The sun was not yet up when he had received the call. Blindly, he had stumbled through the kitchen in the dark and grabbed the phone from its cradle, clutching his arms about himself and shivering with the awareness that there was a very distinct draft coming from somewhere, and it was cold.
“Jason, we need you down here as soon as possible,” said Amanda’s impatient voice. “No, it can’t wait. It’s about the Hindenberg case. Look, I don’t really care what Rhinde said, I need you here. He is going to have to live with it.”
In the dark he had found his clothes and pulled them on, not bothering with the light. It would only mean a bigger bill at the end of the month, and in January his bills were already big enough. And again, as he stumbled to the refrigerator for the bottle that waited on the top shelf, he was aware of the draft that had crossed the floor and run itself up his spine, reaching and clawing. It made his skin tingle, like the Whisp in the stories… Maybe he had left the pantry door open again, he thought. Hopefully that was all it was.
His keys and wallet were on the nightstand. They always were, because if he left them anywhere else he would not be able to find them again; he knew that from too many past experiences. And when he had returned to get them, still in a sleepy daze, his eye had caught the single photo that sat next to them—the only photo in the house, in fact. She smiled back up at him, her young face round and innocent and colourful with the remains of the fudge he had bought her at Hell’s Gate. She had never been more happy than on that day. Clutched in her hands was a stained Teddy Bear that had been her constant companion ever since he had bought it for her when she was three years old, and across the top of the photo she had scrawled with a red marker I love you Daddy, and dated it ’87. Three years seemed a long time.
It was cold out (and little wonder… what more could be expected in January?), and the year had proved even colder than its predecessors so far. It had to be well below minus thirty-five degrees, he thought. That was warm compared with what the temperatures had been last week. But still he wished he had put on a sweater beneath his jacket. Already his arms had begun to prick, and he knew that the garage would be cold. You’re a fool, Jason, he told himself. And he knew it.
The Summit Police Department. Two years of his life he had spent there, the last stop in his one dream fulfilled—to become a police officer. But it had been a dream lost when Rhinde had pulled his badge for an unfortunate accident. Misfires were common, they said, unnecessary, but common. But his luck had handed him a misfire in the chest of an eleven-year-old boy who had died in his arms, and when Rhinde had got through with the press and the Department of Internal Security breathing down his neck, he had turned on Jason. “You’re done,” he said. “No, no buts. I can’t have my men killing kids in the street.”
It had been eleven months, and Jason still saw that kid’s face when he closed his eyes, staring up at him, hacking on the blood that filled his lungs, his blue eyes fading to dead grey as he watched. And then in his dreams the boy would sit up again, his face white and ashen with death, and his cold eyes would watch and stare, and then he would open his mouth as if to speak but nothing would come out. Sometimes it was not the face of the boy, but of his daughter, and he saw in her eyes both fear and terror at him before they went dead and cold.
But regardless of what Rhinde said, Jason knew there was nothing he could have done. Some things just happened, even to those who were careful. It was just bad luck that had caused the firing pin to slip as he had drawn on the two armed men who had just made for their van parked along the curb at the Bank of Montreal. But now, when he thought of it, he was not sure he believed in luck.
“Jason, thank god!” Amanda cried through the line of people waiting at the front desk when he had stepped through the door. And he had only just heard her voice, so thunderous was the commotion within the office. “Nevermind,” she added when his eyes had searched about for Rhinde. “He isn’t in yet. Come, quickly!”
“What is it?” Jason asked.
The doors shut behind them. They were within, and she had taken him without delay to the interrogation room.
“It’s crazy!” she said. “Everyone picked this morning to either kill, or get killed on. I’ve been in since ten last night without a wink of sleep.” And it showed. Her eyes were dark, and her hands trembled from the caffeine coursing her veins.
“Peter Rend,” she said.
The man sat behind the observation glass, his hands in his lap, his eyes down. The dread-locks of matted hair and the mud on his clothes were the testament of what life he kept. He might have been asleep, if not for the subtle twitch of his fingers and the glint in his eyes.
“Who is he?” Jason asked.
“I brought him in last night,” said Amanda. “Said he knew something of the Hindenberg case.”
“Does he?” Jason asked.
“I don’t know,” Amanda said. “He has not said two words to me since.” She turned a serious eye on him. There was no smile in them. “He asked for you, Jason. He said he would only talk to you. I don’t know why; that’s just what he said. No, Rhinde doesn’t know yet. I haven’t told him. Frankly, I don’t think he would have called you in no matter what Rend said.” She paused, her eyes upon him, searching. “You don’t know him, do you.”
“No,” he said.
“Then why did he ask for you, I wonder.”
“Only one way to know.”
She opened the door for him.
Peter Rend watched Jason from behind his lifeless eyes; Jason knew it, and he did not miss the subtle twitch of the man’s fingers either. But he could not guess what thought process had happened—that was Amanda’s department. His was interrogation and, as Rhinde said, being a screw-up—and so he allowed such routine as had once been a part of his life to take over. The file in his hands he laid on the table before him and slowly unwound the binding, turning it open. It was a case file for a couple who had turned out a convenience store the month before, but Rend couldn’t know that. What mattered was that the man before him didn’t know anything at all.
He had allowed himself to slide into the chair then, and he thought that the Department of Internal Security had not seen to the comfort of its officers of late. The chair was cold iron, and terribly hard. Even the room was a little colder than he thought was deserving, even of criminals.
His eyes were turned to the man, Peter Rend.
“I know you,” said Rend, his voice low, his eyes unmoved, and he looked hard on Jason.
“Do you,” said Jason, disbelieving, or perhaps bored with the proceedings. Whichever would work, just so long as Rend did not think he was the slightest bit interested.
“Yes,” said Rend.
“And how do you know me?” Jason asked, turning through the folding disinterestedly.
“Ray told me about you,” said Rend, his eyes unmoved.
But Jason’s weren’t. At that he had looked up, a certain cold welling up to his throat, pouring from his mind. “Ray who?” he demanded, and that same cold stare that had made others quail was ineffective on Peter Rend. The man only looked at him, his eyes empty and hollow.
“Ray Bradden,” said Rend. “He told me not to come here. He said that we could trust you, but that you couldn’t trust us. He said it wouldn’t work, that they would only find us and kill us, and then kill you too. He told me not to come.”
“If he said it, then you ought not to have done it,” said Jason amusedly.
“I had to,” replied Rend, his eyes flickering for a moment toward the blackened observation window.
There it was, that twitch in his fingers. The man had a weapon somewhere, Jason thought, but he said nothing, not now. “And why is that?” he asked, still showing no interest. (Apparently the couple had shot the clerk in the face, then turned away laughing between themselves as he lay dying on the floor behind the counter, half his face removed. What kind of sick people—)
“Because someone has to know,” said Rend. “Someone has to before it’s too late!”
“Before what’s too late?” asked Jason, his attention now fully on Peter Rend once more.
“Before they kill me, and Ray too.” said Rend. “They are coming!” His voice was raised, bordering on hysterics. His fists were on the table, his knuckles white. “Charles left, and they drowned him in Seton. William left too, and they cut his throat in Revelstoke. Then Carl disappeared, and they shot him in cold blood down on the Highway 5!”
“Who shot him?” Jason persisted.
“They did!” cried Rend, now on his feet, his face contorted with both pain and hysteria. His fists were at his side, and for a second Jason was not sure that there was not blood between his knuckles. “They shot him dead! And now they are coming for us! They will find us and kill us too!”
“Peter!” said Jason, also rising to his feet and rounding the table to place a hand on the crazed man’s shoulder. “It’s alright,” he said. “You are safe here.”
Rend’s fingers twitched again. Jason, you’re a damned fool! he told himself.
“Oh no,” replied Rend, and his voice had calmed to a laugh, a maniacal cackle that matched the insane glimmer in his eyes. “Not safe here! Especially not here. They will find us, and they will kill us. You see if they don’t!”
That glimmer in his eye became dark, brooding, something dreadful behind the sanity that still lingered. Jason could not place it, but it was unsettling, something akin to the mad-delight that he had seen before in the eyes of a man who had taken pleasure in torturing and murdering women.
“He is mad,” he said to Amanda, letting the interrogation room door fall closed behind him. Plain and simple, the man had lost his mind. “What is it?” Something had troubled her.
“He just… he seemed so sane when I picked him up,” she said, herself a mask of confusion and painful concern. “And when he spoke of Carl Hindenberg—”
“I thought that might be who he was talking about,” Jason said.
“He told me he knew Carl, said they grew up together somewhere. Then he started talking about the mercury in the bullet that killed him. How could he know about that, Jason?” she cried. “How could he know!”
“I don’t know,” he said.
“What was that he said about Bradden?” she asked
“Oh, seems he knows Ray, or something,” said Jason offhandedly. “But now I very much doubt if any of it was real. You know how these guys are…”
“Yes,” she said. “I know.”
“They see a name in the paper, or in a book…”
“He just seemed so sane!” she said after a moment’s thought. “Now I don’t know whether to called it paranoid schizsophrenia, or—” Her words fell silent, her eyes wide, and then she cried aloud. “No, Jason, for god’s sakes, stop him!” Her hands were on the glass of the interrogation room, her face fallen in horror.
He had turned the door aside in a hurry, but already he knew he was too late. There was blood on Peter’s hands, on the table, and running down his shirt to pool on the floor beneath the chair that he still sat upright on, his fist still clenched. Peter Rend had cut his own throat with a rusted razorblade.
Not an hour later the call had come in to the station, and Amanda had dialled his number at once. “Jason,” she said, her voice hoarse and strained. “I’ll be by to pick you up in five minutes.” She was quiet for a moment. Even her breath seemed to have ceased. “It’s bad,” she said. And he thought she had dissolved into sobs before she had hung up, but he wasn’t sure.
When her car was in the drive, he had hurried through the cold to slide into the passenger’s seat. The radio was off, the leather frozen, and her eyes were red, but not from lack of sleep anymore.
“What is it?” he asked.
“It’s Ray,” she said, tears welling in her eyes when she had looked at him. “He’s been murdered.”
This work is written by AD Bane and published by adbane.com. It is solely the property of ADBane.com and may not be reproduced in part or in whole for any reason except at the exclusive permission of the author.