The Killing Kind, p.20John Connolly
In the photograph, Mr. Pudd is smiling.
The man who killed Lester Bargus had flown into Logan Airport one day earlier and entered the country on a British passport, claiming to be a businessman interested in buying stuffed animals. The address he gave to immigration officials was later revealed to be the site of a recently demolished Chinese restaurant in Balham, south London.
The name on the passport was Clay Daemon.
He was the Golem.
THAT NIGHT, as the bodies of Lester Bargus and Jim Gould were taken to the morgue, I headed over to Chumley’s on Bedford, the Village’s best bar. Technically it was between Barrow and Grove, but even people who’d been going there for the best part of a decade still had trouble finding it on occasion. There was no name outside, just a light over the big door with the metal grate. Chumley’s had started life as a speakeasy during Prohibition, and it had maintained its low profile for over seventy years. On weekends it tended to attract the kind of young bankers and dotcommunists who all wore blue shirts with their suits, on the grounds that nonconformists like them had to stick together, but during the week Chumley’s was still recognizable as the bar that Salinger, Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O’Neill, Orson Welles, and William Burroughs used to frequent as a change from the White Horse or Marie’s Crisis.
The clouds hung low over the Village as I walked, and there was a terrible stillness in the air that seemed to communicate itself to the people on the streets. Laughs were subdued; couples bickered. The crowds emerging from the subway wore tense, fractious expressions, their shoes too tight, their shirts too thick. Everything felt damp to the touch, as if the city itself were slowly perspiring, expelling filth and waste through every crack in every sidewalk, every fissure in every wall. I looked to the sky and waited for the thunder, but none came.
Inside Chumley’s, the Labradors lounged uneasily on the sawdust-strewn floor and people stood at the tiny bar or disappeared into the darkened alcoves at the far end of the room. I took a seat at one of the long benches by the door and ordered a hamburger and a Coke.
It seemed like a long time since I had been back in the Village, as if decades rather than months had passed from the day that I left my apartment to travel back to Maine. Old ghosts waited for me on these corners: the Traveling Man at the corner of St. Mark’s in the East Village, the phone booth still marking the place where I had stood after he sent me my daughter’s remains in a jar; the Corner Bistro, where Susan and I used to meet when we were dating; the Elephant & Castle, where we had brunch on Sundays in the early months of our relationship, heading uptown afterward to walk in Central Park or browse in the museums.
Even Chumley’s was not immune, for were these not the same dogs that Susan used to stroke while she waited for her drink, the same dogs that Jennifer once held after her mother told her how beautiful they were and we took her to meet them as a treat? All of these places were potential bubbles of hurt waiting to be pricked, releasing the memories sealed within. I should have felt pain, I thought. I should have felt the old agony. But instead, I experienced only a strange, desperate gratitude for this place, for the two fat old dogs and for the unsullied memories with which they had left me.
For some things should never be allowed to fade away. It was both good and proper that they should be recalled, that a place should be found for them in the present and the future so that they became a precious part of oneself, something to be treasured instead of something to be feared. To remember Susan and Jennifer as they once were, and to love them for it, was no betrayal of Rachel and of what she meant to me. If that was true, then to find a way to live a life in which lost loves and new beginnings could coexist was not to besmirch the memory of my wife and child. And in the quiet of that place I lost myself for a time, until one of the Labradors waddled sleepily over and nosed at my hand for attention, his dog jowls shedding warm spit on my pants and his soft eyes closing happily beneath the weight of my hand.
I had found a copy of the Portland Press Herald in Barnes & Noble at Union Square, and while I ate, I scanned the pages for reports on Eagle Lake. There were two: one was a description of the ongoing difficulties in uncovering the remains, but the main piece announced the suspected identities of two of the dead. They were Billy Perrson and Vyrna Kellog, and they were both homicide victims. Billy Perrson had died from a gunshot wound to the back of the head. Vyrna Kellog’s skull had been crushed, apparently with a rock.
Slowly, the truth about the fate of the Aroostook Baptists was being revealed. They had not dispersed, scattering themselves to the four winds and taking with them the seeds of new communities. Instead they had been murdered and consigned to a mass grave on a patch of undeveloped land; and there they had remained, trapped in a forgotten cavity of the honeycomb world, until spring daylight had found them.
Was that why Grace had died—because in breaking through the dead layers obscuring the past, she had found out something about the Aroostook Baptists that nobody was ever supposed to discover? More and more I wanted to return to Maine, to confront Jack Mercier and Carter Paragon. I felt that my pursuit of Mr. Pudd was drawing me away from the investigation into Grace’s death, yet somehow Pudd and the Fellowship had a part to play in all that had occurred. He was linked to her passing in some way, of that I was certain, but he wasn’t the weak link. Paragon was, and he would have to be confronted if I was to understand what had driven someone to end Grace’s life.
