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The killing kind, p.31
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       The Killing Kind, p.31

           John Connolly
 

  Sinners.

  “The Aroostook Baptists,” I said.

  MacArthur grimaced. “Little early for a copycat, don’t you think?”

  “It’s not a copycat killing,” I answered. “It’s the same people.”

  MacArthur sat down heavily beside me. Seawater swirled around his black leather shoes. “The Baptists have been dead for over thirty years,” he began. “Even if whoever killed them was still alive, why would he—or they—start again now?”

  I was too tired to go on hiding things, much too tired.

  “I don’t think they ever stopped killing,” I told him. “They’ve always been doing it, quietly and discreetly. Mercier was closing in on them, trying to put pressure on the Fellowship through the courts and the IRS. He wanted to draw them out, and he succeeded. They responded by killing him and those who were prepared to stand alongside him: Yossi Epstein in New York, Alison Beck in Minneapolis, Warren Ober, even Grace Peltier.”

  Now, their countermeasures were almost complete. The word on the wall indicated that, a deliberate echo of the slaughter with which they had begun and that had only recently been revealed. There was now one final act left to perform: the recovery of the missing Apocalypse. Once that was accomplished they would disappear, vanishing below the surface to lie dormant in some quiet, dark cavern of the honeycomb world.

  “Who are they?” asked MacArthur.

  “The Faulkners,” I replied. “The Faulkners are the Fellowship.”

  MacArthur shook his head. “You’re in a shitload of trouble,” he said.

  The sound of Marine 1 approaching us disturbed my thoughts. “They’re going back to pick up the local ME, have the victims declared dead at the scene,” said MacArthur, unlocking the cuffs. “You go back with them. Someone will take you to the department. I’ll follow on within the hour and we’ll pick up this discussion where we left off.”

  He watched me as I stepped carefully from the Whaler into the smaller boat. It turned in a broad arc and headed for the shore, leaving the Eliza May behind. The sun was setting, and the waves were afire as they prepared to haul Jack Mercier’s body down.

  At the Scarborough Police Department I sat for a time in the lobby and watched the dispatchers behind their protective screen. My clothes were soaked and I couldn’t seem to get warm again. I found myself reading, over and over, warnings against rabies and DUI posted on the bulletin boards. I felt like I was coming down with a fever. My head ached and the skin on my scalp seemed to be constricting around the stitches.

  Eventually I was led into the general-purpose briefing room. The command staff had just broken up their meeting in the smaller conference room, where MacArthur had been chewed out for letting me on board the Whaler. I was trying to draw in some heat through a cup of coffee, a patrol officer at the door to make sure I didn’t try to steal one of the canine trophies stored in the cabinet, when MacArthur joined me, accompanied by Captain Bobby Melia, one of two captains in the force who were second in command to Chief Byron Fischer. MacArthur carried a tape recorder with him. They sat across from me, the door behind them closed, and asked me to take them through it all again. Then Norman Boone arrived from the BATF, and Ellis Howard from the Portland PD.

  And I went through it again.

  And again.

  And again.

  I was tired, cold, and hungry. Each time I told them what I knew, it got harder and harder to remember what I had left out, and their questions became more and more probing. But I couldn’t tell them about Marcy Becker, because if the Fellowship did have connections among the police, then telling anyone in law enforcement about her would be tantamount to signing her death warrant. They were threatening to charge me as an accessory to Mercier’s murder, in addition to accusations of withholding evidence, obstructing justice, and anything else that the law allowed. I let the waves of their anger break over me.

  Two bodies were missing from the boat: those of the porn star with the busted finger, and Quentin Harrold, both of whom had gone out on the yacht to guard the Obers and the Merciers. The Scarborough PD suspected they had died in the first burst of gunfire. Jack Mercier had tried unsuccessfully to fire off a flare but had instead ignited his own clothing, which explained the charring on his body. There was a Colt revolver in the cabin where the bodies were found, but it had not been fired. Cartridges were scattered on the floor beside it where someone had made a last, desperate effort to load.

  What harm can it do?

  I wanted to get away from there. I wanted to talk to the Beckers, to force them—at gunpoint if necessary—to tell me where their daughter was hiding. I wanted to know what Grace Peltier had found. I wanted to sleep.

  Most of all, I wanted to find Mr. Pudd, and the mute, and the old man who had wanted Rachel’s skin: Aaron Faulkner. His wife was among the dead of St. Froid but he was not, and neither were his two children. A boy and a girl, I remembered. What age would they be now: late forties, early fifties? Ms. Torrance had been too young, as was Lutz. Unless there were others hidden elsewhere, which I doubted, that left only Pudd and the mute: they were Leonard and Muriel Faulkner, dispatched, when required, to do their father’s bidding.

  Wallace gave me a ride back to my car after eleven that night, threats of retribution still ringing in my ears. Angel and Louis were with Rachel when I returned home, drinking beer and watching television with the volume almost muted. All three of them left me alone while I stripped and showered, then pulled on a pair of chinos and a sweater. A new cell phone lay on the kitchen table, the memory card salvaged from the wreckage of the old phone and reinstalled. I took a bottle of Pete’s Wicked Ale from the fridge and twisted it open. I could smell the hops and the distinctive fruity scent. I raised it to my mouth and took one mouthful, my first sip of alcohol in two years, then held it for as long as I was able. When at last I swallowed, it was warm and thick with saliva. I poured the rest into a glass and drank half of it, then sat looking at what remained. After a time, I took the glass to the sink and poured the beer down the drain.

  It wasn’t exactly a moment of revelation, more a confirmation. I didn’t want it, not now. I could take it or leave it, and I chose to let it go. Amy had been right; it was just something to fill the hole, and I had found other ways to do that. But for now, nothing in a bottle was going to make things better.

  I shivered again. Despite the shower and the change of clothes, I still hadn’t been able to get warm. I could taste the salt on my lips, could smell the brine in my hair, and each time I did I was back on the waters of the bay, the Eliza May drifting slowly before me and Jack Mercier’s body swaying gently against the sky.

  I placed the bottle in the recycling box and looked up to see Rachel leaning against the door.

  “You’re not finishing it?” she said softly.

  I shook my head. For a moment or two, I couldn’t speak. I felt something breaking up inside of me, like a stone in my heart that my system was now ready to expel. A pain at the very center of my being began to spread throughout my body: to my fingers and toes, to my groin, to the tips of my ears. Wave after wave of it rocked me, so that I had to hold on to the sink to stop myself from falling. I squeezed my eyes closed tightly and saw:

  a young woman emerging from an oil barrel by a canal in Louisiana, her teeth bared in her final agony and her body encased in a cocoon of transformed body fats, dumped by the Traveling Man after he had blinded her and killed her; a little dead boy running through my house in the middle of the night, calling me to play; Jack Mercier, burning with a desperate flame as his wife was dragged bleeding belowdecks; blood and water mixing on the pale, distorted features of Mickey Shine; my grandfather, his memory fading slowly away; my father sitting at a kitchen table, ruffling my hair with his great hand; and Susan and Jennifer, splayed across a kitchen chair—lost to me and yet not lost, gone and yet forever with me . . .

  The pain made a rushing sound as it passed through me, and I thought I detected voices calling to me, over and over,
as at last it reached its peak. My body tensed, my mouth opened, and I heard myself speak.

  “It wasn’t my fault,” I whispered.

  Her brow furrowed. “I don’t understand.”

  “It—wasn’t—my—fault,” I repeated. There were huge gaps between the words as I retched each one up and spat it, blinking, into the light. I licked my upper lip and tasted, again, salt and beer. My head was pounding in time to my heart, and I thought I was going to burn up. Past and present twisted and intertwined with each other like snakes in a pit. New deaths and old, old guilts and new, the pain of them white hot even as I spoke.

  “None of it,” I said. My eyes were blurring, and now there was fresh salt water on my cheeks and lips. “I couldn’t have saved them. If I’d been with them, I’d have died too. I did everything that I could. I’m still trying to do it, but I couldn’t have saved them.”

