Mr. McDougal held onto me like his life depended on it. I didn’t need to ask for the room, just show up at the door.

“Meeting a man in the bar to play some chess!”

I’m sure. “Don’t drink too much!”

“What? And get my ears boxed by Mrs. McDougal?”


Mabel and I sat on the sofa in the hotel room, our knees touching, holding hands. “I wanted to see you before you left.”

“In the morning.”

“Yeah. I know.”


Tears welled in my eyes. “I feel like I can’t go on.”

“You will.”

“I know I will. I know I will.”

“You should come to the farm.”

“I’m thinking a couple of weeks might do me good.”

“I’m thinking years.”

I sighed, long. “I have to catch him.”

“There’s people for that.”

“It’s personal. He got a hold of me after I left the meeting.”

Mabel didn’t look shocked.


“Moments, Mabel. Moments. There, on the floor, him over me. That helpless feeling.”

“An overarching metaphor for us and the universe.”



“I want to kill him.”

“Murdering him won’t make the pain go away.”

“I won’t feel so helpless.”

“Helpless against your deep drive to kill him.”

I shrugged, biting my lip.

“Jay got raped.”

“Is she OK?”

“Seems no worse for wear. Guy she was dating.” I rolled my eyes. “She was dating him, dumped him for someone else, David. David had what little brains he had blown out in the cafeteria.”

“He had a long file, drug abuse. How he avoided rehab all these years is anyone’s guess.”

“Oh, you read all the records?”

“Wouldn’t be professional if I didn’t.”

“She goes back with the old boyfriend.”

“Revenge sex.”

“He called it a grudge fuck.”

“Colorful.” She chuckled. “Authorities?”



“Hard drive to the hoop.”

“Often is.”

“Well, at least she banged him before, such that it was, and it wasn’t the entire 5th regiment or a guy who’d stick anything handy in a cunt or rectum.”

We laughed. We held our stomachs and laughed until the tears came.


“I thought some day John and I would marry –”

“That’d have been greedy of you.”

“The baby thing?”

“Yes. He’s a young man, driven to procreate. Would you really take that away from him, claiming to love him at the same time?”

“I do love him.”

“I’m sure he loves you, too.”


“Often, love isn’t enough.”

Anger welled in my chest. “Mabel, when we met, he was a fucking mess, shy, scared of his own shadow, thinking himself not worthy of anything.”

“Likely his parent’s voices.”

“Definitely his parent’s voices. I rolled my sleeves up and built him piece by piece like a tinker-toy castle.”

“Then he fledged.”


“Just because some therapists insist many if not most men want to marry their mothers doesn’t mean it’s true.”

“Oedipus didn’t know Jocasta was his mother.”

“As John wouldn’t know, at the time, you are his surrogate mother. In time, he’d realize.”

“And, be so horrified, he’d claw his eyes out?”

“Nothing so dramatic. Likely, just come to resent you, like he resents his birth mother.”

“Repeating the drama over and over.”

“If Oedipus knew Jocasta was his mother, he’d never have bedded her.”

“Maybe he would, then be horrified before he even withdrew.”

“We are human beings with drives and emotions –”

I nodded. “I know this one: and choices.”

“Better choices come easier to elders.”

“Youth is driven by the blood spilling out onto the soil.”

“Knowing that, would you still kill him?”

“Yes. Twice.”


I wanted to speak of my rape, Snow taking me as a surrogate for his sister. I wanted us to hold our stomachs and laugh until the tears came. I felt – excited – Snow wanted me so much he violated me, my body, the laws of man, the morals of God, and the taboos of society to take me.

What could be more flattering?

I was fifteen, Snow twenty. Unlike with Janet, I didn’t need to prove rape. Rape was statutory.

Of course, excited isn’t the correct word.


I wanted to ask Mabel if she thought me emotionally dead.


Mr. McDougal introduced a half-dozen elderly men gathered around a table, chessboard in play. All flirted with me, all pleased to meet me, each taking my hand in turn, two kissing my knuckles. I said we could draw a name from a hat for the honor of buying me dinner.

“I’ll see you on the farm.”

Mr. McDougal winked. “Make that sooner than later.


A squad car waited at the curb.


“You can call me Doodles. Everyone does.”

“I’m not everyone.”

She nodded, pushing from the car, opening the door. “I insist.”

“I don’t need a bodyguard.”

“I actually suggested an escort, 24-7.”

“You’ll be late for dinner.”

“Lights and sirens. I’ll make it.”


We rolled to a stop in the middle of the street thirty yards from my house. Rebecca spoke across me. “Pete.”

I nodded. “Pete.”

“Lind, Doodles.”

“I really don’t need you guys to sit on me. I don’t need your protection.”

Pete smiled. “Protection? You’re bait. If we wanted to keep you safe, I’d sit high visible on your porch.”



“Don’t get out. I’m fine.”

Rebecca unbuttoned her shirt, fishing inside. “Don’t tell anyone where you got these. I could lose my job.” She passed an envelope.”

“This is?”

“The information on Pastor Pervert you were looking for. All medical history is filed, available to insurance companies.”

“I did not know that.”

“My card, my private number’s on the back.”

“I’ll code it in speed dial.”

“Lind, keep your head down.”

“Count on it.”


“Bye, Doodles.” A whisper, putting Mom’s cell to my ear as the car pulled off. “Hey, Kelley. News?”


“I’ll see if Mom’s in any state to pick Dad up.”

“I checked. I was going to have Mort drop him off.”

“And, give him a heart-to-heart?”

“You know me so well. He got a ride, someone from work, I gathered. Going to pick up his car. About an hour ago.”

“He should have been home by now.”




Evening crept in. I stood on the porch, speaking into the phone. “Where’d the blood work get done?”


“Sorry. I was in the middle of a thought. Hi, Ronnie, how are you?”

“I’m fine. Yourself?”

“Long day. Where’d you get the blood work done?”

“There in the hospital.”

“Are samples archived?”

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“I mean: Can you go back and retest samples?”

“That depends on many of things. I think they keep the samples for sixty days in the unlikely event of an error or the need to retest the sample, then discard.”

“I’m looking at a record: syphilis and two strains of gonorrhea. Do they have genetic markers?”

“Genetic markers?”

“I mean: Can we test and see if what this guy’s got and what I had are the same strain?”

“I’m not a hematologist –”

“Come on, Doc. Take a guess.”

“I would guess yes. I’d think, though, such would require a court order.”

I’ll call the mayor.


I’m certainly not an epidemiologist, but I know diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea aren’t shuffled around sitting on toilet seats. If I could connect Madison’s infections to mine, it’d mean he shared a partner with my nemesis.


I was greeted by Mom sipping coffee at the dining room table, a huge flower arraignment as a centerpiece.



“It’s a greeting.”

“Oh, sorry.”

“I sprung Dad – again.”