But first, there was Mickey Shine. I had checked the Village Voice and found the exhibition listings. The Cloisters, which housed the Metropolitan Museum’s medieval collection, was hosting a visiting exhibition on artistic responses to the Apocalypse of St. John. An image of Jack Mercier’s bookshelf flashed before my eyes. It seemed that the Met and Mercier currently shared an interest in books and paintings about the end of the world.
I left Chumley’s shortly after ten, patting the sleeping dogs one last time for luck as I went. The warm, damp smell of them was still on my hands as I walked beneath the shrouded sky, the noise of the city seeming to rebound back on itself from above. A shadow moved in a doorway to my right, but I paid it no heed and allowed it to move unchallenged behind me.
I passed through the streetlights, and my footsteps echoed hollowly on the ground beneath my feet.
∗ ∗ ∗
Bone is porous; after years of burial, it will assume the same color as the soil in which it has been interred. The bones by St. Froid Lake were a rich brown, as if the Aroostook Baptists had become one with the natural world around them, an impression reinforced by the small plants that grew between the remains, fed by decay. Rib cages had become trellises for creeping roots, and the concavity of a skull acted as a nursery for small green shoots.
Their clothing had largely rotted away, since most of it had been made from natural fibers and could not survive decades of burial in the manner of synthetic materials. Water stains on the surrounding trees indicated that the land had flooded on occasion, adding extra layers of mud and rotting vegetation, compressing the bones of the dead farther and farther into the soil. The field recovery, the separation of bone from earth, human from animal, child from adult, would be a painstaking process. It would be completed on hands and knees, with aching backs and cold fingers, all supervised by the forensic anthropologist. State police, sheriff’s deputies, wardens, even some anthropology students were drafted to assist with the dig. Since the ME’s office had only one vehicle, a Dodge van, with which to transport remains, local undertakers and the National Guard were assisting in the removal of the bodies to nearby Presque Isle, from where Bill’s Flying Service would take them down to Augusta.
At St. Froid Lake, orange aluminum arrows, the trademark of the deputy chief ME, had been used to create an archaeological square, enclosed and protected by lengths of string. An array of seemingly primitive but ultimately necessary equipment had been brought to bear on the scene: line levels to measure the depth of the remains below the surface; fla
As each artifact was uncovered it was photographed, then marked and sealed, an adhesive label attached to the container detailing the case number, the date and time of discovery, a description of the item, its location, and the signature of the investigator who had recovered it. The item was then transported to a secure evidence storage facility, in this case the offices of the ME in Augusta.
Soil samples were taken from the carefully piled earth and bagged. Had the soil by the lake been only slightly more acidic, the remains might simply have vanished and the only sign that they had ever been there would have come from the flourishing plant life above, nourished by flesh and bone. As it was, animal predation, erosion, and scattering had resulted in missing and damaged limbs, but sufficient evidence remained to be examined by the specialists assembled by the ME’s office. They included—in addition to the forensic anthropologist, the ME’s own permanent staff, and the scientists at the state lab in Augusta—an anatomist, three dental teams to act as forensic odontologists, and the radiologist at the Maine General Medical Center in Augusta. Each would bring to bear his or her own specialist knowledge in a formal identification of the remains.
The remains had been identified as human by an examination of the intact bones, and the sex of the victims would be confirmed by further examinations of the skull, pelvis, femur, sternum, and teeth, where teeth could be found. Age estimates of those victims under the age of twenty-five, accurate to within one year or so, would be made from teeth, where teeth remained, and from the appearance and fusion of the ossification centers and epiphyses, the end parts of the long bones, which grow separately from the shaft in early life. In the case of older bones, radiological examinations of the trabecular pattern in the head of the humerus and femur, which remodels with age, would be used, in addition to changes in pubic symphysis.
Height would be calculated by measuring the femur, tibia, and fibula of the victims, arm bones being less reliable in such cases. Dental remains would be used to make a preliminary racial determination, dental characteristics associated predominantly with particular races enabling the likelihood of the victims being Caucasoid, Negroid, or Mongoloid to be assessed.
Finally, dental records, radiological examination of the remains for evidence of fractures, and comparative DNA tests would all be brought to bear in an effort to make positive identifications of the personal identities of the victims. In this case, facial reconstruction and photosuperimposition (the overlaying of a photograph of the suspected victim over a transparency of the skull, now largely done on-screen) might have assisted the investigation, since photographs existed of the suspected victims, but the state had made no budgetary provisions for photosuperimposition techniques, mainly because those with their hands on the purse strings didn’t really understand what the process entailed. They didn’t understand the mechanics of DNA testing either. They didn’t have to; they just knew that it worked.
But in this case, the investigators had assistance from an unexpected and bizarre source. Around the neck of each victim was found the remains of a wooden board. Some had decayed badly, although it was believed that electronic scanners, electrostatic detection apparatuses, or low-angle light could reveal traces of whatever had been indented on the wood. But others, particularly on the higher ground, were still semi-intact. One of them lay below the head of a small boy buried beside a fir tree. The roots of the tree had grown through and around his remains, and his recovery would be one of the most difficult to achieve without damaging the bones. Beside him was another, smaller skeleton, preliminarily identified as a female of about seven years, for the metopic suture along the frontal bone of her skull had not yet fully disappeared. The bones of their hands were intermingled, as if they had clasped each other in their final moments.