  And I didn’t know about whom I was speaking. I think I was talking about them all: the man on the mast; Grace and Curtis Peltier; a woman and child, a year earlier, lying on the floor of a cheap apartment; another woman, another child, in the kitchen of our home in Brooklyn a year before that again; my father, my mother, my grandfather; a little boy with a bullet wound for an eye.

  All of them.

  And I heard them calling my name from the places in which they lay, their voices echoing through burrows and pits, caverns and caves until the honeycomb world vibrated with the sound of them.

  “I tried,” I whispered. “But I couldn’t save them all.”

  And then her arms were around me and the world collapsed, waiting for us to rebuild it again in our image.

  24

  I SLEPT A STRANGE, disturbed sleep in her arms that night, twisting and clawing at unseen things. Angel and Louis were in the spare room and all of the doors were locked and bolted, so we were safe for a time, but she had no peace beside me. I dreamed I was sinking into dark waters where Jack Mercier waited for me, his skin burning beneath the waves, Curtis Peltier beside him, his arms bleeding black blood into the depths. When I tried to rise they held me back, their dead hands digging into my legs. My head throbbed and my lungs ached, the pressure increasing upon me until at last I was forced to open my mouth and the salt water flooded my nose and mouth.

  Then I would wake, over and over, to find her close beside me, whispering softly, her hands moving in a slow rhythm across my brow and through my hair. And so the night passed.

  The next morning we ate a hurried breakfast, then prepared to separate. Louis, Rachel, and I would head for Bar Harbor and a final confrontation with the Beckers. Angel had repaired the phone at the house and would stay there so we would have room for maneuvering if needed. When I checked my cell-phone messages on the way to the car, there was only one: it came from Ali Wynn, asking me to call her.

  “You told me to contact you if somebody started asking about Grace,” she said, when I reached her. “Somebody did.”

  “Who was it?”

  “A policeman. He came to the restaurant yesterday. He was a detective. I saw his shield.”

  “You get his name?”

  “Lutz. He said he was investigating Grace’s death. He wanted to know when I saw her last.”

  “What did you tell him?”

  “Just what I told you, and nothing else.”

  “What did you think of him?”

  She considered the question. “He frightened me. I didn’t go home last night. I stayed with a friend.”

  “Have you seen him since yesterday?”

  “No, I think he believed me.”

  “Did he tell you how he got your name?”

  “Grace’s tutor. I talked to her last night. She said she gave him the names of two of Grace’s friends: me, and Marcy Becker.”

  ∗ ∗ ∗

  It was just after 9 A.M., and we were almost at Augusta, when the cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number.

  “Mr. Parker?” said a female voice. “It’s Helen Becker, Marcy’s mother.”

  I mouthed the words “Mrs. Becker” to Rachel.

  “We were just on our way to see you, Mrs. Becker.”

  “You’re still looking for Marcy, aren’t you?” There was resignation in her voice, and fear.

  “The people who killed Grace Peltier are closing in on her, Mrs. Becker,” I said. “They killed Grace’s father, they killed a man named Jack Mercier, along with his wife and friends, and they’re going to kill Marcy when they find her.”

  At the other end of the line I could hear her start to cry.

  “I’m sorry for what happened the last time you came to see us. We were scared; scared for Marcy and scared for ourselves. She’s our only daughter, Mr. Parker. We can’t let anything happen to her.”

  “Where is she, Mrs. Becker?”

  But she was going to tell me in her own time, and her own way. “A policeman came, just this morning. He was a detective. He said that she was in a lot of danger, and he wanted to take her to safety.” She paused. “My husband told him where she was. We’re law-abiding people, Mr. Parker. Marcy had warned us to say nothing to the police, but he was so kind and so concerned for her. We had no reason not to trust him and we have no way of contacting Marcy. There’s no phone at the house.”

  “What house?”

  “We have a house in Boothbay Harbor. It’s just a lodge, really. We used to rent it out during the summer, but we’ve let it get rundown these last few years.”

