Iced Malice, page 23
Ross sneered. “And because of that, you started murdering kids?”
“I hated them. Over and over I’d see all those happy couples with everything to live for, and I was saddled with a stepfather who hated my guts. He beat on me whenever he could get away with it and kept telling me what a loser I was. After my mother died, things got even worse.” They waited while he adjusted his pillow, grimacing at the obviously difficult movement.
“That first couple, they came back out a few days after they’d talked to him about having their wedding there. They told me they just wanted to look around again. My stepfather and I had just had another row. He couldn’t beat me anymore by then; I was taller than him and stronger. Whenever I irritated him—which was often and for any reason, even the way I dressed—he would threaten to throw me out without a penny so I wouldn’t be able to finish school.”
“Why did you stay with him?” Kendall asked. “You were old enough to live without him.”
“I couldn’t make it without him; I couldn’t live without his money. I tried it, tried going to college and working my way through. I wasn’t a good enough student to hold a job and still keep up my grades, and I didn’t want to start a job with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt hanging over my head. I couldn’t hack it, but I needed to better myself so I could crawl out of that hellhole. He was getting frail, so I went back, helped him run the place while I finished college. Sold my fucking soul.
“Anyway, that first couple. The guy treated me like I didn’t even exist. Acted like he owned the place just because they had the tour once. And the girl—the girl was so darn cute. She smelled good, like apples and cinnamon.
“I can’t explain what happened. I just couldn’t stand watching them together.” He rested his head back on the pillow.
“What about Holmes? How does he fit in?” Ross asked.
Dalton snorted. “That piece of crap. He was just a kid. Lived next door with his grandparents. Weird kid, never said much but was always nosing around. When I took that first couple—I had them tied up in the shed—made the asspipe boyfriend watch while I entertained myself with his girl. I was just getting started when I heard a noise outside. I knew it wasn’t my stepfather, because I slipped an extra sleeping pill into his coffee at dinner. It was Holmes, peeking through the window. He didn’t even try to run off when he saw me come out. I could tell he’d been enjoying what he’d seen. Kid’s boner hadn’t even gone down.”
Two depraved psychos, Kendall though—it wasn’t often they managed to find each other. Holmes’ grandmother had told them her grandson was different, but the poor woman never could have fathomed how different. Dalton had a nasty smile on his face, as if he were enjoying his tale.
“I knew he’d never say a word about what he saw. He loved it. I let him come in and watch, even let him touch her. Then the next couple, he wanted to try her out. Kid was a real sicko.”
The kid was a sicko? Kendall wondered what Dalton thought he was. “What about the third couple? What did you do with their bodies?”
“There was no third couple. I read the papers. Supposedly those two were druggies. Their business must have caught up with them, because I didn’t.”
Ross interrupted. “So where are the girls?”
When Dalton didn’t answer, Ross said, “Bet your back is pretty sore. Wouldn’t feel too good if I gave you a couple pats on it.”
Kendall felt pretty certain that her partner wouldn’t actually resort to such a thing, but Dalton cringed at his words.
“Chill,” Dalton said. “I was going to tell you. They’re buried behind the shed where I had to take out a couple diseased pines.”
Kendall took a moment to mull over what he’d told them. “One more thing. Why did Holmes put Karla in your driveway?”
Dalton’s face reddened. “That little prick. He called me when he came back to Eau Claire, wanted to get together. He was pissed about the wedding place because he thought I sold it. He wanted to get together and do another couple.
“I told him I couldn’t do that. I turned my life around after I finished school, got a good job, and married Bev. I didn’t need that particular outlet anymore, but Holmes wouldn’t leave me alone. I kept ignoring him. Then the dumpster thing happened.”
“What did you do about it?” Ross asked.
Dalton cleared his throat. “Nothing. And that pissed him off even more.”
“But you took Rachel out there. The old urge must have come back.”
His eyes misted over with pain. “No. Not at first. I was still in control. I just wanted to go out there and look at the shed—see if that prick had taken Foley there. I was going to clean it up, be sure that nothing could be turned around on me. Then on my way out there I saw the girl at the side of the road, fighting with some guy who was trying to get her in his car.”
“And you just wanted to help her.”
“Yes. The guy was a real jerk. But something happened once she got in my car. She smelled like apples.”
That’s all it took for Rachel to become a victim? Kendall never did believe that these animals that raped and tortured women could change. Dalton had managed for a lot of years, but the right trigger brought his sickness right back to the surface.
They left Dalton when a nurse came in to change his bandage.
“What do you think?” Kendall asked. “Is he telling the truth?”
“He doesn’t have any reason to lie anymore, does he?”
Adam Nashlund, home alone for the first time since he left the hospital, was struggling with his thoughts and trying to bring back the elusive memories that, so far, were only brief glimmers.
Shari hadn’t wanted to leave him today, but he’d insisted she go visit her parents in Illinois for Easter as she had planned. He needed to be alone.
He couldn’t stop thinking about what Shari had told him. That they’d been separated and even filed for divorce at the time he’d taken the undercover job with Milwaukee. He was certain that Shari hadn’t told him everything and knew the doctors had advised her to let him remember things on his own.
Nash planned on telling the doctors he wanted to get on with his life, force the memories out. Flickers of the beating he had endured were coming back to him, snippets of ugly words in another language. Arabic, he had assumed, but for all he knew there were hundreds of middle-eastern languages and it could have been any one of them.
When Shari finally told him about their pending divorce, the news hadn’t shocked him. She had always wanted him to leave the force, and then when he quit and took the security job, it hadn’t helped. Shari was happy with their new life, but Nash wasn’t—and he didn’t hide it well,
Nash had no idea just what she was holding back from him, but whatever it was, his son Ryan apparently knew about it, too. His son had been avoiding one-on-one conversations with him ever since he came home.
Nash wanted to get out of the house, drive around town and see if anything tripped his memory.
Getting his body into the car proved to be a challenge, but he finally managed to get his injured leg with its cumbersome immobilizer into the car and drive with the other foot. The streets of town were familiar; at least he hadn’t lost that. Downtown Eau Claire hadn’t changed. He drove across a bridge, passed the police station where he used to work, and thought about going in but decided that would require too much effort . . . and pain. He was trying to wean himself off the pain meds, but his leg liked to remind him it hadn’t totally healed yet.
He passed a side street near the river and turned into it. A row of businesses lined one side of the short street and aging homes, the other. A bar in the middle of the shops had a sign out front that said, The Rat Pak. Something about the bar seemed familiar. He parked right in front—it was Easter after all, the place couldn’t be too busy—and with the aid of the crutches he’d brought with him, made his way to the door.
There was a notice pos
Nash went into the bar. He was the only customer.
A woman in her fifties, with frowzy red hair, was sitting behind the bar. She looked up from the romance novel she’d been reading. “Hi there, good to see you.”
“You know me?”
“Sure. You’re Kendall’s guy.”
Kendall’s guy? Did he even know a Kendall?
He’d suspected from the tight look on Shari’s mouth when she told him about the divorce that there might have been another woman involved, but wouldn’t he remember her?
“Thought you’d be at the party, it bein’ at her dad’s place and all.”
Nash turned down her offer to pour him a drink and moved slowly back to the door. He memorized the address of the party.
Brynn spoke briefly to Kendall when she arrived at the party at Kendall’s father’s house and then sought out Maggie, who was in the kitchen overseeing the food preparation. The smells of baking ham and cheesy potatoes made her mouth water.
“Hey, kid,” the attorney greeted Brynn. “How have you been?”
“Good. I’m good.”
“I heard you gave up on the Wetzel case.”
“Yeah. There was nothing more to find out.”
Kendall had told Brynn she’d closed the case. That had left only one loose end—Maggie.
“I came to that conclusion too,” Maggie said as she added jellybeans to a lamb-shaped pound cake iced with coconut-covered white frosting. Shirley sat at her feet, hoping for one to fall her way.
“There was nothing more to do,” Maggie said, “so I told the Wetzels to move on and remember only the good days that they had with their son.”
Relieved, Brynn offered to help with the food.
Kendall couldn’t get into the spirit of the party. Her relatives were there, patrons from the bar, and even Brynn had stopped in before leaving to spend the day with her mother.
There had been no reasoning with Shari. She still insisted that the doctors’ recommendation to let Nash’s memory return at his own pace still held, and she ignored Kendall’s suggestions to let her talk to Nash’s doctors.
Once the cases at work were completed and the girls’ bodies found, Schoenfuss made good on his threat to suspend Kendall, robbing her of the only way she knew of coping with her troubles. She hated being bored, and spent hours Saturday jogging with Shirley in an effort to pass time.
When she spotted her uncle sneaking out the back door for a cigarette, she leashed Shirley and followed him outside.
“Kenny, sorry about the suspension,” he said.
“It’s okay. It could have been worse.”
“I suppose it’ll be rough for you this week, not having anything to do.”
“Yeah. I try to keep busy, but everything reminds me of what I’m trying not to think about.”
“You should go back to golfing—you always were good at it. Some of the courses are open now.”
Kendall thought her uncle was probably the only person she knew who wouldn’t question her remark about trying not to think about something and change the subject to golf. A group at the station was trying to get a league going, but when they approached her to join them, Kendall had begged off and blamed it on her shoulder, which was, in reality, nearly healed. Her uncle was probably right, though; she needed to find something to do to pass the time next week other than brood and feel sorry for herself. She’d get on that list for golf, start practicing. It would be a start. She might even call Leona Lindblad’s grandson and take him up on his dinner offer.
After her uncle went back inside, Kendall couldn’t face going back into the party, and instead, walked Shirley down the street to a park next to the grade school she’d attended. The park was deserted, the playground devoid of children. Kendall walked over to one of the swings and sat down, hating the feeling of helplessness she’d been burdened with for so long; problems she couldn’t solve made her a little crazy.
A car pulled into the parking lot next to the school. She was going to have company, probably a family bringing their children to the playground after finishing their Easter dinner. Instead, a man on crutches struggled out of the car. Kendall couldn’t see his face, he was too far away, but he wore a black fedora and a black leather jacket. He struggled to the front of his car and leaned on the bumper, gazing her way.
Kendall’s heart stopped beating. The man watching her was Nash. He remembered her, remembered them! She leapt off the swing and ran to him, Shirley bouncing at her side. When she got close enough to look into his eyes, her legs froze in place.
“You don’t know me, do you?” she whispered, her heart sinking.
“I’m sorry. I only remember you from the department. You’re Kendall Halsrud.”
Kendall fought back tears and the pain of standing here, seeing Nash and knowing there was nothing left of what they had shared. But he was here; he’d found her. That had to mean something.
He squinted. “I get these brief flashes, that’s about it.”
“Are you having one now?”
“Yeah, I am.” He grinned.
“What was it?”
“Your stomach. You have a scar on your stomach.”
She flushed. At least he remembered something. “Is that all?”
“I remember how your skin tasted.”
Her heart fluttered. Nash had to be remembering bits from the night after her surgery when he had helped her get dressed. That night was the first time they had realized the attraction they had for each other. A feeling of hope spread over her, maybe everyone was right, it would only be a matter of time.
Kendall wanted to touch him so badly it hurt. “Would you do something for me?” she asked.
He opened his arms, and she walked over to him, leaned into him softly, loving the feel and smell of him, the warmth of being in his arms. Everything would work out. Nash would remember what they meant to each other and they would go back to what used to be.
She had to believe that.
+ + + + +
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Books by Marla Madison
The TJ Peacock & Lisa Rayburn Series
She’s Not There
The Detective Kendall Halsrud Series
Marla Madison, Iced Malice
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