Chapter 17

January 12, 2012 at 9:21 pm (The Truth)

Mack wasn’t nervous or worried that his team might think he’d cracked. He had Nelle’s quiet confidence in him and Pike’s staunch support to shore him up. And he knew, beyond anything, that the information he saw needed to be told. Sure, he might wish that it came from a convenient eyewitness, so its credibility wouldn’t be instantly questioned. But it didn’t and it was up to Mack not to make a mess of his explanation.

He dropped the artist’s sketch on the table. He’d made copies of it so the team didn’t have to huddle around the same drawing. Mack closed the door once everyone was in the room and he stood in front of the whiteboard to address them.

“This sketch is from images I had while processing the scene of Grace Novak’s murder. I’ve seen images from Amy Cronin’s murder as well, but there wasn’t anything particularly useful in it, so I didn’t have the sketch artist recreate it for us.”

“What do you mean ‘images you had’,” Eric asked.

“Exactly what you think I mean. I had an image in my mind and this is what I saw. Pike and I have run the partial plate and there are too many cars for us to check on our own.”

Pike passed around lists with sections broken up by each investigator. “I’ve blocked in sections for each of you to take, so we can work through the list quicker. Once we find the car, we’ll have it impounded so the crime scene guys can go over it.”

Eric stared at Mack as though he was waiting for the punch line. He looked around the room and the only person who seemed openly skeptical was his partner, Gatts. Eric shook his head in disbelief. “We’re supposed to just accept the idea that you’re having visions now? I don’t know what the hell this voodoo bullshit is that Pike keeps talking about, but I’m not buying it.”

Mack wanted to sigh, but didn’t. “You don’t have to buy it, Eric. Be as skeptical as you want. But process the list anyway. We need to find that car and determine who it was registered to.”

Eric pointed to the shoulder of the man in the image. “That’s the killer, right?”

Mack nodded.

“Why can’t we see his face, if you’re having visions about him? Why can’t you just get the artist to draw up his likeness and we’ll post that around town?”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Mack began.

“Fucking convenient,” Eric said, flipping the image across the table.

“No, it isn’t convenient,” Mack replied. He tried to dial back his anger, but the strain came out in his voice. “I’d love nothing better than to see who was doing this so I could get the artist to draw him. I’d be grateful to have to watch what he does, on the off chance that I could see his face and stop him. But I can’t. I get this,” he said, pointing to the image. “And this is a start.”

The inspector, silent up until now, spoke up. “Work through the list and find that car. Right now, it’s the strongest lead we’ve got. And keep it silent. We don’t need the press getting wind of this.”

The officers filed out, their lists in their hands along with a copy of the drawing. Eric and Gatts remained behind. The inspector headed for the door, but stopped when Eric called out to him.

“Sir,” Eric picked up the drawing and waved it at the inspector. “I feel this is proof of what we were discussing earlier. Mack is too close to this case to be an effective leader.”

Inspector Hilbert stared at Eric and Gatts a moment and then he smiled. “So prove him wrong. Work the list and show that the information is bogus.” He turned and walked from the room without another word.

Mack grabbed a copy of the image and the list and headed for the door. Eric stood blocking his way.

When I show that this drawing is bullshit, I’ll have you off this team,” Eric promised.

“Well, then you’d best get to work.” Mack stepped around him and walked out the door.

Pike stepped in front of Eric and gestured to the list. “Be sure to be thorough. I’d hate for your career aspirations to get in the way of good police work.” Pike put his big hand on Eric’s chest and shoved him out of the way. He followed Mack from the office to the parking garage and slipped in behind the wheel of their car. “Well that went better than I thought it would.”

“Eric thinks I’m psycho. He’s gunning for me.”

“Yeah, but he was doing that anyway.” Pike pulled out from the underground and headed toward the onramp to the Cambie Street Bridge.

“I just handed him the ammo.”

“Yeah and when the information proves out, Eric will shoot himself in the foot with it,” Pike said.

Mack grinned. “Is it petty of me to want to see that?”

“Naw, it’s healthy.”

Mack and Pike spent several hours combing through their list of cars. None panned out, but there were still two unaccounted for. One was potentially tucked into a garage with no decent windows in it and the other had been driven onto the ferry headed for Nanaimo, according to the owner’s next-door neighbour. The owner said the car was a dark blue, but couldn’t say if it was considered a small car or a mid-sized. He didn’t know the make or model; said all of those new cars looked alike.

