I dont want to kill you, p.23

I Don't Want to Kill You, page 23

 

I Don't Want to Kill You
 


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  ‘And the barricade in your living room?’ asked Officer Moore.

  I’d had just enough time to hide the gun and the exhaust hose before the police showed up; there hadn’t been time to hide the barricades, so I tried to explain them away. ‘I was home alone,’ I said, ‘and I saw a man sitting in his car in front of my house. I got scared – “Stranger Danger” and all that. It seemed like a good idea at the time.’

  ‘If you were so scared,’ asked Agent Ostler, ‘why did you crawl out the window to confront him?’

  ‘I crawled out the window to escape,’ I said. ‘He just kept knocking and knocking, and I thought he was going to get in. I thought I could drive away before he found me, but he must have heard the car.’

  ‘He must have,’ said Agent Ostler. ‘He also must have the fastest pistol in the world, to have hit your moving car with two shots so close together. The bullet-holes were less than an inch apart.’

  ‘I was going very slowly. I thought if I just put it in neutral and pushed it into the street, he wouldn’t hear me.’

  ‘But he did.’

  ‘Turns out it’s hard to steer while running alongside and pushing, so I hit the house. I’ve had an astonishing amount of bad luck over the last year.’

  Agent Ostler stared at me, silent as a hawk, while Officer Jensen frowned at her. Officer Moore then spoke up. ‘Everything you’ve told us makes a certain amount of sense,’ he said, ‘obviously pending a full forensic analysis. The only piece we’re not sure of yet, and perhaps you can help us explain it, is—’

  ‘How long were you going to keep Clark Forman’s cellphone?’ snapped Agent Ostler.

  I was very good at feigning innocence. ‘What?’

  ‘The phone you used to call 911,’ she said. ‘Not only is it half a dozen felonies to hide the evidence from a previous case, but it calls that entire case – and your involvement in it – into question. What were you doing with his phone?’

  ‘I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

  ‘Don’t make me get official on you,’ she said, her face harsh, ‘because I can put a stop to this friendly little meeting right now, and we can treat this like the federal case it is.’

  Officer Jensen put out a hand to quiet her, then turned to me. ‘Just tell us where you got the phone that you called us with tonight.’

  ‘I didn’t call you tonight,’ I said. ‘He did. Why, was it Forman’s phone?’

  They stared at me.

  ‘Because that’s pretty scary,’ I said. ‘Do you think this is the mystery accomplice you’ve been looking for?’

  ‘He called the police on himself?’ asked Agent Ostler, folding her arms.

  ‘I guess he wanted to turn himself in,’ I said. ‘Or at least to confess to someone official, before he shot himself.’

  Officer Jensen sighed, and Officer Moore leaned forward. ‘You said he set out tonight to kill you, and now you say that he killed himself instead. What happened to change his mind?’

  ‘I don’t know,’ I said, keeping my face blank. ‘Maybe I just have that effect on people.’

  Agent Ostler scowled. ‘I am authorised to place you in protective custody if I have reason to believe you’re in danger. Believe me when I say that the kind of custody I’m talking about would be largely indistinguishable from prison.’

  ‘He won’t run,’ said Officer Jensen, closing his eyes and rubbing his temples. ‘I can vouch for him.’

  ‘You’re sure?’ she asked.

  ‘He’ll stay in town, he’ll participate in every interview, and he’ll facilitate the investigation in every way he can.’ He looked at me pointedly. ‘Is that right, John?’

  ‘Of course,’ I nodded. ‘Anything you need.’

  ‘All right then,’ said Agent Ostler, ‘you can go. But I assure you that we will be watching you very closely.’

  ‘John, you’re okay!’ Mom ran across the police station lobby and grabbed me in a hug, crushing me with the force of it. I flailed my arms, patted her on the back, and pulled away just far enough to breathe.

  ‘I was so worried about you,’ she went on. ‘I can’t believe you’re okay.’