“Thank you.”

“I called him out sick.”

She blushed. “Thanks.”

“Did you manage to hold any food down today?”

“Finally, yes.”

“Feel any better?”

“Depressed, lonely, disappointed.”

See a shrink.

“I can understand that. Who sent you flowers? I know you lied to me about getting tested. We need to get you tested first thing tomorrow. I’d thought you gave Dad something. I think maybe the other way around, now.”

Another blush, averted eyes. “The flowers are for you. I have to work.”

“We’ll see Ronnie down the hospital at 7. I’ll call her later. It’d be fine. Me? From who?”

The note read: You know we should be together.

My thoughts flipped from John to Snow. “Son-of-a-bitch.” I put Mom’s phone to my ear, hitting speed-dial. “Hi, Rebecca. How’s dinner?”

“Mom makes the best spaghetti and meatballs.”

“Sorry to interrupt. Can you come by the house after dinner?”

“Sure. What’s up?”

“I got flowers.”

“Call Kelley. Pete can get right on it.”

I shrugged. “No hurry. It’ll give you a chance to do some detecting instead of holding the shit bucket for the important people.”

“Thanks. See you within the hour.”


I looked down on Mom. Dad’s had a psychotic break. I think he’s dangerous. The words didn’t sound right in my head. “Mom, I think Dad’s gone south –”


“It’s an expression. He doesn’t seem like himself.”

She rolled her eyes. “We’re all acting uncharacteristically since –”

The landline screamed. “Damn phone.” I put the receiver to my ear. “What?”

“Sorry Lind! Should I call back?”

“No. Good to hear your voice. How’s the day?”

“Better, you know. After I get shot in the shoulder and a gun to my head, just about everything’s downhill. I did get my period, thank whatever god’s looking down on us and I gotta get to the clinic and some blood work done.”

“I’ve always said smacking kindergartners around every Wednesday would toughen ‘em up and prepare ‘em better for life than singing Barney songs.”

Janet laughed. “Bobby called. Said now that we’re even, we can start over.”

“You’re fucking kidding me?”

“So, I’m thinking: I could say yes, plan a romantic evening again, once we’re alone I could smack him around with a baseball bat and then fuck him with it.”

“Him balled up at your feet crying, you could toss the bat on the floor, put your hands on your hips and say: Now, we’re even!”

“As much as I like him, he showed me a side I can never get past.”

“I kinda learned that. We can fool ourselves, seeing people painted with the collage of what we remember them to be.”

“People change. I change, you change.”

“Years ago, Jay, you sat down in the sand. You had a bucket –”

“Red, with a white handle.”

“Flowers on the side.”


“You looked at me. I scooped up sand, filling your bucket.”

“Yeah, I remember like it was yesterday.”

“We’ve been filling each other’s buckets ever since.”

“Yeah. I love you, Lind.”

“I love you, Jay.”

“Coming over?”

“Dad’s taking me to a movie. Mom wants some Mom-time. Wanna come?”

“I gotta carry the shit bucket.”

She laughed. “You learned a new term!”

“Oh, so appropriate.”

“If anyone – that’s to say anyone – gets to calling you their little poo girl, I’ll invite them over my house.”

“You have a baseball bat.”

“Indeed, I do.”


With the receiver nestled on the cradle, I turned back to Mom. The phone rang again.

“Son-of-a-bitch!” Through my teeth: “What!”

Dead air into eternity, then: “Hello, Lindsey.”

“Let me look out the window, John’s End Time must be at hand.”

“Easy, Lindsey.”

“I know how much you hate the phone.”

“I need to see you –”

“I bet you do.”

“I mean, I need to explain – explain’s not the right word.”

“If you need absolution, I can recommend a priest.”

“Ten minutes.”

I smirked. “Tell you what: Bring your medical bag. I need you to draw some blood, run it through the lab off the grid –”

“Do you know how many laws –”

“You violated my confidential medical records just to get my phone number. You raped a minor. I don’t see where you have much problem violating laws, statutes, regulations and very good suggestions.”

A second pause into eternity. “OK. I have to stop at the –”

“I don’t care what you have to do. See you in about an hour.” If you plan a repeat performance, Rebecca and I can draw straws to determine who shoots you.


Once more, I turned to Mom. Once more, the phone rang.

“Hello, Lindsey. Like the flowers?”




Mom tried to ask who raped what minor. I waved her off.

“Yeah. What girl doesn’t like flowers? Let me get a pen. OK. I want to send you a thank you note. What’s your name and address?”

I flipped Mom’s phone open, hit Rebecca’s number, holding the mouthpiece to the landline’s receiver.

He chuckled. “You’re amazing.”

“Yeah, I am. Why don’t you come over?”

“I’m sure the house is being watched.”

“OK. What do you want?”

“Frankly, I wanted to hear your voice, masturbate.”

“I should charge five bucks a minute. Where should I send the bill?”

Another chuckle. “If only you’d look hard in the mirror, you’d realize how much alike we are, how much we could enjoy each other. Sure, you stabbed one person. You have no idea the exquisite bliss in bringing the anguish. I know you felt it when the knife sunk in his chest, when you rode his flaccid body to the floor, when he gurgled, his lung filling with blood.”

“You don’t know much of anything. You don’t know me at all.”

“I can tell by your eyes. Ask Ronnie Bosch sometime. She’ll outline the facets of evil penetrating your soul. She listens. That’s what psychiatrists do. Ask sometime. She’s got a file, deep and rich, on you, much speculation but I bet much on the mark.”

“Who’s that ranting in the background?”

“I’d tell you the TV, but you’re too smart for that. A friend.”

“There’s a surprise.”

“What is?”

“You having a friend.”

“He’s not really a friend.”

“You just shrugged your shoulders, didn’t you?”

“I did. I don’t have friends. I use people.”


“My pleasure.”

“You get off hurting people.”

“Not really. I’m getting off now, not hurting you.” A long sigh. “All I did to you. All the times – you can’t remember –”

“Don’t count on it.”

“Oh? You remember? How much?”

“Most, maybe the last day’s lost, the last two days a blur.”

“You’re magnificent.”

You have no fucking idea.

“You and me, Lindsey, perfect together. I’d never do anything like that to you again. You’re perfection, an ideal, a goddess incarnate. Oh, what we could do, the heights of ecstasy, the bliss we could attain.” He panted. “Oh, the times my semen entered your body!” He grunted repeatedly, consummating in a long sigh.

“Feel better now?”

“We could do so much together. I was amazed you’d reach out to your father again. How many times does he have to shit in your face before you get the idea he hates you? I was sure you’d leave him rot in jail this time. The strings you pull could get you all tangled up in a lot of trouble. What if I called the newspapers with the story of a guy who keeps getting arrested on drinking related offences and never charged? How about that? Corruption right up to the mayor.”

I held my breath.

“Your mother’s on the edge. A little push, she’s going over. With your father in jail and your mother in the hospital, you’d have no place to go – then you can accept my generous offer, come live with me.”

Ha! I’d be off to the farm for those two years!

“The thought of eight or ten on-the-verge-of-puberty girls isolated on a farm with only two old people between me and them fills me with so much pleasure, I can’t stand it.”

“They’re not your type. You’re not a classic pedophile. Your psychosis is more insidious. You don’t want just any child. You have a type. I got this idea when you were a snot-nosed pathetic little shit, you fell puppy-love with the princess down the street. Tall and lanky, all arms and legs, soft brown sugar hair to her waist, complexion white-ochre like the sand of a virgin beach in late afternoon, large eyes. I’d like to think you approached her once and she laughed at you, but I’m betting it’s even more pathetic than that. You never spoke to her, knowing in your heart you were just a little shit.”

“Fuck you.”

“See? You can feel without extremes.”

“She was ten. I’ve had my best dreams about her.”


“She took my breath away. All I could do is stare at her.”

“Like a goddess.”

“Like that.”

“So, was I right? You thought yourself such a little puke, you couldn’t talk to her?”

“She died.”


“She took sick, didn’t come to school, then we were told she died.”



“To celebrate your love for a girl you never knew, you kill children who remind you of her?”

“Fuck you. It’s not about that at all. With your parents out of the picture, I’m sure Jay’s parents would invite you.”

“I get it. If I don’t join you in the reindeer games, you’re going to kill everyone I care about.”

“Don’t be so dramatic. I don’t have to kill everyone, merely disrupt their lives like with your mother and father.”



“Yeah. OK. We’ll do this.”


“Rebecca, you get all that?”

“Yeah. Untraceable throwaway, but we have a region.”

“Mabel –”

“I’m on my way to the elevator now.”


“Mort’s on top. Kelley –”

“Just came through my door.”


Dad was the only one not accounted for.


Kelley asked whether I was all right. I shrugged. “He’s so predictable. Pull all your personal files, ready your people for their new assignments.”


Dad arrived, stinking of beer and bad cigars. I invited him to sit at the table. Kelley provided encouragement, twisting Dad’s arm behind his back.

Snow arrived, having enough sense to wear a lab coat.

“Draw blood.” I waved my arm toward Mom and Dad. Snow obeyed.

I explained to Kelley: “I had a psychic vision Mom and Dad’s strain of gonorrhea is the same as Pastor Perverts.”

“Gonnorr –”

“Shut up, Dad. And, Kelley, I think the same as mine.” I produced the reports, pointing.

“Where’d you get these?”

I shrugged. “Told you: psychic vision.”

Kelley stared at me. “If that’s the case –”

“Our suspect list is narrowed –”





Kelley paced, her phone to her ear, Snow closing his bag.

“Would someone please tell me what’s going on here?”

“OK, Dad. That urinary tract infection is gonorrhea.”

He narrowed his eyes. “Are you sure? How do you know?”

“Yes, and it doesn’t matter. It’d be a great help if you told us who you’ve had sexual intercourse with.”


“Yes, gonorrhea. I can tell you the same thing you told me in the hospital: Thank God it’s not AIDS.”

“I feel so –”

“Dirty? Corrupt?”

Dad looked at Kelley. “Can I go take a shower?”

May I. With a snicker, I told Dad he wasn’t under arrest and he could do what he pleased.

As Dad climbed to his feet, Kelley closed her phone, looking at Mom. “Were you with anyone other than Pastor Madison?”

“Wha –”

I’d wondered how Dad would react. He was predictable.

“You slut!” With a step, he backhanded Mom’s cheek, following with a fist, Mom’s chair going backwards.

Even before Kelley said Madison, I was in motion, separating blade from wood, moving around the table.

Kelley pushed my shoulder, sending me hard to the floor by way of the china cabinet. She kidney-punched Dad, hard, twice, placed a foot in front of his ankle, taking him to the floor, sitting on his back, handcuffs appearing.

Now, you’re going in the system.”


Sitting at the dining room table, Snow applied butterflies to my left forearm, the blade opening my flesh when I fell. “Mom always told me not to play with knives.”

“I still can’t believe it.”

“What, exactly?”

“Like, everything?”

Kelley left with Dad, the ambulance with Mom, her jaw dislocated.

I shrugged. “Day in the life.”

“You looked like you were going to kill him.”

“I wasn’t planning to trim his nails.”

“Should get some stitches. I think these’ll do. Keep it dry –”

“I know the drill.”

Snow bit his lip. “I wanted to say I was sorry.”

“I figured as much when you screamed What have I done! in anguish.”

“I wanted to explain. I can’t. It’s like I was possessed.”

“What’s your sexual history?”

“I’m not a rapist –”

“Oh, you’re a rapist, by definition. I wasn’t asking if you were a serial rapist. You tore me open and ejaculated in me. Semen is rich with the nasties of every partner you’ve had. With my lacerations, it’s like you giving me a direct injection.”

“I can check out –”

“Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

“You will get checked?”

“The bleeding stopped. I’m OK.”

“Let me take your blood, too.”

“I’ll get Ronnie to do it. I don’t trust you.”

He pursed his lips, taking my hand. “You didn’t hesitate, I mean, you’re not afraid to be alone with me. That could be a signal you want to do it again.”

“Do it again? I didn’t do anything. Don’t for a second delude yourself. We didn’t make love, have sex or make out. You committed a violent act against me, no different from what Dad just did to Mom.”


“There’s no sorry big enough for what you did.”

“Lind. I’m not that guy, I –”

“You are a collection and the sum of everything you’ve done and do. I know you’re not just my rapist. You might even be a good guy. You might even be in love with me. But, you took from me something I should have a choice in giving. You violated my soul and maybe worse, your soul. You’ve created a mountain you can never climb.”

“I understand. Now there’s two women in the world I’m sick in love with I can never have.”

“I find that a fitting punishment.”

“Man, you’re harsh.”

“You didn’t sit in my flesh, gnashing teeth against the white pain while you violated the laws of man and God.” I nodded, watching his eyes. “To be forever removed from what you love the most, indeed, a punishment worthy of God’s hand.

“I don’t envy your torment. I do appreciate it.”

“If I could change things, I would.”

If I could buy condoms on the corner –

“I am sorry.”

“I told you on the phone: I will not accept your apology. See a priest.”


I stood at the door, Snow the step down, bringing us to the same height.

“I feel bad, leaving you alone.”


“You should get that looked at.”

“My arm or do you mean where you tore me open?”

“OK, OK. If you change your mind –”

“I won’t.”


I watched Snow’s back, swallowed by the darkness on his way to the car. I thought of Dad, his head in hands, sitting on the cot in the cell again. I thought of Mom slipping over the edge into the abyss of psychosis. A whisper to the night: “To be forever removed from what you love the most, indeed, a punishment worthy of God’s hand.”


