Read The Longest Winter Online

Authors: Harrison Drake

The Longest Winter (7 page)

“Your turn to scrape and drive. You can tell me the rest on the way back.”

Kara caught the keys and cast Yuri a scowl.

“Chivalry really is dead, isn’t it?”

* * *

“Kara,” the voice said when she picked up the phone.


“Yeah,” he said, and then there was silence.

She waited a moment, wondering if he was going to speak. Whatever it was that he wanted to say, she could tell that it was weighing on him.

“I think we found her.” She could hear his breathing and if she focused hard enough, she swore she could hear his heart beating faster and faster. “We’re not sure yet, we have to wait for identification of the remains – DNA testing. But I think it’s her.”

“Wait, remains? She’s…”

“Yeah, we found skeletal remains, and her wedding rings are on the finger.”

Kara had to sit down. She had been standing at the counter in her apartment’s kitchen, making herself a late night snack when the phone rang. She put the knife she was holding down on the counter but left it too close to the edge. It teetered for a moment then fell to the ground. Kara jumped back as the point just missed her foot; the knife stuck upright in the linoleum.



“I’m sorry, Lincoln. I was making… I dropped a knife. Are you sure it’s her?”

“I don’t know, Kara. We won’t know until we get the tests back, but her rings…”

“Maybe he took them off of her and put them on someone else’s body then buried them.”

“I thought about that, but it just seems like I’m reaching for something that doesn’t exist anymore. And she wasn’t buried. She was sealed in a storage unit in Crawford’s apartment building, shut into a large container with a few thousand Dermestid beetles.”

“What? Those are the ones that clean the bones, right?”

“Yeah, they come along naturally or they can be used. Museums use them for cleaning bones. There were too many though, wasn’t a natural process. Especially with how tightly sealed the container was.”

“Was she… oh God, Lincoln.”

“I don’t think so. The body looks like it had been posed. There’s no way she would’ve still been in that position if she had been alive at the time.”

Kara’s head was spinning. It was too much to take in. She couldn’t imagine how Lincoln was holding up, how he was feeling. Numb, she guessed. She knew it wouldn’t sink in for him until he had a positive identification on the remains. All of the blame Kara felt, all the guilt, came rushing back in.

“It’s my fault, Lincoln.”

Lincoln sighed. “I can’t go through this again. We’ve done it over and over. It wasn’t your fault. Crawford didn’t pick Kat because of what happened between you and I…”

“Not what happened,” Kara said. “But how I feel.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’ve told you that.”

Kara was crying now, the tears fell from her face and dotted the floor around the knife.

“It does, it matters to me. I’m to blame, and whether or not you want to admit it, we both know it’s my fault. And now…”

“I’m done. I’m sorry, but this is the last thing I need to deal with right now. I don’t blame you, I never have. But if you want to blame yourself for it, fine. I can’t stop that.”


“No. I’m sorry, but this isn’t about you. Whatever the reason was, it’s over. I need to look forward. I have to figure out how I’m going to tell the kids and Kat’s parents. We’ll have the results back soon. I’ll text you once I know.”

“Just a text? Isn’t that…”

“It’s all I can handle right now. I don’t want to go through this again.”

“I’m sorry, it’s just…”

Kara walked over to the cabinet above the sink and took down a bottle of rye and a glass. She opened the bottle and started to pour out a shot then stopped. There was a time for a casual drink. This wasn’t it. She took a swig from the bottle and set it on the counter.

“I know, okay. But if that’s how you feel, that’s for you to deal with. I’ve told you how I feel, I’ve told you I don’t blame you and that I don’t even think it had anything to do with you. It doesn’t matter what Crawford said. He was trying to fuck with us, trying to turn us against each other or play on our emotions. If you don’t want to believe that, that’s on you.” Lincoln paused and took a deep breath. “Look, I’m sorry to drop this on you like this. I have to go though.”

“Please, don’t. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, that’s okay. But I do need to go. I’ll call you later.”

“Lincoln, wait!” Kara wasn’t sure she should at this point, but she didn’t want him to be alone. “They’re forcing me to take a day off tomorrow. We were at it through the night and into the evening. I’m heading to the airport. I’ll catch the first flight. You shouldn’t be alone for this.”