The boy’s remains lay semiexposed, the skull clearly visible, the mandible detached and lying to one side. There was a small hole where the occipital and parietal bones met at the back of his head but no corresponding exit wound in the frontal bone, although a small fragment appeared to have been dislodged from the supraorbital foramen, the ridge of bone above the right eye, by the emerging bullet.
The indentation on the block of wood by his skull, hacked into the grain with a child’s hand, read:
THE SEARCH FOR SANCTUARY
Extract from the postgraduate
thesis of Grace Peltier . . .
It is unclear when the first signs of difficulty began to appear in the new settlement.
Each day, the community rose and prayed at first light, then assisted in the completion of the houses and farm structures for the settlement, some of which were built of clapboard from old Sears Roebuck mail-order kits originating from the 1930s, while the Faulkners’ dwelling was a used steel Lustron. Faulkner retained control of the finances, and food was limited, since the Preacher believed in the benefits of fasting. Prayers were said four times daily, with Faulkner preaching one sermon at breakfast and a second following the main meal in the evening.
Details of day-to-day life for the Aroostook Baptists were obtained by talking to local people who had some limited contact with the community, and from occasional letters sent by Elizabeth Jessop, Frank Jessop’s wife, to her sister, Lena, in Portland. These letters were, in effect, smuggled out of the settlement. Elizabeth reached an agreement with the landowner whereby, for a small fee, he would check the hollow of an oak tree at the verge of the settlement every Tuesday and ensure that whatever mail found there was posted. He also agreed to collect and deliver any responses received.
Elizabeth paints a picture of a harsh but joyful first three months, filled with a sense that the Aroostook Baptists were like the pioneers of another age, creating a new world where there had once been wilderness. The houses, although basic and somewhat drafty, were built quickly, and the families had brought some simple furnishings with them in trailers. They raised pigs and chickens and had five cows, one of which was with calf. They grew potatoes——this area of Aroostook was prime potato-growing country——broccoli, and peas and harvested apples from the trees on the property. They used rotting fish to fertilize the land and stored the produce they had brought with them in underground caverns dug beneath the banks, where the springwater kept the air at the same low temperature all year around, acting as a natural refrigerator.
The first signs of tension arose in July, when it became apparent that the Faulkners and their children were keeping themselves apart from the other families. Faulkner took a larger share of the produce as the leader of the community and he refused to release any of the funds that the families had brought with them, a sum amounting to at least $25,000. Even when Laurie Perrson, the daughter of Billy and Olive Perrson, took seriously ill with influenza, Faulkner insisted that she be treated within the community. It was left to Katherine Cornish, who had some rudimentary medical skills, to treat the girl. According to Elizabeth’s letters, Laurie barely survived.
Animosity grew toward the Faulkners. Their children, whom Faulkner insisted should be called only Adam and Eve, bullied the younger members of the community; Elizabeth refers darkly to random acts of cruelty perpetrated on both animals and humans by the Faulkner children. Clearly, her reports caused her sister concern, for in a letter dated August 7, 1963, Elizabeth attempts to reassure Lena, arguing that their difficulties “are as nothing compared to the sufferings endured by the Mayflower pilgrims, or those hardy soul
But the letter also contains the first reference to Lyall Kellog, with whom it appears that Elizabeth was becoming infatuated. It seems that the relationship between Frank Jessop and his wife was predominantly nonsexual, although whether as a result of marital strife or some physical incapacity is not known. In fact, the affair between Lyall and Elizabeth may already have begun by the time of the August letter, and had certainly progressed enough by November for Elizabeth to describe him to her sister as “this wonderful man.”
It is my view that this affair, and its repercussions once it became known within the community, contributed greatly to the disintegration of the settlement. What is also clear, from the subsequent letters of Elizabeth Jessop, is that Louise Faulkner played a major role in this disintegration, a role that appears to have surprised Elizabeth and may, in the end, have brought Louise into bitter conflict with her own husband.
THE PASSENGER ELEVATOR at the 190th Street subway station was decorated with pictures of kittens and puppies. Two potted plants with Stars and Stripes sprouting from the soil hung from the ceiling and a small stereo unit played relaxing music. The elevator operator, Anthony Washington, who was responsible for the unusual ambience of the 190th Street elevator, sat at a small desk in a comfortable chair and greeted many of the passengers by name. The MTA once tried to make Anthony strip his elevator of its decorations, but a campaign by the press and the public forced the Transit Authority to back down. The paint flaked from the ceiling of the 190th Street station, it smelled of urine, and there was a steady stream of dirty water running between the tracks. All things considered, those who used the subway were pretty grateful for Anthony’s efforts and felt that the MTA should be pretty damn grateful too.
The Killing Kind by John Connolly / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime / Horror have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes