Chapter 15

December 4, 2011 at 9:09 pm (The Truth)

Mack had considered going to see Nelle to tell her about his visions and his decision to share them with his team. Instead, he’d headed back out to the suburbs to talk to his father. If his dad had ever had visions, he’d never let on to Mack. But even if he hadn’t experienced them before, his dad would understand and be able to help Mack handle them.

Mack had called ahead, so his dad had dinner on the table when he arrived. Beef stew with mashed potatoes and fresh baked rolls. The smell brought back so many warm memories of his childhood, with all of the family sitting around the table and eating together. He knew if he looked closely he’d see his mother barely eating and his sister picking out the peas from her portion and setting them on Mack’s plate. He and Harris and Blake had wolfed down their meals so fast his dad had nicknamed them the Hoover boys.

Mack set the table while his dad pulled the rolls from the oven. He made idle conversation while he spooned a large portion of the stew onto his mashed potatoes. Breaking open a roll, he slathered a pat of butter onto one side and closed it up again. They ate in silence for a few minutes, his dad allowing him to figure out how to get his thoughts organized in his mind. Mack decided that it was easiest just to spit it out.

“I’m having visions about some of my crimes, dad. I’m seeing things I shouldn’t be able to.”

“What sort of things?”

Mack stared at his dad a moment, realizing he wasn’t surprised. Did he get them, too? “I saw mom’s body being placed into the trunk of a car. I could make out a partial license plate, but I couldn’t make out anything useful about her killer.”

“A partial plate is useful and it could lead you to her killer,” his dad reminded him.

He nodded, accepting his dad’s point. Mack broke open his roll again and smeared the pool of melted butter around to cover every square inch of the surface of the bread. Breaking the top half into two pieces, he shoved one in his mouth. He licked the butter from his fingers and ate the other piece of bread.

“Why aren’t you surprised about this, dad?”

“Your mother had visions.”

Had she envisioned her death, Mack wondered. Did the visions even work that way for her? Had she gotten good at recalling those flipbook images, or had they upset her? Before Mack could ask any more questions, his dad dropped a bomb.

“Your sister gets them, too. In fact, I’m a little worried about Hannah. I haven’t been able to reach her since your mother died and I’m wondering if she didn’t see some of it, too.”

“Why didn’t you call me? I’d have checked on her.”

“I wasn’t too worried until I called her work today and they said she hadn’t shown up for dance practice the last few days. I was going to track her down myself until you called to say you were coming over. Now I can hand it to you.”

It wasn’t like his dad to just hand over the disappearance of someone he loved like that. Mack watched him as he ate the rest of his stew. He allowed his senses to open to his father’s and felt the annoyance there. It wasn’t for Mack’s probing, but an annoyance directed at his sister and her current antics.

“She’ll use this as another excuse for making a poor decision in her own life, just as Blake will use it to start binge drinking again.”

Mack knew that by ‘poor decision’, his dad meant she would choose another loser boyfriend to fall in love with. She had a habit of falling into love as frequently as she did her laundry. Each breakup was an emotionally devastating experience that she tended to dump on their father. His being able to sense the underlying insecurities in his daughter didn’t help, nor did the fact that Hannah knew she couldn’t hide that from him. Just as she knew she couldn’t hide her thoughts from Mack. And Mack would push where his father would not.

“I’ll track her down tonight and I’ll call you when I know how she is.”

His dad nodded and rose to clear their plates. Neither one big on desserts, they settled in the living room with coffee. Mack said how he was going to have to tell his inspector and their task force about the visions he was having. There was no other way to get the images he was seeing investigated thoroughly.

“I’ve had a police sketch artist work up a drawing for the license plate.”

“You’re worried that people will look at you like you’re crazy,” his dad said. It wasn’t a question. Both men knew that’s exactly what some people would do. “If this information is a key component to catching your killer, then you must do everything you can to make your team understand that the images are real.”

The right path wasn’t always the easiest to take. Mack could read that thought loud and clear inside his dad’s mind. It’s what made a man not sign his divorce papers, in the hopes that he could one day save a lost soul. He would have to face his team and tell them a very personal bit of information. He would run the risk of being ridiculed by his coworkers. If it leaked to the press, it could get exponentially worse.

If Eric Fishman wanted to use the information to discredit Mack, so be it.

***

Mack tracked his sister down two hours later. She was at her apartment, but she hadn’t wanted to let him up. She lived in a tiny studio in the West End, because it was close to the dance studio. The rent was high, but the building was secure and she had underground parking included, which was rare. Mack had an understanding with her building manager that if her rent cheque ever bounced, he was to call Mack. He’d covered her rent several times over the years. He’d never told her that it was him and she’d never asked. He didn’t care about the money. If it helped her out, then it was worth it to him.

He did feel guilty that they weren’t as close as he thought they should be. Seven years difference was a lot when you were kids. She’d been eight when Harris had been killed. Mack hadn’t been around much then. Rugby had taken up a lot of his after school time. Hannah’s dance lessons had kept her very busy as well. Time seemed to disappear once Harris was gone. Mack had gone off to university and then entered the academy. Once he’d earned his badge the hours had been eaten up by the job.

It was no less true now that he was a detective. Nine to five wasn’t an option for him. Death had its own schedule. Still, he could make an effort to see her more. He attended some of her performances. She was an exceptionally gifted dancer, in his biased opinion. Their father had offered to support her in her bid to make it in New York. When it came time to make the decision, Hannah had chickened out. She’d told her father that she didn’t feel confident enough to go and didn’t want to waste his money.

Mack thought that was partially true. The other half of the story was significantly more personal to her. Mack only knew about it because the hospital had called him when she’d had complications. She’d gotten pregnant and her boyfriend at the time hadn’t wanted the responsibility. Hannah chose to have the baby, but she’d miscarried at thirteen weeks. She’d called 911 when the bleeding had gotten well past what she felt was normal. The hospital admitting nurse had recognized Hannah’s last name and asked her if she was related to Detective Novak.

Hannah had been surprised to wake from her ordeal to see Mack asleep in the chair next to her bed. She’d sworn him to secrecy and Mack had agreed. He’d often wondered if their father could see what she’d gone through. Their father would never have admitted it, unless Hannah had asked him outright. Hannah would never ask him, on the off chance that he couldn’t see it in her head. Mack thought that the loss of the child had affected her more than she’d let on. He’d never probed her too hard on it. He didn’t know if there was anything he could do to help her work through it.

When she opened the door for him, Mack could tell that she was hurting. His sister’s obsession of choice was food, or a lack of it. When she was emotionally unsteady, she didn’t eat. Her rigorous dance schedule kept her super fit and she was meticulous about her eating habits. If she weren’t a dancer, she could easily make the switch to nutritionist. When she was upset, all of her training went out the window. She didn’t dance and she didn’t eat.

Her cheeks, after only a couple of days in hibernation, looked hollowed out and her eyes had a sunken appearance. Her hair, the same light brown as Mack’s, was pulled back into a messy ponytail. She wore baggy sweatpants and a thin, black tank top. Mack gave her a peck on the cheek and hugged her to him. After the briefest hesitation, she returned the hug. He settled on her couch and declined the tea she offered. With the coffee he’d had at their dad’s, Mack was likely to be up later than he needed to be.

He didn’t probe. She would know that he was there. He wondered if it was a vision that told her. He couldn’t tell when his father was looking inside his head and Mack had no idea if his dad could sense him in there. But his sister had always known. As a little kid, she’d screamed at him to get out of her head. She hadn’t wanted him to know her private thoughts. They’d centered on things her friends were doing and the idea of kissing boys. Mack hadn’t wanted to know about those thoughts, so he’d respected her privacy.

Respecting her privacy had become a habit, mostly because she’d learned how to lock him out when she was thirteen, but now he needed her to talk to him. If he had to look without her permission, he’d do it. He could justify it to himself, saying he was trying to protect her from a killer. He might even believe that. But he had to ask first.

“Dad told me you get visions.” He watched as her shoulders hunched and she wouldn’t meet his eyes. “Did you see mom when she died?”

Hannah’s eyes snapped up to his and he knew. Her misery poured into his mind before he could temper it and the sheer weight of her agony and fear almost swamped him. He crossed the room and plucked her out of her chair. Sitting in it, he settled her on his lap and wrapped his arms around her. He rocked her back and forth as the tears flowed from her eyes. She didn’t say a word. She didn’t have to. He saw it all inside her head. She unlocked herself for him and he saw it all.

