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The killing kind, p.30
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       The Killing Kind, p.30

           John Connolly
 

  Rachel had not spoken during the ride to the hospital. Instead, she had simply held her hand over the area where the spider had bitten her, shaking softly. She had also suffered some cuts and bruises to the head, but there was no concussion and she was going to be okay. I was X-rayed and then given ten stitches to close up the wound in my scalp. It was already midafternoon, and I was still feeling dazed and numb when Ramos, one of the detectives out of Scarborough, arrived, accompanied by the department’s detective sergeant, Wallace MacArthur, and a whole cartload of questions. Their first question was: who was the injured woman? More to the point, where was she?

  “She was lying there when I left,” I said.

  “Well, she wasn’t lying there when the first patrol got to your place. There was a hell of a lot of blood on your kitchen floor, and more outside in the yard, but there was no dead woman.”

  He was seated across from me in a small private room usually used to comfort relatives of recently deceased patients. “You sure she was dead?” he asked.

  I shook my head and sipped at my lukeward coffee. “I stuck a piece of chair halfway into her body, right between numbers three and four, and I pushed up hard. I saw her die. There’s no way she got up and walked away.”

  “You think this guy, this Mr. Pudd, came back for her?” he asked.

  “You find a suitcase full of spiders on my kitchen table?”

  MacArthur shook his head.

  “Then it was him.”

  It was a huge risk for him to take; he probably had only a few minutes to retrieve her. “I think he’s trying to keep the waters as muddy as he can,” I said. “Without the woman, there’s no positive ID, nothing that can link her to him. Or to anyone else,” I added.

  “You know who she is?”

  I nodded. “I think her name is Torrance. She was Carter Paragon’s secretary.”

  “The late Carter Paragon?” MacArthur sat back, opened a fresh page in his notebook, and waited for me to begin. From across the hall, I heard Rachel calling for me.

  “I’ll be back,” I told MacArthur. For a second or two he looked like he might be tempted to sit on me and shake me by the throat until I gave up what I knew. Instead, he nodded reluctantly and let me leave.

  Angel stood and walked discreetly to the window as I approached her. Rachel was pale, and there was sweat on her brow and upper lip, but she gripped my hand tightly as I sat on the edge of her bed.

  “How are you doing?”

  “I’m tougher than you think, Parker.”

  “I know how tough you are.”

  She nodded. “I guess you do.” She looked past me to the room where Ramos and MacArthur waited.

  “What are you going to tell them?”

  “Everything that I can.”

  “But not everything that you know?”

  “That would be unwise.”

  “You’re still going to see the Beckers, aren’t you?” she asked softly.

  “Yes.”

  “I’m going with you. Maybe I can succeed in convincing them where you couldn’t. You and Louis go walking in on those people in your current mood and you’re likely to scare them to death. And if we do find Marcy, a friendly face will help.”

  She was right. “Okay,” I said. “Rest up for a while, and then we’ll leave. Nobody’s going anywhere without you.”

  She gave me a satisfied smile and released my hand. Angel resumed his seat beside her bed. His Glock was in an IWB holster at his waist, concealed by his long shirt.

  From the room in which I had left MacArthur and Ramos came the sound of raised voices. I saw Ramos emerge from the room at a sprint. MacArthur was right behind him, but he stopped when he saw me.

  “What’s up?” I asked.

  “Trawler spotted Jack Mercier’s yacht at low revs a couple of miles out, heading into shore.” MacArthur swallowed. “Skipper says there’s a body lashed to the mast.”

  ∗ ∗ ∗

  The cruiser, named the Revenant, had docked at the Portland marina five days earlier. It was a twenty-five-foot Grady White Sailfish 25, with twin two-hundred-horsepower Suzuki outboards, and its owner paid $175 in advance for one week’s mooring at the standard rate of $1 per foot per night. The name, address, phone number, and boat registration number he gave to Portland Yacht Services, administrators of the marina, were all false.

  He was a small man, cross-eyed, with a tightly shaven skull. He spent most of his time in or near his boat, sleeping in its single compartment. By day he sat on the deck with a pair of binoculars in one hand, a cell phone in the other, and a book on his lap. He didn’t speak, and rarely left the boat for longer than fifteen minutes. His eyes seemed almost permanently fixed on the waters of Casco Bay.

  Early on the morning of the sixth day, a group of six people—two women, four men—boarded a yacht on the bay. The boat was the Eliza May, a seventy-footer built three years earlier by Hodgdon Yachts in East Boothbay. Its deck was teak, its body epoxy, glass, and mahogany over Alaska cedar. As well as the Doyle sail on its eighty-foot mast, it had a 150-horsepower Perkins diesel engine and could sleep seven people in luxury. It was equipped with a forty-mile radar, GPS, LORAN, and WeatherFax, as well as VHF and single sideband radio and an EPIRB emergency system. It had cost Jack Mercier over $2.5 million and was too big to moor at Scarborough, so it had a permanent berth at Portland.

  The Eliza May left Portland for the last time shortly after 7:30 A.M. There was a northwest wind blowing, superb weather for yachting, and the wind tossed Mercier’s white hair as he steered her into Casco Bay. Deborah Mercier sat apart from her husband, head down. By then, the cross-eyed man had been joined by two other people, a woman in blue and a slim red-haired man dressed in brown, both carrying tuna rods. As the Eliza May headed out into deep waters, the Revenant left the harbor and shadowed it, unseen.

  ∗ ∗ ∗

  I caught up with MacArthur at the elevator.

  “Mercier’s involved in this,” I told him. There was no point in keeping Mercier’s role secret any longer.

  “The hell—?”

  “Believe me. I’ve been working for him.”

  I could see him considering his options, so I decided to preempt him. “Take me along,” I said. “I’ll tell you what I know on the way.”

  He paused and gave me a long, hard look, then nodded and reached out his hand. “You can come as far as Pine Point. Hand over the gun, Charlie,” he said.

  Reluctantly, I gave him the Smith & Wesson. He ejected the magazine and checked the chamber, then handed it back to me. “You can leave it with your friend,” he said.

  I nodded, walked into Rachel’s room, and handed the gun to Angel. As I turned to leave I felt a light tug at my waistband, and the coolness of his Glock sliding against my skin. I took my jacket from the chair, nodded politely to Angel, then followed MacArthur down the hallway.

  ∗ ∗ ∗

  Mercier’s last log entry recorded that the Revenant contacted the Eliza May shortly after 9 A.M., about forty miles out from port. The northwest wind might have been ideal for yachting, but it could also carry a cruiser in distress out to sea, and the Revenant was in trouble. The Revenant ’s distress call came in on VHF but the Eliza May was the only boat to hear it, despite the fact that there were other boats two and three miles away. The radio on the smaller vessel had been set to low range, maybe one watt, to prevent anyone else hearing the signal and answering. The Revenant’s batteries were almost dead, and it was drifting. Mercier adjusted his course and went at full speed to his death.

  ∗ ∗ ∗

  I told MacArthur almost everything, from my first meeting with Jack Mercier to that morning’s encounter with Mr. Pudd. The omissions were few, but crucial: I left out Marcy Becker, Mickey Shine’s murder, and our unscheduled early viewing of Carter Paragon’s body. I also made no mention of the fact that I suspected that someone in the state police, possibly Lutz, Voisine, or both, might have been involved in Grace Peltier’s death.

  “
You think this Pudd killed the Peltiers?”

  “Probably. The Fellowship, or at least what the public saw of it, is just a front for someone or something else. Grace Peltier found out what that was, and it was enough to get her killed.”

  “And whatever Grace knew, Pudd thought Curtis Peltier also knew, and now he thinks you might know too?”

  “Yes,” I said.

  “But you don’t.”

  “Not yet.”

  “If Jack Mercier’s dead, there’ll be hell to pay,” said Wallace fervently. Beside him, Ramos nodded silently in agreement as Wallace leaned back to look at me.

  “And don’t think you’ll get away without picking up your share of the check,” he added.

  ∗ ∗ ∗

  We drove along U.S. 1 south before turning left onto 9 and heading for the coast, past the redbrick Baptist Church and the white bell tower of St. Jude’s Catholic Church. At the Pine Point Fire Department on King Street, seven or eight cars were parked in the lot and the doors were wide open. A fireman in jeans and a fire department T-shirt waved us on toward the Pine Point Fishermen’s Co-op, where Marine 4 was already in the water.

  The Scarborough PD used two boats for marine duty. Marine 1 was a seventy-horsepower inflatable based at Spurwink, to the north of Pine Point, and launched from Ferry Beach. Marine 4 was a twenty-one-foot Boston Whaler powered by a 225-horsepower Johnson, based at the Pine Point Co-op and berthed, when not required, in the fire department. It had a crew of five, all of whom were already on board as we pulled up at the gray-and-white co-op building. The harbormaster’s boat was alongside the Whaler, and there were two Scarborough PD officers on board. Both carried 12-gauge Mossberg shotguns. There were two more policemen in the Whaler carrying M-16s. All wore blue windbreakers. From the jetty, curious fishermen looked on.

  Both Ramos and MacArthur shook on their waterproofs as I followed them to the boat. MacArthur was climbing down to the Whaler when he saw me.

  “The hell do you think you’re going?”

  “Come on, Wallace,” I pleaded. “Don’t do this. I’ll stay out of the way. Mercier was my client. I don’t want to be waiting here like an expectant parent if something has happened to him. You don’t let me go with you, I’ll just have to bribe a fisherman to take me out and then I’ll really be in the way. Worse, I might just disappear and then you’ll have lost a crucial witness. They’ll have you back directing traffic.”

  MacArthur glanced at the other men on the boat. The skipper, Ted Adams, shrugged.

  “Get in the damn boat,” hissed MacArthur. “You even stand up to stretch and I’ll feed you to the lobsters.”

  I followed him down, Ramos behind me. There were no more windbreakers so I pulled my jacket tight around me and huddled on the plastic bench, my hands in my pockets and my chin to my chest, as the Whaler pulled away from the dock.

  “Give me your hand,” said MacArthur.

  I extended my right hand and he slapped the cuffs on it, then locked me to the rail of the boat.

  “What happens if we sink?” I asked.

  “Then your body won’t drift away.”

  The boat surged through the dark, gray waters of Saco Bay, white foam erupting upward as it went. Behind us the sun was starting to set, and the waves were afire. MacArthur stood beside the covered cockpit looking back to Scarborough, the horizon bobbing merrily with the movement of the boat on the sea.

  In the wheelhouse, Adams was responding to someone on the radio. “Still moving,” he said to MacArthur. “Only two miles out now, same course.” I looked past the seated policemen, beyond the crew at the cockpit, and imagined that I saw, like a tiny rip in the sky, the long, thin mast of the yacht. Something clawed at my insides, the last desperate scratchings of a cat left to drown in a bag. The prow dipped and sent a fine spray lashing over the deck, soaking me. I shivered as gulls glided above the surface of the water, calling noisily over the sound of the engine.

  “There she is,” said Adams. His finger pointed to a small green dot on the radar screen while, simultaneously, the half-seen needle of the mast joined a dark spot on the horizon. Beside me, Ramos removed his Glock .40 from its holster.

  Slowly the shape acquired definition: a white seventy-footer with a tall mast, drifting on the waves. A smaller boat, the lobster fisherman out of Portland that had first spotted the yacht, shadowed it from a distance. From the north came the sound of Marine 1 approaching. The two boats always responded to a call together for safety reasons.

  Marine 4 turned to the south and came around so that it was on the yacht’s eastern side, its lines silhouetted before the failing sun. As the Whaler circled it, there was blood visible on the deck that even the salt water hadn’t managed to fully remove, and the wood was pitted with what looked like bullet holes. Close to the bow of the boat was a black scorch mark where a flare appeared to have ignited on the deck.