They returned to the station feeling less than exultant, but still determined. Settled in the conference room with a steaming cup of coffee at his elbow, Mack added the day’s business into his report. He’d just finished up when Ingledue and Curcio walked in.

“We’ve eliminated all but five cars from our list. Some are in garages and some are out of town. One is a rental unit that’s being used by a guy who took it to the island.”

“Yeah, we had one of ours go off to the island, as well,” Mack said.

“Company says it will be back the day after tomorrow. It fits the profile, so we asked that they call us as soon as it’s in.”

“Nice work,” Mack said. He waited for the men to head out, but they remained standing before him. Mack figured he knew what was on their minds. “You had something more you wished to say?”

Curcio closed the door and took a seat opposite Mack. Ingledue paced a few steps in front of the whiteboard. Mack waited for them to get their thoughts settled. He took a sip of his coffee and kept his eyes on Ingledue. Mack had already noticed that Ingledue had accepted the role of senior partner over Curcio and that Curcio seemed fine with it.

“Fishman stopped us on the way down to the garage,” Ingledue said.

Mack nodded. “Just spit it out, Ben.”

Ingledue grinned. “To say that he’s not your biggest supporter would be putting it mildly. Mostly, Eric is a good cop with ambition. He wants to be inspector and he’s not shy about telling people that’s where he’s headed. But, he sees you as a solid roadblock in his career path.”

“That’s not a surprise.” Mack leaned back in his chair. “I don’t care about being inspector and if Eric wants it, he can have it. Once he’s earned it.”

Ingledue nodded. “I think he stopped me and Curcio because we’re next up for detective, so we’re almost at his level. He’s trying to get some backing from the rest of us, to convince the inspector to remove you from the task force. He thinks this drawing is the last straw.”

That wasn’t a surprise either, Mack thought. He knew, when he’d decided to tell everyone about his visions, that it could come to this. He still felt that it was the right thing to do. “Do you feel I’m incapable of leading this task force?”

“No, I’ve got no issue with you. I don’t think I’d be able to say the same of Eric Fishman. I don’t think he has the chops for it.”

“We’ll wait and see what happens with this lead. If it doesn’t pan out then Eric can take it to the inspector. Whatever decision the inspector has, I’ll accept.” Mack knew that he’d always have a job as long as Inspector Hilbert was around. If Hilbert felt the need to remove him from the task force, so be it.

Ingledue picked up his copy of the drawing and motioned for Curcio to head out. Before Curcio opened the door, Mack asked them for their thoughts on the lead and where it came from.

“Aw, hell, Mack,” Ingledue said, “I don’t care where it came from as long as it’s good. And I really hope it is good, because I want to see Eric’s face then.”

Mack chuckled under his breath. “When do you write the test?”

“I’m in two weeks and Curcio’s in four.”

“You want to run anything by me beforehand, just ask.”

The men nodded their thanks and left the room.

Mack was still chuckling under his breath when Pike walked in holding some papers in his hand. He tossed them on the table for Mack to examine.

“Those are the financials for one Mr. Klein Ebersole. Guy was in hock up to his ugly brown hair piece.”

“Was that a hair piece?” Mack asked.

“I don’t know. It sure didn’t look real to me. Kind of Donald Trump-like.”

“Probably hair plugs.”

“I don’t get why anyone would choose to put their ass hair on their head,” Pike said.

Mack raised an eyebrow and gestured toward Pike’s shaved head.

“Hey, I choose to shave my head because I refuse to transfer my ass hair to it.” Pike ran a hand over his head and nearly shuddered at the idea of it being filled with butt plugs. “So, you think Klein could have offed his brother and implicated the wife, in an effort to get his hands on the money?”

“It wouldn’t be the most original reason for committing murder,” Mack said. Standing up, he grabbed his coat from the back of the chair and headed for the door. “I guess we should have another chat with him.”

***

“So, tell me about the new guy.”

Nelle smiled at the question. She’d finally managed to track Stacy down and get her to commit to a late lunch. Nelle wanted to hear all about her two months in Hawaii, but Stacy was nixing that and steering the conversation back around to Nelle and Mack.

“It’s about damn time you had a regular guy, or any guy, for that matter.” Stacy gave her the go-ahead gesture as she sipped on the last of her gin and tonic.

