Although fictional, The Devil’s Closet was inspired by an actual case that I investigated during the course of my law enforcement career. It is said that all law enforcement officers have that one particular case that becomes permanently embedded in their memories-and souls. The case that I refer to here is my “one.” Throughout the CeeCee Gallagher books, The Devil’s Closet remains most special to me. The inspiration for the book is actually a man, or monster (take your pick), that I investigated for child pornography after it was passed along to me by the FBI.
Unfortunately, the case became much more than that. As a parent, and a human being, it’s frightening to realize that a man such as this, a man I’ll call the Doll Man, has been functioning in our society for the fifty-plus years of his life. Without so much as a speeding ticket, the possibility or probability of heinous acts by him is widespread in one’s own imagination. Take a minute and look out your window, across the street to your neighbor’s house: the quiet, private, neighbor with the well manicured lawn who has been in the neighborhood for over twenty-five years. Most consider him quiet and harmless, right? I’m sure the Doll Man’s neighbors were just as naïve until I found his personal chamber of horrors. Little did they know that on the days their small children were playing outside in the sprinkler, they were being photographed by a dark shadow that loomed in the upstairs attic of a house down the street. In reality, to comprehend another human being as sadistic and ill as the Doll Man is sometimes too much for the average citizen to bear. Only a few, significant, scenes and characteristics of The Devil’s Closet are actual accounts of situations I encountered during the investigation. The scene when CeeCee describes the contents of the closet, I can assure you, is true. The fictional killer’s modified doll, as disturbing as it seems, is also true.
I couldn’t help but incorporate the Doll Man’s utter hatred for me into the fictional killer’s feelings of CeeCee. The numerous death threats made during the investigation led me to believe that the Doll Man knew that I saw him for what he was. Of course, like CeeCee does in the novel, I took his favorite doll which further infuriated him. He didn’t fixate on the FBI Agents, the other detectives, or anyone else-only me. Of course these threats ultimately added several months to his sentence. He was convicted of child pornography and aggravated menacing. Frightening is the fact that this man is now out among us again, with no supervision or sex offender label. He’s out to do what he pleases. If you wonder how this is possible, understand it is not a crime in the state of Ohio, (or any state I’m aware of), to pretend that a harem of dolls are little girls. To sexually molest life-size dolls while pretending they’re little girls is quite legal. Disturbing, isn’t it? But the question remains. Where does it end? There was no concrete evidence that this man had ever touched or harmed a child and the investigation was not authorized to go forward.
Like most writers, my imagination went into overdrive at that point. What is he doing? What has he done in the past? What will he do in the future? How long will he be satisfied with only dolls? My concerns fell on deaf ears. Some of you may remember the case of Amy Mihaljevic, the 10-year old girl who was abducted from a Cleveland suburb and brutally murdered. Her killer was never found and, although there has been much speculation from the experts, no arrest has been made. Chillingly, her body was found in a cornfield less than fifteen miles from the Doll Man’s house. Coincidence? Could be but, again, there’s always the possibility. This is a possibility I have considered since the day I opened his closet doors. It’s an unsettling story. One I felt could be told through CeeCee and her appealing co-workers.
Although CeeCee’s family and friends strongly resemble my own, there is nothing familiar with any of them. With such a disconcerting subject, I added more of CeeCee’s on-going romance with Michael and her doomed marriage to Eric; to lighten it a bit. The reality of it is that marriages in law enforcement make Hollywood marriages look like the Bible belt. Sad, but true. Every time we turn the news on it seems that another child has been abducted, or worse, murdered. The unfortunate reality of it is that there are many child predators, like the fictional killer in The Devil’s Closet, that exist in society without our knowledge. They could be your quiet neighbor next door, the retired fellow who bags your groceries, or even your child’s little league coach. Be diligent and aware, and enjoy The Devil’s Closet.
Hopefully, you’ll walk away with, not only an enjoyable read, but a clear message. The message isn’t that you should spend your life looking over your shoulder. But, the next time you’re walking with your child at the park on a warm summer day, you may want to hold their hand just a little tighter. …I know I will.