Chapter 16

December 4, 2011 at 9:11 pm (The Truth)

Mack cupped Hannah’s face in his hands. Her eyes were bloodshot and swimming with still unshed tears. He couldn’t tell if she was worried that he’d ask her about the visions, or worried that he wouldn’t. He asked. He had no choice.

“Can you show me the vision?”

Hannah took a steadying breath and then nodded.

Mack allowed himself to slip back into his sister’s mind. Her misery swamped him once again. Pulling her close to give her some of his strength, Mack encouraged her to revisit the visions she’d had as a child. She’d have been eight years old when Harris had died; far too young to have to witness such a traumatic event.

Mack watched as his sister approached a door. On the door were several locks. Combination locks, deadbolts, even a chain lock that you’d find on a bike barred the door. He didn’t want to interrupt her concentration on the locks, but he wondered how long it had been since she’d blocked that door from her thoughts.

The words “eighteen years” whispered inside his head. She’d locked off the visions when she was ten years old. He’d have been seventeen and would have just graduated from high school. He couldn’t remember what his sister had been like at ten. His mind had been focused on his own goals.

“You were so steady, so certain,” she whispered to him. “I wanted to tell you about the visions, but I didn’t know how.” Hannah undid the final lock and reached for the handle of the door. Her hand shook.

“I’m right here with you,” Mack said. “You aren’t doing this alone anymore.”

Hannah grabbed the door and pulled it open before her courage deserted her. The movie began to play immediately. Mack watched as an old school film projector showed a movie in black and white. Mack remembered that Hannah had loved those types of movies as a kid, but she’d stopped watching them not long after Harris had disappeared.

Like the previous visions, this one was from the killer’s perspective. The man walked into the room. He was briefly outlined by the light from the other room, until he closed the door. Mack couldn’t make out anything; the room was too dark. He heard the footsteps as they crossed the room and he thought he heard the sound of someone whimpering. Mack squinted into the darkness, but couldn’t make out anything useful.

A match flared and suddenly Harris’ frightened face stared back at him. Mack sucked in a breath at the terror he saw in his little brother’s eyes. The killer took a few puffs of his cigarette before tossing it to the floor. Once again Mack couldn’t make out much in the darkness. The killer moved across the room and a light bloomed, flooding the centre of the room with a harsh white light. The corners of the room were still in shadow, but Mack was only vaguely aware of this. His attention was focused on his little brother strapped down to an autopsy table.

Mack unconsciously clutched his sister closer to him as he watched the movie play out in her head. He saw the knife in the killer’s hand. He heard the killer’s voice as he spoke to Harris.

“Maybe you will understand.”

Understand what, Mack wondered? The killer cut Harris’ clothes off him, tsking over the soggy underwear. Once the clothes had been dropped on the floor, the killer’s arm started swinging. The knife cut into Harris, slicing through the flesh on his stomach, hips and legs. The killer grunted in exertion and Harris screamed in agony. Mack flinched at each thrust of the knife. He felt his anger escalating with each cry from his brother. The cuts weren’t deep enough to be fatal. Harris shed a lot of blood, but he remained aware. Mack felt the knowledge of that awareness settle on his heart.

The killer rested for a short while before picking up the knife again. Instead of swinging away, this time he made a very precise incision. It was one of many to come that Mack recognized from the autopsy report. Dr. Kovel had used these cuts to determine similarities between the Surrey Slayer killings and his mother’s death. Harris died on the table before the last cut was made. The movie ended once the killer had put his knife down for the last time.

Mack came back to the present and looked around his sister’s apartment. It felt strange to see things in colour after the movie he’d just watched. He looked down at his sister, still huddled in his lap. He didn’t know that his own tears had streaked down his face to land on the top of her head.

“You should have told us,” Mack whispered. “You shouldn’t have had to see that and then not talk about it.”

“I know,” Hannah said. “I told mom, but she didn’t want to hear about it. I think she saw it, too.”

“Dad said she had the visions and he knew you got them, but I don’t think it occurred to him that you’d seen Harris.”

“I didn’t want to tell him. I didn’t want him to look at me like I was lying or see me as a freak. By the time I was old enough to realize he never would have, I’d locked them away and refused to think about them.”

“Them?” Mack asked.

Hannah flinched. Well, she’d come this far, she thought. “I used to see them all.”

It took Mack a minute to understand what she meant. “You saw the killer with each of his victims?”

“Yes,” Hannah said.

She’d have been barely six years old when Nelle’s brother, Scott, had been killed. How does a six year old even put into words what’s playing inside her head? Mack was amazed that Hannah could function emotionally. She was a hell of a lot stronger than he’d realized.

