The Killing Kind, p.34John Connolly
Because, finally, we would want them to come, so that the waiting might be brought to an end.
I could hear the sound of a car engine in the background as Rachel told me all that she had seen. She was driving Marcy Becker to the Colony in her own car; now that they had Angel, she was safe for a time. Louis was on his way north and would call me within minutes.
“He’s not dead,” said Rachel evenly.
“I know,” I replied. “If he was dead they’d have left him for us to find.”
I wondered how quickly Lutz had talked and if the Golem had reached them yet. If he had, all of this might be immaterial.
“Is Marcy okay?” I asked.
“She’s asleep on the seat beside me. I don’t think she’s slept much since Grace died. She wanted to know why you were willing to risk your life for this: Angel, Louis, me, but you especially. She said it wasn’t your fight.”
“What did you tell her?”
“It was Louis who told her. He said that everything was your fight. I think he was smiling. It’s kind of hard to tell with him.”
“I know where they are, Rachel. They’re in Lubec.”
Her voice had tightened a notch when she spoke again. “Then you take care.”
“I always take care,” I replied.
“No, you don’t.”
“I guess not, but I mean it this time.”
I was just beyond Bangor. Lubec was about another 120 miles away along U.S. 1. I could do it in less than two hours, assuming no eagle-eyed lawman decided to haul me over for speeding. I put my foot on the gas and felt the Mustang surge forward.
Louis called when I was passing Ellsworth Falls, heading down 1A to the coast.
“I’m in Waterville,” he said.
“I think they’re in Lubec,” I replied. “It’s on the northern coast, close to New Brunswick. You’ve a ways to go yet.”
“They call you?”
“Wait for me at the town limits,” he replied. His tone was neutral. He could have been advising me not to forget to pick up milk.
At Milbridge, maybe eighty miles from Lubec, the cell phone rang for the third time. This time I noticed that the ID of the caller was concealed as I pressed the answer button.
“Mr. Parker,” said Pudd’s voice.
“Is he alive?”
“Barely. I’d say hopes for his recovery are fading fast. He seriously injured my associate.”
“Good for him, Leonard.”
“I couldn’t let it go unpunished. He bled quite a lot. In fact, he’s still bleeding quite a lot.” He snickered unpleasantly. “So you’ve worked out our little family tree. It’s not pretty, is it?”
“You have the book?”
He knew that Lutz had failed. I wondered if he knew why and if the shadow of the Golem was already almost upon him.
“Where are you?”
“Augusta,” I said.
I could have cried with relief when he seemed to believe me.
“There’s a private road off Route 9, where it crosses the Machias River,” said Pudd. “It leads to Lake Machias. Be at the lakeshore in ninety minutes, alone and with the book. I’ll give you whatever is left of your friend. If you’re late, or if I smell police, I’ll skewer him from his anus to his mouth like a spit pig.” He hung up.
I wondered how Pudd planned to kill me when I reached the lake. He couldn’t let me live, not after all that had taken place. And ninety minutes wasn’t enough time to reach Machias from Augusta, not on these roads. He had no intention of bringing Angel there alive.
I called Louis. It was a test of trust, and I wasn’t certain how he would respond. I was closest to Lubec; there was no way that Louis could get there before Pudd’s deadline ran out. If I was wrong about Lubec, then somebody would have to be at the rendezvous point to meet him. It would have to be Louis.
The pause before he agreed was barely detectable.
THREE WOODEN LIGHTHOUSES decorated the sign at the outskirts of the town of Lubec: the white-and-red Mulholland Light across the Lubec Channel in New Brunswick; the white Lubec Channel Light, a spark-plug-style cast-iron structure out on the Lubec Channel; and the red-and-white-striped West Quoddy Light at Quoddy Head State Park. They were symbols of stability and certainty, a promise of safety and salvation now potentially corrupted by the stain of the Faulkners’ presence.
After a brief stop at the edge of the town, I drove on, past the boarded-up frame of the old Hillside Restaurant and the white American Legion building, until I came to Lubec itself. It was a town filled with churches: the White Ridge Baptists, the First Assembly of God, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Congregational Christians, and the Christian Temple Disciples had all converged at this place, burying their dead in the nearby town cemetery or erecting memorials to those lost at sea. Grace Peltier had been right, I thought; I had only glanced at the thesis notes Marcy had given me, but I had noted Grace’s use of the term “frontier” to describe the state of Maine. Here, at the easternmost point of the state and the country, surrounded by churches and the bones of the dead, it was possible to feel that this was the very end of things.
On the waterfront, seabirds sat on the dilapidated pier, its walkway sealed off with Private Property notices. There was a stone breakwater to the left, and to the right, a congregation of buildings, among them the old McMurdy’s Smokehouse, which was in the process of being restored. Across the water, the Mulholland Light was visible, the FDR Memorial Bridge extending toward it across the water of the Lubec Narrows.
It was already growing dark as I drove up Pleasant Street, the waterfront on my left, to a dirt lot beside the town’s wastewater treatment facility. From there, a small trail led down to the shore. I followed it, stepping over seaweed and rocks, discarded beer cans and cigarette packs, until I stood on the beach. It was mainly stones and marram grass, with some gray sand exposed. Beyond, the Lubec Channel Light scythed through the failing evening light.
Maybe half a mile to my right, a stone causeway reached into the sea. At the end was a small island covered in trees, their branches like the black spires of churches set against the lighter tones of the evening sky. A dull green light shone between the branches in places, and I could see the brighter white lights of an outbuilding close to the northern side of the island.
There were three lighthouses on Lubec’s sign, for only three lighthouses were still in existence. But there had once been another: a stone structure built on the northern shore of the Quoddy Narrows by a local Baptist minister as a symbol of God’s light as well as a warning to mariners. It was a flawed, imperfect structure, and had collapsed during a heavy gale in 1804, killing the minister’s son who was acting as lighthouse keeper. Two years later, concerned citizens nominated West Quoddy Head, farther down the coast, as a more suitable position, and in 1806 Thomas Jefferson had ordered the construction of a rubblestone lighthouse on the spot. The Northern Light was largely forgotten, and now the island on which it lay was in private ownership.
All of this I learned from a woman in McFadden’s variety store and gas station on the way into town. She said the people on the island kept themselves pretty much to themselves, but they were believed to be religious folk. There was an old man who took ill sometimes and had to be treated by the doctor in town, and two younger people, a man and a woman. The younger man shopped in the store sometimes, but always paid with cash.
She knew his name, though.
He was called Monker.
∗ ∗ ∗
It had begun to rain, a harbinger of the coastal storm that was set to sweep northern Maine that night, and heavy drops hammered on me as I stood watching the causeway. I got back in the car and took the road to Quoddy Head Park until I saw a small, unmarked private drive heading down to the coast. I killed my lights and followed the trail until it petered out among thick trees. I left
I took my flashlight from the glove compartment and, shielding the light with my hand, shadowed the fence. I spotted two motion sensors within fifty feet, the grass cropped low around them. I figured there were probably more among the trees themselves. As the rain soaked my hair and skin, I stayed with the fence until I found myself at the top of a steep incline leading back down to the shore. The tide was rolling in and the base of the causeway was now covered in water. The only way to reach the island without getting drenched, or maybe even washed away, was through the gates and along the causeway, but to take that route would be to alert those on the island to my approach.
Grace Peltier must have stood here, weeks earlier, before she scaled the gates and walked onto the causeway. She must have waited until they were gone, until she was certain that the island was unoccupied and that nobody would be returning for some time, and then crossed over. But she had activated the sensors, alerting them to an intruder, and the system would have informed Pudd or his sister, automatically calling a pager or his cell phone. When they returned, closing off the causeway, Grace had taken to the sea. That was why her clothes had been soaked with seawater. She was a strong swimmer. She knew she could make it. But they had seen her face on the camera’s tapes, maybe even spotted her car. Lutz and Voisine had been alerted, and the trap was closed on Grace.
I looked out on the dark waves, glowing whitely as they broke, and decided to take my chances with the sea. I unloaded the spare .38 at my ankle, then put the bullets and the spare clip for the Smith & Wesson beneath my arm into a Ziploc plastic bag. Something tightened in my belly, and the old feeling came over me again. The sea before me was a dark pool, the hidden place on which I had drawn time and time before, and I was about to plunge into it once more.
I waded through the water, teeth chattering as I approached the causeway. Waves rocked me and once or twice I was almost pushed back to the shore by their force. The stones and rocks that made up the causeway were slick and spotted with green algae, and the tide was already splashing almost to the level of my waist. I tried to wedge my boots into the cracks and hollows, but the rocks had been bound with cement, and after only two awkward sideways movements, my feet slid from under me and I lost my grip. I slid quickly back into the sea, the water drenching me to my chin. As I recovered from the shock, a line of white emerged to my left and I barely had time to take a breath before a huge wave lifted me off my feet and pushed me back at least fifteen feet, salt water filling my mouth as the rain fell and seaweed twisted around me.
When the wave had passed, I began to wade again along the edge of the rocks, trying to find a point at which I could pull myself back onto the road. It took me about ten minutes and two more dousings to find a hollow where one of the stones had fallen from the concrete. Awkwardly, I placed a wet boot into the alcove, then barked my knee painfully as it slipped out. Digging my fingers around one of the highest stones, I tried again and managed to haul myself up and onto the road. I lay there for a moment, catching my breath and shivering. My cell phone, I discovered, was now at the bottom of the sea. I stood, let the water run out of the barrel of the Smith & Wesson, reloaded the .38, and continued on down the causeway at a crouch until I reached the island.
Thick green firs grew on either side of the road as it made its way to the remains of the lighthouse, where the road became part of a gravel courtyard that touched on the entrance to each of the island’s structures. There should have been nothing more than a pile of old stones where the original lighthouse had once stood, but instead I found an edifice about thirty feet high, with an open gallery at the top surrounded by a chain-link fence, offering a clear view of the causeway and the coast itself. It was a lighthouse without a light, except for a faint illumination in one of the windows at the highest enclosed level.
To the right of the new lighthouse stood a long wooden single-story building with four square windows covered with wire frame, two on either side of the heavy door. A greenish glow emanated from it, as if the light inside was struggling to penetrate water or the leaves of plants. In front of the lighthouse, blocking my view of its entrance, was what I took to be a garage. Farther back, almost at the eastern edge of the island, was a second similar structure, possibly a boathouse. I leaned against the back of the garage and listened, but I could hear nothing except the steady falling of the rain. Staying on the grass and using the building as a shield, I began to make my way toward the lighthouse.
It was only when I cleared the garage that I saw him. Two tree trunks had been bound together to form an X, supported in turn by a second pair of trunks that kept the cross at an angle of sixty degrees to the ground. He was naked, and his arms and legs had been bound to the wood with wire. There was a lot of bruising to his face and his upper body, and swellings on his arms, chest, and legs that looked like the result of bites. Blood had flowed from the wounds in his femoral arteries and lay pooled on the ground below him. The rain washed over his pale body, dripped from the soft flesh on his arms and glistened on his bare skull and white, hairless face. A patch of skin was missing from his stomach. I moved closer to him and checked his pulse, his skin still warm to the touch. The Golem was dead.
I was about to leave him when gravel crunched to my right and the mute appeared. There was mud on her boots and her loose denim jeans, and she wore a yellow windbreaker, which hung open over a dark sweater. She held a gun in her right hand, pointing to the ground. There was no time for me to hide, even if I wanted to.
She stopped short when she saw me, her mouth opened soundlessly, and she raised her arm and fired. I dived left. Beside me, the Golem’s body shuddered slightly as the bullet struck his shoulder close to where my head had been. I knelt, sighted, and squeezed the trigger. My first shot took her in the neck, the second in the chest. She twisted, her legs wrapped themselves around each other, and she fell, loosing off two shots into the air as she hit the ground. I ran to her, keeping the gun trained on her body, and kicked her gun away from her right hand. Her left leg was trembling uncontrollably. She looked up at me, the scars on her neck now obscured by the blood flowing from her wound. Something rattled in her throat, her mouth opened and closed twice, and then she died.
In the outbuilding to my right, a shape distorted the flow of green light for an instant. A thin shadow passed across the glass and I knew instinctively that Mr. Pudd was waiting inside for me. He could not have failed to have heard the shots, yet he hadn’t responded. Behind me the door of the lighthouse remained securely closed, but when I looked to the top of the building, the light that had been burning was now burning no longer. In the darkness it seemed to me that something was watching me closely. Pudd would have to be dealt with first, I thought; I did not want him at my back.
Quickly, my hands brushing the long, wet grass, I ran to the door of the outbuilding. There was a small glass panel at about face level, crisscrossed with wire, and I stayed low as I passed beneath it. A bolt had been pulled across midway down the door, and a lock hung open beneath it. Stepping to one side, I eased my foot against the crack and pushed the door open.
Three shots sounded and the door frame exploded in showers of splinters and flaking paint. I jammed my gun into the gap and fired five times in an arcing pattern, then threw myself into the room. I could still hear glass falling as I sprinted to the far left wall, but no more shots came. Working quickly, I ejected the magazine from the Smith & Wesson and replaced it with a full clip, scanning the room while my hands worked at the gun.
The stench was incredible, a powerful smell of decay and defecation. There were no lights on the ceiling or on the walls, and the
A sound came from close to where my hand rested on the ground, a soft tapping on the stone floor. I looked to my left and saw, resting in a small arc of green light, a dark, semicircular shape, its body perhaps an inch and a half long and its spiny legs, it seemed, at least as long again. Instinctively, I yanked my hand away. The spider tensed, then raised its first pair of legs and exposed a set of reddish jaws.
Suddenly, and with surprising speed, it moved toward me, its legs almost a blur and the rhythm of the tapping increasing. I backed away, but it kept coming as I lashed out with my foot and felt it connect with something soft. I kicked again with the toe of my boot and the spider tumbled away into the far recesses of the room, where some empty glass cases lay piled untidily upon one another.
The Killing Kind by John Connolly / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime / Horror have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes