Chapter 12

November 14, 2011 at 12:27 am (The Truth)

The girl had fought so much harder than the whore had. He had left marks behind. He knew his teacher would not like it, but Steven didn’t care. Her exquisite cries had encouraged him to do more, to hurt more. When raping her hadn’t brought forth the glorious agony in her eyes, he had sodomized her. The tears and wrenching sobs that she had produced had made him come so fast he’d had to do it again.

He had left her alone for a while. He’d never gone far. Once he had taken her, he had to stay with her. Even though she couldn’t get out of the building, couldn’t even get up off the mattress she was bound to, he wouldn’t risk her fleeing. He’d only have to waste time hunting her again and he didn’t want to give up a moment of this beautiful torture.

Tonight would be the final night. His teacher had called to say they were escalating the timetable. Steven was annoyed at first, because he’d been promised five full days with the girl before she would be disposed of and he’d barely had two. But now he realized that if his teacher wanted to get his plan completed quicker, then Steven would soon be free to implement his own plan.

So Steven had set the stage as he had the previous time. He’d disposed of the grungy mattress and cleaned his semen off the girl before his teacher arrived. She had understood what that meant, he was sure of it. She’d started to whimper during the washing, but he didn’t think it was from discomfort. Her end was coming and she feared it. He reveled in her fear. If he could prolong it, he would, but his teacher would be there soon and then the work would begin.

He had liked this one better than the whore. She was softer and firmer, like the girls from his school. She had come to him clean already and she smelled nicer, too. Steven hoped the next girl would be like this one. When it was time for him to begin his own hunt, Steven would pick younger girls to play with. They had more stamina and could put up with more pain than the older women could.

When the stage was set, Steven pulled his knife from its sheath and showed it to his young captive. She started to shake violently and Steven worried that she would hurt herself before he could begin. When she started to convulse, he thought she might be about to vomit. He sliced through the restraints tying her left arm and leg. Moving in closer to roll her over, he was surprised when her left knee connected solidly with his groin. Her left hand gripped his hair and wrenched his head around.

Controlling his own need to vomit, Steven ripped her hand away from his hair and punched her in the head. Angry with her for tricking him, he punched her several times. When she lay dazed, he rolled her back into position and retied her arm and leg. Then he moved away and tried to regain his control. The knee to his balls had left them stinging with pain. He felt around his scalp for the hair she’d ripped out. A small trickle of blood ran down the back of his head.

His teacher would not be pleased.

The killer arrived half an hour later and he was not only displeased, but he was worried that Steven had left behind evidence that could be traced back to them. Steven confessed to washing the girl, which would have removed any evidence she could have on her. The killer decided to take Steven at his word. Any evidence would hang Steven, but they had to risk it. The timetable had been adjusted and he didn’t want to mess with it anymore.

The game was just getting interesting.

***

Mack ignored the rain as it soaked him to the skin in seconds. It was cold, but he barely noticed it. He’d worked late at the precinct and then he’d decided to take a walk. If he’d gone home, he knew he never would have been able to sleep. His mother’s killer was out there and Mack wasn’t any closer to finding him.

He headed across the Cambie Street Bridge into downtown. Amber halos surrounded the streetlights. Vehicle traffic on the bridge was light this late at night. After he’d left his dad on Sunday, his mind hadn’t let him find peace. He’d only slept twelve hours in the last seventy-two. Pike sensed his disquiet, but kept silent about it. He knew that if Mack fell apart, they would both be off the case.

They’d gotten nowhere looking into Klein Ebersole’s finances. The accountant had given them the runaround, forcing Mack to order a full check through the department. It would take time, but they would eventually have a clear picture of what state Klein Ebersole’s accounts were in. They had conducted several interviews with people who had been at the same party as the Ebersole’s on the night of Carlton’s death. So far, that avenue had turned up nothing. Mack had requested a few officers finish off the list for him.

Polly had never called him. He and Pike had circled the Main and Hastings area several times searching for her or for the lady Mack had given his card to, but they’d seen neither woman. He couldn’t know if the man Polly had seen was his mother’s killer, but wanted to get that piece of the puzzle squared away. If the man turned out to be some john looking for a cheap score, at least it would cross the tip off their list, allowing them to focus on everything else. With no word from her and no way of contacting her, Mack and Pike had to move on.

The trouble was, they didn’t have any other solid evidence to track. The semen sample that ME Kovel had taken from his mother had resulted in no known matches. Soil under her fingernails had been from dirt and some heroin residue. The lab was still conducting tests on several other samples that had been taken from her body, but Mack didn’t hold out much hope that the results would point them in any specific direction.

He was starting to lose hope. He was questioning his own judgment, wondering if he was too close to the case. Should he step back from it and allow Erik to take over? He’d be shut out of the entire investigation, but maybe he wasn’t any good to it anyway?

He had walked for over half an hour before he bothered to look around him. He was only mildly surprised to see he was standing across from Nelle’s apartment. There was a light on in her loft. She must be working on her graphic novel. He considered just hailing a cab and heading back to the precinct, but he didn’t. He crossed the street and he buzzed her apartment before he changed his mind.

“Who is it?” Nelle’s voice floated out over the intercom. “Oh, Mack, I’ll be right there.”

He spotted the camera in the upper left corner of the alcove, pointing toward anyone using the intercom. Nelle came down to the small lobby and opened the door for him. Seeing his soaking wet clothing, she hustled him straight up to her apartment where it was warm. Nelle led him over to the fire before ducking into her bedroom. She came back with a robe draped over her arm and saw him staring up at the paintings on either side of her feature wall.

“The artist is local. His name is David Sands and he and I used to work together at a video game studio in town. The original works were quite small, so I commissioned him to create these much larger paintings for me.”

The two paintings were of Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein. The dark, vibrant colours captured the gothic moodiness of the subjects. Sands had created them as a series of six paintings in homage to the classic movie monsters. She’d liked them all but, with all of her own graphic art covering the remaining wall space, she only had the room for two.

“Come with me,” Nelle said, taking Mack’s hand and leading him up the stairs to her loft. She directed him to the bathroom and handed him the robe. “You need a hot shower to warm you. Put your clothes outside the door and I’ll toss them in the dryer.”

Nelle waited until she heard the water running before returning for his clothing. She checked the labels on his t-shirt and sweatshirt, but everything he’d been wearing was safe for the dryer. Brewing a small pot of coffee, she poured it into a carafe and carried it with two mugs and the cream and sugar set over to her couch. Sitting down with her cup, she waited for Mack to finish his shower and return to the living room.

Mack sat down opposite Nelle and accepted the coffee cup after she’d told him it was decaf. The last thing he’d needed was a dose of caffeine to keep him from sleeping. Now that he was sitting her with her, he didn’t know what to say.

“I’m sorry about your mom,” Nelle said. She knew the words were inadequate, but nothing else she could have said would have eased his discomfort any better.

He nodded and sipped his coffee. He told her the same sort of stuff he’d told his dad. Nelle didn’t need the specifics anymore than his dad had needed to hear them. Instead he found himself blurting out what he’d not been able to say to his dad.

“I didn’t feel it when she died.”

Nelle frowned, not understanding him. “How do you mean that?”

Mack tried to explain the sense he got about people and how he could determine certain things about them by listening to what they said and how they behaved. When he mentioned that his partner called it his voodoo, he knew he was making a mess of the explanation.

“My dad had known the minute my mother had died. He had always been able to sense her, to know what she was feeling. Not specifics, of course, but in general terms of happiness or sadness. Mostly it had been sadness with her.” Mack couldn’t recall a time when he’d felt genuine happiness from his mother. When he’d been a little kid, he hadn’t understood what it was he’d been feeling. Once his dad had realized that Mack had the same empathic sense he did, he’d tried to teach him how to control it. Mack didn’t think his sense was as in tune as his father’s was, but it had helped him get where he was today.

“I had stopped listening to my mother when I was seventeen. I cut her out of my thoughts, so that I wouldn’t have to feel the pain she dwelled upon.”

“And your dad didn’t cut her off?” Nelle asked, trying to understand.

“No, he’d always hoped she would come back to him. He never filed the divorce papers either.”

“Did he know what she was going through before she died?” Nelle thought that knowing someone was being hurt and knowing there was no way to help them would be the worst kind of hell.

“I don’t think he knew the pain she’d endured, but he knew when she had died. I hope he doesn’t learn how she died.”

“The paper would have given him some idea,” Nelle reminded him.

“They don’t have even half of the story,” Mack admitted.

“You’re feeling guilty because you cut your mom off. You’re thinking that if you’d still been in tune with her, you’d have known something was wrong.”

“She was dumped right outside my house, Nelle, and I had no idea.” Mack stood up and paced in front of the fireplace. “One of my neighbours spotted her and started screaming and I looked at my mom’s body for a full minute before I even clued in to who she was.”

Mack told her about the case and how he would be pulled from it if he couldn’t get it together and treat it like any other case. “But it’s not any other case. It’s my mom.”

“I think it’s foolish to try and forget that the person you’re trying to find justice for is your mom,” Nelle said. “You can’t forget that, but you will have to tuck away your feelings about her. They are reactionary and they won’t help you now. Your inspector put you on the case because he knows you’re the best person for the job. You are the one who will keep yourself on the case.”

Mack felt a little easier just having gotten all of that off his chest. Nelle wouldn’t allow him to feel sorry for himself or to carry the load of guilt he’d been dragging around behind him the past few days. He would work through the notion that if he’d been aware of her all this time, he would have known she was being hurt. Nelle was right, even knowing it wouldn’t have helped. He had no idea where his mother had been held before she’d been dumped in the alley behind his house. They needed to find that location, but none of the evidence gave them any clues so far.

When Mack asked Nelle how her week was going, she told him about running into her father. Mack sat up a little straighter at that. He could tell Nelle was upset about it and that she was hurting. He moved to sit next to her on the couch and pulled her into his arms.

“Why did he come to you now?” Mack asked.

“He wants my kidney,” Nelle whispered. The warmth from Mack’s body soothed her better than the wine she’d consumed on Monday night. She explained about her half-brother’s kidney malfunction and how he needed a hereditary donor. She admitted that she didn’t know if she wanted to help.

“You’ve already decided to help,” Mack said. He knew her well enough to know she’d never let her half-brother die because she hated her father. He also knew that she was hurting because her father had only made contact because he needed something from her. “You have to put aside your feelings for your father, Nelle. They’re reactionary and they won’t help you now.”

He smiled when she tried to punch him for tossing her own words in her face. She smiled up at him and he leaned down to kiss her. He stared into her eyes as he waited for her to decide if he had the right to touch her. When her hand crept around his neck to hold him close, Mack considered that his green light to continue. He kissed her for several long minutes before he knew it wouldn’t be enough for him.

“Nelle, I’d like to stay,” he whispered against her lips.

Nelle nodded and Mack scooped her up off the couch and carried her into the bedroom.

***

Several hours later, Mack woke, his heart rate accelerated and his senses alert. Remaining still, he listened to the sounds of the room, trying to determine what had yanked him from his sleep. Nelle was tucked into his side, her breathing light and even. He could hear the faint hum of her digital alarm clock on the night stand. Outside her bedroom window a car splashed through a puddle and carried on down the street.

No other sounds came from inside the apartment. It wasn’t an intruder who had woken Mack. He had a general sense that something was missing. Or, more specifically, that he was missing something. The more he tried to focus on what he felt was missing, the further it slipped away. Frustrated, he stilled his mind and stopped chasing the thought. Closing his eyes, he allowed the emotional detritus clogging his brain to sift through his filter and fall away.

All that remained was another flip book image that refused to come into focus. It flipped and it flipped, but the image he was being shown was too blurry to decipher. These images were new to him. He didn’t know how to control them. It had taken him years of training, with his father’s help, to understand how to use his voodoo. If this was another aspect to that voodoo ability, then his father wouldn’t be able to teach him how to pull the image in. He’d have mentioned it if he’d had the sense.

Mack wondered if it was something he’d gotten from his mother. As far as he was aware, his mother had never said anything about having visions. He’d have chalked it up to too much alcohol if she had. Mack made a mental note to call his father about this new sense. In trying to relax enough to allow the vision to come, Mack fell asleep.

***

Mack woke a few hours later, to the distant sound of his cell phone ringing. He reached over to the bedside table before he remembered that he wasn’t at home. Nelle lay curled against him and her warmth was giving him ideas. Before he could act on them, he got up from the bed and walked into the living room. Nelle had placed his phone and his wallet on the counter between the kitchen and the dining room. His phone had stopped ringing by the time he reached for it. The call ID said it was Pike.

Mack hit redial and waited for Pike to answer. “Sorry, I wasn’t close to the phone. What’s up?”

“We’ve got another body.”

 

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