  “Tell me exactly where it is.”

  Rachel handed me a pen and a Post-it note and I wrote down her directions, then read them back to her.

  “Please, Mr. Parker, don’t let anything happen to her.”

  I tried to sound reassuring. “I won’t, Mrs. Becker. One more thing: what was the name of the detective who talked to you about Marcy?”

  “It was Lutz,” she said. “Detective John Lutz.”

  I signaled right and pulled into the hard shoulder. Louis’s Lexus appeared in the rearview seconds later. I got out of the car and ran back to him.

  “Change of plan,” I said.

  “So where we going?” he asked.

  “To get Marcy Becker. We know where she is.”

  He must have seen something in my face.

  “And let me guess?” he said. “Someone else knows where she’s at too.”

  “That’s right.”

  “Ain’t that always the way?”

  ∗ ∗ ∗

  Boothbay Harbor used to be a pretty nice place thirty years ago, when it was little more than a fishing village. Thirty years before that the whole town probably smelled of manure, since Boothbay was then the commercial and shipping center for the fertilizer trade. If you went back far enough, it was pretty enough to provide a site for the first permanent settlement on the coast of Maine, back in 1622. Admittedly, that settlement was also one of the most wretched on the eastern seaboard, but everybody has to start somewhere.

  Now, during the season, Boothbay Harbor filled up with tourists and recreational sailors, crowding a harbor front that had been brutalized by uncontrolled commercial development. It had come a long way from its wretched origins, or if you were one of the naysayers, it had come a long way to become wretched all over again.

  We took 27 southeast from Augusta and made Boothbay in just over an hour, following Middle Street out until it became Barters Island Road. I had almost been tempted to ask Rachel to wait for us in Boothbay, but apart from not wanting to risk a sock to the jaw, I knew that she would provide reassurance for Marcy Becker.

  At last we came to a small private road that curved up a rough, tree-lined drive to a timber house on a small hill, with a ramshackle porch and boards built into the slope to act as steps. I guessed that it couldn’t contain more than two or three rooms. Trees surrounded it to the west and south, leaving a clear view of most of the road up to the house. There was no car visible at the front of the drive, but a mountain bike stood below the window to the left of the front door.

&nb
sp; “You want to leave the cars here?” asked Louis, as we paused beside each other at the foot of the road. If we drove any farther, we would be immediately visible to anyone in the house.

  “Uh-uh,” I replied. “I want to be there and gone before Lutz arrives.”

  “Assuming he ain’t there already.”

  “You think he rode up on his mountain bike?”

  Louis shrugged. “Either way, we best not arrive with our hands hangin’ by our sides.” He popped the trunk and got out of the car. I took another look at the house, then glanced at Rachel and shrugged. There didn’t seem to be any activity, so I gave up looking and joined Louis. Rachel followed.

  Louis had pushed back the matting in the trunk, exposing the spare tire. He twisted the bolt holding it in place, then lifted the tire and handed it to me, leaving the trunk empty. It was only when he slipped a pair of concealed clasps that it struck me how shallow the trunk was. The reason became apparent a couple of seconds later when the whole floor raised up on a hinge at the rear, exposing a small arsenal of weapons fitted into specially designed compartments.

  “I just know you’ve got permits for all these,” I said.

  “Home, there’s shit here they ain’t even got permits for.”

  I saw one of the Calico minisubs for which Louis had a particular fondness, two fifty-round magazines on either side of it. There was a spare Glock 9-millimeter and a Mauser SP66 sniper’s rifle, along with a South African–made BXP submachine gun fitted with a suppressor and a grenade launcher, which seemed to me like a contradiction in terms.

  “You know, you hit a bump in the road and you’ll have a crater named after you,” I said. “You ever worry about DWBs?”

  Driving While Black was almost a recognized offense under law.

  “Nah, got me a chauffeur’s license and a black cap. Anybody asks, I just drivin’ it for massa.”

  He leaned in and removed a shotgun from the rear of the trunk, then handed it to me as he replaced the floor and spare tire.

 
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