Rebecca pulled to the curb, climbing from the squad car. “Some night.” She hit the steps. “The McDougal’s are off. God, what a wonderful woman!”

“Yeah, I love her.”

“I’ll be out here.” She thumbed over her shoulder.

“If you’re going to sit on me, do it in the house.”

“My instructions are to be visible, but not in your way.”

“You guys have a mind-meld? You know what happened to my mother and father?”

“Yeah. We’re kept up to date.”

“I could use the company.”

“Let me get my laptop. I’m working on a long shot.”


She set up on the dining room table, me over her shoulder.

“You’ve been wearing the same clothes since this morning?”

“Haven’t stopped since yesterday, I think.”

“I don’t want to do each other’s hair or toenails or anything, but how about I get you a nightshirt and robe, you take a shower, I’ll wash and iron your uniform?”

“You’d do that for me?”

“Sure, I don’t have my mother to pick up after tonight.”




Rebecca arranged the computer and notes on the dining room table. She wore one of Mom’s robes, her hair wrapped in a towel. “I used the deodorant and shampoo.”

“Not a problem. Close the computer. I want to share something.” I set two cups on the table. “Something I learned when I was a kid.”

“It’s not my place to discuss your inappropriate behavior, only where it might effect me.”

“Stop detecting. Leads to wrong guesses.”

I retrieved a pitcher from the kitchen, filling the cups.

Rebecca shrugged, carefully tasting. “This, Lindsey has got to be the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted.”

“I agree.” Taking my chair, I sipped. “Powered cocoa, natural sugar, a splash of vanilla, buttermilk coaxed to hot in a double boiler. That’s important, not shocking or scorching the milk.”

“Man, it’s worth the trouble.”

“Now: we drink, relax, clear our minds.”

“I’m going to search –”

I gave her my traffic cop palm. “Nope. Now, we drink.”

“Now we drink.”


Ten minutes leaked by as we drank, watching each other.


“Feel better? Looser?”

Rebecca stretched, unwinding the towel from her hair. “Yeah.”

“Meditation, farm style. You wanted to talk to me about my inappropriate behavior?”

“I avoid sticking my opinion where it doesn’t belong.”


“But: you’re a sexualized teenager, out of control. In that –”


“When children are exposed to the wrong things, they become sexualized –”

“I have a good idea what sexualized means. I mean, we’re exposed to the reality of sex as soon as we can understand the language –”

“TV, social influences, the drive for girls to fit an idea –”

“I was thinking more along the lines of when I asked Mom about eggs, learning about roosters and chickens. Few creatures of the world, both animal and vegetable, are asexual.”

“I’m not talking about reproduction, eh –”

“Difficult to separate the two. What’s your point?”

“I try not to judge. Not my place.”

“One of the things about being human is we think stuff. The way you see stuff defines who you are, is as much a part of you as your big toe or uterus. People who shy away from having opinions in the name of not judging watch too much daytime feel-good, self-help TV.”

“OK, John.”

“Asshole, yeah. Sorry.”

She blushed. “We actually had a date, once.”


“No. Believe it or not, he used to be really shy.”

“Hard to believe.”

“I’ve watched you with him particularly, with Mort and Pete, too.”

I shrugged.

“You project a sexual overtone, an under taste in everything you do.”

Maybe I do. I had no way of measuring such a thing being the mouse in the box. “I am a girl, they’re guys.”

“That’s the point. You’re a child –”

Was a child. My childhood was ripped from me, burned out with lye and bleach. My childhood was cleansed in white-hot fire. I think back, I try to think back before my life went to Hell, I try to climb back into that skin suit, I try to feel what it was like, but I’ve been so forever changed, I can’t see or understand how I used to be. I don’t know if I was normal, if we can apply such a word.

“Now, I’m trapped in the bent and crippled body of a fifteen-year-old, a cruel joke on humanity. I don’t belong here. I’m a misplaced zygote, a cuckoo hidden in the nest, raised by people not my own. I remember my parents. My parents are not the people I’m living with now.”

I narrowed my eyes. “You thought I was coming onto you?”

She blushed. “You’re right: Detecting can sometimes lead to mistakes. I’ve made assumptions –”

“Just don’t get stuck in the mud.”

“I can see why John is so taken with you. That, I thought inappropriate.”

“In, oh, so many ways.”

“Not that it was completely John’s idea.”

“I understand Kelley’s Machiavellian drive –”

“What? Mach-a-who?”

“A do-what-it-takes, the ends justifies the means, attitude.”

“Yeah. In my opinion, she crosses the line too often.”

“So, you think me a slut and a whore?”

Rebecca bit her lip. “Not exactly, but here’s the good reason I keep my opinion to myself unless something directly involves me. People get all pissy when told something they disagree with.”

“I try not to get defensive. I do have strong opinions. I guess I can come off disagreeable.”

“Just a little. All I really meant was we – you and me – must have boundaries.”


“And, your relationship with John’s inappropriate.”

“In your opinion. We never had sex. I can’t, by the way.”

She shrugged. “I stated my opinion.”

“Yes, you did.”

Thumbing through her papers, she produced a report. “Background: not everyone breaking the law gets arrested.”

I nodded. “Some people don’t go in the system.”

“Yes. That’s how we say it. Your father’s a good example.”

“He caught a couple of good breaks.”

“There’re places downtown, with the propensity for extreme behavior.”

“You can be frank.”

“Private clubs, kinda open to the public. Men, drinking –”

“Doesn’t bode well.”

“No, not at all. Anyway, we – meaning the police – get calls about disturbances. Fights, shoving, often involving many people.”

“You don’t gang-arrest? Is that what you’re saying?”

“We breakup the fight, move people along. We can’t fill the jails and give people police records simply because boys will be boys.”

I nodded.

“We do, however, take names.”

“If the same names keep popping up, you then make arrests?”

“Much like that.”

“And, your point?”

Rebecca eyed me, taking measure. “I did a search for your father’s name. He popped up on a list.”

“No doubt. He’s a violent drunk.”

She bit her lip. “It’s where his name comes up.” She passed the list. “It’s a place men go to have sex.”

I crossed my eyes at the implications. “Sex and drinking. No women involved?”

“Eh, no.”

“You’re saying he likely doesn’t know his sex partners.”

“Your idea doesn’t narrow the search, as you thought it might.”

“Leroy Johnson.” That Johnson. “Why’m I not surprised to see his name above Dad’s?”




He was surprised I gave in, I think his desire overcoming reason. In what universe across the vast concept of quantum physics would I bring the fire he rained down on me to any human being? His threats concerned me. Kelley didn’t have the manpower to sit on everyone in my life. I was willing to lie, to tell him: “Sure, we’ll do it.”

Details to follow. He had things to take care of, preparations.