“I used to wonder, since I could see inside the killer’s head, could he see inside mine?”

It was an interesting question, Mack thought. He didn’t feel a connection with the killer and, technically, they weren’t inside his head. They were watching from his perspective. He had to hope that that was the only connection they held with the killer.

***

Mack went to Nelle’s. After spending another hour with his sister, helping her settle back down and put the misery away for a while, he’d left. She knew that he’d be back to talk about the other visions. She’d told him that it was ok. She decided it was time to get them all out into the open.

“Maybe it will be better for me then,” she’d said.

Mack could only hope that it would be, for both of them. Mack hadn’t intended to tell Nelle about the visions. He wouldn’t have lied about them, but he wouldn’t have brought them up, either. If that was a lie by omission, so be it.

He’d not bothered to look in a mirror before buzzing her apartment. When she’d opened her door to let him in, she’d immediately known that something was wrong. The streaks from his earlier tears had dried into salty tracks on his face. He couldn’t know that the misery from what he’d seen was shadowed in his eyes. Nelle brought him in and sat him down on the couch and wrapped her arms around him. He’d started to tell her before he’d even realized what he was saying.

Nelle cried for the pain Harris had gone through and she got angry at the man who had treated him that way. The anger burned off her drowsiness and she stood up to pace. She made three quick circuits across her living room before turning to Mack.

“Can your sister see into anything reflective? Maybe she’d see the killer’s face.”

“I don’t think it works that way. Even though we’re seeing through the killer’s eyes, I think it’s still limited to what we’re looking at. We have this gift so that we can see what he’s doing. I imagine if he looked into anything reflective we wouldn’t see anything at all.”

“But you can’t know that,” Nelle insisted. “You could just as likely see exactly what he sees when he looks in the mirror.”

Mack leaned back against the couch to watch as Nelle’s pacing resumed. She hadn’t questioned the idea that he and his sister had visions. She’d just gone with it. She’d accepted his voodoo just as readily. Her quiet acceptance soothed him better than any words could.

“What do you think triggers these visions?” Nelle asked.

Mack shrugged. “They just came upon me. I can barely control mine. Hannah says that sometimes they can come when you least expect them and they can take over. I think that’s why she chooses not to drive.” Mack figured it was a good thing that Pike did most of the driving when they were out.

“Maybe they’re triggered by a strong presence?”

Mack grinned at her. “Nelle, are you asking me if I see dead people?”

Nelle rolled her eyes. “No, but you have to admit, it’s not such a far leap, considering.”

Mack stood up and crossed the room to stand in front of her. “You’re very sweet, you know? Asking me if ghosts could be triggering my visions and just accepting it all as fact. As though it’s normal.” He kissed her before she could comment.

Nelle smiled against his lips. “I think a lot of people secretly wish they had an extra sense like that. Something to make them stand out from the crowd a little.”

“Do you?” he asked.

Nelle shook her head. “I think, given what we’ve gone through in our lives already, we stand out well enough.”

“I’m going to tell people at work what I’m seeing.”

Nelle nodded, as though that was expected.

“I don’t know how they’ll take it,” Mack said.

Nelle understood what he wasn’t saying. Mack didn’t know if people would look at him as though he were a freak. Or, perhaps, as though he was involved in the killings and he was using this as a way to help the police catch him before he could hurt anyone else. She’d read all of the same books and seen the same cop shows as most people. She knew the basic profile. Serial killers wanted to be caught. They taunted the police leaving bigger clues each time.

“They’ll take it,” Nelle said. “They know you well enough to realize you’re not crazy. You’re not looking for any extra attention. Are you worried about what people will think?”

Mack rubbed his hands over his face as he thought about each person’s potential reaction to his news. Pike would be fine with it. He already knew most of the details. He probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Hannah had the same visions. Although the more he thought about it, the more Mack figured it would be better to leave his sister out of it.

Mostly, it was Eric Fishman that worried Mack. He mentioned the guy to Nelle and was surprised to see the frown on her face.

“Is he related to Danny Fishman?” she asked.

Mack nodded. “Danny is his older brother. How do you know him?”

“He was in our class, mine and Harris’. He lived in the neighbourhood.”

Mack hadn’t realized that they’d lived in the neighbourhood. It made sense though, what with their dad being on the Surrey Slayer case. It wasn’t a requirement to live in the area where you worked, but back then it was quite common. “Where did they live?”

“I think they were on my street, but I can’t remember. You think Eric would use this as an advantage to get you off the case and him on it?”

“He’s already on it, but he wants to lead it. I honestly don’t know what he’ll do with this information.”