“I’m fine, Kara.”

“No you’re not, Lincoln. I know you.”

Lincoln didn’t speak for a moment. Kara took another drink while she waited. She knew he was thinking, she could almost hear it. “Whatever the case may be, how do you plan on getting here?”

“I’m not far from the airport, I can be there in a few hours.”

“All of the planes are grounded, Kara. And apparently the trains aren’t running either… something about ice on the tracks. Unless you plan on driving, there’s no way.”

Kara walked over to the window. The snow was coming down in sheets, so thick and heavy she couldn’t see the building across the street from her. Only the faint glow of the streetlights showed through the white.

“Okay. You have a point. I don’t know when else I’d be able to get down there. We’ve had some major breaks in this case.”

“I heard. You got one of the boys back?”

“He escaped. Tough kid.”

“Yeah,” Lincoln said. “I’m glad I’m not on that case. Too close to home.”

“I know. I’d thought about that. What you went through, what these boys are going through… I can’t even imagine. With any luck the one he still has will take a page out of your playbook and put a knife in his captor’s back.”

“I got lucky. And I had help. If my dad hadn’t been there, I never would’ve survived.” Lincoln took a deep breath. “I have to let you go though. I need to call Kris and Agnes, let them know what’s happening and that I’ll be in Lyon a couple more days. I’ll call you when I know for sure.”

“Thanks. Stay strong, Lincoln.”

“What choice do I have?”

Lincoln didn’t want an answer, didn’t expect one. He hung up as soon as he had asked his question. It was a question he already knew the answer to – nothing Kara could say would have changed his opinion. And what was there to change? What choice did he really have?

“I should be there. He has no one there to support him, no one to help him get through all of this. Kat’s gone, Chen’s back home. Fuck, you were there through all the shit with Saunders, you were there when he found out about having been abducted all those years ago, about how he killed his captor to save himself and his father.”

Kara looked around the apartment. She had just realized she was talking out loud.

“I need a cat. At least then I wouldn’t be talking to myself.”

She walked back to the counter and took another drink from the bottle then poured a double into the glass and topped it up with a can of Coke from the fridge. The couch in the other room called to her, its worn-out shape perfect for a night of forgetting. Her leg bumped the end table as she walked past and a small unicorn figurine toppled to the ground.

“Shit!”Kara set her drink down and crawled beside the table to retrieve the ceramic statuette. “Oh, thank God,” she said. “I thought I’d broken you.” She looked at the object in her hands, a hand-painted unicorn that held memories of a different time beneath its aged surface. She put the unicorn back on the table and moved the table back toward the wall, out of the way of any future collisions.

Kara sat down on the couch, her body fitting into the groove left in the cushions. She synced her phone to the speaker dock beside her and set her playlist to shuffle. The music that played seemed to be exactly what she needed, an oddity she had experienced before. It was as if it could tell how she was feeling and what she needed to hear. In the hour that she sat there, as the Coke cans piled up and the liquor bottle emptied, she only changed the song twice. Once when she got up to get the bottle, and the second time when the old folk song that played reminded her too much of Lincoln.

It was because of him that she had downloaded the song in the first place; one that he had said she had to hear. And he had been right. It spoke to her just as it had to him, the lyrics and the music reaching deeper than she’d ever expected.

The song took her back to happier times, a time where she thought, despite how much damage it would have caused, that she and Lincoln could be together. She never told him, not for the longest time, in hopes that what had happened could be brushed off as an accident - a lapse on both their parts. The lie tore at her and the happiness she had felt was ripped away when Lincoln and Kat reunited. And yet there was another happiness there, the kind that came from seeing the smiling faces of the ones you love, knowing that they had found contentment. Even if for them to find theirs it had to cost you your own.

The alcohol was starting to go to Kara’s head. The room started to waver as she looked across the apartment, and her thoughts seemed to go with it. They were the thoughts she had long ago forced into the deepest recesses of her mind, thoughts that she shut down without hesitation whenever they tried to surface. They worked their way up once more and even though she knew she should have stopped them, she let them slip through.