  And at the top of the mast, partially concealed by the furled sail, a body hung with its arms outstretched and tied to the crossbeam. It was naked but for a pair of white boxers, now stained black and red. The legs were white, the feet tied together, a second rope around its chest lashing it to the mast before heading down taut at an angle, tied off to one of the rails. The body was scorched from the stomach to the head. Most of its hair was gone, its eyes were now dark hollows, and its teeth were bared in a rictus of pain, but still I knew that I was looking at the remains of Jack Mercier, hanging dark against the reddening sky like a black flag set in the firmament.

  The Whaler hailed the yacht and, when no response came, drew up off the port side while a young crewman climbed on board the Eliza May, killed the engine, and tied Marine 4 off. Ramos and MacArthur joined him, pulling on protective gloves before they stepped shakily on board.

  “Detectives,” the crewman called from the cockpit. They headed toward him, trying not to touch anything with their hands as the boat rocked gently in the waves. The crewman pointed to where a long, dark trail of blood followed the steps down. Someone had been dragged, dead or dying, belowdecks. MacArthur knelt down and examined the steps more closely. The end of a long, blond hair curled out of the blood. He rummaged in his pockets and removed a small plastic evidence bag, then carefully lifted the hair and stored it away.

  “You stay here,” he said to the crewman as Ramos moved behind him. From the decks of the two police boats, guns were trained on the other two of the yacht’s three entryways belowdecks. Then MacArthur took the lead, using the very edges of the steps, the only parts not covered in blood, to make his way below.

  This is what they found.

  There was a small, dark passageway, with the head to the immediate right and a quarter berth to the left. The head was empty and smelled of chemicals; a shower curtain was pulled back, revealing a clean white shower stall. The quarter berth was unoccupied. The passageway was carpeted, and the material felt wet beneath their feet as they walked, blood bubbling up from between the fibers. They passed the galley and a second pair of facing doors that led into two sleeping compartments, both fitted with small double beds and closets wide enough to take only two pairs of shoes set side by side.

  The door leading into the main salon was closed and no sounds came from behind it. Ramos looked at Wallace and shrugged. Wallace retreated back into one of the bedrooms, his gun in his hand. Ramos moved into the other and called out: “Police. If there’s anybody in there, come out now and keep your hands up.”

  There was no response. Wallace stepped back into the passage, reached for the handle of the door, and keeping his back against the wall, slowly pulled it open.

  There was blood on the walls, on the ceiling, and on the floor. It dripped from the light fixtures and obscured the paintings between the portholes. Three naked bodies hung upside down from the beams in the ceiling: two women, one man. One woman had gray blond hair that almost touched the floor; the other was small and dark. The man was bald, apart from a thin circle of gray hair, which was mostly soaked red with his blood. T
he throat of each had been cut, although the blond also had stab wounds to her stomach and legs. It was her blood on the steps and soaked into the carpet. Deborah Mercier had tried to run, or to intervene, when they took her husband.

  The smell of blood was overpowering in the confined space, and the bodies swayed and bumped against one another with the rocking of the boat. They had been killed facing the door, and the spray from their arteries had hit only three sides of the cabin.

  But there was still some blood behind them. It formed a pattern that could be seen between the moving bodies. MacArthur reached forward and stopped the swaying of Deborah Mercier’s corpse. She hung to the left of the others, so that by stilling her the others also ceased to move. She was cold, and he shuddered at the touch, but now he could see clearly what had been written behind them in bright, red arterial blood.

  It was one word:

  SINNERS

  23

  WHAT HARM CAN IT DO?

  Jack Mercier’s words, spoken on the day that he first asked me to look into Grace’s death, came back to me as I learned of what had been found in the main salon of the Eliza May, its decks stained with red and Jack Mercier’s crucified form hanging from the mast. They came back to me as I saw the pictures of the yacht in the following day’s papers, smaller photographs beside it of Jack and Deborah Mercier, and of the attorney Warren Ober and his wife, Eleanor.

  What harm can it do?

  I recalled myself sitting, wet and shivering, in the bow of Marine 4, surrounded by the cries of gulls as arrangements were made to tow the Eliza May back to shore. I was there for over two hours, the lineaments of Jack Mercier’s body slowly fading and growing indistinct as evening fell. MacArthur was the only one who spoke to me, and then only to detail the discovery of the bodies and the word written in blood upon the wall behind them.

 
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