The Mule

Why bother talking? People hear what they want to hear.

And the demons you're trying to outrun always scream the loudest...

The Mule by Andrew Hilbert


Detective Lou Tenant’s knuckles crashed into the Mule’s teeth. The Mule looked down at them on the floor, then back at Detective Tenant and grinned a bloody, near toothless smile.

“Say something, you little shit!”

The Mule stared, expression blank and vacant. He turned his head away in advance of another punch.

“This fucker doesn’t even scream!” Lou shook his fist, pained from its ineffectiveness, and took off the towel he had wrapped around his knuckles.

“I think he’s a mute. Deaf,” Detective Ennis said from behind the darkness of the corner. He sat in silence watching Lou’s method unravel. “I know sign language.”

Lou looked through him. He heard what Ennis had said but he wished he hadn’t.

“Yeah?” Lou said. “So do I! My knuckles are bleeding I know it so damn well.”

Ennis got up and signed some questions. What is your name? How do you feel?

The Mule looked at him almost as confused as if he were speaking.

“Maybe he speaks Spanish sign language,” Lou said.

“My sign language works better.”

“Lou, Jesus Christ, he doesn’t even scream. Doesn’t that bother you?”

“Not in the least. Get out of my way.”

Lou shoved Ennis aside, picked the knuckle-towel off of the floor, wrung it out, and wrapped it around his right fist again. Lou liked to inflict pain, damn the results. If interrogations went nowhere, Lou was happy.

Lou backhanded the Mule and punched him in the nose. The Mule kept grinning.

“No one will cry any tears for these guys. They come across the border, assholes filled with drugs, sell them to suburban white kids, and all of the sudden these kids have pink eye. It’s an epidemic, Detective.” Lou grunted a little laugh as he kept working on the Mule’s face. “This guy,” Lou continued, "he can speak. He’s just a fucking drug mule who’s too well trained to say a goddamn word.”

“Lou…Jesus Christ, man. Al Qaeda breaks easier than this guy. He can’t speak. He can’t hear. He has no words for anything in his head.”

“Spare me the bleeding heart pussy stuff,” Lou said.

“He’s probably from a small village where nobody is deaf and he never learned how to speak or communicate in any way.”

Lou turned away from the Mule who was bound to his chair, bleeding, bruised, and sweating but, for some reason, still grinning like an idiot.

“Get off this sob story, bullshit,” Lou said. “I’m sick of protocol. I’m sick of bullshit.”

“When his lawyer gets here, we’re fucked.”

“What’s he going to say to the lawyer? The lawyer will have to beat the shit out of him to represent him! Leave the room if you’re not a fan of what I’m doing here.”

Detective Ennis shut up and sat back in the dark corner of the interrogation room. He watched, but only to cover his own ass at this point.

“Not another word about this fucking mute!” Lou said as he turned back to the sculpture of flesh he was remolding. “You’re going to fucking talk.”

The Mule looked through Lou; he wasn’t grinning anymore. He just stared at the emptiness behind Lou’s eyes.


Lou grabbed the legs of the Mule’s chair and threw it over. He hopped onto the Mule’s chest and straddled him as he choked him.

“Talk! You son of a bitch! Talk!”

The Mule stared into Lou’s eyes, steely cold, with no words in his head to describe his hatred. Lou was crazy too and stared right back. He stared at the bloody corners of what used to be the Mule’s mouth.

Then it happened.

The skin flaps where the Mule’s lips had been moved. Lou stared at them, waiting for words to emerge.

Fuck you, they said, punctuated with blood.

Lou turned to Ennis.

“Did you hear that? Did you hear what this druggie said!?”

“I didn’t hear a goddamn thing,” Ennis said. “You oughta get a hold of yourself. You’re going to kill him.”

Fuck you, you pussy. You American pig.

“Keep talking, you son of a bitch!” Lou’s hands revisited their grip around the Mule’s neck.

Kill me, motherfucker.

“Lou!” Ennis yelled. “He’s not saying a damn thing! He’s a fucking mute!”

“Fuck you!” Lou yelled and tightened his grip.

You cocksucker. You son of a bitch.

Lou stared into the Mule’s eyes until the Mule let out his last breath. He didn’t notice Ennis trying to tear the two apart. He didn’t notice Ennis screaming for him to stop. He stared into the Mule’s eyes until everything behind them was gone. Until the wordless defiance behind them had burned out.

Your wife is a whore. I know every curve and flab of her body, you pig. I’ve counted her bruises. I’ve kissed her black eyes. I fucked her real good.

“He won’t shut the fuck up!” Lou yelled and punched the dead man in the face.

There was nothing but the echo of the Mule’s blood-choked gasping in the room.

You can’t kill me.

“He wouldn’t shut up,” Lou said.

“Lou! You son of a bitch! What the fuck do we do now?”

Lou snapped out of it. He unwrapped the towel from around his knuckles and dropped it on the Mule’s still opened eyes. They reminded him of his wife.

“I don’t know.” Lou paused. “You’re a good cop, you’ll figure it out. I gotta get home early and make sure my wife ain’t sucking anybody’s dick. Surprise her with flowers, you know.” He walked out of the room.