The Killing Kind, p.26John Connolly
We’ve all been waiting for you.
A small boy with an exit wound for an eye; a woman in a summer dress that shimmered in the darkness; figures that hovered at the periphery of my vision—all of them, each and every one, told me that it wasn’t true, that somebody had to act for those who could no longer act for themselves, that some measure of justice had to be achieved for the lost and the fallen. For an instant, as she held my hands, Amy Greaves had some inkling of this, some fleeting perception of what waited in the depths of the honeycomb world.
“Oh my God,” she said.
And then her hands released mine and I heard her move away and disappear into the house. When I opened my eyes I was alone in the summer sunshine, the smell of rotting pine carrying to me on the wind. Through the trees a blue jay flew, heading north.
And I followed.
THE SEARCH FOR SANCTUARY
Extract from the postgraduate thesis
of Grace Peltier . . .
Letter from Elizabeth Jessop to her sister,
Lena Myers, dated December 11, 1963 (used by kind
permission of the estate of Lena Myers)
This has been the worst week I can ever recall. The truth about Lyall and me is out and now we are both being shunned. The Preacher has not been seen for two days. He is asking the Lord to guide him in his judgment upon us.
It was the boy that found us, the Preacher’s son. I think he had been watching us for a long time. We were in the woods together, Lyall and I, and I saw Leonard in the bushes. I think I screamed when I saw him but when we went to find him he was already gone.
The Preacher was waiting for us at supper. We were refused food and told to go back to our houses while the others ate. When Frank returned that night he beat me and left me to sleep on the floor. Now Lyall and me are kept apart. The girl Muriel watches over him, while Leonard is like my shadow. Yesterday he threw a stone at me and drew blood from my head. He told me that was how the Bible said whores should be punished and that his father would deal with me the same way. The Cornishes saw what he did and Ethan Cornish struck him before he could throw a second stone. The boy pulled a knife on Ethan and cut his arm. The families have all argued for forgiveness for the sake of the community, but Lyall’s wife will not look at me and one of his children spat on me when I passed her.
Last night there were voices raised in the Preacher’s house. The families were putting their case to the Preacher but he was unmoved. There is bitterness among us now——at me and Lyall, but more at the Preacher and his ways. He has been asked to account for the money he holds in trust for us, but he has refused. I fear that Lyall and me will be forced from the community or that the Preacher will make us all leave and start again in another place. I have asked the Lord to forgive us our trespass against him and have prayed for help but part of me would not be sorry to leave if Lyall was beside me. But I cannot abandon my children and I feel sadness and shame for what I have done to Frank.
Ethan Cornish told me one more thing. He says that the Preacher’s wife asked him to deal mercifully with us and he has refused to speak with her since. There is talk that he will scatter us to the four winds, where each family will make up for the sins of the community by spreading the word of God to new towns and cities. Tomorrow, the men, the women, and the children are to be divided into separate groups and each group will pray alone for guidance and forgiveness.
I have asked Ethan Cornish to place this note in the usual place and pray that you receive it in good health.
I am your sister,
WHEN I WAS FOURTEEN YEARS OLD, my father took me on my first airplane trip. He got a good deal from a man he knew at American Airlines, a neighbor of ours whom my father had helped out when one of his sons got picked up for possession of some stolen radios. We flew from New York to Denver and from Denver to Billings, Montana, where we hired a car and spent a night in a motel before driving east early the following morning.
The sun shone on the hills, burnishing the green and beige with touches of silver before melting into the waters of the Little Bighorn River. We crossed the river at the Crow Agency and drove in silence to the entrance to the Little Bighorn Battlefield. It was Memorial Day and a platform had been erected at the cemetery, before which a small crowd occupied rows of lawn chairs while the few who could not find seats stood amid the gravestones and listened to the words of the service. Above them, the Stars and Stripes flapped in the morning breeze, but we did not stay to listen. Instead, fragments came to us as we climbed toward the monument, words like “youth,” “fallen,” “honor,” and “death” fading and then growing once again in volume, echoing across the shifting grass as if they were being spoken both in the present and in the distant past.
This was where Custer’s five cavalry troops, young men mostly, were annihilated by the combined forces of the Lakota and Cheyenne. The battle took place over the space of one hour, but the soldiers probably couldn’t even see the enemy for much of that time; they lay hidden in the grass and picked off the cavalrymen one by one, biding their time.
I looked out over the hills and thought that the Little Bighorn was a bleak place to die, surrounded by low hills of green and yellow and brown fading to blue and purple in the distance. From any patch of raised ground, you could see for miles. The men who died here would have known without question that no one was coming to rescue them, that these were their final moments on earth. They died terrible, lonely deaths far from home, their bodies subsequently mutilated and left to lie scattered on the battlefield for three days before finally receiving burial in a mass grave atop a small ridge in eastern Montana, their names carved on a granite monument above them.
In that place, I closed my eyes and imagined that I felt their ghosts crowding around me. I seemed to hear them: the horses neighing, the gunshots, the grass breaking beneath their feet.
