Authors: Gail Giles
Text copyright © 2006 by Gail Giles
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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First eBook Edition: May 2007
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The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
The author wishes to acknowledge
for the lyrics to “Front, petit front.”
“A smart scary table that moves like a bullet train.”
Always and always and always for Jim Giles and Josh Jakubik,
“She's dead, isn't she? If she was alive, I wouldn't be handcuffed to a table in an interview room. You'd take her statement before you'd come at me for a confession, right?”
The big cop, the older one that looked like he could still play a mean game of hoops if he didn't have to run much, didn't change expression. Arms crossed over his chest, he just waited me out. I shrugged. I was in such deep shit that I guess it didn't make much difference if Cass McBride was dead or not. She did what she did and she got what she deserved. Maybe she was collateral damage, but that mouth of hers put her in the strike zone.
“So, I talk straight into the camera? You'll let me tell the story how I want? I won't tell you shit unless all of it gets out there. In the papers and on the news. I want people to know. I want the gossip to chew on
for a while. You get that, don't you?”
I turned away from the camera. Closed my eyes. David's face swam on the back of my eyelids.
“Kyle? You still with us?”
Knee-jerk reaction. I shifted my glance to the young cop, with last year's hair. I dug my index fingers into the sides of my thumbs at the cuticle until the pain chased David out of my head.
“Dude, your thumbs are bleeding,” the young cop said.
I slid my sleeves down and covered my hands. “If you can't see it, it's not there.
” Both the cops lifted their chins at my display of “tude. Tough shit. I don't like it if somebody sees me bleed.
“My timeline is a little sketchy,” I said. “Today's what? Sunday?” David's funeral was Friday, so I thought it'd been a couple of days.
A little red light blinked on the camera. I scratched the back of my neck with my covered knuckles then stared down the lens.
“Yes, it's Sunday, well…” The big cop looked at his wristwatch. “No, it's Monday morning. But take us back to what happened on Friday. Can you tell me how you picked the place?”
“That was the easy part. I work for the people that own the place. There's a main house and a separate guesthouse that the owners only use in winter. It's vacant now and I keep the lawn mowed. They had me paint the bottom panes of the greenhouse and use it to store the pool supplies and lawn stuff. It has a dirt floor. It was the perfect place.”
David Kirby's funeral was this morning. I didn't go. It would look beyond strange if I did.
I wasn't sure he'd…
what he did because of that stupid note. I wish I hadn't left it lying around. Well, I wish I hadn't written it.
But I guess David didn't show it to anyone. Threw it away or burned it maybe?
I had one of those wild-monkeys-fighting-over-a-banana-inside-your-cranium headaches from worrying about it. I waited for Dad to go to bed then prowled his briefcase. He always had Xanax in there. Score. I took one. Then went back for another. This was two-Xan stress.
I took a long, hot shower, setting the pulsing jets of water on
and stood so it could drum the back of my neck and shoulders. I rolled my head as the steam swirled around and the water sluiced over me.
The pills might be kicking in
. An empty stomach was a welcoming friend to drugs. Thank the Lord Dad was a hypocrite. While he preached to me, he sure didn't say no to online rip-off pharmacies. Hallelujah.
Drugs definitely kicking in.
I'd gone gospel in the shower. I got out and toweled off. I blow-dried my hair until it was damp thirty. My hair was dry enough so I slid into my nightclothes, pulled back the covers, and nestled in.
I watched the play of the lamplight from the end of my fingers. Nice.
Drugs can make the simplest thing so entertaining.
I switched the lamp off and settled into the drug drowse. Deep breath.
No dreams, Cass. No trees. No ropes. No notes. No boys with big ears. Nothing.
At ten fifteen Saturday morning the lieutenant ripped a page out of his notebook and slapped it on Detective Ben Gray's desk. “Possible missing kid in Sterling Meadows. Roger Oakley's first on scene. Says we need a look.”
“How old is the kid?” Ben asked.
“Roger says seventeen, but says he's almost positive it's not a case of party hearty and too loaded to make it home.”
Ben nodded. “Go ahead and call Crime Scene out. Roger's good. He wouldn't put out a squawk unless he's got something for us.”
“Yeah, says he's pretty sure she was snatched from the house.”
Ben's left eyebrow shot up. He grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair and called to his partner. “Scott, let's roll. Let's find out what happened to…” He glanced down at the notepaper. “Cass McBride.”
“Did you have things set up at the greenhouse before you took her?” the big cop asked me, looking confused.
I was tired. And this was going to take forever if the cop was totally stupid. Or maybe he was establishing premeditation.
“Sure, everything was ready before the funeral. The pump, the box, everything.” The cops exchanged glances. Fine. Like a crime like this could happen accidentally.
“Go ahead. Did she wake up in your truck or what?” This was from the young cop.