Rebecca dressed. I made coffee.

“I thought you needed a phone line.”

“Wireless connection.”

She plowed through news archives while I put her hair up.

“You should get some sleep.”

“Yeah, just what I could do, after the day I’ve had.”

I enjoyed a long, hot shower instead, slipping into a flower print sundress, strapping my pistol high on my thigh. Flats, sandals.


“I think I found something.” Rebecca sat back, her fingers joined behind her neck.

“What?” I leaned over her shoulder, squinting. “Helena Chanler?” I read. “She was eleven. Find her picture?”

“A ten-year-old might not know how old his classmates are.” She opened a file. “Look familiar?”


“As much as we’d like to think all information is available on the Internet –”

“Road trip?”

“I can make a call. I’m assigned to stay with you –”

“I’m in.”


Dad’s escapades didn’t surprise me. Human beings live in a prison of restrictions: rules, polite behavior, society stand as a bulwark against desire. Younger, when left alone in the house, I had the strange impulse to run the halls with scissors. I had no reason to run with scissors, other than being free.

Dad was set free, his universe collapsed, any reason for him to restrain the inner child melted away by the incident. Dad was set free to be the child he wished to be. He hit me in anger. Nowhere in all those quantum universes could I imagine my father ever doing such a thing, even when I sat on the floor rubbing my cheek.

Dad wasn’t gay. Dad had no reason to have sex with men, like I had no reason to run in the house with scissors.

“I can understand wanting even small moments where he’s not drowning in pain.”


I waved Rebecca off, trading one school yearbook for another.

“What if it’s not here?” The library archive hosted hundreds of yearbook, stowed in mislabeled boxes.

“Than that’s what we’ll discover.”

The firestorm rained on my life. I imagined the dad of my memory a caged animal set free to be what he is. Still, I hoped, wished, prayed I could ride the storm out, the dad of my memory the real dad, somehow sanity returning.

Mom, who used to be the strongest person I’ve even known with maybe one exception, crumbled like a sublevel cinderblock wall under the sway of time and hydrostatic pressure.

“We are the sum of all we’ve done, all we are.”

Rebecca narrowed her eyes in the dim light, looking over the stack of books. “OK. I agree. Absolutes don’t apply.”


“A person is not bad or good.”

“Yeah. You think my mom and dad can ever be who they where?”

“Who you think they were?” She raised an eyebrow, returning to a book, flipping pages.

“Yeah, that’s what I mean. But then, you think they can ever get over this?”

“Ask your shrink.”

“No opinion? I won’t hold you to it.”

“I feel each day affects us, changing us little by little. Big events have a greater impact.”

“I’d think older people aren’t so affected, changed, by events. There’s gotta come a time when –”

“Ask your shrink. I don’t know.”


“Oh, calm down, Lindsey. Not everyone has the same interests as you, is analytical as you. Not everyone cares to talk everything to death like we’re on a daytime talk show –”

“Huh? Oh. No. Sorry.” I held up a book. “I found her.”

“Make my day and tell me there’s names on that class picture. We can compare the list to –”

“No need, Rebecca. I recognize him even as a little snot.”

I thought she’d come out of her skin. “A name? Is there a name?”

“Yeah. Leroy Johnson.”


That Johnson.


Chicken, egg.


“Can’t be a coincident.” I watched over Rebecca shoulder. Johnson’s employment record began days before I was kidnapped.

“Just shows he’d been stalking you a long time.”

“Maybe he gets off on being up close and personal with the collateral damage.”

Rebecca put her phone to her ear. “Kelley.”


“We got him.”

“You sure?”


“I’ll make the calls. Meet in the war room. Let’s suit up.”


Kelley’s eyes shown cold in the predawn stillness. “This is where the rubber meets the road.”

“Doesn’t make sense.”

“Why, Lind?”

“High-rise? I wasn’t kept in a high-rise.”

“He’s got another place. We’ll find it.”

“I feel like I’m at Normandy.”

Rebecca glanced from behind her face shield. “Where?”

“Second World War.” Kelley twisted her lips. “That started with an aerial assault, we’re strictly ground.”

My earwig buzzed. “We’re ready.”

Thirty people in body armor clutching semi-automatic weapons peppered the landscape creating a gauntlet. Kelley nodded. “Doodles, attach yourself to Lind.”

“Aye, aye.”

“Overkill. You should just take him going into work at the supermarket.”

“Take down a couple dozen suspects, Lind, then we’ll talk about how best you think to do it. We know he’s dangerous. Overwhelming force.”

“Like Normandy.”

“Predawn. Catch him sleeping.” I watched her back as she hit her stride. My earwig buzzed again: “I’ll give you an all-clean when my boot’s on his neck.”


Kelley dropped her vest and helmet in Rebecca’s trunk. “Who’s not home at 5:30?”

“None of us.”

“Not to worry, Lind. Matter of time. We got his scent now.”

I worked my vest over my head. “Thing weighs more than me. I’m not worried. Maybe he’s grabbing breakfast somewhere before work?”

“I’ve got six people going shopping first thing. Doodles will take you home.”

“I got this sudden desire for a prime rib breakfast.”




Rebecca crossed her eyes, pushed her breakfast aside, put her head on the table and fell fast asleep.

“Poor thing. Too much excitement.”

Kelley laughed darkly. “She done good.”

“You should tell her that once in a while.”

“Maybe we should hold hands and sing Kumbaya.”

“Too corny. We didn’t even do that on the farm.”

Mort came to his feet. “Come on, Lind. I drew the short straw.”


I wrestled Mom’s phone to my ear as we pulled up.

“You’ve been a bad girl.”

Leaning to my left, I held the phone so Mort could hear.

“I just shrugged. What do you want? It’s been a long night.”

“I thought you’d get my present by now.”

“Yeah, got the flowers. We talked about that last night.”

“Oh, I have another.”

“I haven’t been home, but I bet you know that – Leroy.”

“Oh, you know my name. Oh, I’m so scared. I left the present in your dumpster.”

“We don’t own a dumpster.”

Your dumpster.”

“What is it?”

“A surprise.”

The connection broke.


I refused to leave the car. “You’re assigned to stay with me.”

Mort grumbled like Kelley, dropped the shifter to drive, the tires gripping hard on the asphalt as he put his phone to his ear.

Time leaked by like a trickle overtop a dam. I worked Mom’s cell phone. Janet was off to school. I caught Ronnie getting to the hospital. Mom was resting comfortably. I didn’t bother with Dad, locked in a cell.

Mort parked the car blocking the alley. I was out of the car, chasing my cane, Mort calling, hurrying. He caught my arm.

“I gotta know.”

“Let me look.”



Mort produced his pistol, a massive instrument compared with mine. Bent, bowlegged, he approached the dumpster, going to his toes, he looked, following his gun.

Mort went green, stowing the weapon.

