Trinity Island – Chapter 7

December 22, 2012 at 10:46 pm (Trinity Island)

Who was this? Someone new to the island, when they received so few new people? The islanders, the young ones, all wanted to get out. They wanted to see the world and live. She was pretty, not that he usually noticed things like that. He recognized her. Not her face, but the look in her eyes. She had the same look as the others; she was looking for the path to the light.

He stood in the darkness of the forest, watching her as she stood on the porch. Was she talking to herself? No, there he was. The cop, the local boy returned to his roots. That’s who he’d come to check out. He needed to know his adversary. He wasn’t close enough to hear their conversation. He didn’t know what the cop was capable of. If he was woods savvy, he might sense the presence of a foe.

But look at her. The light filtered through the trees to land on her golden hair, making it shine like a halo above her. It was a sign, stronger than any other, that she was for him. Her ascension to the path of the light would be his greatest achievement. He knew now that all of the other girls had been in preparation for this one. But who was she? No matter, it wouldn’t take him more than a few hours to learn her name and her reason for being on the island.

He looked forward to learning her ways.

He lingered over the sight of her as she sat in the rocking chair and talked to the cop. He didn’t like how the cop looked at her. He wondered how his power would react to showing a man the path to the light. Would he feel the same excitement as he did with the women? He’d never considered it before. He couldn’t quite determine if his mind was revolted by the thought of slaking his lust on a man, or excited by it.

He startled when Claire suddenly pointed in his direction. The cop stood up and immediately came down the steps. The watcher slipped out of sight before breaking into a run. He could hear the cop pounding through the forest after him. The thrill of being chased was not one he’d ever experienced. His blood sang and his mind was clear. His legs warmed quickly, the muscles used to the exertion. Like a gazelle, he leaped over fallen trees and raised roots. He beat a straight path through the woods, heading for the pinch point of the island. The tide was out, but he wouldn’t risk the crossing. It would expose him to anyone watching. They might wonder why he was out for a jog in the forest wearing his hiking gear.

Instead, he headed for his blind. He’d built it several years ago, as a way to hide from prying eyes. He’d kept more than one woman there while he’d killed time waiting for darkness to fall. He’d had to keep them drugged, because the blind wasn’t sound proof. Anyone wandering the path toward the pinch point would be able to hear his girls.

The watcher settled into the blind and waited for the cop to show himself. It took less time then he’d thought. He hadn’t heard the man chasing him after the first few minutes and had thought he’d gotten a good lead on the guy. Apparently the guy was familiar with hunting in the forest. If not for his blind, the watcher wasn’t sure he’d have gotten away. The idea sent a slice of panic through his chest that squeezed the breath out of him. What would the cop have done? What could he have done?

He watched as the cop circled the area, looking for clues to his foe’s path. Did he have tracking skills? The watcher didn’t know what people looked for, beyond the obvious things like footprints and broken branches. He couldn’t know if he’d left a trail to his blind. The sweat trickled down his back as the cop stalked around the open area. He stepped out onto the metal treads that crossed the pinch point at low tide. He came back and stared into the forest on both sides of the road. After another minute, he turned back toward his cabin.

The watcher remained inside his blind for another half an hour. He didn’t trust the cop not to double back to see if his foe emerged from his hidey hole. Once he was certain that the cop was out of the area, he walked another mile into the forest where he’d parked his truck. He didn’t want to return to his home until it was dark. He wasn’t afraid of the cop, but he would definitely be more cautious. And he’d have to keep a sharp eye on the new girl. She’d felt his presence in the forest. That excited him almost as much as he knew her pain would.

 

Galen cursed silently all the way back to the cabin. He didn’t know who he was chasing, but the guy was fast. He knew it was a guy; the build had been too broad for a woman. He figured the guy had to be around his height of 6’4″, but thought the guy easily had thirty pounds on him. And he’d run, which was always a terrific indicator of someone up to something.

Claire had excellent senses. He’d not expected that of her. He figured the city would have dulled them. He vaguely remembered her when she’d lived on the island. He remembered her mother though. The woman had come sniffing around him just as he was getting comfortable with the opposite sex. He’d barely been eighteen when she’d suggested they hook up. She’d not been subtle about it and she’d been more than a little miffed when he’d politely turned her down.

Claire’s mom had been a seriously hot number, but he hadn’t wanted her. Several of his buddies had already had her, and that had never sat well with him. He didn’t need a girl to be a virgin, but he didn’t want to be one in a long line of guys trailing from her bed, either. He knew he was more traditionalist than not, because he’d never gotten into the idea of going for coffee as being a date. His mother would smack him upside the head if he said he’d taken a girl out for a coffee instead of to a proper restaurant for dinner. And then she’d despair, in heated Italian, of ever getting any bambini from him.

When he’d walked out of the bathroom and seen Claire standing there staring at him, he’d thought it was Jillian at first. Then he’d noticed the beautiful blue eyes and realized who he was seeing. The longer she’d stared at him, the warmer he’d gotten, until he thought she could see the heat in his eyes and he worried that the towel would soon give him away. And then he’d wondered how those gorgeous eyes would look on a chubby-cheeked baby girl of Irish-Italian decent. The thought had kind of freaked the crap out of him. Just a little. He could laugh about it now, sort of.