And for an instant I was there with them, and I understood.
There are places where years have no meaning, where only a hair’s breadth of history separates the present from the past. Standing there on that bleak hillside, a young man in a place where other young men had died, it was possible to feel a connection to that past, a sense that in some place further back on the stream of time these young men were still fighting, and still dying, that they would always be fighting this battle, in this place, over and over again, with ever the same end.
It was my first glimpse of the honeycomb world, my first inkling that the past never truly dies but is strangely, beautifully alive in the present. There is an interconnectedness to all things, a link between what lies buried and what lives above, a capacity for mutability that allows a good act committed in the present to rectify an imbalance in times gone by. That, in the end, is the nature of justice: not to undo the past but, by acting further down the line of time, to restore some measure of harmony, some possibility of equilibrium, so that lives may continue with their burden eased and the dead may find peace in a world beyond this one.
Now, as I headed north, I thought again of that day on the battlefield, a day of remembrance for the dead, my father standing silently beside me as the wind tousled our hair. This would be another pilgrimage, another acknowledgment of the debt owed by the living to the dead. Only by standing where the families had once stood, only by placing myself amid the memories of their final moments and listening for the echoes, could I hope to understand.
This is a honeycomb world. At St. Froid Lake, its interior lay exposed.
∗ ∗ ∗
As I drove, I called in a long-standing favor. In New York, a woman’s voice asked me my name, there was a pause, and I was put through to the office of Special Agent in Charge Hal Ross. Ross had recently been promoted and was now one of three SACs in the FBI’s New York field office, operating under an assistant director. Ross and I had crossed swords the first time we met, but in the aftermath of the Traveling Man’s death our relationship
“Hey, how you doing? Social call?”
“Have I ever paid you a social call?”
“Not that I can remember, but there’s always a first time.”
“This isn’t it. You remember that favor you promised me?”
There was a long pause. “You sure cut to the chase. Go ahead.”
“It’s Charon. Seven or eight years ago he came up to Maine in search of an organization called the Fellowship. Can you find out where he went and the names of anyone to whom he might have spoken?”
“Can I ask why?”
“The Fellowship may be connected to a case I’m investigating: the death of a young woman. Any information you can give me about them would help.”
“That’s quite a favor, Parker. We don’t usually hand over records.”
Impatience and anger crept into my voice and I had to struggle against shouting. “I’m not asking for the records, just some idea of where he might have gone. This is important, Hal.”
He sighed. “When do you need it?”
“Soon. As soon as you can.”
“I’ll see what I can do. You just used up your ninth life. I hope you realize that.”
I gave a mental shrug. “I wasn’t doing a whole lot with it anyway.”
∗ ∗ ∗
I drove through avenues of trees, their branches green with new growth, to this place of failed hopes and violent death, and sunlight dappled my car as I went. I stayed on I-95 all the way to Houlton, then took U.S. 1 north to Presque Isle and from there drove through Ashland, Portage, and Winterville, until at last I came to the edge of the town of Eagle Lake. I drove by a WCSH truck and gave my name to the state trooper who was checking traffic along the road. He waved me through.
Ellis had called me back with the name of a detective from the state trooper barracks at Houlton. His name was John Brouchard and I found him waist deep in a muddy hole beneath the big tarp erected to protect the remains, digging with a spade in a steady, unhurried rhythm. That was how it worked up here; everybody played his or her part. State police, wardens, sheriff’s deputies, ME’s staff, all of them rolled up their sleeves and got their hands dirty. If nothing else it was overtime, and when you’ve got kids going to college, or alimony payments to meet, then time and a half is always welcome, whatever way it has to be earned.
I stayed behind the crime scene line and called his name. He waved a hand in acknowledgment and climbed from the hole, unfolding a frame that was at least six-six or six-seven in height. He towered over me, his head blocking out the sun. His nails were black with mud and beneath his overalls his shirt was drenched in sweat. Damp earth clung to his work boots, and dirt streaked his forehead and cheeks.
“Ellis Howard tells me you’re assisting them in an investigation,” he said, after we had shaken hands. “You want to tell me why you’re up here if your investigation is centered on Portland?”
“You ask Ellis that?”
“He told me to ask you. He said you had all the answers.”
“He’s being optimistic. Curtis Peltier, the man who was murdered in Portland over the weekend, was related to Elizabeth Jessop. I think her remains were among those found here. Curtis’s daughter was Grace Peltier. CID III is looking into the circumstances of her death. She was doing graduate work on the people buried in that hole.”
Brouchard eyeballed me for a good ten seconds, then led me to the mobile crime scene unit, where I was allowed to view the video tour of the crime scene on a portable TV borrowed for the duration of the field recovery. He seemed grateful for the excuse to rest, and poured us both coffee while I sat and watched the tape: mud, bones, and trees; glimpses of damaged skulls and scattered fingers; dark water; a rib cage shattered and splintered by the impact of a shotgun blast; a child’s skeleton, curled in fetuslike upon itself.
