I’m currently in the early stages of writing “Cities in Time” but I thought you, my reader, might want to see what I’ve been up to. Here’s a short chapter in which Kendrick and Warden have to deal with one another.
I didn’t question joining him under the umbrella even though it put me well within reach of his free hand. What was he going to do, manhandle me to the car I was going to willingly? Seemed funny. If there was anything giving away his feelings, it was his white-knuckled grip on the umbrella handle. Though we said nothing, the continuous sound of the rain provided enough noise to keep us from having to fill an uncomfortable silence.
I hadn’t considered what would happen when it got this far.
I thought I would find him. I thought I would introduce myself. I thought I would even follow him for a day or two after he brushed me off before going on to whatever the rest of my life was.
Then he opened the car door for me. Late model BMW, black. The kind of car you looked at and looked past. Just like Phillip himself, the guy who disappears in a crowd.
Safety rules say you never go anywhere with a stranger without notifying someone of where you’re going and who you’re going with. Except I had no one to tell. Or at least, no one who would do more than note it down on a piece of paper and forget about it for a week. By the time they followed up, I could have been rotting in a ditch three days.
I settled into the black leather seat.
If Phillip noticed my hesitation, he didn’t comment. I needed a plan. Sammy O, the reporter who helped me track him down, told me not to pursue it.
Let it go. Your parents are dead and he’s dangerous. Nothing good will come out of this.
Maybe that was true. Maybe not.
Sitting in the seat waiting on Phillip to get in, I stared out into the sheeting rain and forced myself to consider what would happen now. Phillip would get into the car. He would drive me somewhere, maybe his home on Colorado, maybe somewhere else. No matter where we ended up, I was going to be at a disadvantage, even with the pistol I had tucked away under my left arm. He had height, reach, and weight on his side. I had, maybe, the element of surprise.
Phillip tucked the umbrella behind the seat and then studied me as he put the keys in the ignition.
“How old are you now?” he asked.
“You don’t know–“
“No, I don’t.”
The car started with a simple yet satisfying thrum and he backed out of the parking space.
“Why don’t you?”
“You overestimate your importance in my life, Amanda. I suppose that’s what I ought to call you.”
The rain had turned into a distant sound like being on the wrong side of an airport listening for planes. I chose not to concentrate on it, but instead strained to hear something in his voice that sounded like humanity.
“The press painted you as the one who got away. Painted you as heroic. Made you important,” he continued. “However, I wasn’t even aware of you until I took a stroll through your home and found the door with your name on it decorated in stars and ribbons. Your mother’s doing, I don’t doubt. By then, you had already disappeared into the night and I went about my business as usual.”
His delivery chilled. I wondered what it would feel like to be so unattached.
The radio suddenly sputtered static and he jabbed the power button. What had he been listening to in here?
“21. My birthday was in April.”
“Ah.” His only comment.
“Why?” The cramp in my stomach told me I didn’t really want the answer.
“I don’t kill children.”
All around us, the rain washed away evidence of our passing.
Amanda. Silhouetted against the florescent lights of the Robin’s Egg, I pegged her for a lost sixteen-year-old looking for money to get home after having made one of those mistakes you don’t run home and tell to Momma. Then she introduced herself.
Lawson. I hadn’t killed anyone by the last name Lawson. I visualized the pages in my book and nothing popped out. Still, looking at her face, she seemed familiar. A clipping floated in my vision. Freeman. Amanda Freeman. Courageous Ten Year Old Escapes Slayer. Of course, she was much younger in the picture, but it was her watching me intently as she waited for my response. It hadn’t been three seconds.
“And how does that help you?” I asked.
Her face was not one I had come to associate with those grieving the dearly departed. Survivors of my victims burst into tears in my presence and cursed liberally the system denying them justice. Amanda instead was sizing me up. Not quite in a predator versus predator way, but far closer to that than predator versus prey.
Around us, the rain continued its droning and drowning of the parking lot. My car, two rows from the door and facing it, awaited me. I had no plans, though some always formed when I was aimless. Sometimes they were to see a movie. Sometimes they were to see someone’s insides. I rarely knew which ahead of time.
She didn’t answer my question. Her eyes darted out to the parking lot as a car, headlights blaring yellow, rolled by to park at the end of the row closest to the diner. I studied the curve of her brown neck and fall of her black hair. Amanda, the one who got away. Or at least, that’s what the papers said. I hadn’t even known she was there until she was gone. Yet they made it seem as if she had confronted me and escaped but only by a hair. Now here she was again, older, perhaps wiser, but certainly with an agenda.
Was it closure?
Those who begged for closure also begged for an explanation. Why did I kill their relative, their friend, their love, their child? As if I knew and could speak it in words for them to understand. I do know, of course, but I also know nothing I say will give them the panacea they seek. Why do I kill? For pleasure. Who do I choose? Whoever catches my fancy. The only rhyme or reason is the artist’s eye within me and it does not negotiate or deviate. Once it chooses, it will have satisfaction.
“We need to leave.”
A minute had passed since the last time Amanda spoke. She looked at me again, her eyes brown-green and certain.
“We?” I asked and popped open my umbrella to shelter us from the unrelenting rain. There was nothing I could do about our shoes.
“Yes. We need to talk.”
Four words which often struck fear in the heart of man. I smiled.
A snippet opener for a new story eating my brain with a spoon.
Phillip Denton wasn’t what I expected, but then your heroes usually aren’t. He was more gangly than broad, but with the kind of wiry muscle that still left him capable of being a bobcat in a bag to handle. I could imagine him overpowering them, one at a time, then carrying them away for his own purposes.
I know what those purposes are. I’m not going to repeat them here. We’ll get to that.
The day we met, it rained until the streets turned from blacktop to rapids. I shivered outside the Robin’s Egg Diner waiting for him as he had his pancakes with extra butter and syrup. He always had the same thing. I checked. No eggs. No sausage. No coffee. Just pancakes.
He stepped outside, black coat with an equally black umbrella though it would do little good in the downpour, and prepared to go to his car. I put my hand on his arm.
In that moment, I remembered the clippings, every one of them, and how they made it clear he was an unstable and dangerous man.
“Hi, I’m Amanda Lawson,” I said when he turned. “You killed my parents.”
–“So You Wanna Be A Serial Killer” 2017?
The Deans’ mausoleum walls, stark white with gray veins, crowded close as Alexander stood a few feet from the man acting as priest for the proceeding. Lorelei had never been specifically religious, but in this instance, he felt it necessary to make at least a nod in the direction of the thankless god which had taken away the one person who made his life stable. With the priest at his left and Sheridan at his right, he was as close to calm as he could get.