Robert W. Walker’s
Several Hours Later, the Rydell Cabin
“From what JT told me, and from what I could see, the head and limbs were bound by yards and yards of heavy medical tape to tuck everything into the center at the torso. Hung up like a side of beef. Only thing keeping the flies off was the smoke.” Marcus had decided to leave no detail out; she needed to fear this man with every fiber of her being.
“My God,” Mallory quietly erupted. “He used medical tape to stick his damnable letters in places where I’d find them.”
“As I recall, his murdered wife had been a nurse,” added Marcus. His wife had been a nurse.” He sipped at a beer. “Milton had every part of his body tucked in and bound to the chest with the same sort of tape.”
More information had come in via CNN and other news outlets while Marcus had slept. “They’re saying Milton had been a basketball star at the high school where Cantu strung up his remains.”
Rydell tried to imagine the horror of what Milton must have endured. He imagined Cantu telling the other man precisely what he had in mind for his remains.
“Something the newsmen don’t know, Doc.”
“Attached to the body or rather in his mouth along with the wallet, the killer left a note.”
“Bastard likes to write, doesn’t he?”
“Note read: one down, five to go.”
“I figure he’s talking about you, me and Miersky’s wife and two kids.”
“Oh my God.”
“I tried to get in touch with Nora while in Atlanta, but she’s not there.”
“Where is she?”
“Dunno. It’s been years. For all I know—”
“We’ve got to find her and those kids! Warn her!”
“We will. We will.”
“We’re just sitting here doing nothing, and this maniac is one step ahead of us.”
“He may well’ve already abducted those kids, your partner Stan’s kids.”
“I’m not sitting on my ass on this.”
She stared across at him on his ass and drinking another Sam Adams.
“What’re we going to do now?” she pleaded.
“I’ve got JT working on determining the whereabouts of the Miersky family.”
“The cops? Whoop-de-do!”
“JT’s not the cops. I’ve told him everything to win his trust. We have a partner in JT.”
“JT, huh? Would that be Jack Thomas?”
“You know Jack?” He jumped up, rushed the kitchen, and returned with another beer.
She paced the living room. “Detective Thomas, sure, I know Dee-tec-tive Thomas.”
“Do you have to make the word detective sound like a dirty word?”
“Only in the context of the few I’ve known.”
“What kinda vote of confidence is that?”
“You wanted me to sit home waiting for results, just like your buddy JT, and if I had, maybe that wouldn’t’ve been Milton dangling murdered at his alma mater; maybe it would’ve been me dangling in pieces at Jefferson High or Georgia Tech.”
He bit his upper lip, giving thought to the wisdom of this young woman. He knew she was correct. Somehow, he knew that Cantu’s entire purpose, for whatever twisted motive or lack of motive, the monster wanted to toy with the mouse until the end. He wanted Rydell to keep on paying for the day they failed to meet man to man.
He said none of this. He’d also lied about involving JT. He just wanted her to calm down and trust in him. To that end, he took her hand in his and firmly said, “Katrina…Kat, all we can do at the moment is wait for JT’s call. Have a brewsky.” He extended the beer he’d just opened to her. He did indeed have someone searching for Nora and the kids, but it wasn’t anyone in the Atlanta PD. I just need a snitch in time, he silently told himself.
Two sips and a frustrated shake of the head later and Rydell’s cell phone rang.
# # #
“Do you like to fly?” he asked her after hanging up on the snitch he kept exaggeratedly calling JT.
“Depends. Where too?” Kat’s forehead creased with the question.
“We could drive that in an hour, hour and a half from here.”
“We don’t want to be behind Cantu on this one.”
“You think Cantu knows the Miersky’s have moved to Nashville?”
“They’ve not moved there. Just on a trip, some school function or other if JT’s information is good.”
“Hmmpf! And if he can get that information, then so can that murdering, foul- smelling Cantu.”
He nodded. “Obviously, he knew a lot about Milton. Downright creepy how much you can learn about a stranger these days.”
“Why do you suppose he…I mean, what kind of a thrill can he get out of murdering people he doesn’t even know?”
“But he does get to know them…homework…electronically.”
“All right, we fly to Nashville,” she said. “Then what?”
“We have to convince Stan’s wife to come back with us, here.”
“Here? Wouldn’t it be more advisable for her to get on a plane bound for…I dunno, Coasta Rica?”
“Maybe, maybe not. At any rate, we have to warn her.”
“Two problems with that.” He dialed as he spoke. “One, she wouldn’t listen to JT, so she’s not likely to listen to reason from the guy who got Stan killed, and two, she still lives in Atlanta or rather Marietta. What’s happening in Tennessee is that one of her kids is in a concert there.”
“A concert, heh?”
“Plays some instrument.”
He then ordered up his plane to be made ready. “Be there in ten, fifteen minutes.”
He said to Mallory, “Pack an overnight bag and that Luger of yours.”
“You planning on kidnapping these people? I thought abduction wasn’t your style…shattered some sort of code?”
“I plan on never seeing another body in the condition that Milton was left in. Now get packing.”
# # #
They were soon rushing out for the boat, Paco with them, but when they got to the boat, both Marcus and the dog balked—Marcus at taking him along, Paco at getting into the boat. “We have to leave him, Kat.”
“To the elements?”
“To his resourcefulness. He found us. He’ll find some other suck-ahhh— someone to take him in. Found you, didn’t he?”
“It’s cruel to just leave him here.”
Paco got along perfectly well before we arrived, and now—”
“I can’t just leave him behind like this.”
“But he doesn’t want to go and there’d be no room in the plane for him anyhow.” He kept his tone as practical sounding as possible. “Look at him!”
“He’s afraid of water for some reason.”
“Or boats. Get in. No time to lose.”
“You have two choices.”
She glared at him where she remained on the wharf. “Can’t you at least try to get him into the boat?”
“I don’t fancy being bitten, and I don’t think I can make Paco jump into this boat. Hell, I can’t even get you into the boat—a reasonable person.”
She stewed where she stood.
“You staying with Paco or going with me?” he asked as he revved up the motor.
At the last instant, Katrina leapt aboard, her face telegraphing that she was an unhappy camper.
As they moved off from the dock and the house, the plume of the wake building behind them, a forlorn Paco stood at the end of the wharf, skin rippling as in a shiver, barking, running to and fro.
“Marcus, he’s going to jump into the lake. Look at him.”
“No he won’t.”
Katrina had thought about how terrified she’d been here alone. She simply could not go through that again.
“Are you sure? Sure Paco will be all right without us?”
“Trust me. He’ll take up with the next hand that feeds him.”
“You really are a cynic, aren’t you?”
“Paco’ll do just fine.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“The dog is an opportunist.”
“And on what do you base that?”
“I’ve seen his kind before,” joked Marcus. “Even interrogated a few.”