She rubbed her face with a warm washcloth and tried to wipe the day away. She hoped with everything that Nathan would leave town right after the viewing tonight. Plastic bristles moved in and out of the barrel of the gun and the oily smell of the cleaning agent permeated the small living room. She put the gun back together and washed her hands in the sink.
Kelsey slid out of her shirt and pants and left them on the marble tile of her bathroom floor remaining in only her black silk bra and panties. She made her way to the bedroom and flipped up her laptop. She logged onto her e-mail and saw she had a message from Scotty that requested she call him as soon as possible.
“Hello,” he answered.
“Hey, what you got?”
“Its really bad.”
“What no cracks about my boobs or naked pics?”
“No its about the numbers you asked me to run.”
Kelsey sat up in attention. She ran to the bathroom and grabbed a robe to throw over her. “Go on.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The man that owns the gun is dead.”
“Just tell me what you know Scotty.”
“Nathan Collins is caring a gun that is owned by a cop from St. Louis named Jacob Mallory.”
Kelsey slid down the stairs two at a time, her bare feet slapping against the hard wood floors. She made her way to the laundry room just the other side of the kitchen and pulled a pair of slacks and satin shirt from the hanger.
She hit the speaker button and sat the phone on the dryer while she pulled the purple satin shirt over her ripped torso.
“Jacob Mallory was a cop for Metro P.D. a detective to be exact. He quit, and by quit I mean forced to retire early, from Metro two years ago after he nearly beat a suspect to death. The man was suspected of killing several boys in St. Louis and Mallory was working the case.”
“I remember that case, they didn’t catch the person did they?”
“No, and after he quit he became a P.I., had a sleazy practice in a sleazy part of town. Last Friday that sleazy practice burned to the ground with Mallory inside. He’s laying on a slab in the mourge as we speak. His funeral is supposed to be tomorrow.”
Kelsey had a funny thought. “Email me a picture of this guy.” she grabbed the phone from the dryer and flew up the stairs to her computer which was blinking an alert that she had a new message. She clicked on the message and hit the button to download the file.
The picture of a man in a policeman uniform with an American flag behind him filled her screen. He was a handsome man and she knew him. He was Nathan Collins.
The weather had turned bitterly cold again and with midnight drawing closer he wondered if people would ever start leaving the funeral home. Jacob had been here just like the redneck had said he would be. He watched him with the tall fag and then with the redneck but every time Jacob just went back into the funeral home. He was here and that made the waiting even more difficult. He knew what he was going to do. He was going to wait until Jacob made a move for his car then he was going to block him in. Pull him in the Escalade, take him to the river. Beat the fuck out of him then shot him in the head. He was going to dump the body in the river and he was headed to Dublin to tie up so loose ends. He decided that he might have to kill the redneck as well.
Cold air invaded the warm comfortable atmosphere of the SUV and Andre turned to the backseat. He saw a man climb in. He stood almost six foot tall and skinny as a rail, he had tattoos all up his neck on his hands. Andre assumed that they would cover his arms as well but they couldn’t be seen for the heavy brown coat he was wearing.
Then the passenger side door opened, further filling the space with cold air. This man he recognized. His blue oxford, his blue jeans and his loud tie with guitars on it. Charles slid into the passenger seat, his gun pointed awkwardly with his left hand at Andres gut.
“Karma’s a bitch,” he said.
“Yes, it is,” Andre replied.
Justice is in the eye of deliverer
Chapter Twenty Three
Jacob found him alone on the park bench near the pond. The quite of the night was deafening. He had expected to hear crickets or cicadas or a frog, any noise would be better than the bitter quite. The wind picked up slightly and the chill began brake through the thin North Face jacket that Jacob wore, covering up his dress shirt. He had stopped by the hotel to pack his things and load them into the Prius.
He sat on the bench looking out over the pond as the full moon reflected off of the water and lit up the park as if where six in the afternoon, not three in the morning.