  ‘I’m fine,’ I said, pulling further away. ‘Just give me some air.’

  ‘I never should have gone out tonight,’ she said. ‘I’ll never do it again.’

  ‘Please, no,’ I said. ‘Don’t let one crazy killer justify any more smothering; I’ll go insane.’

  ‘This is the third crazy killer, as I’m sure you’re well aware.’ She stooped to look straight into my eyes, though she didn’t have to stoop far. ‘Tell me you had nothing to do with this,’ she said. ‘Tell me right now, right here, that this was an unprovoked attack.’

  I looked back, my face still blank and innocent. ‘I have never seen that man before tonight. I didn’t even know he existed.’

  ‘You swear?’

  ‘I swear.’ I looked past her and saw Lauren beyond, arms folded, face pale and tight; she was scared, but she was angry, too. She knows I planned this, and she knows I tricked her into getting Mom out of the way. Will she tell the police?

  It was nearly two in the morning when we left the police station, and even later when my mom finally fell asleep. I lay awake all night, turning restlessly in bed. At three in the morning, still wide awake, I crept outside and into the forest, searching in the dark for Max’s gun. It was still there, a good fifty feet into the trees, untouched and unsuspected. I wiped a streak of dirt from it with my hand, hefting it, then bent back down and buried it deeper. Agent Ostler was still too suspicious; I couldn’t let her find me with a gun, even an unfired one.

  I walked back to the mortuary, let myself in the back door and spent the next hour putting all the coffins away and imagining a hundred different killers – silent, invisible, unstoppable. Where is Nobody?

  By four thirty I couldn’t stand the waiting and called Marci’s cell on our kitchen phone. It rang seven times before her voicemail picked up; I hung up, counted to three, and dialled the number again. She answered on the sixth ring.

  ‘John?’

  ‘Are you okay?’

  ‘John, it’s four thirty in the morning.’

  ‘Are you okay?’

  ‘Yeah, I’m fine. What’s wrong?’

  ‘Hold very still, and listen very closely. Do you hear anything?’

  ‘What are you talking about?’

  ‘Just do it.’

  Pause. ‘I can hear the water softener cycling in the basement.’

  ‘That’s it? Are you sure?’

  ‘That’s it,’ she said, more awake, ‘now tell me what’s wrong. Is there something in my house?’

  ‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘I don’t know if you’d even be able to tell.’

  ‘John, are you drunk? You’re not making any sense.’

  ‘I’m worried about you,’ I said. ‘That’s a new thing for me, and I’m not very good at it. Look out your window.’

  ‘You’re freaking me out, John. Just tell me what’s wrong.’

  I took a deep breath. ‘I think she’s coming for you.’

  ‘The Handyman?’

  ‘The Handyman died last night; he came to my house, ranted for a while, and shot himself in the head.’

  ‘Holy crap—’

  ‘But I think there’s another one,’ I interrupted. ‘One that we haven’t talked about.’

  ‘You said he came to your house?’

  ‘I’m fine,’ I told her. ‘Now listen – you’re the one who needs to be worried. Turn on your light, turn on all the lights in the house, and then go into your parents’ room.’

  ‘How’s that going to help?’

  ‘This killer won’t touch you if there are any witnesses – or maybe it can’t touch you around witnesses – I don’t know. It makes everything look like suicide.’

  She gasped.

  ‘And I think . . .’ I’d never told her about the demons – out of everything I’d shared with Marci, that was
the one secret I’d kept. Did I dare tell her now?

  I honestly don’t think I have a choice.

  ‘This is going to sound weird,’ I said, ‘but you have to trust me. I think this new killer might be supernatural.’ I waited for her to laugh, or scoff, but she was completely silent. I continued, ‘The Clayton Killer and Agent Forman were both . . . something. Creatures, demons, I don’t know. I’m telling you this because I think the new killer is the same thing. I don’t know if it’s coming after you or . . . well, I don’t know. I just want you to be safe.’