Stacy Boxer was the closest friend Nelle had. She hadn’t stayed in touch with anyone from Surrey. She’d met Stacy when Nelle’s grandmother had enrolled her in school in West Van. Nelle was quiet and a bit shy and Stacy was out there for the world to see. Her hair had been blue on the first day of school. She’d gone every colour of the rainbow several times over in the past twenty years. Now she’d settled on screaming fire engine red with a black fringe. It complimented her blue eyes and deeply tanned skin.

“His name is Mack and he’s a homicide detective.” Stacy knew about Nelle’s brother. Nelle brought her up to date on what had been happening around town. She kept the details of the murders vague. She didn’t want to dwell on them and Stacy didn’t want the lunch to be depressing.

“What’s his partner like?”

“I haven’t met him yet,” Nelle admitted.

“Is Mack hogging you?” Stacy asked, with a sly wink.

Nelle laughed, sipping her wine to buy her a little time. She hadn’t really thought about it before, but she and Mack hadn’t gone on a date yet. They were getting quite close or, at least, she felt they were. He didn’t keep things from her and she doubted that he would. She couldn’t see a man telling her about having visions and then not wanting her to meet his friends.

“I don’t think it’s hogging, I think he’s been so busy with this latest case that he hasn’t had the time to introduce us.”

“You said that his mother was just killed and he’s working on the case?” Stacy waited for Nelle’s nod before continuing. “I’m surprised he has any spare time or emotion to start something new. The fact that he’s making time for that tells me he’s a pretty great guy and I’d like to know if he has a brother.”

Nelle grinned at her friend. She knew that Mack had a brother, but he’d told her enough that Nelle wouldn’t encourage her friend to make a move there. Blake Novak was about to be divorced for the second time, had two kids from the first marriage and Mack said he refused to admit that he was an alcoholic. Nelle passed all of that information on to Stacy who immediately made a no-thanks gesture.

“I got nothing against a guy with kids, but I come from a long line of alcoholics and I refuse to marry one.” Stacy’s home life had been just as screwed up as Nelle’s had. Stacy had both her parents at home, literally. Her father was too drunk most of the time to make his way to work. Her mother had gotten into drugs and spent her days out by the pool, lusting after the gardener. Stacy’s welfare had fallen to the nanny and the housekeeper.

If not for a fat trust fund that kept them afloat, Stacy figured she’d have ended up in foster care or with one of her wretched aunts. She was grateful to her grandfather for recognizing that his son lacked ambition, preferring to live the playboy lifestyle. Once Stacy had come along, her grandfather had set aside money for her. She had full control of it when she turned eighteen. Stacy had moved out of her parents place and never looked back.

“So tell me what else is new with you,” Stacy said. She’d switched to water, only allowing herself one alcoholic drink per day.

“I ran into my father the other day,” Nelle said.

Stacy choked on her water and spent half a minute trying to regain her breath. Her face flushed from the effort and she started to fan herself while she worked to calm her racing heart. When she’d settled again, she stared at Nelle, looking for any trace of the pain she assumed would be there.

“Why now, after so long?” she asked.

“His son is dying and needs my kidney to live,” Nelle said. She didn’t beat around the bush or pretty it up. She didn’t have to do any of those things with Stacy.

“Fucker,” Stacy muttered, taking a careful sip of her water.

Nelle explained how he’d come to her place, out of the blue, and waited until she’d been walking down the street before approaching her. “I don’t know if he thought I’d have run back inside the house, or what. I could tell that he expected me to jump and do his bidding. That hasn’t changed.”

“What are you going to do?”

Nelle still hadn’t made up her mind about that, though Mack insisted that she had. She told Stacy about the tests that she’d have to take to verify that she was a match for her half-brother. If they proved that she was, then she’d have to decide about the surgery and when it would take place.

“When are you going for the tests?”

“Tomorrow,” Nelle admitted. Apparently her friends knew her better than she did.

***

Pike pulled into the Ebersole’s driveway once the gate was opened to him. A housekeeper answered their knock on the door and showed them into the drawing room once again. Mack had never bothered to Google it, to see what the hell a drawing room was. Mack and Pike took the same seats they’d taken the last time. The housekeeper left after they’d declined any refreshments.

“Bets on how long they keep us peons waiting?” Pike asked.

“Five minutes, easy,” Mack said.

It ended up being closer to ten minutes before Klein walked into the room. He apologized profusely and then insulted them by saying he had some important business to attend to. Mack barely managed to keep from rolling his eyes.

Pike wasn’t as generous. “It’s nice to see that solving your brother’s murder doesn’t rate high with you, Mr. Ebersole.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean to make what you’re doing sound trivial. I’m sure you’re doing the very best that you’re capable of, even if my brother’s killer is still living in that house.”

“Mr. Ebersole,” Pike said, ignoring his comments entirely, “why don’t you tell us about your financial difficulties?”

Klein puffed up with indignation and Mack watched as his face suffused with angry colour. While he snorted and stamped and generally made an ass of himself, Mack tuned in to what wasn’t being said. His bluster was simply that; a show for the cops. Inside, Klein Ebersole didn’t give a damn about his personal finances or the irritating mouth noises his wife made about them. All he cared about what keeping his new little tart satisfied.

Mack almost snorted out loud at Klein’s reference to Adriana Sutton as a tart. He thought that tart went quite well with words like drawing room and mouth noises. Mack started fishing around inside Klein’s mind, looking for anything lurking in the corners. All he got for his troubles was an unnecessary image of Adriana riding Klein like a bull. He still couldn’t determine if her boobs were real, but he thought probably not.

“Mr. Ebersole,” Mack interrupted, “we’d like to also speak with your wife.”

“Yes, of course,” Klein said.

He left the room to search for her and Mack turned to Pike. “He didn’t have anything to do with his brother’s death. He doesn’t care about much other than screwing Adriana.”

“You got an image of that, didn’t you?” Pike asked.

Mack nodded, surprised. “How did you know?”

“You hid it well, but you briefly had this look on your face that said ‘ouch, my eyes’.”

Mack laughed quietly, tamping it down when Mrs. Ebersole arrived with her husband in tow. She took the seat opposite them and once again perched on the very edge. If she didn’t get comfortable, perhaps she thought they wouldn’t stay long. Mack ignored what was being said and focused on analyzing Payton Ebersole’s thoughts.

And he hit a wall.

The last time he’d been to see the Ebersole’s Mack hadn’t bothered to try reading her. Now he realized it probably wouldn’t have done him any good. She was keeping him out. Mack didn’t think she knew he was looking. He figured she was used to keeping herself tightly coiled and that meant no stray thoughts dared creep around inside her head.

It was interesting to him to see how she was doing it. He searched for any little nook and cranny that would let him in, but she had it all locked down. He saw a giant white wall, like a thick fog, and nothing could penetrate it. The more he tried, the thicker the fog got until it surrounded him. It felt sticky to the touch and Mack was surprised by the tactile sensation he was receiving. Instead of getting the impression of stickiness, he could actually feel it.

Mack carefully eased himself back before he got lost in the fog. It confused him that someone could control their mind so well. He’d never run across it before. Mack hadn’t used his gift for the first five years of his career. He hadn’t wanted to learn something that he couldn’t prove through proper chain of evidence. Then, when he’d joined the homicide squad, he’d tested the waters to see what he could get from it. He realized that mostly his gift worked like a polygraph. He could tell if people were saying one thing and thinking another.

Then it had become more. The longer he’d used it, the stronger the gift had become. Or, perhaps, he’d just gotten more familiar with all that it could do. Because he’d waited so long to start using it, Mack didn’t have a large pool of examples to draw from. Payton Ebersole was the first person he’d come across who could completely block out all thought. It was impressive, but it also begged the question: what was Payton Ebersole hiding in there?

When Pike concluded the interview, Mack stood up and crossed the room, holding out his hand for Mrs. Ebersole. When she automatically took it, he had another look, but the fog was still present. He shook her hand and thanked her for her time. He led the way out to the car.

“What was that about?” Pike asked.

Mack laid out what he’d seen in Mrs. Ebersole’s mind. “There’s a reason why I can’t see a single thought. I don’t know what that reason is, but I’ll figure it out.”

“She’s a pretty cool customer, I’ll give her that,” Pike said. “And she looks at us like we’re dirtier than dog shit.”

“I still say she’s hiding something.”

“I have no doubt of that, but she’ll probably take the thought of it to her grave.”

Pike dropped Mack off at the station so he could collect his car. He didn’t feel like going back inside and working. His brain was exhausted and his body was starting to slow down, too. He called Nelle on his cell and asked if she’d like some company.

 

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