“I didn’t realize you had left the wake until I was the last one there,” Jacob said as he approached. “Mind if I have a seat next to you?”
Jerry sat silent, only motioned with his hand to the empty spot next to him.
Nearly thirty minutes passed before either of them said anything, and it surprised Jacob that Jerry’s voice cut through the night air first. It sounded more raspy than normal and he appeared to have been crying. Salt streaks created trails down his cheeks and ended at his chin where they had inevitably fallen to the ground.
“I used to go to church two times on Sundays and Wednesday evening. I don’t know why,” he said. Jacob didn’t think this to be a question or a conversation starter. He just let Jerry speak. “I think I used to believe in him, you know God. I really don’t know when I stopped or if I truly ever did. It had become a way to pass the time I think. Two times Sunday and Wednesday evenings. Ten hours a week, not counting the time I devoted to the church for picnics, bible classes that I helped teach,” he looked at Jacob and he saw that Jerry was confused, not about what to say about life. “You know I spent every Tuesday night for the last three years helping young people understand the bible’s language. I found it to be confusing to them.
“Haley and I took a group on church retreats, like a camp for father daughter bounding time. We did this every year since she was ten.” He stopped and looked out toward the moon reflecting off of the water. “You think he’s up there? Out past the moon and the stars?” Jacob again thought this more as a way to get something off of his chest. As a police officer he found it good tactics to listen. When someone starts talking just listen. “I don’t anymore, Nathan, you wanna know why? After all I’ve done for him and the work that I thought I was supposed to do this is all I get. I’m sitting on a cold park bench looking out at the moon.” His hand slowly moved up to wipe a tear from his eye that had begun to form. “He gave me everything then he took it away. Why?”
“I don’t know.” Not knowing what else to say.
“I don’t either. I’ve never done a bad thing in my life. I don’t even speed.” He chuckled slightly to himself. “I only wanted what was best for her. I don’t think she understood that. I hoped that one day she would. But I fear that she left this world hating me and not knowing that I cared. We were beginning to argue a lot.”
“Memphis. She wanted to know her mother. Which I can kinda understand. But that woman is a cancer. It took me a long time to get over her and I just knew that if she went there to stay it would destroy her to find out the truth about her.”
“She’s selfish. She wouldn’t have done what I did for Haley. Teach her things about life, give her lessons in what it meant to be an adult. As you could see by her appearance today she can barely care for herself, much less a fifteen year old girl. Gail has her plays, her symphonies, her art projects. She thinks its classy but it is as much an escape as my trips to church. But Haley wouldn’t have gone to those things with her.”
“Your saying she would have neglected her?”
“She left her alone with me,” His hand touched his heart, this time he let the tear fall. Jacob watched as it slid down the same track that had been left by it predecessor. “It was selfish and selfless at the same time. She gave me the greatest gift in the world, but at the same time she threw her chance away. She wasn’t ready she said, but it was a lifestyle change she wasn’t ready to make.”
“I can’t relate, I’m more like Gail than you I’m sorry to say. I let my wife take my daughter and I didn’t follow. I should have.”
“Isn’t that where your going?”
“I once thought so.”
Jerry shrugged this off. Then he said, “you will. I know you Nathan. You have a good heart.”
Jacob chuckled inside. If Jerry only knew the truth.
“You didn’t answer earlier,” he said pointing to the moon. “You think he’s out there?”
Jacob sat there for a moment, he really didn’t know what to answer, if the truth were to be told, he hadn’t thought of God in a really long time. “I don’t know, Jerry. Maybe, if it makes you feel better.”
