Trinity Island – Chapter 15

January 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm (Trinity Island)

Sarah and Claire had Grid 4, not far from the wharf, so they climbed into the back of Galen’s truck. He dropped them off at the start of their grid and then doubled back to the wharf at the pinch point where he’d dropped Mac off. He parked his truck and walked down the wharf to the boat Mac was standing near.

“This is the boat that Ernie Stumpf said he loaned Alyssa,” Mac said. “Said he wished he’d known why she needed it, so he could have paid more attention when she didn’t come home.”

“Yeah, I bet a lot of people wish they’d paid more attention after the fact. Like Kay Hager. She had my note in her purse, but she didn’t heed it, did she?” Galen felt responsible for not having impressed on her the magnitude of the potential danger.

“Now, she would have thought the danger was lessened because you’d mentioned an affair with the mayor and she wasn’t seeing him.” The attack on Kay bothered him, because it didn’t jive with the rest of the man’s actions. He said as much to Galen.

“It’s possible he’s starting to break down. I don’t have any experience tracking a serial killer, but I’ve done a significant amount of research on it over the years. With a few rare exceptions, they all tend to get caught because their ability to process situations normally breaks down. They make mistakes and someone catches them at it.”

Though Galen tended to agree with Mac. The attack on Kay had been a serious breakdown. The killer had driven her down to the ferry and could have been seen in her car. It was late, but islanders still went out at night. And he’d let her live. Why had he attacked her if he’d not intended to abduct her and make her disappear, too? He hadn’t gotten spooked. The ferryman hadn’t seen anyone near Kay’s car as he’d approached. None of it was adding up for him.

They got back into his truck and drove to the house the mayor was using for his personal love nest. Galen parked on the road, not wanting his truck to destroy any potential evidence of a struggle. The quickest way for Alyssa to get back to her boat would have been straight down the main road. All of the houses on the island had trees to act as wind blocks. The killer could have been hiding anywhere along the road, waiting.

Mac examined the ground around the house, following the few footsteps he saw into the trees directly next to the house. He circled the house and noticed a set of footprints directly in front of a side window that provided an unimpeded view of the couch in the living room. He circled the remainder of the house and returned to Galen.

“He’s a peeper, this guy,” Mac said, pointing out the prints by the window. “And he waited in the trees over there when she came out. He passed through them and walked up to the edge of the tree line and there the footprints stop. It’s a guess, but I think he took her right here.”

Galen followed the prints through the trees, into the neighbor’s yard and up to the road. Mac pointed out where Alyssa’s smaller feet left tracks until she hit the pavement. A smear of the slightly mucky earth from between the trees was the only suggestion that the killer had grabbed Alyssa straight away.

“Why did no one hear her call out?” Mac asked.

Galen crossed over to the far side of the road. More tracks could be seen there, heavier than the first. The killer had been carrying Alyssa’s weight. The tracks looked even, not rushed or off balance while struggling with the girl. She’d not been awake to struggle.

“Either he hit her or he drugged her.”

***

Two hours into their search, Claire and Sarah came to an untenanted house. It was the same house that Galen had checked earlier that week, when hunting down the mayor. The yard was well tended; no doubt the mayor paid some local kid to keep it that way. Claire couldn’t see him pushing a lawn mower or raking up leaves.

They knocked on the door anyway, just to be on the safe side. There were more than a few people who had summer homes on the island and, it being September, most would have closed them up for the season and returned to the mainland. The house was staged and there was a For Sale sign on the lawn. Still, the owners could have been in residence for the last few days of summer vacation.

No one answered, so they walked around the property. The building Galen had noticed in the trees during his visit was a shed. It was very well kept, just like the rest of the house. It had a shiny new lock on the front door. Weather stripping rimmed the door and all of the windows. Claire looked in the window, but couldn’t see a thing. Shining her flashlight inside, she still couldn’t see anything.

“What’s wrong with the windows?” she asked.

Sarah came over and looked inside. When the flashlight hit it, it reflected back a glare from the window. “I think it’s that silver cardboard that people use to keep the sun off their dash.”

“Why would you put it on shed windows? Especially when the shed is tucked into the woods?”

Sarah shrugged. “Maybe it keeps some of the heat in? The doors and windows are tightly weather-stripped, too. Maybe the owner was worried about dampness ruining his gardening sod or something.”

Claire went around the shed and checked the padlock on the front. It was latched and the doorknob didn’t turn either. She couldn’t say what bothered her about it, but she noted it on the list for Galen to check later. They left the house and continued up the street. Several empty lots on their route saved them a bunch of time since there were no buildings to check. Claire was passing through a path in the trees between two such lots when she saw a brightly colored feather laying on the ground. She bent down and picked it up, holding it carefully between two fingers. She showed Sarah.

“That’s a tranquilizer dart,” Sarah said.

Claire nodded and pulled out her cell phone.

Galen and Mac had almost completed their search of Grid 8 when Claire called. She gave her location and they realized that it was almost directly opposite the house that Alyssa had been kidnapped from. They drove back to the house and walked across the street to Sarah. Claire had stayed exactly where she was, to remember where the dart had been. Sarah led the way into the empty lot and directed their attention to the path.

Claire held the dart out to Galen, still grasping it by the feather. Galen pulled a baggie from his coat pocket and opened it for her. Claire dropped the dart in and he sealed it up before taking a closer look at it. Galen looked from the house across the road to the path in the trees. The ground had been covered with bark mulch, obscuring any footprints. There was no way to know which direction the killer had taken Alyssa.

***

By the end of the first day’s search, the entire middle island had been covered and a significant portion of the main island as well. Several buildings had been locked to them, including the shed that Claire and Sarah had noted. Galen said that he would scout them later that day and if he could, he’d cross them off the list. He wanted to start fresh in the new grids the next day. The volunteers were less enthusiastic about searching for another day. They’d held out hope that they would find Alyssa, but had realized during their search just how difficult that task could be.

“It’s hard work and it seems like it’s pointless, but it has to be done or this guy wins,” Mac said. “He’s had little challenge so far and we need to make him realize that we’re not going to give up until we find him and stop him. We have to do it for the safety of everyone on this island.”

The volunteers agreed to return to the bakery at seven the following morning to continue with the search. They’d have to complete the search that day. Galen didn’t think he’d get them all back for a third day. He and Mac waited while Claire helped stow the supplies for the search. His mother was closing the bakery for the night as his dad served the last few customers.

Claire had just walked from the bakery when his cell phone rang. Checking the number, he saw that it was the front desk at the hospital. “O’Brien.”

“Detective, it’s Dr. Eberly. Kay is awake and she’s asking for you.”

***

They hadn’t gotten in, but something about the shed made them curious. And now he had to stop what he was doing and hide the evidence. The rage burned through him, but he had control of it. He used the rush to fuel his efforts. The cop would be there soon enough. He’d been called away to the hospital at the last second. He had to clear the shed tonight, because he wouldn’t get another chance.

The drugs hadn’t worn off from earlier that day. He’d given her a double dose so she wouldn’t make any noise when people were around. He was confident the shed was soundproof, but the drugs gave him extra confidence. She lay unmoving on the slab, just as he’d left her. Her arms and legs were bound; the strap cinching her middle to the table was still firmly in place.

She looked ready for him. Ready to learn of the path to the light. But he couldn’t take the time with her! She wasn’t right, but he’d still looked forward to showing her the way. Oh, it wasn’t fair! Marty dropped to the ground; a wail of despair and anger filled the room. He slapped his palms against the floor until his hands were numb.

He was still on his knees an hour later when he came back to himself. He’d stopped checking the clock when that happened. He didn’t like knowing that he’d gone away. His mother had called it an episode, which said nothing about where he was when it came on. He couldn’t recall what happened to him while he was experiencing an episode. He only knew that they were becoming more frequent and that worried him. He’d had several at work, but he kept his office door closed, so no one had noticed.

Grabbing the work bench for support, he raised himself up, his knees a little shaky. Alyssa was still out. He picked up a knife, thinking he could spend just a little time with her when it came back to him. They were coming to the shed! How long had he been out? The panic crushed him and his mind refused to cooperate. Marty ran in circles around the small room, trying to get his thoughts under control. The anger at being interrupted clashed with the fear of getting caught.

If he got caught, they’d stop his work.

That fear calmed the panic and allowed him to think. Pulling the body bag from the shelf, he laid it out on the floor and spread it open. He undid the latches tying Alyssa down and yanked her off the bench. He dumped her body into the bag and zipped it closed. Then he washed the blood from his hands. The end usually brought him a rush of euphoria, but not this time. Alyssa hadn’t been right, so her end didn’t work for him. That was ok, because soon he’d have Claire and he knew that her end would be perfect.

Marty worked swiftly, bringing his truck around to the shed, loading Alyssa’s body into it, and then driving it to his dock. He was underway just as the first stars were lighting the sky. He motored his boat across the pinch point near the little island and continued on toward the marina. His hands started to shake the closer he got to the spot. Soon, he would see his ladies again. Soon they would call to him.

***

Jacques Haught watched from a spot in the trees. He’d still not seen who the man was, but he’d seen what the man had carried from the shed. And he knew where the man was taking it. Instead of following him around the island, Jacques motored across the pinch point, back to the main island, and then drove to the marina. He was in place before the man’s boat came around the western bend.

He hadn’t known there was anyone inside the shed. He’d avoided all of the people crawling all over the island that day, but he hadn’t heard what they were searching for. He should have known. He might have been able to save her. Now he could only recover her.

Jacques remained hidden as the man’s boat swung around behind the boathouse and moored there. The lighting was poor, but he pulled out his camera and snapped photos anyway. He’d followed him there that night, a few weeks ago, but he’d been too late to see where the man had gone. He’d known the man was around, but he’d been forced to act as though he was just returning to his boat, or risk giving himself away. So he’d missed seeing the man enter the water with the bag.

He saw it now, and so did his camera. He followed the man’s progress through the water, over to the first stanchion. Then the man submerged and he lost sight of him. The body bag went under as well. Zooming in, he caught the faintest suggestion of air bubbles on the surface. Following them, Jacques watched as they trailed some twenty-five feet before they stopped moving. The bubbles didn’t move again for close to ten minutes and then they moved quickly. The man surfaced under the wharf and clawed at the mask on his face.

Jacques zoomed the camera in close, but the darkness under the wharf protected the diver from view. The diver regained his boat and motored away from the marina. Jacques would have to review the photos to see if any were good enough for an identification. Then he’d have a chat with the guy.

But first he needed to know. If there was one bag down there, maybe there would be more. Maybe Melissa would be down there and he could finally bring her mom some peace. Stowing his gear in his pack, Jacques edged over to the shore, lined himself up with the general area he’d seen the diver’s bubbles, and dove into the water. The water was frigid and it robbed him of his breath, but after the first few strokes his body warmed up.

When he neared the wharf he collected a great gulp of air and then he dove straight down. The water was murky and he had no idea how far down he had to go before he found her. He wasn’t going to leave her there. He swam further and further down, until suddenly the bag loomed before him. It startled him, coming out of the gloom like that. It swayed gently in the water. Not four feet to the left of the bag, another swayed in the gentle current.

He stared at the bag in front of him, a tremendous sadness engulfing him. Had Melissa met the same fate? Was she in the next bag? He turned back to the bag directly in front of him. Who was in there?

His breath was running out. He looked up, toward the surface. He’d have to get someone else down there. He looked at the bag one last time and that’s when he saw it. The impression of something against the bag. Then it moved and he swallowed the last of his air. Rushing to the surface, he gasped for breath and choked out the water he’d swallowed.

“Help!” he yelled. He cleared the water from his throat and yelled again. He bobbed in the chilly water, waiting for someone to hear him. “Help me!”

He heard people yelling and feet rushing across the dock. He waved him arm and several young guys rushed up to him. One leaned over to reach for him, but he waved that away. “She’s still under there. She’s in a bag, but she’s alive. Help me get her!”

“Who’s under there?” the nearest guy asked.

“Melissa,” he said, through chattering teeth. He didn’t know the name of the girl that was alive.

The boy thought he said Alyssa. The whole town had been looking for her. He pulled off his shoes and jumped into the water. Jacques dove under again as a second boy jumped in. The third was already on the phone calling the hospital.

He led them down around twenty-five feet to where the body bag swayed and the hand he’d seen before still pressed against the inside. The boys thought to unzip it, but Jacques stopped them, pointing to his mouth. They got the idea. If they allowed the water in, the girl might drown before they could get her to the surface. The boys followed the cable down to the pipe. One pulled the bag lower in the water as the other worked the cable free of the pipe.

Jacques reached for the girl’s hand, clasping it through the bag. He patted it with his free hand, hoping she understood. He could hear her calling through the bag. She was panicking and he couldn’t reassure her. He was running out of air and would have to leave her. Just as he was about to let go of her hand, the boys got the cable free and started to lead the bag up to the surface.

They broke the surface and the two boys hauled themselves up onto the dock. Jacques remained in the water, still holding the girl’s hand. “It’s ok, we’re going to get you out of there.”

“Please,” she whispered, her voice muffled through the bag.

The boys reached over and pulled the bag onto the dock. The third boy helped Jacques from the water. He turned to the bag as one boy pulled the duct tape off the zipper and the other unzipped the bag. The girl lay there, unclothed, shivering, and bleeding.

“The doctor is on the way and so is the cop,” the third boy said.

“There’s another one down there,” Jacques said. “I don’t think she’s alive.”

The two boys who had dived into the water shook their heads. The first boy into the water looked up at Jacques. “There’s more than one down there.”

Jacques nodded. “We’ll wait for the police. We can’t help them, but we can help her.” He reached into the bag and took Alyssa’s hand as the third boy draped his coat over her. She was shivering and she was bleeding, but her grip on his hand was strong and firm.

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