If it is Kat – if she is dead - is there a chance for me again?

It was a question that brought with it more imaginings than she had expected. She envisioned everything; from the funeral to seeing Lincoln again, to moving to Poland to be closer to him – relocated for work, she would say – to the two of them getting together and living happily ever after.

It’s a fantasy
, she tried to tell herself. But she wanted to believe it could be more. She hated herself for thinking that way, for hoping for a future with Lincoln when she still believed herself responsible for his present.

“It can never happen,” she said as she took another drink from the bottle.

“No matter what, it can never happen.”

Another drink.

“You need to forget him.”

She took one more drink and set the bottle down.

“For your own sake, Kara.” She shook her head as she spoke then leaned back against the couch and stared at the ceiling. She watched the ceiling fan spin above her head as it lulled her to sleep.

* * *

The phone ringing on the coffee table woke Kara up. It took her a moment to realize where she was; she hadn’t been expecting to find herself on the couch, her neck aching from the position she’d fallen asleep in. She leaned forward, stretched out some of the tenseness in her muscles and picked up the phone.


Shit, it’s almost five in the morning? How long was I out?


“Kara, it’s Yuri.”

“Yeah, I know… saw you on display. What’s going on?”

“I know we are supposed to be off tomorrow, but it doesn’t look like that will be happening.”

“Is it Jacques?”

Kara feared the worst. She had been worried that Claude’s escape would have sped the killer up.
we have a name now.
With Claude gone, Max would probably be looking for another pair of boys. She was worried it would mean an earlier death for Jacques.

“No, not Jacques. We just got a report of a boy abducted from his home not far from here.”


“Yeah,” Yuri said. “The place is in Pétange, about twenty kilometres west of us. Small town, less than ten thousand. The mom woke up just after four. She could feel a draft and wondered why there would be a window open, what with the weather lately.”

“Took the kid right out of his room?”

“Looks like. They panicked and the father started following footprints in the snow but they ended once they reached the main road.”

Kara took a deep breath.

“Fuck. Just the one boy taken this time?”

“He’s an only child.”

“So Jacques is still alive.”

“That’s what I was thinking,” Yuri said. “I think he wants them in pairs for some reason.”

Kara stopped for a moment and rubbed the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger.

“Maybe he doesn’t want them to be alone.”

“Serial killer with a heart? This is not Hollywood, Kara.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right. Where is this place?”

“I can text you the address. See you there soon?”

“Sounds good,” she said. “Give me a few and I’ll be on the road.”

“See you there. And drive safe, I hear the roads are a mess.”

“Will do.”

Kara hung up the phone and stood up. She picked up the bottle of rye and the empty pop cans and looked at the clock. She had been asleep for nearly seven hours. She took another look at the bottle, ran through some basic math in her head and then walked to the kitchen and put everything down on the counter.

Ten minutes later she was dressed and on the road, one of the only people stupid enough to be out driving. The roads were covered in a deep layer of snow and hadn’t been plowed since the previous evening. She stuck to the tracks left behind by other vehicles and made her way red light by red light out of the city. It was a slower drive than she had expected, even with the road conditions and the driving snow that worsened once she hit the rural highways.

The tall buildings in the city blocked the wind and kept the snow on the ground. There had still been enough falling from the sky to make it hard to see in front of her, but once she hit the open roads the winds that whipped across the highway picked up the freshly fallen snow and mixed it with the rest. The result was an almost total whiteout, visibility reduced to only a few car lengths ahead of her. The driving snow and the windshield wipers whipping back and forth like a metronome at full speed caused her focus to drift. She gave her head a shake and stared forward, forcing her eyes open.

You’re exhausted. It’s not much further. Stay awake.

She kept going, pushing forward through the storm. The snow around her was uniform, the road straight and unchanging. All she saw was the blizzard in front of her and the tracks just past the hood, deep tire ruts in the snow that were already filling in. There was nothing there to gauge her speed by, and as she stared into the snowstorm looking for the lights of other vehicles or changes in the road, she never noticed her speed increasing.

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