Posts Tagged ‘katherine luck’

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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Saturday, March 31, 12:11 p.m.

Exiting the pub, our shoulders don’t brush as Jack holds the door open for me.

Out in the parking lot, my hair doesn’t graze his face as it whips wildly in the wind.

In my car, our elbows don’t jostle as we buckle our seatbelts.

As I give him his cell phone and he gives me mine, our fingers don’t meet.

When I drop him off at his car five blocks from my house, we don’t hug or shake hands.

I wave. He raises his hand slightly.

He gets in his beat up old car. In my rearview mirror, I see him pull out onto the road and begin to slowly follow me home.

 

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Saturday, March 31, 12:21 p.m.

The first thing I do when I get inside my house is open the drapes. I glance outside. Jack’s battered Saab is parked across from my home. He’s smoking a cigarette. Even from this distance, I can tell that he’s staring at me intently.

I settle onto my couch where I’m clearly visible to him, take out my cell phone and check my voicemail. I discover a message from Lucy. I listen to it and immediately begin to panic.

“Katherine? It’s Lucy. Could I talk to you a minute? I’m still at Grandma’s. Christopher did a very bad thing last night…to me. I want to go to confession. Could you drive me? Or I’ll just take the bus.”

I dial her cell phone number. She answers on the second ring.

“Katherine?” she says in a voice that’s flatter than usual, as well as wobbly and as thin as tissue paper. “Can I talk to you?”

“Yes, yes, of course! What happened? Are you okay? What did he do to you?” I say.

She inhales wetly.

“Something bad,” she says.

“Did you go to his apartment last night?” I say.

“No.”

“He didn’t come to the nursing home, did he?” I say.

“No.”

“But you met him somewhere? And he raped you?” I say.

“No,” she says.

“Well, what happened, then?” I say.

She inhales again and lets out a soggy sigh.

“He called me. Last night. Really late,” she says.

“And?” I say.

If she tells me he broke up with her or some such teenage irrelevance, I will reach through the phone and smack her but good for scaring me.

“He said stuff to me,” she replies.

“Stuff? What? You mean sex stuff?” I demand impatiently.

“Yeah,” she says.

She sounds like she’s crying. I lose a bit of my righteous anger. She’s only fifteen, after all. Her first heavy breathing pervert call: I’m feeling so nostalgic right now!

“He was probably drunk,” I say. “Don’t take it personally.”

“He was drunk!” she sobs. “Drunk on beer fed to him by the Evil One. They’d been watching some dirty movie. He told me.”

satan beer

“Well, that’s gross and all, but I wouldn’t get too worked up about it,” I say. “Perhaps you ought to find some friends your own age. And gender.”

She doesn’t answer, unless the snuffling sobs that are just barely audible through the phone can be considered an answer.

“Was it totally dirty or something, what he said?” I inquire. I imagine that nineteen-year-old wannabe priest Christopher can conjure some truly obscene scenarios to describe in slurred tones late at night.

“No,” she says.

“Then why are you so upset?” I say.

Then it dawns on me.

“You said dirty stuff back to him, didn’t you?” I say.

Virginal wannabe nun Lucy openly sobs.

“Y—y—yeah,” she hiccups. “I wanna go to confession! I’m despoiled!”

“You’re not despoiled,” I say.

“I’m on the bus right now,” she says.

My heart stops.

“Lucy. Get off the bus. Get off now!”

She lets out another little sob and hangs up on me.

I run to the window and look out. Jack’s yellow Saab is gone. I dial his cell phone number. It rings and rings, then finally sends me to voicemail. I hang up and grab my purse.

 

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Saturday, March 31, 1:14 p.m.

I pull up in front of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, situated in a part of Seattle with the worst parking I’ve ever encountered. For blocks upon blocks, the curb is solidly bricked in by Detroit steel and Japanese innovation. I give up, put on my hazard lights, and abandon my vehicle in the middle of the street. I jump out. Lucy is nowhere to be seen.

Standing on the stone staircase is an impossibly tall young man.

“Christopher!” I shout. “You stay put. I need to talk to you.”

If he’s guilty of crimes against Lucy, he will bolt. I pull out my cell phone and dial Jack’s number. Christopher stands obediently on the stairs, waiting for me.

I’m dumped yet again into Jack’s voicemail.

“It’s me,” I say. Apparently I’ve finally accepted that we’re on an “it’s me” basis. “Lucy took the bus. I’m scared something happened to her. I’m at your church. Christopher’s here, too. He did something to upset her. Call me back.”

I hang up. I approach Christopher. If he tries to attack me, I’m not sure which of us will emerge the victor. He’s at least a foot taller than me, but I doubt he weighs more than I do. He has no muscle mass whatsoever.

“What did you do to Lucy last night?” I demand.

Christopher takes a step up the staircase. He looks horrified.

“Nothing!” he says. “Why? What did she tell you?”

“Booze and a porn video, which led to late night drunk dialing. Then you pulled the inevitable ‘Are you naked?’ routine,” I say.

“I did not…I would never…it wasn’t a porn video, exactly. I…oh Lord Jesus!”

Christopher turns as pink as Barbie’s dream house and covers his face with his spidery fingers.

“I’m such a sinner!” he moans hollowly behind his hands. “I said unholy things about her body—a future nun’s body. How will I ever get into seminary now?”

There’s no way this gangly kid is a rapist/kidnapper. I consider patting him consolingly on his bony shoulder, but I don’t want to give him any ideas, seeing how all it took was a couple beers and a “Girls Gone Wild” DVD to push his repressed self over the edge.

“Has Lucy called you? Or emailed or texted?” I ask.

He shakes his head miserably.

“Will you take your hands down, please?” I say. “She called me. She said she was taking the bus here so she could go to confession. Have you seen her?”

Christopher clasps his hands uneasily at belt level and shakes his head, his face still alarmingly pink.

“Has the bus come?” I say.

Christopher nods.

“It only runs once every two hours from Ballard on Saturday,” he says.

My heart, already beating fast, accelerates.

“Let’s go check her house,” I say. “Maybe she changed her mind and got off.”

As we jog to my car, I dial Lucy’s cell phone number. It goes directly to voicemail.

“Lucy?” I say. “If you’re on the bus, get off! There might be someone dangerous on it. Get off and call me.”

 

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Saturday, March 31, 1:31 p.m.

As we drive through Ballard, Christopher calls the nursing home where Jack’s mother lives. Lucy left hours ago, informing the nurses that she was not coming back.

We pull up in front of the O’Lies’ home. It’s dark and deserted. I call Jack again. No answer. Christopher calls Lucy. No answer. I call Lucy.

She picks up on the fourth ring.

“Hello?” she says.

“Lucy? Thank God—where are you?” I say.

“Katherine?” she says. She sounds small and far away. “Where’s Dad?”

“I don’t know. I’m trying to reach him. Where are you?”

“I don’t know,” she says. “There’s ducks.”

“What?” I say. “Lucy, where are you?”

Suddenly there’s a bumping sound on her end, punctuated by two voices in the background that overlap. It sounds like a man and a woman. Lucy’s line goes dead.

I call her back five times. She doesn’t answer. So I call 911.

I’m put on hold three times. The operator cites the 72 hour rule for missing persons. I’m dismissed. I call back and ask if they can issue an Amber Alert. I’m dismissed again. Why oh why didn’t I get media credentials from the Seattle Police Department? Then I’d be taken seriously. All I had to do was get my newspaper’s publisher to write a letter stating that I’m a real, live reporter and then cart myself down to police headquarters to file it.

“You call,” I order Christopher.

He dials 911 and for whatever reason (sexism), they believe him.

 

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Saturday, March 31, 4:43 p.m.

The cops arrive three hours later. In the meantime, I get to know Christopher so well.

First of all, he’s quite the nineteen-year-old gentleman. As we sit side-by-side on the chilly front steps of Jack O’Lies’ Ballard home, Christopher insists on draping his coat over my shivering frame. Not at all what I expect from the late night phone pervert Lucy described.

Second of all, he’s Catholic.

Third through seventeenth, he wants to be a priest more than anything. Or maybe a monk. But there are temptations! They include—oh hell, you know what they include. I tune him out as he recites, “Beer and girls and video games and pornography…”

Eighteenth, he kind of likes Lucy. But not that way.

Nineteenth through thirty-first, he’s terrified that he won’t get into the seminary of his choice. He has doubts about his Latin. He needs to find a tutor. But there’s no one in Seattle who speaks fluent Latin and is willing to take less than $50 an hour for private lessons. How will he ever ascend to the rank of archbishop—his fondest dream!—and work in Vatican City if his Latin is sub par? “Even their ATM machines are in Latin,” he moans.

Vatican ATM in Latin

Thirty-second, he kind of likes Lucy…that way.

Oh God, he’s going to confess the lascivious details of last night’s phone sex with Lucy! I squirm away from him. Ew…what if he was wearing this very coat at the time?

“You should open your mind to other career paths,” I ramble, to keep him from telling me all about it. “Take me, for example. When I was your age, I thought I was going to become a surgeon. Instead, I talk to interesting people and tell their stories. I’ve interviewed the Duchess of York, Elvira Mistress of the Dark, Carrie Fisher—you know, Princess Leia from “Star Wars,” oh, and the guy who created “CSI.” Man, he talked fast! Man, I love that show!

Christopher gapes at me. I have shocked him with my worldly ways.

No, he’s gaping in awe.

“No way! You talked to Princess Leia? What was she like? Was she still hot?” he says.

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia

At this very moment, the cops roll up: one whole cop car containing one whole cop.

Our statements are taken. The cop’s face registers no interest whatsoever…until I mention that Lucy’s father is a reporter covering the Lake Washington Killer case. Like some kind of human search engine that has received the right keyword, the cop’s eyes become alert. She jabbers a few coded phrases into her radio, then makes us give our statements all over again.

A second cop car rolls up. Then another. Then the watch commander. Christopher and I tell our tales again and again. Each time Christopher has to describe how he slurred, “I like your boobs, Lucy” over the phone last night, he looks a little more suicidal.

The King County Sheriff’s deputy arrives. Then the K-9 unit. Then a Washington State Trooper, for some reason. I’ve never understood the division of labor among the police forces.

Then the media arrives. How ironic—the tables are turned and the reporter becomes the reported! This is what I get for silently mocking interviewees when they stammer and give nonsensical quotes peppered with, “Uh, um, like, y’know.”

I stammer into the cameras and microphones. I say, “Uh, um, like, y’know.” I give the worst interview ever.

Serves me right.

 

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Saturday, March 31, 10:55 p.m.

As a child, a neighbor once told me about the land of Brigadoon. She was a one-time professional ballerina turned full-time anorexic. She had a flair for the tragic. She told me that Brigadoon is a magical place that you can only stumble upon by chance. In Brigadoon, life is wondrous. But if you leave, you will never, ever find it again. I thought then, and I still think, that this is the saddest thing imaginable.

I call Jack nine more times before I give up and go to bed.

 

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