“Lift me up.”

“Lindsey, you don’t –”

“I must.”

Mort took me in his arms, cradling me, the musk of two days in the same clothes filling my head. He hoisted me higher. I took the side of the dumpster, pulling, peeking over.

The stench of decay overcame Mort’s natural smell. I imagined myself naked, lying among the black plastic bags, old radio, windowpane with broken glass, tissues and newspapers – a half-rotted tomato, red and black held my attention. I thought, somehow, it was the same tomato in the refrigerator from five years before.

“Shouldn’t we check for vital signs?”

Reverend Madison stared at me, naked, his body contorted in a position the human body could not be.

Cars hurried to a stop in the distance, the other end of the alley blocked. Mort stepped back, stealing the vision from me.

“He’s dead, Lind. He’s real dead.”

Kelley came to Mort’s shoulder, Mort returning me to the ground.


“Good. I was thinking the worst.” She looked up and around. “I want a full canvas.”

“I guess I’ll withdraw my complaint.”

Kelley glared at Mort.

Mort shrugged. “I didn’t have a choice.”

I narrowed my eyes at Kelley. “You can’t start shutting me out now. After siccing John on me like a love-sick puppy to pump me for information – maybe pump me in another way, you can’t keep me out now.”


I thumbed over my shoulder. “I feared the worse, too. He’s in my head. You need me close. Any luck?”

“Not yet. We’ve got a mountain of property title information to run down. He’s like a ghost. Matter of time.”

“Guess he didn’t show for work.”

“Good guess. Who would you guess his next victim?”

“No brainer. My father.”

“Huh? Why?”

“I’d think Leroy had Dad out to the other house.”

Kelley put her phone to her ear. “Damn. Made bail ten minutes ago.”

“Balls like basketballs.”


That Johnson walked right into the courthouse and bailed Dad out, knowing we’re onto him.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll find –”

I shrugged. “I’m not worried. I get Dad now. To him, maybe to a lot of others, I’d have been better off dead than coming back like I have.” I gave Kelley my traffic cop hand. “I’d rather see Dad dead than what he’s become. As things are now, fate places his life in my hands. Like he went at Mom, he’s destined to get hammered and come at me. I won’t duck, cover and cower like Mom. I’ll rise to meet him and when we’re done, he’ll be dead.

“It’ll be him or me dead. Smart money’s on him.”

Kelley blinked three times hard. “I think I’d better lock you in a room with that shrink of yours.”

I thumbed over my shoulder again. “That Johnson did what we wanted to and we call him the psychopath. Madison planned to cure me, to exorcise the evil from me, likely with profane sex. As inevitable as the sun comes at dawn, Madison was coming for me. Nothing short of death was going to stop him, having God’s instructions, and all.

“What did we do? What? Nothing.”

“We did everything the law provides. There wasn’t anymore –”

Again, the thumb. “Evidently, we could have done more.”

“Listen to yourself, Lind. You’re condoning your father’s murder.”

I held her eyes. “Fate, Kelley. Fate. Providence moves us, sets paths. If I disagree with fate, I’ll stand a bulwark. I’d step into the fire for what I think worthwhile. I’d go to Hell to bring you back, however, the number of people on my list is small.

“Generally, Kelley, people get what they ask for.” I shrugged again. “Who am I to stand in that way of that?”

She narrowed her eyes. “What are you saying? You asked for all this?” She gave me the up-down. “You asked for this to happen?”

In more ways than I’d admit. “No, of course not. For any fifteen-year-old to deserve what I got, she’d have to really make a pact with the Devil like Pastor Pervert implied.

“I don’t believe in the Devil, evil demons or demonic possession –”

“But you believe in God –”

“As a sky fairy directing all this to happen? The Devil would be more understandable. Fate, the predicable turn of events. Cause-effect.

“That’s my god.”




Reverend Madison’s body dropped hard at my feet as I put Mom’s phone to my ear.

“Hey, Jack.”

“Good to hear from you. What’s up?”

“I need a big favor.”

“Water your gardens?”

“That, Jack, has been done.”

“Oh? Do tell.”

“It seems, like a cat leaves a mouse at its owner’s feet, my antagonist left Madison.”


I chuckled, the medical examiner bent to the body, lost in a flurry of camera flashes.

“As fate would have it: literally.”

“Sounds like he’s cleaning house.”

“You’re quick. That’s what I like about you.”

“What do you need?”

“I need you to go down my school, grab Janet and hide her away until this is over.”

“On my way. Does she know I’m coming?”

“No phones allowed to be turned on in school. Call me. Hand her the phone.”


I flipped the phone shut. “Thanks.”

The medical examiner was droning: “– not a quick death. Multiple injuries, none appear to be fatal –”

“If the good Pastor Madison had wings, that Johnson would’ve pulled ‘em off. He likes to bring the fire and watch his helpless vics struggle against the inevitable. The cause of death is likely internal injuries inflicted up his ass.”

The medical examiner looked past me. “What’s this child doing here?”

Kelley took me under the arm, pulling me off. “We can protect Janet.”

“Yeah. Send John. He can flirt, stick in tongue down her throat and maybe rape her.”

Kelley spun me, stepping close, hunched, putting her face in mine. “Did John rape you?”

“No, Kelley. We never had sex. I would have, though, if that’s what he wanted, needed. He got far into my head.”

“I’m sorry, Lind. I really am. I did what I thought I had to do.”

“Was that so fucking hard?”


“Saying you’re sorry.”

Kelley deflated like a helium balloon on a winter day. “Know I am, Lind, terribly sorry. I’m sorry this happened to you. I’m sorry I didn’t catch the motherfucker before he got to you. I’m sorry there’s been another vic and I’m sorry he murdered Madison. The blood, Ruth Anne’s blood, Madison’s blood, your blood is on my hands.”

“Searing your soul.”



Providence, fate, happenstance, the hand of God.

Pick one.


Four blocks from the house, Mom’s phone screamed at me.


“Lindsey. Son-of-bitch! I –”

“Jack? Jack? What’s wrong?”

“Asshole ran the red light. Dead red. Can you believe that?”

“Are you OK?”

“No. Pinned in the car. It’s a mess. I think my leg’s broken, if it’s still attached to my body.”

“Jack –”

“Help’s on the way. I hear them in the distance. Sorry, Lind.”

“Forgiven. I’ll call later.”


Flipping the phone shut, I turned to Mort. “The school. Lights and sirens.”

“Aye, aye.”


I trailed Mort, chasing my cane as fast as I could, pushing the pain down and back. He hit the door, disrupting algebra class, badging the teacher with one hand, his other on his holstered gun. “Police business.”

Out of breath, I stepped behind Mort, finding the face I wanted, relieved. “Jay. With us. Now.”

The class greeted me. I returned the greeting. The teacher asked what was going on. Mort repeated: “Police business.”