  There was silence for a long time.

  ‘Marci?’

  ‘You were there,’ she said slowly, ‘in his house.’

  ‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘That’s how I know. I know it sounds insane but you have to trust me.’

  ‘Brooke was there too.’

  That was a weird thing to say. ‘Yeah, she was.’

  ‘Did she see it?’

  ‘The demon? I don’t know. I don’t think so.’

  ‘She wouldn’t be scared now. Not after what she’s gone through, and with you to help her.’

  ‘Marci, are . . .’ I paused. ‘Are you okay? Did you turn on all the lights like I told you?’

  ‘I’m sorry,’ she said, ‘I was just thinking. Sometimes I wish I could be . . .’ Pause. ‘Okay, my lights are on.’

  ‘Go into your parents’ room,’ I said, ‘and stay there until everyone else wakes up; it’s the safest place right now. I’ll be there at seven.’

  ‘Thanks.’ Pause. ‘I love you, John.’

  Love. Somehow it always comes back to love.

  Do I love her too?

  ‘I’ll be there at seven,’ I repeated, and hung up the phone.

  When I got to her house at 6.50 a.m. she was already dead.

  Chapter 23

  Marci’s body was curled up in the corner of the upstairs bathroom, her legs pulled into her chest, her arms draped over the edge of the bathtub. Blood was everywhere – on the walls, the mirror, the floor and ceiling; the tub was filled with a long, thick river of it, and the sink was full of tepid pink water. I stepped in carefully, avoiding the biggest pools and splashes.

  ‘Hurry!’ Marci’s father shouted into his radio, his voice echoing through the hall. ‘I want every paramedic in town in my house in the next five minutes, or so help me I’ll start—’ His radio crackled. ‘Don’t talk back to me! It’s not your daughter lying in a pool of blood!’

  Mrs Jensen was in another part of the house, wailing softly. I assumed the other kids were with her.

  I reached across and touched Marci’s arm; it was cold and limp. I turned it slightly, saw the wide red gash, and let go. Her joints had just enough resistance in them to catch my attention. Rigor mortis didn’t begin until three hours after death, at the earliest, and I’d spoken to her barely two and a half hours before; she shouldn’t have started to stiffen yet unless she’d died just minutes after we’d hung up – and even that was pushing it. I straightened up and stepped back, looking around at the blood on the walls; there was a crack on the mirror that hadn’t been there two days ago. You can’t say there were no signs of a struggle this time.

  Good for you, Marci.

  I took another step back and stood in the hall, looking in on the scene silently. I felt like a stone, cold and hard. Does it affect me? Should it? I’d never been squeamish around blood or death, but I’d never felt . . . this before. I’m tired, maybe. Or angry. But it wasn’t that. I was hollow and empty, like I hadn’t been in ages. I was a statue; I was a gargoyle. I was a piece of the wall, a part of the landscape, a clump of dirt. I was dead. I am nothing.

  ‘It,’ I said softly. The thing on the floor wasn’t Marci any more. Marci was life and energy; Marci was a whirlwind of activity and words and light. She was a smile and a joke, a telling insight or a flash of ingenious logic. This thing on the floor was . . . meat and hair. It was a body no one would ever hold, wrapped in clothing no one would ever wear again. The part of her that had been Marci was gone, and nothing was left but death and silence.

  I heard footsteps in the hall; felt a hand rest on my shoulder. Officer Jensen.

  ‘They’re on their way.’

  ‘Is it you?’ I asked.

  ‘Huh?’

  I turned to face him, pulling away from his hand.

  ‘Just tell me straight out – are you Nobody? Because if you are, we can end this right now.’

  ‘Hey,’ he said, reaching again for my shoulder. ‘Just calm down, John. I know this is hard, but you gotta calm down. We can get through—’

  ‘I don’t want to get through this, I want to finish it. Now tell me, because I am not in the mood for any more games: are you Nobody?’

  ‘You’re not making sense, John; let’s go sit down.’

  ‘Nothing is making sense.’ I stared at him, studying his face for any sign – any reaction that might tell me what I needed to know. ‘If it’s you, you can just tell me. You can say it right out loud because I already know. I already know everything.’ He was silent. ‘Tell me, dammit!’

  ‘Easy,’ he said, holding out his other hand. ‘Easy. Just take a deep breath. Nice and deep.’ His eyes were big and open, his mouth straight, the corners just slightly turned down. Concern. Worry. Sadness. Perfectly normal reactions from a perfectly normal human. He doesn’t know what I’m talking about. He’s not a demon. I took a deep breath and he nodded, watching me carefully. ‘You say you “already know”. What do you know about Marci?’

  ‘About Marci?’ I looked at the Marci-shaped thing in the corner, tiny and broken. What had broken it? Where was it now? And how could I break it back? ‘I don’t know a damn thing. But I’m going to find out.’

  I raced towards home, barely slowing the car at each intersection, and turned wildly into our driveway, almost hitting the house before screeching to a halt by the back door. The embalming-room door. I stumbled out of the car, leaving the door hanging open, and shoved my key into the lock on the mortuary. Mom and Margaret looked up as I threw open the door, perfect twins in their blue masks and aprons, setting Rachel’s features like two girls playing with a doll.

  ‘Out,’ said Mom curtly. ‘You know I said you couldn’t help with girls.’ I ignored her, stepped in and locked the door behind me.

  Margaret shook her head. ‘She said no, John. We’ve talked about this.’ I walked straight to the table, Rachel’s body laid out before me like a giant doll, and picked up a scalpel.

  ‘John,’ said Mom, ‘I just said—’

  ‘Shut up.’

  ‘John!’

  ‘Shut up!’ I roared. Then, more quietly: ‘Marci’s dead.’

  They froze, speechless.

  ‘Marci is dead,’ I said again, more forcefully, ‘and whatever killed Rachel killed her the same way. Now you can yell and scream all you want – you can call the cops for all I care – but this body has answers, and I am going to find them.’ I stared at them defiantly, daring them to argue. Mom began to cry.

  ‘We hadn’t heard about Marci,’ said Margaret, stepping towards me. ‘We’re very sorry. I don’t think any of us are really in the right state to be here now, so let’s just wait.’

  ‘Step back,’ I said, putting my hand on the table.

  ‘No,’ said Mom, coming around the table. ‘Please don’t, John, please let’s just go upstairs—’

  I caught her wrist, squeezing until my knuckles turned white. ‘Get. Out. Of my way.’ I shoved her to the side.

  ‘Please, John,’ she cried. ‘Don’t do it. Don’t hurt her!’

  ‘It is an it!’ I shouted, slamming the table. ‘This is not a person, it is not a human being, it is not even an animal! It is evidence! It is—’

  ‘It is worthy of your respect,’ said Mom. I looked at her rabidly, wells of hatred boiling up inside me, but she stared back without flinching. You’re not mad at her, I told myself, just the demon. Find the demon, and nothing else matters.

  I nodded, and took a deep b
reath. ‘Okay. With respect. But don’t try to stop me.’

  Margaret glanced at Mom, eyes creased with worry. I ignored them and looked down at the body. It was pale, almost bluish; if Rachel had bled out as much as Marci had, this corpse would be even more bloodless than usual. It was a stark contrast to the old, butchered men we’d seen so much of lately – instead of yellowed, wrinkly flesh, this body was smooth and white, and virtually unharmed. The breasts and hips were covered with blue privacy towels, but the belly between was flat and clear. There had been no autopsy, no Y-incision, no wounds of any kind. If not for the wide slits in her wrists, and the embalming tubes Mom and Margaret had already attached to the veins in the neck, the corpse would be pristine.

 
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