When the tape had concluded I followed him across the road to the edge of the grave.
“Can’t let you go beyond here,” he said apologetically. “Some of the victims are still down there, and we’re searching for other artifacts.”
I nodded. I didn’t need to go inside. I could see all that I needed to see from where I stood. The scene had already been photographed and measured. Above holes in the mud, pieces of card had been attached to wooden spikes, detailing the nature of the remains discovered. In some cases the holes were empty, but in one corner I saw two men in white overalls work carefully around a piece of exposed bone. When one of them moved away, I saw the curved reach of a rib cage, like dark fingers about to clasp in prayer.
“Did they all have their names around their necks?”
The details of the names written on the wooden boards had appeared in a report in the Maine Sunday Telegram. Given the nature of the discovery, it was a wonder that the investigators had managed to keep anything at all under wraps.
“Most of them. Some of the wood was rotted pretty bad, though.” Brouchard reached into his shirt pocket and produced a piece of folded paper, which he handed to me. Typed on the page were seventeen names, presumably obtained by checking the original identities of the Baptists against the names discovered on the bodies. DNA samples were to be taken from surviving relatives, where dental records were not available. Stars beside some names indicated those for whom no positive identification had yet been made. James Jessop’s name was the next to last on the list.
“Is the Jessop boy’s body still down there?”
Brouchard looked at the list in my hand. “They’re taking him away today, him and his sister. He mean anything to you?”
I didn’t reply. Another name on the page had caught my eye: Louise Faulkner, the Reverend Faulkner’s wife. Faulkner’s name, I noticed, was not on the list. Neither were those of his children.
“Any idea yet how they died?”
“Won’t know for certain until the autopsies are done, but all of the men and two of the women had gunshot wounds to the head or body. The others seem to have been clubbed. The Faulkner woman was probably strangled; we found fragments of cord around her neck. Some of the children have shattered skulls, like they were hit with a rock, or maybe a hammer. A couple have what look like gunshot wounds.” He stopped talking and looked away toward the lake. “I guess you know something about these people.”
“A little,” I admitted. “Judging by the names on this list, you have at least one suspect.”
Brouchard nodded. “The preacher, Faulkner, unless somebody planted those boards to throw us off the trail and Faulkner is lying there dead with the rest of them.”
It was a possibility, although I knew that the existence of the Apocalypse bought by Jack Mercier made it unlikely.
“He killed his own wife,” I said, more to myself than to Brouchard.
“You got any idea why?”
“Maybe because she objected to what he was going to do.” The article Grace Peltier had written for Down East magazine had mentioned that Faulkner was a fundamentalist. Under fundamentalist doctrine, a wife has to submit to the authority of her husband. Argument or defiance was not permitted. I guessed also that Faulkner probably needed her admiration and her validation for all that he did. When that was withdrawn, she ceased to have any value for him.
Brouchard was looking at me with interest now. “You think you know why he killed them all?”
I thought of what Amy had told me of the Fellowship, its hatred for what it perceived as human weakness and fallibility; of Faulkner’s ornate Apocalypses, visio
“It’s just a guess, but I think they disappointed him in some way, or turned on him, so he punished them for their failings. As soon as they stood up to him they were finished, cursed for rebelling against God’s anointed one.”
“That’s a pretty harsh punishment.”
“I figure he was a pretty harsh kind of guy.”
I also wondered if, in some dark place inside him, Faulkner had always known that they would fail him. That was what human beings did: they tried and failed and failed again, and they kept failing until either they got it right at last or time ran out and they had to settle for what they had. But for Faulkner, there was only one chance: when they failed it proved their worthlessness, the impossibility of their salvation. They were damned. They had always been damned, and what happened to them was of no consequence in this world or the next.
These people had followed Faulkner to their deaths, blinded by their hopes for a new golden age, a desire for conviction, for something to believe in. Nobody had intervened. After all, this was 1963; communists were the threat, not God-fearing people who wanted to create a simpler life for themselves. Fifteen years would pass before Jim Jones and his disciples blew Congressman Leo Ryan’s face off as a prelude to the mass suicide of 900 followers, after which people would begin to take a different view.
But even after Jonestown, false messiahs continued to draw adherents to them. Rock Theriault systematically tortured his followers in Ontario before tearing apart a woman named Solange Boilard with his bare hands in 1988. Jeffrey Lundgren, the leader of a breakaway Mormon sect, killed five members of the Avery family—Dennis and Cheryl Avery and their young daughters Trina, Rebecca, and Karen—in a barn in Kirtland, Ohio, in April 1989 and buried their remains under earth, rocks, and garbage. Nobody came looking for them until almost one year later, following a tip-off to police from a disgruntled cult member. The LeBaron family and their disciples in the breakaway Mormon Church of the Firstborn murdered almost thirty people, including an eighteen-month-old girl, in a cycle of violence that lasted from the early seventies until 1991.
The Killing Kind by John Connolly / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime / Horror have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes