City of the lost part on.., p.1
City of the Lost: Part One, p.1Part #1 of City of the Lost series by Kelley Armstrong
PUBLISHED BY RANDOM HOUSE CANADA Copyright (c) 2015 Kelley Armstrong All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Published in 2015 by Random House Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, a Penguin Random House company. Distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
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Armstrong, Kelley, author
City of the lost / Kelley Armstrong
eBook ISBN 978-0-34581615-3
Cover design by Terri Nimmo
Cover Images: Potapov Alexander / Shutterstock
About the Author
"I killed a man," I say to the new therapist.
I've barely settled onto the couch ... which isn't a couch at all, but a chaise longue that looked inviting and proved horribly uncomfortable. Like therapy itself.
I've caught her off guard with that opening line, but I've been through this before with other therapists. Five, to be exact. Each time, the gap between "Hello" and "I'm a murderer" decreases. By this point, she should be glad I'm still bothering with a greeting. Therapists do charge by the hour.
"You ..." she says, "killed a man?"
The apprehensive look. I know it well--that moment where they're certain they've misheard. Or that I mean it in a metaphorical way. I broke a man's heart. Which is technically true. A bullet does break a heart. Irrevocably, it seems.
When I only nod, she asks, "When did this happen?"
"Twelve years ago."
Expression number two. Relief. At least I haven't just killed a man. That would be so much more troublesome.
Then comes the third look, as she searches my face with dawning realization.
"You must have been young," she says. "A teenager?"
"Ah." She settles back in her chair, the relief stronger now, mingling with satisfaction that she's solved the puzzle. "An accident of some kind?"
She's blunt. Others have led me in circles around the conclusion they've drawn. You didn't really murder a man. It was a car accident or other youthful mishap, and now you torture yourself with guilt.
"No, I did it on purpose. That is, pulling the trigger was intentional. I didn't go there planning to kill him. Manslaughter, not homicide. A good lawyer could argue for imperfect self-defence and get the sentence down to about twelve years."
She pulls back. "You've researched this," she says. "The crime. The sentence."
"It's my job."
"Because you feel guilty."
"No, it's my job. I'm a cop."
Her mouth forms an O of surprise, and her fingernails tap my file folder as she makes mental excuses for not reading it more thoroughly. Then her mouth opens again. The barest flicker of a smile follows.
"You're a police officer," she says. "You shot someone in the line--No, you were too young. A cadet?"
"Yes, but it wasn't a training accident." I settle on the chaise. "How about I just tell you the story?"
An obvious solution, but they never suggest it. Some, like this one, actually hesitate when I offer. She doesn't want to hear my tale. She fears I'm guilty and doesn't want me to be. Give her a few more clues and she'll find a way to absolve me.
Except I don't want absolution. I just want to tell my story. Because this is what I do. I play Russian roulette with Fate, knowing someday a therapist will break confidentiality and turn me in. It's like when I was a child, weighed down by guilt over some wrongdoing but fearing the punishment too much to confess outright. I'd drop clues, reasoning that if I was meant to be caught, those hints would chamber the round. Magical, childish thinking, but it's what I do now. I tell my story and reason that if I'm truly meant to be punished, a therapist will turn me in.
"Can I begin?" I ask.
She nods with some reluctance and settles in.
"I'd gone to a bar that night with my boyfriend," I say. "It was supposed to be a date, but he spent the evening doing business in the back corner. That's what he called it. Doing business. Which sounds like he was dealing coke in some dive bar. We were actually in the university pub, him selling vitamin R and bennies to kids who wanted to make it through exam week ..."
We sat at a back table, side by side, waiting for customers. Blaine's fingers stroked the inside of my thigh. "Almost done. And then ..." He grinned over at me. "Pizza? Your place?"
"Only if we get enough for Diana."
He made a face. "It's Friday night, Casey. Shouldn't your roommate have a date or something?"
"Mmm, no. Sorry."
Actually, she did. I just wasn't telling Blaine that. We hadn't had sex yet. I held him off by saying I was a virgin. That was a lie. I was just picky.
Blaine was my walk on the wild side. I was a police cadet playing bad girl. Which was as lame as his attempt to play drug lord. On a scale of bad boys, Blaine ranked about a two. Oh sure, he claimed he was connected--his grandfather being some Montreal mobster whose name I couldn't even find with an Internet search. More likely the old guy played bookie at his seniors' home. Blaine's father certainly wasn't mobbed-up--he was a pharmacist, which is how Blaine stole his stuff. Blaine himself was pre-med. He didn't even sample his merchandise. That night, he nursed one beer for two hours. Me? I drank Coke. Diet Coke. Yep, we were hard-core.
A last customer sidled over, a kid barely old enough to be in university. Blaine sold him the last of his stash. Then he gulped his beer, put his arm around my shoulders, and led me from the pub. I could roll my eyes at his swagger, but I also found it oddly charming. While I might not have been ready to jump into bed with Blaine, I did like him. He was a messed-up rich kid and I could relate to that.