“She took forever to wake up. She worried me because her breathing was so…” I stopped. “I had to put my ear to her chest to check if her heart was beating. I didn't know that much about the drug I gave her. And she was really limp.”
My mind spun off and I wondered if David was limp when they took him down from that tree.
“Sure you can, David. It's what eight-year-old boys do. It's time for you to climb that tree.
“This one is too hard. There's no low branches. I can't reach.
“That's why it's fun. Always set your sights high. Pick something just out of reach. It's not fun if it's too easy,” I said. I leaned down to him. “Here's how it works. You just see it happening in your head. Then get back and run at the tree. Hit it with your left foot then your right like you're running straight up, then jump for the branch. It'll be above your head, but you'll have momentum. After that you can go from limb to limb easy.
I looked down at the table, dug into my thumbs again. Stay in the now, I told myself. Don't lose it yet. You can pay for your part in this later. Back to the lens.
“In the greenhouse there was some moonlight,” I said, “but I had a flashlight and when I laid it on the ground, it was surreal. A film noir director would get off on it.” I saw the young, snotty cop kind of roll up his eyes.
“You don't think I know film noir?” I shot at him. “You think I'm a Cro-Magnon, with a walnut brain? Live in my world for a while and you'll know what
really is. I read too. Books without pictures. With long words. What about you, still hung up on
The big cop gave a half-shake of his head, a signal for me to keep on task and for the snotty cop to let it go.
“Like I was saying. It was surreal. This rag-doll girl in white pj's caught in moonlight and one bright shaft of light across her face and me standing over her.”
I looked up and saw that the big cop finally changed expression. He looked at me the way
would look at David. As something less than human.
I caught the camera lens like it was an eye. “It was quiet.” I jabbed at the lens with a pointed finger. “You don't know how I like the quiet. I don't get much of it. It's a luxury.
“I checked Cass. She was alive, just out. I remember thinking how warm and soft she was when I picked her up and how innocent evil could look when sleeping.”
I stared at my hands. My right was cuffed to a ring welded to the tabletop. “I hung around for a few hours, but needed to be home by morning, so I bailed.
“Figured maybe it would be better if Cass woke up when I was gone. I wanted her to lose her goddamn cool and go apeshit trying to figure out where she was. Then I'd start the torture.”
A mojo headache kicked my temples, dragging me up toward realworld. Last night's weird-ass dream left me stiff and I hurt all over. I rocked my head, trying to get the ache in my neck to back the hell off, then arched my back and stretched my toes.
Wrong. And wronger. No twelve-hundred count cotton sheets against bare toes. Something hard and rough. Like wood. Splintery wood. And a sound. Kind of a thumping. My head throbbed, fuzzy and thick, as the headache amped up. Was I hearing my own head pound? Xanax had never given me a headache. Never had one like this.
Did I grab something else in Dad's briefcase? Was my father into X now? Was this a hallucination?
I opened my eyes. Nothing. Dark. Blind dark. Were my eyes open? This headache? Was I batshit blind? I smelled urine. Strong, and oh, god, I was wet. What the hell? My hands jerked, banged a rough surface above, then collided with my face. I couldn't see them. Something heavy smacked my head. My right hand. It was wrong. Heavy. Encased in…or…fixed to a block? That's what hit my head. What the hell?
I hurt like I'd fallen down the stairs and my head was woozy and I couldn't move or see and my right hand was all wadded up.
Had I been in an accident? Was I all bandaged up or…
My left hand traveled the surface of the thing fixed to my hand. Rectangle. Smallish. Square button left open, ready for my thumb. Too big for a pager. Not a cell phone, not enough buttons. A radio? One of those two-way things? Why? Maybe a hospital? One of those call button things taped to my hand? But it was too big. Way too big. And there was too much tape around it. No, not a hospital.
I felt my eyes. They were open. I wasn't blindfolded, but was I blind? I closed my eyes. Opened them. Was there any difference? Fuck if I knew.
Please be a dream. I hope I took X. Anything but this being real.
I pulled my feet in and my knees knocked a surface. Pushed my arms and hands out. Raised my hands up again.
Rough wood. Little more than shoulder width. Maybe a foot longer than my height. Dear god, no more than twelve inches above as I lay flat. I whimpered. I started rocking slightly back and forth as panic set in.
That weird dream I had. There was a sound. Almost musical. Piano keys all struck at once. Or maybe glass? And then the breeze. Like an open window. A thumping sound.
My head was unfocused but this wasn't a dream. I wasn't in my bed or a hospital. Fear clutched me hard. My stomach roiled. And I thought maybe I knew how it feels come heart attack time. Because mine actually squeezed. Just squeezed into a hard knot and burned. I felt it release. I gasped and the tears came complete with a sob and shivers.
I was chilled. Not cold. But, yes, chilled was the right word, like a glass from the fridge, kind of damp, and…
The smell. That was what had been creeping in on me. Not just the urine. Something damp and…earthy.