He gazed at Jacob, stared directly into his eyes. “It wouldn’t.” Jerry’s eyes fell into the palms of his hands. He turned them over and over. Jacob could feel his pulse quicken and he swore that he could feel the bump-bump of the his heart beating through the bench. Jerry’s eyes turned back to Jacob. “I’ve never killed anything Nathan. Not even a mouse. I’m serious about that, I get the live traps and release them into the woods on my way to work, and that hurts me. I have these hands that evolution gave me to protect myself, my family, provide for them everything they need. And a God that I no longer believe in made them useless to defend myself or seek justice for my daughter. Why? Because He said it was wrong to kill a man.” His eyes turned back to the moon. “And I hate Him and the moon for that.”
Jacob felt something inside that he hadn’t felt since he talked to little Andy Stafford’s mom. Every night since then he had been reliving the event that sent him on this long and crazy journey that had led him to this point. This point in time that might mean something. He felt the urge to tell Jerry the truth. Something he hadn’t done in years.
“I have done some things that I’m not proud of,” he started. Jerry turned his attention to Jacob, his mouth hung slightly agape, Jacob could tell that he had no idea what was coming. “I’ve lied to you and everyone in this town. My name is Jacob Mallory.”
“I took this man’s identity when he died in my alley of a drug overdose. I called the police but no one came. So I used him. I’m not proud but I had to get out of St. Louis fast.”
“Who are you really?”
“I’m am what I said. I am a private investigator. I used to work for the Metro P.D. as a detective until I was fired for nearly killing a man, turns out he wasn’t who I thought he was. It wasn’t the first time so as they say three strikes and I was out.”
“That doesn’t explain why you had to leave St. Louis.”
“I stole a million dollars from a gang banger who wanted the name of a witness who was going to testify against him in the murder of a child. I didn’t feel that was such a good idea so I gave him a fake name and then shot him and burned down my office building. I put the body in there with his.”
Jerry’s face showed that he was stunned. He appeared to be shocked yet he stayed seated and quite.
“To my surprise however, he is not dead and now looking for me. So that is why I left St. Louis.”
“Would you do it again?” he asked.
“No,” Jacob answered, “next time I would make sure he was dead.” He chuckled, mostly to himself.
“What about someone else?”
Jacob’s mind flooded with scenarios that could possibly work to achieve this goal. But as he thought about it he knew that none of them would ever work. He knew what he was asking was nearly impossible and that there wasn’t really anyway that either of them would get away with it. But he couldn’t help but think that it would feel good and that it was the only justice that the person who killed her deserved.
“I think that the police in Pine Bluff will try their best to make sure someone pays for this.”
“I hope your right,” he looked at his hands again. “Because as much as I would love to do it. I can’t.”
The Prius, packed to the hilt, sat idling near an intersection of town where the main drag ran into the interstate. It would have been easy to just leave, pull the car on the fifty five and head north or south, or he could stay on this road and head west to Dublin, or turn around and head east across the river leaving everything and everyone behind. But something itched in his mind, something kept scratching at the surface of his brain, making him second guess his decision.
I’ve got things to do, I should get on with my life and stop chasing other peoples demons, I’ve got my own demons to deal with. His mind raced with thoughts, its like the devil and angel setting on his shoulders couldn’t make up his mind. ‘Help Jerry’, ‘Forget Jerry’, ‘Find Haley’s killer’, ‘Its not your problem anymore, all you were supposed to do was find her’, they kept at it for hours.
Jacob knew one thing for sure, he couldn’t go back to the hotel because Kelsey would surely be watching to make sure that he didn’t return. He knew every minute he stayed in town the greater his chances of someone discovering who he truly was. The longer he sat at the intersection, watching the light turn from red to green to yellow back to red at least a dozen times, the greater it became to deny that the angel, standing in his ear, was in fact correct.
This case, unlike the work he had been doing in St. Louis, had become a losing battle. There snapping pictures exposing cheating husbands had become the extent of his practice. Other than the boy killer ninety nine percent of his work on the force had been pretty cut and dry as well. In nearly every case there had been a motive or a good lead to follow. Here it seemed that she could have had been killed for a multitude of reasons, some of them more minor than others, but Jacob had learned that a minor reason is still a reason.
Jacob looked up at the light again, which had just turned green, then to his rearview mirror. He noticed the tell tale sign of an approaching vehicle. Two headlights shown through the hazy fog that settled close to the ground at the forthcoming dawn. The town will start buzzing to life now. Jacob gently eased his foot to the accelerator and pulled into a gas station parking lot. He noticed that the person behind the counter had been looking through the window at him and had probably thought that he had fallen asleep at the stoplight.
His eyes held fixed on the approaching car, wondering whether or not to stay. Everything in him save for the angel on his shoulder told him to leave. His gut, which he often found to be correct, told him nothing good would come if he stayed. He thought and the last time his gut was this vocal was when he saw poor Haley’s picture at the bus station. He knew, once again, in that instant exactly how she would be found. And he knew now that no one in town would ever know what happened to Haley.
However something as strong as his gut was telling him to find the killer and get the justice that Haley deserved, or at least try his best. This case wasn’t over. However the suspects that Jacob had were many, some looked better than others.
Jordyn didn’t seem the kind of kid that could kill someone, she always stood quite and reserved, always seemed to be thinking of something. However as they say about the quite ones, Haley’s decision to break up the band and move to Memphis may have been too much for her to handle. Haley had taken her only chance to get out of Pine Bluff. With Jordyn she certainly had motive but he had yet to find opportunity or means.
Graham, like his band mate, had a motive. In fact Graham had three motives. It had seemed obvious that he had a crush on Haley and had been rejected, which as Jacob knew, could be painful for a young man. He also was hurt by the decision to break up the band, he like Jordyn, felt it to be the only way out of this town. Graham also liked to get his drugs from Haley. With her gone he would have to find another supplier, although it might not be the hardest thing to find a new one, however, if she had quit when he needed a fix it would have been easy for him to lose control and possibly do something drastic.
Seth had possibly the best motive so far. The secret that he shared with Haley could have potentially been the greatest social and career destroyer of all, however, Jacob hadn’t found any mention anywhere that Haley planned to out Seth and they seemed to continue to be close friends.
Jerry, unfortunately had a good motive as well, actually about twenty million of them and he had opportunity since he dropped her off at the park in which she disappeared.
Also the gangsters had great motive, to get to Jerry for the debt owed to them and since she was selling drugs for them they might have felt she was stealing from them if she was trying to get money to go to Memphis. With the guns floating around the hideout they had motive and means, but where was the opportunity?
Roger Ericsson was a sexual pervert who liked young girls. He liked to run in the park in which she did, he had motive since he had admitted to being attracted to her and it had been obvious that she would have rejected him and if he had made a move. However he had no proof that Roger owned a gun.
Headlights of the vehicle neared the stoplight which Jacob had been sitting. He immediately recognized the vehicle as a big white SUV with sheriff department painted on the side. He now had no doubt that the young man at the gas station had wondered why he had sat through at least four lights. Probably thought he had been drunk so he called the police.
The white SUV hit its blinker to pull into the gas station. Waiting for the vehicle to pull to a stop next to him, Jacob clenched his hands on the steering wheel. What would he do? He really had no idea. He was in fact heading out of town like Kelsey had requested and moreover he had had nothing to drink. He just happened to be thinking. Not causing a problem with anyone.
He relaxed as the police cruiser pulled to a stop near the front of the station and a woman stepped out. Her 9 mm rested in a holster on the back of her large black utility belt. Her long brown hair sat in a ponytail at the back of her head, pulled tight. He hadn’t noticed before but the brown of her hair was chocolate in color, just like her uniform pants. As her face appeared translucent in the window of the station, Jacob recognized her reflection as Sheriff Rachel.
Jacob realized that he knew a lot about Jerry, Charles, Jordyn and Graham, knew enough about Roger to think he didn’t have anything to do with this, but he didn’t know enough about that Nazi Meth maker Tony Preston. As he pulled his tiny car back out onto the road and faced it out of town, he knew who would.