I Don't Want to Kill You, page 21
After dark, naturally. ‘That should be fine,’ I said. ‘There’s only one problem: the pastor’s gotten several similar calls today, and all the attention has him worried that the Handyman might try to attack him in reprisal for his note. If it’s all right with you, he’d like to meet in private at a place where no one else will find him.’ That should excite this guy.
Pause. ‘That seems like a very good idea.’
Yeah, I thought you’d like that. ‘The pastor has a key to the local mortuary,’ I said, ‘to help maintain the chapel. The mortician and her family will be gone tonight, so if you’d like to meet him there, that will be the most private location.’
‘I suppose that’s okay.’ I tried to read his voice: was he upset? Suspicious? Pleased? I wished I could see his face.
‘Just remember,’ I said, ‘do not tell anyone. At all. The only people who know this right now are you, the pastor, and me. He’s really trying to lay low, and we don’t want anyone else to know where he is.’ Now we’ll see if he’s concerned about me, as the only potential witness.
‘I understand,’ he said. ‘That makes a lot of sense – I won’t tell anybody. Are you going to be there tonight as well?’
I can read you like a book, I thought, smiling. You have no idea what you’re getting into.
‘I wasn’t planning on it,’ I said carefully. ‘Do you think you’ll need me?’
‘I think it will be best,’ said the reporter. ‘Why don’t you come too?’
‘Sure thing. I’ll see you tonight at nine o’clock.’
‘Wait,’ I said, before he hung up. ‘I’m afraid I still didn’t catch your name.’
‘Uh, Harry,’ said the reporter. ‘Harry Poole.’
‘Wonderful. I’ll see you tonight, Mr Poole.’
I’d been downstairs too long, and Max would be getting suspicious. There was a silencer in a little case in the door of the safe, and I tried it in each gun until I found one it fit. I screwed them together and shoved them under my belt, then filled my pockets with a variety of bullets to make sure I got the right kind. My pants sagged with the weight, but my T-shirt was long and covered it pretty well. I closed the safe, closed the furnace-room door, and flushed the toilet on my way upstairs, just in case Max was listening.
‘You were down there a while,’ said Max, eyes glued to the TV.
‘Yeah.’ I leaned against the wall, trying to hide the bulge of the gun. ‘I need to go.’
He kept his eyes on the TV, ate another chip, chewed and swallowed. ‘Figures,’ he said.
‘I’ll see you around.’
‘Sure you will.’
I opened the door, stepped out, then paused and looked back. The living room was dark, lit by the dull blue-grey light of the TV; it washed out Max’s features, making him look drained and gaunt. Already half a corpse. His jaw moved mechanically, his eyes dark and indifferent. I closed the door.
Max was done with life; he’d given up. It wasn’t that much of a stretch, any more, to imagine someone ending their own life.
Phase Four: get Mom out of the house. She was vacuuming the mortuary chapel when I got home, so I hid the gun in my car, slipped into the office and closed the door.
She looked up from the office computer, surprised, and smiled. ‘Hey, John. You’re home early.’
‘Half-day,’ I said, flopping into a chair. ‘The teachers have some kind of training or something. I don’t know what it is.’
‘Man, I loved those days,’ said Lauren, going back to her typing.
‘Me too,’ I said. I wonder when we’ll have a real one? ‘So, how’s it going?’
‘Another day in the mortuary,’ she said, keeping her eyes on the screen. The keys clacked furiously under her fingers. ‘Just finishing up some paperwork for your friend Rachel, actually. Looks like she comes in tomorrow.’
I let out a long breath. ‘For all the good it does me. Mom didn’t even let me help with the last girl.’
Lauren made a face. ‘These are your friends, right? Doesn’t that totally creep you out?’
‘It’s not creepy,’ I said, ‘it’s just a job. We respect the dead, and we give them the best send-off we can. Besides, Mom’s not keeping me out because it’s a dead friend, she’s keeping me out because it’s a dead sixteen-year-old girl with no clothes on.’
‘And that’s officially the creepiest thing you’ve ever said,’ said Lauren. She stopped typing, and then grimaced and shivered, like she’d just eaten something disgusting. ‘Seriously - yuck.’
I smiled. ‘I’ve got a live girlfriend – what do I need dead ones for?’
Lauren plugged her ears. ‘I’m not listening.’ I smiled wider, enjoying the torment. I stayed silent, and eventually Lauren uncovered her ears.
‘I’m actually more worried about Mom than me,’ I said. ‘I think all this is really getting to her.’
‘I know what you mean,’ said Lauren. ‘She’s been really down lately.’
‘I think it’s time we did something about that.’
‘I’m intrigued,’ Lauren said. ‘What do you have in mind?’
‘I think you should take her to a movie.’
Lauren rolled her head back and stuck out her tongue. ‘Gag me.’
‘I’m serious. She’s always trying to do stuff with you – even just asking her to hang out with you is going to make her cry.’
