawals were wearing off, “You have to believe me.” I didn’t, and I won’t, there was no one else, he knew I was going to turn us in and was trying to cover for himself. I woke up and headed down to the police station, it would be simple, confess and get put behind bars, then maybe the guilt will eventually just go away. I had less of a struggle to maintain control and I made it all the way without feeling dizzy, I walked into the building and through the giant doors, straight up to the main desk, “I have some information regarding my mother’s death.” They looked at me realizing who I was, “Bezum, I presume”

“Yes sir”

“Well, we don’t need any more information, we caught the guy”


“We saw him come back to the scene of the crime with the weapon and confessed to killing her, said he was her boyfriend or something, I don’t know.”

I couldn’t believe it, Arthur must have somehow convinced this guy he killed her and then blamed it on him while I was sleeping, “You already knew she had a boyfriend, and that she has a terrible taste for picking out good men.” I heard him again, as if my own thoughts. I ran out and back to my bed, I didn’t know what to do, even if I confessed they’d think I was crazy, they had so much evidence on this guy and I didn’t even know how she died. Arthur outsmarted me, no, he couldn’t have, he’s me, I don’t know who killed her, maybe it was her boyfriend, but then why did I wake up the night she died, it made no sense. My mind was swirling and I couldn’t get a clear picture, I’ve never been so uncertain about anything in my life, there’s no right answer, if he was framed then maybe it was part of the mafia, it is possible she did something that warranted her death and they framed that poor guy and threatened his family. It’s so impossible to tell, I need to learn more about detective work, that’s how I can finally solve this case. I’ll begin practicing on small crimes and eventually I’ll solve this case.

In twelve years Bezum had solved six hundred murders; he was only ever once wrong.

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