Her visions were far more advanced than his. She didn’t have flipbooks, she had full movie clips. She had audio, she had video and she could detect other sensations, like strong smells. While watching the killer work on their mother, he detected the metallic tang of blood and something else he couldn’t quite place. Like his, Hannah’s visions were from the killer’s perspective. Mack couldn’t see anything that helped him identify the man.

“Why didn’t you say something to me?” Mack asked. “Why did you try to handle all of this on your own?”

“Usually I can block them,” Hannah whispered. Her face was pressed against his neck. Her tears had soaked the top half of his shirt. She plucked at one of his buttons as she tried to decide what to tell him. When her shoulders drooped and he heard he sigh, Mack knew that she’d decided to tell him all of it.

“I knew he had her,” she whispered.

Mack nodded, but didn’t comment. His sister didn’t need his censure. If she’d come to him to say that someone had their mother and he was hurting her, Mack would have believed her. He also knew that nothing she could have told him would have helped them prevent what happened. But his sister wouldn’t know that. So she’d have felt the guilt over not saying anything and she would have let that eat away at her until she did something as destructive as what their mother used to do.

“It wouldn’t have mattered,” Mack said.

Hannah leaned away from his and looked into his eyes. She saw the truth there when he repeated his words. “What good is this so-called ‘gift’ if it can’t stop someone from getting hurt?”

“It’s a lot like homicide investigation,” Mack said. “An investigation starts with someone getting killed. You can’t save that person, but you can work from the information that their death provides and hopefully use it to save the next person. Our gifts are tools, nothing more. We use them just as we use knives and pencils and cell phones.”

“I’d rather just have the cell phone,” Hannah said.

Mack smiled and kissed her forehead. He settled her back against his chest and asked her to walk him through the visions she’d had about their mother. He explained about the one he’d had, told her about the flipbook quality of them.

“Mine used to be like that, too. I don’t really remember when I started to get them. I think I was really young and just didn’t recognize what they were. At first I thought they were fun.” Hannah had spent so long trying to stop the visions, that it was hard for her to remember how to control them. Once she’d started to see the visions of their mother, she’d panicked and suddenly she had visions from every person she saw on the street. They’d collided inside her head, crowding out everything else. She’d almost walked in front of a bus because she’d been so preoccupied with someone’s petty complaints about their husband that she’d not been able to see where she was going.

“You have to be careful with them, Mack. They can come at you at the worst times.”

“Did you have a vision of the baby?” Mack asked. He felt her stiffen, but he held on and continued stroking a hand down her back to calm her.

A vision flashed across his mind and Mack felt a stab of pain in his heart. A small boy of about two years was running away from his mother, with a mischievous smile on his face. He had curly blonde hair and his mother’s blue eyes. He tripped over his own feet and tumbled to the grass. He turned around, but his mother wasn’t there. The boy started to cry and then he disappeared.

“I had that vision three days before I had the miscarriage. I didn’t think anything of it until the pains came. Then I knew.” Her baby would have been a boy and she had desperately wanted him.

“The boy in the vision looked just like Harris had as a toddler,” Mack said.

Hannah nodded. “I thought maybe it was Harris’ second chance.”

Mack shook his head. “If your son had lived, he wouldn’t have been Harris. He would have been his own person. We can’t replace Harris and we shouldn’t try.”

“I didn’t get pregnant to replace my dead brother, Mack,” Hannah said.

“I know and I didn’t mean it that way,” Mack soothed her. She’d gone stiff in his arms again. He remained silent for a while, just holding her close and stroking his hand down her back. He had no more visions, but he didn’t think she’d locked him out again. “I miss Harris,” he said.

Tears rolled down Hannah’s cheeks and splashed onto Mack’s shirt. She buried her face into his chest and cried. Mack held on tight and whispered nonsense words in her ear, but she couldn’t be soothed. He let the storm ride. She cried for nearly five minutes before the sobbing started to wind down. Another five minutes and she was barely sniffling. He passed her a tissue and waited while she mopped her eyes and blew her nose. Before he could say another word, she spoke.

“I had visions of Harris’ death.”

 

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