‘That’s not sweetening the deal.’
‘She needs a break,’ I said. ‘You know it’s a good idea.’
‘She loves doing stuff with you, too,’ said Lauren. ‘Why don’t you take her somewhere?’
‘She sees me every day, which not only means that a night with you would be more special, it means you owe me. I need a break too.’
Lauren folded her arms. ‘How do I know you’re not just trying to get her out of the house for your own nefarious purposes?’
I smiled. ‘What kind of trouble am I going to get into? The dead girl doesn’t get here until tomorrow.’
‘Ew!’ she said, and threw a pen at me. ‘I told you to stop that!’
‘There’s a movie in the theatre right now that she’s wanted to see for a long time,’ I said. ‘The historical one. Go out to eat, go see the movie: it’s easy.’
‘You forgot to mention all the talking,’ said Lauren. ‘How long do you think we’ll last before one of us picks a fight?’
‘That’s why a movie’s so great – you’re actually supposed to not talk.’
Lauren put her head down and rubbed her temples. ‘Okay,’ she said. ‘Okay, you’re right, it’s a good idea; I’ll do it. But now you owe me.’
‘How about I promise not to make any more necrophilia jokes?’
She looked up, like she was adding numbers in her head, then made a face. She just figured out what necrophilia means. ‘All right,’ she said, ‘but I’ll hold you to it.’
‘I know,’ she said. ‘Now get out of here so I can finish this.’
I couldn’t start my preparations until the women left, so I used my time to research Harry Poole on the Internet. There was no record of a journalist by that name.
Margaret left at four, and then Mom and Lauren finally left at 6.30 p.m. They were going to El Toro, one of the only sit-down restaurants in town, followed by some huge historical romance movie about foreign people with personal problems. They’d be gone until midnight at least.
The first thing I had to do was block all the exits to the stairwell; once the Handyman got in, he wouldn’t be getting back out. I took my bedroom door off its hinges, and Mom’s door, and leaned them up against the door in our living room. Then I unplugged the fridge and shoved it over to hold them in place, followed by the couch on one side and the sofa on the other. It was seven o’clock when I climbed out of my mom’s bedroom window onto the roof of the mortuary, then dropped down from the edge of the ro
The inner door at the bottom of the stairs was at the end of a narrow hallway to the back of the mortuary, maybe twenty feet long, and I spent half an hour filling it with heavy oak caskets from our sample room. I wedged them in tightly – no one was getting that door open. It was 7.30 p.m.
I could still get in and out through the back door in the embalming room, so I wrote a quick note directing Harry Poole to the side door, and stuck it on the main glass entryway in the front. Then I backed my car into the driveway, maybe thirty yards past the door, and turned everything off. I twisted the rearview mirror upside down, giving me a kind of periscope view of the driveway that let me watch the whole area while staying completely hidden, and lay down on the floor. It was 7.45 p.m.
All I had to do now was wait.
The sky grew dark, and the air turned cold, and I began to shiver in my hiding-place below the dashboard. 8 p.m. I was hungry and uncomfortable. Nothing was happening, but I didn’t dare to move for fear the Handyman was out there, watching, scoping out the house before getting himself into an unknown situation. The lights were on upstairs, and the exterior of the house looked completely normal. There was nothing suspicious about my car in the driveway. There was nothing to send the demon away,
It was 8.15 p.m.
I stared up at the mirror, watching. My phone was turned off, the neighbourhood was empty; everything was silent. I breathed slowly, trying not fidget or make a noise. Next to me on the floor were my weapons: Max’s dad’s gun, fully loaded and ready for combat, along with a roll of duct tape and the weathered green hose from our garden. I was all set.
Time passed with agonising slowness, and I turned my thoughts to Marci. I thought about the way she looked, the way she smelled, the way she had felt when she moved against me at the dance. I closed my eyes and remembered her lips, soft and firm at once, pressed eagerly and wonderfully into my own. What did she mean to me? What, if anything, did I feel for her?
Everyone always talked about love, but I didn’t have any idea what it really meant.
I wanted to kiss Marci again, to hold her again, to touch her and feel her near me, but that wasn’t love. Lust, if anything. But I enjoyed talking to her, too, and there was nothing lustful about that. She was smart, and funny, and interested in the things that interested me. I liked to watch her, to listen to her, to know what she thought about the world around her. Was that friendship? Was it love? I spent a lot of time with her, and I enjoyed it, but when I was away I didn’t really miss her – unless you counted dreams about embalming her. She was nice, but she wasn’t necessary. I could have her in my life when I wanted her, and then forget her completely when I was doing something else. I could turn her on and off, like a TV.
But even as I thought it, I knew it wasn’t entirely true. I did miss her – I missed dancing. There was something about that one dance at City Hall – not the kiss, but the dance – that I couldn’t get out of my head. Something about the way she moved, or about the way I moved. Something about the way we moved together, perfectly synced, like we both knew the steps. It wasn’t that it was a difficult dance – we just stepped back and forth, back and forth – but wewere . . . together. We were unified. It wasn’t the hot, raging connection of violence or fear, but it was there, strong and resilient. Connection.
Something moved in the corner of my eye, and I looked up at my mirror: a car had pulled up to the kerb. It was driving with its lights off, and no one was getting out. I looked at my watch: ten minutes to nine. Was this him? I glanced quickly around at my own car windows, suddenly conscious of my extremely limited field of vision. There was nothing there. I looked back at the mirror, watching the car, waiting for something to happen. The minutes ticked by, the newcomer and I as motionless as statues. At one minute to nine, the car door opened and a black shape stepped out, barely visible against the Crowleys’ house beyond. The silhouette opened its trunk, pulled out a large duffel bag, then walked to the front of the mortuary.
The shape disappeared around the corner of the mortuary, and I held my breath, imagining him reading the note on the front door, terrified that he would turn tail and run, but he appeared again, walking down the driveway to the side door. I let my breath out quietly and readied the key to my car. He looked around, knocked, waited; no one answered. The lights were on upstairs; the note had told him to knock on the inside door. He looked around one more time before opening the door and going in. I sat up quickly and shoved the key into the ignition. Give him time to reach the top. Four, three, two, one . . .
I turned the key, the engine roared to life, and I slammed on the gas. The car leaped forward like a predator, eager to pounce and kill, and I steered close into the side of the mortuary, aiming for the door that hung half-open into the driveway. The side mirror broke off against the brick wall, flying away behind me, and then the front fender crashed into the open door and threw it closed with a bang. I stood on the brakes with both feet, keeping the wheel straight as the car skidded to a stop. I looked back – the door was pinned tightly shut by the trunk.
The other demon will be here any minute. I threw the car into park, grabbed the gun, the hose and the duct tape, and ran back to the trunk. Nothing attacked me. There was a shout from inside, and a thud against the door. I dropped to my knees, shoved the end of the garden hose into the exhaust pipe, and sealed it tightly around with duct tape.
‘Hey! Open up!’ The voice was muffled by the wooden door. I dropped to my stomach and slithered under the car, trying not to touch the heavy metal frame as it vibrated above me, pressed the free end of the hose against the gap at the base of the door, and attached it firmly in place. Ignoring his shouting, I pulled out another piece of tape, ripping it free with my teeth and sealing up the rest of the gap. There. Then I dropped the tape and shimmied back out, grabbing my gun and looking wildly around.
There was nothing.
Where is she?
The thing trapped behind the door was pounding louder now, the door rattling against the unmoving car. I crouched down, cursing the lack of streetlights. I can’t see – the second demon could be anywhere.
There was a pause in the pounding, then a loud metallic ping. I ducked behind the car, my heart pounding, and heard another one: ping! It was coming from my car. I peeked up and saw two bright metal craters in the trunk: bullet-holes. I looked back at the door to the house and saw two bullet-holes there as well, punching out through the doorknob as if he’d been trying to shoot it off. I didn’t hear the shot, just the impact – he must have a silencer as well. The doorknob rattled, the door shook, but the car didn’t budge. The thing inside swore, and a moment later I heard a loud thunk as something heavy slammed into the door. His hatchet. We were right about everything. We had predicted him perfectly, down to the last detail.
He’s completely in my power.
I stayed down, straining my ears to hear any other sound, any other clue that might tell me where the second demon was. The neighbourhood was silent; even my car, the engine rumbling hungrily, was louder than the muffled hatchet strikes. The rhythm of the hatchet faltered, and I heard a loud, hacking cough. Something thudded against the inside of the door, large and heavy, then the hatchet began again. It was weaker now. I leaned in cautiously, sniffing at the bullet-holes near the doorknob; the smell was strong and acrid, like smoke. It must be nearly impossible to breathe in there.
I looked around at the neighbourhood again, confused, and muttered under my breath, ‘Where are you?’
The pounding stopped. ‘What’s that? Who’s there?’ a voice said.
‘Where’s the other one?’ I demanded.
‘Let me out of here!’
‘Where is she?’ I asked again, turning to face the door. ‘Where’s Nobody?’
‘That . . .’ Cough. ‘That doesn’t even make sense.’
‘Did anyone come with you?’
‘It’s carbon-monoxide poisoning,’ I said. It was deadly to humans, but I had no idea what it would do to a demon. ‘Can that kill you?’
‘Nothing can kill me.’ He retched again. ‘I am the Chosen of the Lord.’
‘You’re dying,’ I said. ‘If you want to get out, tell me where the other demon is.’
‘I thought he was here,’ he said, so weakly I could barely hear him. ‘Father Erikson, destroying the people. I thought he was here.’
DAN WELLS SERIES:
Other author's books:
- PartialsI Don't Want to Kill YouIsolationThe Devil's Only FriendOnes and ZeroesNext of KinOver Your Dead BodyFragments
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