"Any chance of getting Diana out of your apartment?" he asked.
"Even if there was, the answer is no."
He only shrugged, with a smile that was half "I'll change your mind soon" and half genuine acceptance.
I wasn't familiar with the campus area. I was attending the provincial police college outside the city and spending weekends with Diana, a high school friend who went to the local community college. Neither of us was from here. So when Blaine insisted that a dark alley was a shortcut to the pizza place, I didn't question it ... mostly because I was fine with what he had planned--a make-out pit stop designed to change my mind about getting Diana out of our apartment.
We were going at it hard and heavy when I heard the click of a gun. I gasped and pushed Blaine back. He looked up and jumped away, leaving me with a nine-millimetre pointed at my cheek.
"I only have fifty bucks," Blaine lied--the rest was stuffed in his sock. "She has some jewellery. Take that and the fifty--"
"Do we look like muggers, Saratori?"
As the gun lowered, I glanced at the guy holding it. Early twenties. Dark blond hair. Leather jacket. No obvious gang markings, but that's what this looked like: four young guys, one with a gun, three with knives.
I couldn't fight them--I didn't have a weapon and martial arts doesn't work well against four armed attackers. Instead, I committed their faces t
"Does the old man know you're dealing?" the lead guy asked.
"I don't know what--" Blaine began.
"--what I'm talking about? That you're Leo Saratori's grandkid? Or that you were dealing on our turf?"
Blaine bleated denials. One of the guys pinned him against the wall, while another patted him down. They took a small plastic bag with a few leftover pills from one sock and a wad of cash from the other.
"Okay," Blaine said. "So we're done now?"
"You think we want your money?" The leader bore down on him. "You're dealing on our turf, college boy. Considering who you are, I'm going to take this as a declaration of war."
"N-no. My grandfather doesn't--"
A clatter from the far end of the alley. Just a cat, leaping from a garbage bin, but it was enough to startle the guy with the gun. I lunged, caught him by the wrist, and twisted, hearing the gun thump to the ground as I said, "Grab it!" and--
Blaine wasn't there to grab it. He was tearing down the alley. One of the others was already scooping up the gun, and I was wrenching their leader's arm into a hold, but I knew it wouldn't do any good. The guy with the gun jabbed the barrel against my forehead and roared, "Stop!"
I didn't even have time to do that before the other two slammed me into the wall. The leader took back his gun and advanced on me.
"Seems we know who's got the balls in your relationship," he said. "The pretty little China doll. Your boyfriend's gone, sweetie. Left you to take his punishment." He looked me up and down. "A little too college-girl for my tastes, but I'm flexible."
I thought he was joking. Or bluffing. I knew my statistics. I faced more danger of sexual assault from an acquaintance or a boyfriend.
"Look," I said. "Whatever beef you have with Blaine, it has nothing to do with me. I've got twenty dollars in my wallet and my necklace is gold. You can take--"
"We'll take whatever we want, sweetie."
I tugged my bag off my shoulder. "Okay, here's my purse. There's a cellphone--"
He stepped closer. "We'll take whatever we want."
His voice had hardened, but I still didn't think: I'm in danger. I knew how muggings worked. Just stay calm and hand over my belongings.
I held out my purse. He grabbed it by the strap and tossed it aside. Then he grabbed me, one hand going to my throat, the other to my breast, shoving me against the wall. There was a split second of shock as I hit the bricks hard. Then ...
I don't know what happened then. To this day, I cannot remember the thoughts that went through my brain. I don't think there were any. I felt his hands on my throat and on my breast, and I reacted.
My knee connected with his groin. I twisted toward the guy standing beside us. My fingers wrapped around his wrist. I grabbed his switchblade as it fell. I twisted again, my arm swinging down, and I stabbed the leader in the upper thigh as he was still falling back, moaning from the knee to his groin.
Afterward, I would piece it together and understand how it happened. How a response that seemed almost surreal was, in fact, very predictable. When the leader grabbed me with both hands, I knew he was no longer armed. So I reacted, if not with forethought, at least with foreknowledge.
Yet it was the lack of forethought that was my undoing. I had stabbed the leader ... and there were three other guys right there. One hit me in the gut. Another plowed his fist into my jaw. A third wrenched my arm so hard I screamed as my shoulder dislocated. He got the knife away from me easily after that. Someone kicked me in the back of the knees and I went down, and as soon as I did, boots slammed me from all sides, punctuated by grunts and curses of rage. I heard the leader say, "You think you're a tough little bitch? I'll show you tough." And then the beating began in earnest.
I awoke in a hospital four days later as my mother and the doctor discussed the possibility of pulling the plug. I'd like to believe that somewhere in that dark world of my battered brain, I heard them and came back, like a prize fighter rising as the ref counts down. But it was probably just coincidence.