Nelle wrapped her arms around Mack’s waist. “You have to tell the team this information. The rest is just details. As long as the killer is caught, does it matter who leads the case?”

Mack smiled. “No, it doesn’t.” And that, he realized, was the truth, because he’d work the case unofficially if they bumped him from it.

***

Nikki George had never been known for making good decisions in her life. She had dropped out of school when she was sixteen because she hated it and didn’t think she needed much of an education when she was built the way she was. Plus, she was tired of giving it to her stepdad for free. He’d taught her a lot and she intended to put those tricks to good use.

Some people might feel sorry for her. She could work the sympathy route if she needed it. Her brother had been killed when she was twelve and they’d never found the killer. Clinton had been taken when he was only eight years old. The cops had found his body four days later. Some animals had gotten to it; leastwise that’s what her stepdad had said.

Her parents had already been split at that point and her mother hadn’t married her stepdad yet. He’d not touched her then, but it hadn’t been much longer after that that he’d started in. At first she’d been shocked and grossed out and she didn’t know what to do. But he was paying attention to her and no one had really done that since Clinton had died. Her real dad had practically dropped off the face of the earth once Clinton was gone.

So she’d let him do the things he’d wanted and she learned that if she asked for things, he gave them to her. It wasn’t until she was fifteen that she realized why. He was afraid she’d tell on him and then he’d go to jail. That sort of power over a man appealed to Nikki. Up until then, she had always felt as though the men made the rules. Of course that didn’t stop her from making stupid choices where men were concerned. She just didn’t stick with them very long.

She’d made a bad choice hooking up with Duncan Twill when she was twenty. Dunc the Dick knocked her up and then left town. Twenty-one years old and she’d had a squalling brat to care for. That hadn’t been in the plan, but she hadn’t had much of a plan anyhow. She had fobbed the kid off on child services and let them adopt him out or whatever.

Nikki just wanted someone to take care of her. She was willing to do just about anything they wanted, but they had to have money. She refused to live in the dumpy apartment she’d taken over on the wrong side of Main Street for much longer. It was low in rent but high in bugs, drugs and violence. She didn’t do drugs. That was just stupid and it ate away your looks as well as your money. Her looks was all she had and she knew it. Her looks could still pay the rent and leave her cash for buying some good clothes.

She knew she should have put that money into a better apartment, but then she’d have to cheap on the clothes. The area she worked, if she didn’t have the clothes people expected to see, they’d drive on by her and pick up the next girl. At the end of the night, just as the sun was about to come up actually, she switched the five-inch stilettos that pinched her toes into numbness for the roomy sneakers that allowed her to walk more than a few feet at a time.

She’d had three calls that night. Two were blow jobs, which was a quick fifty bucks each. The third was for an hour in a nearby hotel that had earned her enough for a mini shopping spree on the weekend. It was a slow night, overall. Some nights she could get three separate hour-long clients. Those were the nights that made it all worthwhile.

Nikki spent a lot of time in bed. She started work at eleven at night and sometimes she didn’t finish until seven in the morning. She liked to stay out until she had at least four hundred dollars. Some nights, that just wasn’t possible, but she gave it her best. Last night, she’d just barely managed it. She’d go home soon enough, but first she needed fuel. On good nights, she treated herself to a full breakfast once her day was done. God knew she worked off those calories.

Nikki slept from eleven in the morning until eight at night. She knew that if she didn’t get enough sleep and she had bags under her eyes, she’d make less money. She didn’t starve herself either. Guys liked to hang onto a girl with hips and boobs. So she ate a plate full of bacon and sausage and eggs. She didn’t want to get fat, so she limited the amount of syrup she put on her waffles to a stingy two tablespoons. And she drank water, because it made her skin look gorgeous.

After her late breakfast, Nikki walked past all the junkies and freaks who hung out near her apartment. It didn’t matter what time of day it was, they were there. They hooted at her and some asked for special favours, but Nikki ignored them. You start giving freebies to one man and soon you had a lineup around the block. She got to the door of her building just as a car pulled up outside. Turning to look, she watched as the driver got out and motioned to her.

Here was the sort of man you took home to meet your family. Nikki wished she’d kept her stilettos on. The things those shoes did to her legs would have this guy panting in seconds. But he didn’t seem to care, he beckoned her closer anyway.

“Hello handsome. You looking for me?” Nikki leaned across his car, letting her boobs hit the roof and plump up for his perusal. He looked fit and she bet he had stamina to spare. The only thing she couldn’t determine was the size of his wallet. Would he have enough for an hour?

“Yes ma’am, I am looking for you,” Steven said. He pulled several hundred dollars from his wallet and fanned them out on the roof, just out of her reach. “I’ve got a few hours to kill.”

 

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