“Do you think my parents are safe?” Janet called her father, sharing an abridged version of events.

Mort opened the car door for us back at the house. “I don’t know.” He looked up and down the street. “I think we should stow you in a safe house.”

“I want him to know where I am. If not, he’ll just keep picking off people. I have faith in you.”

“Doodles is on the way.”

“I like her.”


“That’s what I like about her.”

“What’s this?” Janet stopped on the porch.

“That’s, or I should say, that used to be Lindsey Bear.”

Mort cocked his eyebrow.

“Present I gave John.”

Mort’s phone went to his ear.


Janet pouted at her father. “I want to stay with Lind!”

“I happen to agree. He wants me. This’ll be over soon.”

“A couple of weeks at your grandmother’s will do us all good. Nothing like an early vacation.” He struggled to sound light, weighted with reality.

I cupped Janet’s face in my palms. “Know: I love you.” We kissed like lovers kiss. We kissed like a wife sending her husband to war. The smell of her fabric softener, body scent and sweat-damp hair filled my head. My lips on hers, tasting her saliva, tears on her cheeks and mine, life was complete, a closed circle, full, rich, like the musk of the ocean’s breath on a predawn beach.

I expected someone to clear his or her throat. No one did.

A breathless whisper: “Me, too. Forever and for real.” A little taller, she looked down, our foreheads touching, our eyes feasting. “Don’t you get yourself fucking killed.”

“Not a chance, Jay. Not a chance.”


Mort climbed the steps having walked Janet and her parents to the car, phone to his ear. “John didn’t show up for his shift.”

I waved, Janet’s face to the window, hand frantic as the car pulled off.

“What’s his new assignment?”

“Missing Persons.”

“Ironic. Let me suggest the obvious: someone checking his house?”

“Apartment. Yes.”

I called Dad’s work.

“Sorry. She’s a no-call, no-show today.”

I looked hard at Mort. “I think the body count’s going through the roof.”

“How’s that?”

“John’s girlfriend didn’t show for work.”




Mort exchanged rote pleasantries with Rebecca, Rebecca arriving in a dark dress suit, not her uniform.

“Windows and doors?”

Mort scoffed. “Checked twice, Doodles.”

“I’ll check again.”

“I would. Now listen. We’re dealing with a crazy here.”

“No shit?”

“Listen! Don’t fool around. If you’re going to be yelling: stop, police, yell it after you shoot him.”

“He’s not coming here. I know this is babysitting – no offense, Lindsey.”

“None taken.”

“Still –”

“Not to worry, Mort. I’ve got no qualms taking ‘em out, and I’m not talking dinner and a movie.”

“That’s the spirit, kid.”

I thought she’d spit. “No problem, old man.”

Mort leaned toward her. She went on her toes. I put a hand on each chest.


Mort winced, Rebecca blushed.

“You both got a lot of balls getting chesty like that, knowing you both have guns.”

“Don’t let anything happen to Lindsey.” Mort opened the door, stepping out. “I’ve grown fond of her.”

I laughed. “Be careful out there!”


“Now what?”

“We wait. We could watch some TV.”

I narrowed my eyes. “You’re kidding, right?”

“I have orders –”

“To sit on me, I know.”

“To keep you on the sidelines.”

“Bring your handcuffs?”

She twisted her face, reaching around her back under her jacket. “Yeah. And I’m not afraid to use ‘em.”

“Let’s plug the laptop in, see how long it’ll take you to find out where Helena Chanler is buried.”

She gave me wide eyes. “Great idea!”

“You can say it was yours.”


The obituary gave us the funeral home, which put Rebecca on the phone.


Mom’s phone rang.


“Is this a bad time?”

“Nope, Pallas. What’s up?”

A sigh. “Family, you know.”

“I can guess, anyway.”


“I don’t know much about family, but I can guess.”

“Snow’s pretty depressed. Never seen him like this before.”

“Can’t imagine why.”

“Sarcasm. I get it. He’s not talking –”

That I understand.”

“Let me guess: He’s really taken with you. You, him, not so much.”

“Yeah, I’m a heartbreaker.”

“How can we fix this? What happened?”

“Snow and me had a conversation. We settled what’s going to be settled. That’s the end of this chapter, hold on, call waiting.”

“Don’t put me –”

I was greeted by a scream, inhuman, soul-deep, thirty seconds, which is an incredibly long time for a scream.

A laugh, subtle, more a chuckle. “You really should come join us.”

“Got my pen. What’s the addy?”

The scream tore at my eardrum again, eternity leaking by.

“You should see her face, oh, such a pretty face. I can see why John and your father are so mesmerized by her. She stole them away from you.”

“No, she didn’t. John and I were never a thing. You took Dad away.”

“I know you said that about John. I also know you dreamed of marrying him. What a laugh, like John would ever marry someone like you, someone whose own father can’t love.”

Again, the scream filled my head. I cupped the mouthpiece. “Any luck?”

Rebecca, her head close, listening, nodded toward the computer.

“God, Lindsey, I wish you could see her pretty face now.”

“Hang on a sec. I got someone on call waiting.”

“What the fuck? You can’t trace –”

“Not about that at all. We tried to trace it before. Really, I got someone on hold. I don’t want to be inconsiderate.”


“Sorry, Pallas.” I bent at the waist, reading the computer screen.

“’Bout time. That’s so ignorant –”

“You got no idea. Sorry, again. Since you just gotta know, Snow raped me –”


“Yeah, really. Crammed it in like kids going for the record number of passengers in a VW. To answer your next question: No, it wasn’t good for me, too.”

“I can’t believe it.”

“You’re his sister, in love with him – of course, you can’t believe it.”

“I meant it rhe-fucking-torical.”

“Needs more inflection.”

“Call the police?”


“Why? I think you should. I can’t think of a worst way to violate a woman –”

“I should put you on three-way calling. I just shrugged my shoulders. He was driven, I think, by his love for you. You should have seen his face after he ejaculated in me, as if he woke up, realized what he was doing. He direly hurt what he loves most. I’m not sure there’s a greater punishment than that.”

“Explains the depression. I’ll talk to him, get him to come forward. The guilt will drive him to suicide.”

“I guess that’s a problem for the unfaithful. You can’t go down the corner and get absolution from the Church. I told Snow he’d not get it from me. I understand what he did. I can never forgive it.”

“I’m sorry –”

“Same as I told him: There’s no sorry big enough. I gotta get back to the serial killer.”


“He’s on the other line. Things are coming apart quickly.”

“You’re kidding!”


I hit the button. “Still there?”

“Don’t ever, ever put me on hold again!”

“The problem with egomaniacs is they think the universe swirls around them. You’re not the only business I have going today.”

He chuckled. “Oh, I get it. You’re trying to play me.”

“Whom the gods will destroy, you know.”

“What’s that mean?”

