Archive for the ‘Post: 10.2’ Category

Saturday, March 31, 11:39 a.m.

“You were right,” Jack says. “I’ve lied to you.”

“White or bald-faced?” I say.

“I’ve been keeping something from you,” he says.

From under the table, he pulls an innocent looking manila folder. I’ve learned through bitter experience that manila folders are almost never innocent. He sets it on the table. It’s as thick as a department store catalogue. Or an issue of Vogue magazine during fall fashion preview season. They say that print is dead, but I always end up buying—

“Katherine?”

“Hm?”

“Open it.”

I flip the cover open and freeze.

Woman horrifically mutilated, found dead in downtown apartment

‘Angel of Death’ stalks hospital

Three more corpses discovered, heads missing

“I found this on my desk yesterday morning,” Jack says. “This is the real reason I went to Everett. There are newspaper clippings, police reports, photos, maps.”

“Where did it come from?” I ask.

“There was no return address. It was mailed from Seattle. The ZIP code on the stamp cancellation was 98112.

Leo.

I glance at Jack. I can tell that he sussed it out faster than me.

“He does love putting together dossiers, doesn’t he?” I say. “What exactly is this?”

“Everything he could find out about them.”

“Them?”

“After Leo helped the man in the green suit, he went all crime blogger on him. He tried to interview him.”

“Hm,” I grunt. I’ve had the anti-pleasure of experiencing Leo in story hustling mode. “How come he didn’t get stabbed?”

“He made the man in the green suit laugh. It amused him.”

“Then what?”

“Then he told Leo his name and took him home to meet his friend.”

“The nurse?”

“Yes.”

“What is his name?”

“Spine.”

I close the folder and shove it at Jack.

“I don’t want to look at this thing. Put it away.”

“Spine and the nurse took Leo under their dual wings,” Jack says. “Spine was intrigued by the idea of a reporter following them when they…did things.”

He hasn’t put the folder away. His hands are folded on top of it. I can’t keep my eyes off it. I can’t stop imagining the horrors inside.

“At first, Leo loved the gig. Spine and the nurse took him out stalking. He took photos. Nothing actually happened, though. Spine bragged about murders he and the nurse had done together. The nurse never talked much. She didn’t like Leo from the start. Leo wrote what Spine told him in his blog. He didn’t fact-check any of it. That changed when they started killing people in front of him. He started compiling this file. Then he ran up north to my motel room to hide out.”

“I don’t know if I believe any of this,” I say. “Isn’t your bullshit radar going off just a little?”

“Look at the newspaper clippings, then photos he took of Spine and the nurse killing people. They’re identical to the crime scene photos, just a few hours earlier. And a few pints less bloody.”

“So you think Leo sent you this because he knew you’d be next? Little bastard has a conscience after all,” I say.

“I guess so,” he says.

“When I saw him, he told me that they’re mad at him. Because of this file?” I say.

Jack nods.

“Guess I’m not the only one who doesn’t appreciate being investigated,” I say.

“He thinks that they’re coming after him.”

“And they’re after you, too?” I say.

“And you,” Jack says. “I want you to come stay at the motel with me.”

“Why?” I say.

“It’s safer.”

“I doubt that.”

“Just for the next twenty-four hours or so. Leo and I agreed it’s the only way to protect you. We can’t go back to my house. Spine and the nurse know about it. They have pictures of us there.”

“I’m thinking I’ll hide out at home,” I say.

“Absolutely not,” Jack says. “You’re not leaving my sight.”

“I appreciate the impulse or whatever, Jack. But—”

“But nothing. You’re staying with us at the motel.”

“‘Us?’ You actually told Leo he can stay with you? You’re one tolerant man, that’s all I can say. Look, how about if I promise to call you every couple hours to let you know I’m okay? Or I’ll text you—”

“No!” Jack’s voice is suddenly loud. Heads and eyes turn toward our table.

“Jack, calm d—”

“You always disappear!” he barks, still too loud. “You’re not going anywhere without me this time.”

“People are staring. Can we please not discuss this in public?”

“Fine with me. Let’s go to my motel room.”

“Oh, Jesus,” I mutter.

Jack pulls out his wallet and begins counting ones into an estimation of what we owe.

“We’ll barricade the door,” he says, as he lays the bills on the table. “Leo and I will take turns keeping watch. Spine and the nurse can’t dodge the cops forever. We’ll wait them out.”

“I am not doing this,” I say. “No way. Not happening. I’m going home.”

Jack stops counting his money. He looks at me with deadly eyes. I glare back at him. I see all too clearly the future he’s prognosticating. A day or two spent hunkered down in a low budget motel room with an alcoholic crime reporter and a paranoid post-adolescent blogger will surely result in murder. But I’ll be the one who emerges with blood on my hands.

“I’m going home,” I repeat. “You can’t stop me. You know you can’t.”

Jack’s jaw works as he grinds his molars in barely contained frustration.

“Is your husband home?” he asks.

“I don’t know,” I say. “It’s Saturday—he could be anywhere.”

“Then I’m staying at your place until he comes back.”

“No!” I exclaim. More heads turn and more eyes stare.

“You can’t stop me,” Jack echoes infuriatingly.

I open my mouth to begin a long and shrill rant. Like a snake striking, Jack thrusts his face within an inch of mine.

“Just try to stop me, Katherine.” His breath is hot and smells of Scotch. “Just try it.”

I lean back in my chair and shake my head. So this is what “exasperated” feels like.

“You are the most stubborn man I’ve ever met,” I say. “How the hell do you suggest I explain this thing? Serial killers after me, some random reporter sitting around my house half-drunk before noon—yes, you are a sheet and a half to the wind, I can tell! A charge for a motel room on my credit card and your car parked a few blocks from my house all night. How exactly do I explain this?”

“To who?”

“To my husband, for Christ’s sake!”

Jack slams his palm down on the manila folder, making the empty glasses on the table dance.

“You are not going to get yourself killed, do you hear me? I’m not leaving you—not for a goddamned minute!”

Now everyone in the pub is staring at us.

“Will you please calm the hell down!” I hiss. “You can’t come to my house. It would be too weird.”

“Weird?” he says in the bitterest, most sarcastic tone I’ve ever heard.

“Yes, weird! I don’t know the right word.”

It would be beyond weird. I don’t know that there is a word for what it would be if our worlds were to collide in that way. I don’t know what would happen. Reality might implode.

“Look, wouldn’t it be safer if the three of us split up? You, Leo and me, I mean. They can’t come after all of us at once,” I say.

“You’re not leaving my sight,” Jack insists.

“You’re not setting foot inside my house,” I counter.

Jack presses his forehead into his hand, his elbow resting on the tabletop. He digs his fingers into the worry lines that permanently pit his brow. His other hand balls into a fist on his thigh. I’ve seen him look this frustrated once before.

“All right,” he finally says. His voice is weary. “You win. Go home. Lock all the doors. Open the drapes in every window. I’ll sit in my car and keep watch.”

“What?” I say. “But…why?”

Before he can answer, before I realize that he can’t answer, I understand. He always sat out in his car and kept watch over his wife. While she did her shopping, he watched her every move through the store windows. If anyone had tried to hurt her, he would have rushed in and saved her. But the one day she needed him, he wasn’t there.

Twelve years later, he wants to sit in his old yellow Saab, his eyes glued once again on unshaded windows, waiting patiently to save the day. He wants a second chance.

“The neighbors are gonna call the cops when they see you parked out there, watching my house like some kind of perv,” I grumble lamely.

Jack is already on his feet.

“Give me my car keys,” he says.

 

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