He approached the clearing near his cabin and saw Claire on her cell phone, pacing the length of the porch. She turned before he made his presence known and he made a mental note never to doubt her senses. He stepped into the clearing and saw her sag in relief. She said a few more words to her caller before she hung up.

“Mac said he can come over and help you search the woods if you’re thinking of it.”

“I don’t know what good it would do. The guy has probably left the area by now.”

“He’s a good tracker. He might be able to figure out where the guy went.”

Galen stepped up onto the porch and wrapped his arms around her. She’d been standing there hugging herself and it only just occurred to him that he’d run off into the woods, leaving her by herself. He’d just gotten through telling her about missing girls and then he’d left her behind.

“Mac’s at the house now,” Claire said, for lack of anything better to say. She didn’t know why Galen was hugging her, but she wasn’t complaining. She’d been a little chilled thinking about the man in the woods. She was much warmer now.

“Let me lock up and then I’ll walk you back. We can chat with Mac about it there.” He wasn’t going to let her walk through the woods back to Wallis House alone. He stepped inside to grab his phone and his wallet before locking the front door. He guided her down the steps with a hand to the small of her back.

They were silent on the way to her house. Galen remembering the chubby-cheeked baby girl and Claire thinking about the man in the trees. They emerged from the woods and headed for the kitchen. The back door slapped open and Mac stepped out onto the back deck.

“Come inside, I’m about to start dinner.” He led the way into the kitchen, which had become his domain once his wife had passed on. He’d never cooked for her parents, but he’d always made sure that Claire had eaten well.

He gestured Galen over to the fresh coffee in the pot while he pulled a ham from the fridge. “You’d best get settled in so you can tell me about your trek through the woods, lad.”

Claire pulled mugs from the cupboard while Galen gave Mac the shortened version of his meeting with Claire and chasing after a shadow. Claire settled at the kitchen table with her mug. She took a sip before deciding if she needed to add cream. Lottie had drilled that lesson into her head by the time she was nine. She was to never start adding salt to a meal or cream to a coffee or any such nonsense as that until she’d tried it first. Apparently it was rude, suggesting that the cook didn’t know how to prepare the item to her liking. Claire hadn’t understood the lesson at the time; she’d only known that not heeding it would result in the hairy eyeball from Lottie and potentially a rap on the knuckles for poor manners. It was best to avoid that. After two good sips she decided that it didn’t need cream.

“I never got close enough to get a good look at the guy, just a general impression of his overall size and build.” Galen took a sip of his coffee, watching as Mac pushed cloves into the ham. “He’s around my height with maybe an extra thirty pounds on him. He’s used to running, because he didn’t lag even though I chased him for a good mile.”

“We’ve got close to five thousand people living on the island now, with an extra thousand in tourists during the summer. That’s a lot, but it still shouldn’t be impossible to sort through them all and determine who matches even those basic criteria.”

“He’s not a tourist, Mac,” Claire said. “He knew those woods too well for someone who doesn’t live here full time.”

Galen nodded. A tourist wouldn’t have known where to run, not in the heat of the moment. He’d have hesitated and Galen would have had him.

Mac cut up some new potatoes and placed them in the pan with the ham. He shoved the roasting pan into the oven and set the timer. Pulling vegetables from the crisper, he started chopping them up for a salad.

“I don’t believe that line the mayor is tossing out about those girls having gone to the mainland,” Mac said. “But I don’t know what else could have become of them. They’ve just disappeared. If something has happened to them, where are the bodies?”

“It’s possible they simply haven’t been found yet,” Galen said. He didn’t know much about serial killings, but he knew that some killers could go for years before the public ever knew about them. Often, it took a mistake on their part for the cops to become aware of them. Psychiatrists argued about whether those mistakes were a cry for help, or simply an error in judgment. If ten girls had indeed been killed, they were looking at the single biggest killing spree since Clifford Robert Olsen back in the 80s.

“Are the families of those girls still on the island?” Claire asked.

Mac nodded. “All of them still live here. I can save you some time, Galen. Several of them were thought to be having affairs with married men, but the rumor mill is suspiciously silent on who the man was.” Mac gave Galen the same list his mother had, but he added the extra information about those known to be having affairs. “I don’t know anything about the other girls, as to whether they were seeing a married man or not.”

Galen would have to get the addresses for the families. And he’d have to have a chat with the mayor. He couldn’t do anything more about it today, so he put it aside and enjoyed his time with Claire and Mac. He wanted to ask Claire about her return to the island, but he had heard a rumor about an engagement ending. He wanted to know, but didn’t want to put his foot in it, or embarrass her. Mac had mentioned all of the plans Claire had for upgrading the property, so he broached the safer subject instead. Dinner was very pleasant and afterward, Galen walked Claire back to Wallis House. He wasn’t taking any chances that the shadow in the woods had returned. He would have to get going on his investigation. Once he cleared that up he would be free to get the rest of his life back on track. As he watched Claire enter the house, he wanted very much to get his work life organized so that his private life could take priority for a change.

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