While awaiting news on the identity of the victim, Marcus had picked up a few details but not enough to be of help in truly knowing if this was Lawrence Milton, the stock broker’s remains. Marcus, an observant man as observation was half of detective work, had watched the uniforms canvassing the area in an attempt to find anyone who had seen anything, and he’d watched one young cop go entirely out of his way to question a bum on a park bench across the street.
“I haven’t agreed to anything,” Rydell assured Katrina Holley-Mallory. Still he’d be intrigued by her and the letters purporting to be from Iden Cantu.
After taking a deep breath and ordering another Guiness, Marcus began examining the letters. He muttered as he looked them over, “Could just be some sick sonofabitch getting his jollies off pretending to be Cantu, you know.”
She didn’t answer this, as if she needn’t bother.
It took some time for him to digest the enormity of this offering. No one wanted Cantu’s dead more than he. Handwriting sample she now slapped down—likely gotten from the case file on her husband—proved a close, close match to the script found in the letters. In fact, knowing as much as he did of handwriting analysis, Marcus determined this was no hoax. The only one taunting Mrs. Mallory was her husband’s killer.
Cantu had indeed come out of hiding. Like an animal testing the waters, he was here in Atlanta, prowling…on the hunt for her?
Marcus remained alone in his isolation camp, 48-B. Now all the power of the voice that told him he was no longer a fit for this world heralded him, first cajoling and warmly inviting, next berating and accusatory, and wanting his undivided attention again. Here the darkness of it all enveloped him, or very near so. Or had he chosen to cloak himself in it? And was the end result that of his own bad attitude? Or the result of all that’d happened to him? Or how he chose to react to it? Had he embraced the depression, inviting it to come into his pores, to fully take him over?
Members of the Atlanta Police Department now came rushing in, immediately stopped by the sight of former detective Marcus Theodore Rydell pacing like a trapped bull.
“Hiya, Denny Hodges isn’t it?” asked Marcus, a crooked smile for the first uniformed cop on the scene.
His partner, Janine Dobbins, all but dropped her teeth even as she asked, “What’re you doing here, Rydell? You involved in another . . . I mean—”
“Murder? Killing, you mean?” he replied, the quirky half smile lifting his laugh lines, the wrinkles around the eyes.
She pointed at the bloody victim with her nightstick. “If you say so.”
Marcus Rydell instinctively rushed from his bedroom and out of the apartment, his 9mm in hand, taking the stairs two at a time. Even here in the stairwell, he could hear the distressed, keening cry of what sounded like a wounded animal, but it was all too human. Definitely a child’s scream, which meant probable cause for him to break down a door, something he’d always relished doing when he’d worked as an Atlanta cop.
The thought pumped blood to his every artery and to the brain. It felt wonderful, like a balm, like a spring shower and train whistle all conspiring to wake him the hell up and out of his previously paralyzing depression.
As he approached 58-B, Marcus made out words coming from an adult male inside. The man’s words were halting, pleading in turn, saying, “Hon-hon-honey, please n’more. Don’t h-hurt me! Please! I’ll be good to you, sweetie. I swear!”
The child endangerment laws left no doubt in Marcus’s mind. He shouted through the door, “I’m coming in! Open up in there, or I kick it in!”