“I’m glad you don’t know. Let me talk to Dad.”

“He’s busy. He likes this. I might not need you after all.”

“OK. Let me talk to John.”

“He’s a bit indisposed.”

“He’s got nothing to do with you and me, Leroy. Let John go. Let Sally go, kick Dad to the curb. This is between you and me.”

“You had to enjoy seeing the good reverend dead. Want the details?”

“I shrugged my shoulders again. You stripped him, tied him up, maybe you fucked his mouth for a while. I bet you peed down his throat. You so much like doing that. After you got your rocks off, you cut him repeatedly, drinking each scream like ambrosia, savoring each yelp.

“Blah, blah, blah. When you tired, you went at him with the baseball bat. The same bat you used on me? Sure. When he passed out, you’d take a break, wake him up, start over again.

“Did you drive all the evil out?”

“You’re amazing.”

“I’ve gathered some friends. We’re going to have our own party.”

“Do tell.”

“We’re going down to Edgewood Memory Park. We’re going to dig up a grave, Helena Chanler’s grave.”


“When we get the coffin open, I’m going to pee on the bones, maybe take a shit. I’m going to use her skull for a spittoon.”

“You can’t!”

“Come stop me.”




“Let’s play: let’s make a deal!”

“What do you want?”

“Let them go: Dad, John and Sally.”

“And I get?”

“I won’t use your girlfriend’s skull for a bedpan.”

“I’d not made the connection, you know.”

“What connection?”

“Helena, my crush on her. What the girls look like.”

“Yeah, yeah, I should hang a shingle out.”

“I don’t have John.”

“Is he dead?”

“I don’t know, really.”

“Dad, Sally. I hear her crying. Let them go.”

“Your father’s not my prisoner.”

“I’m getting the shovel.”


“Me, what?”

“I tell you where John is, let your father and Sally go, for you.”

“I guess I’ll be digging.”

“You think I care about bones?”

You might or might not.

“Where’s John?”

“The teddy bear was cute.”

“Yeah, huh?”

“You people are so stupid. Check his basement.”

“Call back in an hour.”

I broke the connection.


“You aren’t considering it?”

Yes. “I don’t know. Don’t call Kelley, yet –”


“He might be playing us, make us look bad, sent out after a snipe. Don’t want to be the boy who cried wolf.”

“Good idea. We can ride over –”

“I’ll take a cab. I need you to go to the morgue.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Scare up a child’s body?”

“Skeleton, yeah. With coffin if possible.”

“We should call Kelley.”

“I don’t think we’re going to scare him out of his hole. We gotta bait him out.”

She bit her lip. “I really do sit in awe of you. I’ve been watching from the background. You stand talker than anyone I know. I want to follow you. I want you to lead the way. I wasn’t surprised when you fired, or rather were able to fire John from the taskforce.”


“Kelley’s in charge.”

“I think we can follow our own leads.”

“Like chasing down Helena.”

Actually, I just need to slip my collar.

“Exactly like that.”


“Later, when this gets settled, we need talk about the rape.”

“No, we don’t.”

“If not for you, for other future vics.”

“He won’t rape again.”

“Rapist rape.”

He won’t. Likely he’ll be dead at his own hand.

“I’ll make a deal with you. Later, when this gets settled, I’ll tell you the story. You’ll understand.”

“No, I won’t.”

“Then, it won’t matter.”


If events weren’t moving so quickly, Rebecca would have never put me in a cab and headed off to the morgue. I knew John lay somewhere in the basement of his high-rise. That Johnson had no reason to lie. I wasn’t in a hurry. John was dead or he wasn’t. Time didn’t matter.

I chuckled at the idea of getting bones. Rebecca didn’t seem gullible.


Drag marks on the floor betrayed the small door in the back of the heater room had been recently opened. The door, stubborn, refused my request. The blade from the cane made my case, breaking in half at the labors.

Light washed the darkness from behind me.

“I just had to wear a good dress.”

John lay in a heap. Not the first time, I took handfuls of a wounded person and dragged with all I had, grunting much more than I would have liked.

I put Mom’s phone to my ear. “Kelley.”

“Lind. What’s up?”

“Found John. Need a bus.”

“Wha? Where?”

I told her. “See you at the hospital.”


Barely auditable: “Lind.”

“Don’t try to move. Help’s on the way.”

“What happened?”

“My serial killer decided to take out people I care about. He mistook you for one of them. Sorry.”

I held his shoulders, his head on my lap. “I said: Don’t try to get up. You got beat up pretty good. How many where there?”

He closed his eyes.

“I was kidding.”

He passed out.


Mist rose from the sidewalk, high clouds taking the sun, the air as wet as air could be without rain. “Figures.” I put Mom’s phone to my ear, the ambulance moving off, lights and siren. “Hey, Rebecca.”

“Any luck?”

“He’s alive.”

“Thank God.”

If you must. “How about you?”

“Not going to work.”

No kidding. “It was worth a shot. I’ll see you at the hospital.”

I broke the connection, checking my watch, holding my breath for ten minutes watching the traffic move by, off to destinations unknown.

I wondered, come sundown, whether I’d be alive.


I gnashed my teeth like Abraham swearing God unfair concerning Sodom. Regret washed over me as I slammed the cafeteria door open, Tommy, crazed, wielding a gun. Tommy was unfair, taking out his problems with me on other people. I’d gnashed my teeth, wishing Tommy brought it to my door, him and me, cowboys facing off like in the old west.

“No, Kelley, not your fault.” I stiffened by jaw against the mist-almost-rain. “Not really my fault, either, but I’ll take responsibility.”

I put Mom’s phone to my ear. “Prompt.”

“You find him OK?”


“Then we have a deal?”

“Once Dad and Sally are – away.”

“That’s your weakness, you know.”

“What is?”

“That you care about people who don’t give a shit about you.”

There, you’re wrong. It’s not about Dad and Sally. It’s about me and you.

“Blood, water, you know.”


A cab pulled to the curb. I climbed in.

“I don’t know where –”

“You uncle gave me instructions.”

“OK. Where?”

“You gotta give me your phone.”

“OK.” I passed the phone, accepting a replacement, sitting back. “Think it’ll rain?”

“Says so. Good for business.”

“I guess.”


Edgewood Memorial Park was as imagined, gentle roll of green blanket, over-peppered with grave makers of different sizes, narrow gravel roads crisscrossing.

I rolled my eyes at the soft rain, figures, watching the cab’s taillights flash, disappearing between boxwood hedges back onto the main road.

I put my new phone to my ear. “Now what?”

“You can’t make outgoing calls.”

“That would have been my first guess. Now what?”

“We wait.”


“To see who followed you.”

“No one. Then what?”

“I’ll pick you up. You sure you don’t want to do Sally?”

“Not my type. We have a deal.”

“Yes. We have a deal.”





back to index *** chapters 81 to 85