I'd been found in that alley, left for dead, and rushed to the hospital, where I underwent emergency surgery to stop the internal bleeding. I had a dislocated shoulder. Five fractured ribs. Over a hundred stitches for various lacerations. A severe concussion and intracranial hematoma. Compound fracture of the left radius. Severe fracture of the right tibia and fibula with permanent nerve damage. Also, possible rape.
I have recited that list to enough therapists that it has lost all emotional impact. Even the last part.
Possible rape. It sounds ludicrous. Either I was or I wasn't, right? Yet if it happened, I'd been unconscious. When I was found, my jeans were still on--or had been put back on. They did a rape kit, but it vanished before it could be processed.
Today, having spent two years as a detective in a big-city Special Victims Unit, I know you can make an educated guess without the kit. But I think, when it disappeared, someone decided an answer wasn't necessary. If my attackers were found, they'd be charged with aggravated assault and attempted murder. Good enough. For them, at least.
Physically, I made a full recovery. It took eighteen months. I had to drop out of police college and give up the job waiting for me. As the victim of a serious crime, I was deemed no longer fit to serve and protect. I didn't accept that. I got a bachelor's degree in criminology, a black belt in aikido, and a flyweight championship in boxing. I aced the psych tests and, five years after the attack, I was hired and on the fast track to detective.
My parents had not been pleased. That was nothing new. When I'd first declared I wanted to be a cop, their reaction had been pure horror. "You're better than that," they said. Smarter, they meant. Not geniuses, like them. While they considered my IQ of 135 perfectly adequate, it might require extra effort to become a cardiologist like my dad or chief of pediatric surgery like my mom or a neuroscientist like my sister. Still, they expected that I'd try. I wanted none of it. Never had.
After I had to leave police college, they'd been certain I'd give up this nonsense and devote myself to a meaningful career, preferably with a string of letters after my name. We argued. A lot. They died in a small plane crash four years ago, and we'd never truly mended that fence.
But back to the hospital. I spent six weeks there, learning to walk again, talk again, be Casey Duncan again. Except I never really was. Not the Casey Duncan I'd been. There are two halves of my life: before and after.
Four days in a coma. Six weeks in the hospital. Blaine never came to see me. Never even sent a card. I'd have ripped it to shreds, but at least it would have acknowledged what happened. He knew, of course. Diana had made sure of that, contacting him while I was in emergency. He hadn't asked how bad I was. Just mumbled something and hung up.
When I'd seen him run away in the alley, my outrage had been tempered by the certainty that he would get help. Even as the blows had started to fall, I'd clung to that. He must have called the police. He must have.
The last thing that passed through my mind before I lost consciousness was that I just had to hold on a little longer. Help was on the way. Only it wasn't. A homeless guy cutting through the alley stumbled across me, hours later. A stranger--a drunk stranger--had run to get help for me. My boyfriend had just run.
Blaine did need to speak to the police, after I woke up and told them what happened. But in Blaine's version, he'd created the distraction. I'd been escaping with him, and we'd parted at the street. The muggers must have caught up and dragged me back into that alley. If Blaine had known, he'd have done something. To suggest otherwise, well ... I'd suffered head trauma, hadn't I? Temporary brain damage? Loss of memory? Clearly, I'd misremembered.
I didn't call him when I got out of the hospital. That conversation had to happen in person. It took a week for me to get around to it, because there was something I needed to do first. Buy a gun.
Blaine's routine hadn't changed. He still went jogging before dawn. Or that's what he'd say if
I knew the perfect place for a confrontation. By the bridge along the riverbank, where he'd pass on his way home. The spot was always empty at that time of day, and the noise of rushing water would cover our discussion.
Cover a gunshot, too?
No, the gun was only a prop. To let him know this was going to be a serious conversation.
I waited by the foot of the bridge. He came by right on schedule. Walking. He only jogged where people could see him. I waited until I could hear the buzz and crash from his music. Then I stepped out into his path.
"Casey?" He blinked and tugged at the earbuds, letting them fall, dangling, as he stared at me. "You look ..."
"Like I got the shit beat out of me?"
"It's not that bad."
"True. The bruises have healed. There are only ten stitches on my face. Oh, and this spot, where they had to shave my head to cut into my skull and relieve the bleeding." I turned to show him. "Plus a few teeth that will need to be replaced after my jaw's fully healed. My nose isn't straight, but they tell me plastic surgery will fix that. They also say I might walk without the limp if I work really, really hard at it."
He listened, nodding, an overly concerned expression on his face, as if I were an elderly aunt detailing my medical woes.
When I finished, he said, "You'll heal, then. That's good."
"Good?" I stepped toward him. "I almost died, Blaine. I had to drop out of police college. I'm told I'll never be a cop. That I'll never move fast enough. I might never think fast enough."
Another long pause. Then, "I'm sorry this happened to you, Casey. I gave you a chance to run."
"No, I let you run. You did, and you never even called for help."
"That's not how I remember it." He pulled himself up straight, ducking my gaze.
"No?" I said. "Does this refresh your memory?"
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