Free of the police, Marcus lett his emotions seep from him. He felt for Gregor, but could not find him. Day was almost upon him and once again he was seeking shelter. He walked over to the cemetery, a cruel laugh escaping. He spoke to the weathered stones. “Seems fitting.F
Off in the distance he heard voices. He followed the sounds. The vault’s door was ajar.
“Come on.” The voice was cruel, and Marcus ducked behind the building, hiding in the little shade it provided. The shade would not last.
“Put some muscle into it.” Grunts followed the words. That was followed by the grinding sound of stone on stone. “Got it.”
The cheer was muted. “Is it there?”
“Sure is. What an ass.”
Marcus counted the voices, deciding there were four. The sun moved.
“Who’d bury all those diamonds? Did they think she’d wake up in heaven, move to the rich side of the clouds.”
“Stop shootin the breeze. It’s almost light out, we gotta get outta here.”
Pressing himself into the stonework, Marcus could only hope they would listen to their leader.
He heard their heavy breathing as they rushed to close the door. He could still see them in the distance, running between gravestones when he opened the heavy oak door; sliding inside. He lay in the dark ignoring the open casket. Tired as he was, he couldn’t stop the pictures in his mind. The woman who had only wanted to be loved; tortured, killed, but still protecting him. Once again, he mourned.
Night approached and Marcus studied the map. Highway I ninety would take him to the state with a face.
He stepped onto the highway, not knowing how far he had come, how far he still had to go but the destination was important to him in a way he could not explain.
He walked, letting the highway take him where it would.
Another welcome sign and Marcus was tying to read the words when he heard a scream. A man was trying to throw a woman into his car, but she was fighting and it looked to be more difficult than expected. He didn’t expect Marcus.
“Let her go.”
She clawed at the man’s face, falling when she was freed. Marcus, stepped forward, pinning him to his side.
“You should go. Get away.” A closer look showed Marcus that she was not as young as he thought.
“No. More police are coming. They should be here any minute.” She turned to the man still squirming in Marcus’ arms. “We’ve been looking for you. I need you to tell us what you did with the three missing girls.”
She cuffed him, locking him to the car. “Stephen Lewis, you are under arrest.”
Marcus turned to face him, letting the darkness rise. Marcus’ eyes turned black, his voice deepened, his whisper a growl. “Where are they?”
Beginning to shake, Stephen clamped his mouth shut.
“You will tell me. You don’t want me to get angry.”
Officer Andrea Perkins waited. The stranger’s face was familiar even though he did not look her way. She tried to remember where she’d seen it. There was a menace to him, but she was not afraid, though she was certain his captive should be.
Finally Stephen began to speak. “They’re at the Capstone, in the cellar. There’s a door. It’s hard to see. They…they’re alive. I swear.”
“Capstone?” Marcus swallowed his anger, turning grey eyes to the officer. “Does that mean anything to you?”
“I know it. We searched it, but we didn’t find anything.”
Once again Marcus turned, the whites of his eyes filling with blood. He felt the vessels break, the pressure of his anger pulsing through his veins.
“It’s by the fountain, hard to see.” Stephen whined.
Officer Perkins called dispatch. “They’re sending officers now.”
She looked down the road. “I expected the others to be here by now. They knew where I was going.”
“Didn’t you think I would expect patrols?” Stephen snickered. “You are all so predictable.”
“I’m not.” Marcus tightened his grip.
Ribs close to breaking. Stephen turned to Officer Perkins, his eyes asking her to get him away.
“Explain, you piece of shit. Brag a little.” She stood back, far from where Marcus stood.
“They’re off investigating the frantic calls from the family I used to get their attention. Left the phone just within reach. Your buddies aren’t all that concerned about a female officer. Probably didn’t want you on the force in the first place.” Marcus’ hands tightened on his arm. “You’re hurting me.”
“Not nearly enough.”
“Not a cop, not a murderer either. That is lucky for you.”
It clicked, the wanted poster faxed over that afternoon. The sketch artist had done a good job.
“I think it’s time to read you your rights.” Perkins stepped closer.
Marcus, watching her closely, noticed that she looked his way, making sure he was listening.
“Do you understand your rights?” Stephen nodded. Perkins turned to Marcus. “I bet you understood them too?” She waited until he nodded.
“They should be here soon.” Marcus glanced down the road. “You do not need me.”
“You’re right, but I like the effect you’re having on him. Just don’t kill him. I’d hate to have to arrest you.”
Marcus bit back his reply. “What state is this?”
“Montana.” Perkins answered.
“The state with a face.”
“Do you have a long way to go?” Perkins asked.
“Don’t really know. I’ll just keep walking.”
Officer Perkins drew her weapon, looking at Marcus. “You need to come with me.”
“I didn’t kill them.”
“I believe you, but that doesn’t change anything.”
“I am sorry.” He moved too quickly and she could not stop him from taking her gun. The sirens grew louder. She turned and he was gone.
The night thickened, followed by the first tendrils of the coming dawn. Marcus ran to the shed. It stood not far from the farmhouse, electric lines running between them.
Filled of tools, some were oddly familiar.
“What are you doing in here?”
Marcus had turned to face his father. Showing him hands tucked in his pockets. “I didn’t touch anything, just curious. You’ve been spending a lot of time in here lately.”
A smile turned to him and Marcus remembered feeling relieved. “Well I’m certain you can keep a secret.”
Marcus nodded, though a reply had not been expected.
“In the little spare time I have, I build things and right now I’m building your Mother a rocking chair. It’s for her birthday. I want to surprise her.”
“Can I see it? Maybe I could help.”
“I’ll teach you someday, but you can’t learn on your mothers birthday gift.”
Marcus smiled, hands pushed further into his pockets.
“Some of the tools are tricky, dangerous. Don’t ever use them without me. You understand what I’m saying?”
“Over here. This is a chop saw. I have other saws. I’ll explain them all when we’re working together.”
“What are these?” Marcus, knowing better than to touch, pointed at some metal bars, their edges sharp and oddly shaped.
“Those are chisels. In fancy furniture stores they have routers, a kind of saw to make the fancy edges on desks and tables. Me, I can’t afford them, so I do it the old fashioned way. I shape the wood by hand.”
“It can be, specially if it’s a hard wood like oak or cherry. Pine’s softer. It’s also fun. I get to see what I thought up become more than an idea. Now the rocker’s going to be as fancy as anything you could buy in a furniture store. Your Mom, you must have noticed, never stops moving. I’m thinking this will be a way she can keep moving while sitting down. Works awfully hard your mom.”
“My Dad too.” He grinned. “I don’t know why, but I like the chisels. They seem a bit like the charcoal pens Cathy uses to draw. She’s getting pretty good.”
“Your mother’s pretty good too, me, well furniture making is my art work.” He’d nodded his head. “This way. It’s under the blanket, just in case Kate happens to visit.”
The chair had been beautiful. Intricately carved legs, soft smooth arms. The back had a design his father had said was their family crest, though he hadn’t been certain. It didn’t matter. He’d known his wife would love it and Marcus had too. Looking at the chisels, Marcus remembered the chair, the joy of being in on the secret. He thought he’d been there when she got the chair but he could not remember.
The sun was bright. Marcus moved to the rear of the shed far from where the sunshine leaked around the door. Making himself as small as his tall frame allowed, he hugged his legs and fell to sleep wondering if his mother still had the chair, did she have grandchildren to rock?
Dusk came and Marcus rose. He left the shed heading for the highway. His hunger grew with each step and he began to hunt. The ranch would provide. Cows ambled over fresh green grasses, unaware of the predator stalking them.
Entering the truck stop’s rest room, he overheard men talking about the Carson City killing spree.
“Guy tore them apart.”
“Wish one of them was Mariam.”
“Can’t blame you there. Your wife’s a piece of work.”
“Yeah, but only I get to say that.” The voice grew angry.
“I heard he stole a lot of money from one of them.”
There was no reply. Marcus washed the dirt from his face and neck, rubbing blood off the collar of his shirt. He heard a voice fade to a whisper.
“That’s the guy, the sketch in the paper.” There was a warning in the tone.
“Maybe he has the money with him.”
“You want to steal money from a man who tore four women apart. Are you nuts.”
“Could you tell me where I am?” Marcus held out the map. “I am looking for a park. I believe it is called Glacier. You must show me. I cannot read.”
The two men backed up slowly, eyes searching for another way out.
Marcus quickly closed the distance between them. He heard them gasp when they found him standing by their side. “I am asking you politely. Please show me where I am.”
The older man took the map, hands shaking. “You are here. That’s highway I ninety. Up here is the park, this whole area. It goes into Canada.”
“I ninety. I have been traveling this road for a while. Can you name the cities around the park? Point them out.”
“There aren’t too many.” He pointed, saying their names. Marcus repeated each one, careful not to show a particular interest in any. While they were looking over the map, the youngest man ambled over.
“Do not try. It would not be hard for me to kill you. I am already wanted for four.” Marcus reached out, grabbing the hand that had been snaking its way to the satchel.
“Thank you.” He nodded politely to the older man. “You should be more careful who you call friend.”
Once again night swallowed him. He spoke to break the silence. “I hope they cannot tell where I am going. I cannot fight them and hunt you. I will find you. I will kill you. There are two places I must go, one last promise to keep.”
Whitefish was a small town, catering to tourists and those who like to gamble. It seemed every third building was a casino, some the size of small gas stations.
“It is odd”—Marcus spoke to the quiet night—“a place for children shares a wall with a casino. I believe it is ice cream I smell, I think once I liked ice cream.”
He remembered his mother’s voice.
“Happy Birthday, sweetheart. I am sorry I couldn’t get a cake.”
“Cake, who cares about a cake? Nothing in the world is better than your apple pie.” His father had answered.
Marcus had sucked in the sweet fragrant cinnamon, while his frozen hands dug in the snow. “I hope it’s okay.”
Behind him he’d heard his sister snicker. “Course it is. Snows not messed up, silly boy.”
“I am not a boy.”
He raised his hands in mock surrender.
“How did you get the money?” Cathy shivered.
“Stop.” She slapped his shoulder, fighting back a giggle. “Tell me the truth.”
“Haven’t bought milk in four weeks.”
“Nothing to drink with lunch? Jeez those dry sandwiches would kill me.”
Cathy”—his grey eyes grew stormy—“they do their best.”
She backed away from the hurt she saw behind his anger. “I’m sorry. Didn’t mean anything. I know how hard they work, we all work. I’m sorry, really.”
“The school has water.” Marcus bent his head back to the treasure he’d hidden.
“Water’s better for you anyway.”
“Got it.” He pulled the ice cream package from the snow, smiling. “Vanilla for apple pie.”
“Marcus,” she grabbed his arm. “I know I’m a silly little girl, but you are the best big brother in the whole world.”
“You won’t say that after I eat most of the pie.”
Their laughter led the way to where the pie waited, two candle numbers sitting tall in its center.
“Thirty nine.” Marcus had whispered.
Marcus was looking at the brightly decorated building his jaw clenching.
“What was I looking for? Why was I digging in the snow?” He looked at his fingers feeling the cold. He was always cold. He quickly hid his hands, tucking them in his pockets.
“I could almost see them. I heard them, but it is all silence now.”
“This is a strange place.” Marcus looked at the mountains rising behind the town, the forests crowding its edges. “It is pretty.”
The smell was strong. Though he could not read the sign, it was obviously a restaurant. The raw beef, rich and bloody called to him. The other fragrances made his mouth water. “I wish,” he turned suddenly away. “If wishes were horses beggars would ride. Who told me that?” The night did not reply.
He quickly turned away. The music was beautiful. Standing in the night, Marcus stopped to listen. He could smell the drink; hear the laughter of those within. The feelings the town awakened grew stronger. The longing was strange, with a power all its own. Marcus found he could not leave. The song was haunting, familiar. As dawn approached, the building darkened and the last customers staggered out. Marcus followed.
The man’s face was red, large blue veins crossing a bulbous nose. His steps faltered as he stepped on the ragged hem of the overlarge pants he wore. Sweat beaded on his forehead, a slow drip to his chin. Marcus was quiet, though he would not have been heard regardless of the noise he made. Hands shaking, the stranger could not fit the key into the lock.
“So un of a bitth,” once again he pushed the key shakily towards the keyhole, falling back away from the door.
“Let me.” Marcus took the key.
“Who are you?”
“A friend.” Marcus carried him to the bedroom. Helping him out of his shoes, he laid him on the bed, carefully wrapping him in blankets. It was not particularly cold outside, but seemed very cold inside. Snores filled the room, snores that battled with the gurgling of the older man’s churning stomach. Hugging the blankets he was soon lost in dreams.
Marcus pulled the bag from sleeping fingers. Curious, he looked inside. The violin was beautiful. Its song had drawn him to the bar. Placing the instrument carefully on the table by the bed, Marcus closed the curtains. It was dark enough. He found extra blankets thrown haphazardly in the room’s closet. The closet was large and Marcus curled up on the floor. Closing the door, he made a nest and slept.
Stumbling footsteps woke him. A garbled, “how” was followed by the sound of brushing teeth.
Stepping out of the close, Marcus walked over, hands held out before him.
“Do not be afraid.”
“Easy to say, but don’t expect me to listen. Course I’m afraid. Who are you?”
Marcus saw his hands were trembling, eyes glancing at the violin sitting beside the bed.
“I saw you last night. You were having trouble with the key. I helped, got you inside. You fell asleep before I could ask you if I could rest here. I am sorry to have imposed but the blankets looked welcoming. I hope you do not mind.”
“You slept in the closet?”
“Closest thing to a bed I could find. Nice and dark and really quite roomy, skinny.”
“You could stand to put on a few pounds.” He looked at the instrument on the bed stand. “Did you take my violin out of the bag?”
“Yes, I could not help but look. I am sorry. It seemed too precious to be left on the floor. ”
“It is.” He turned to look around the shabby apartment. “Only thing I won’t pawn.”
“Long, sad, probably boring story.”
“If you don’t mind my spending the day here, I would like to hear the story.” Marcus said.
“Hiding from something?”
“Hiding from everything.”
“I came here to hide too. I learned that you can’t hide from yourself. No matter how far you go, you always take yourself with you.” He looked down at the floor, frowning. “I’m not a good companion.”
“It was you playing?” Marcus watched the stranger’s hands, gently stroking the rich wood.
“Yeah, sit in the bar, play for drinks and whatever money the tourists feel like dropping in the can.”
“I keep a coffee can next to me. Accept donations.” He barked out a cruel laugh.
“It was beautiful, the music. I sat outside, listening. Should have been looking for a place to stay, but I lost track of time.”
“Lose track of time every time I go into a bar.” He looked Marcus over, appraising him. “If it’s okay with you, I’m going in the kitchen, make some coffee?”
“You are not a prisoner.” Marcus looked away. “I will not keep you if you want to leave, but I would like you not to. I need a place to; hell what difference is it to you for me not to tell the truth, to hide.”
“Hide from what.” He stood by the bedroom door uncertain what his next move would be.
“I am hiding, most lately from the police who think I murdered four woman. But first I am hiding from the man who murdered those woman.” Marcus saw the man’s hand tightening on the doorknob. “If I had wanted to hurt you, it would have been easy while you slept.”
Marcus sat down, crossing his legs, arms hanging loosely at his sides. “Leave if you must.”
Watching him turn away, Marcus heard him head to the kitchen. He could hear grinding sounds, but he didn’t know what was being done, so he let his mind wander. So many mornings ago he had woken to the smell of coffee. His father would laugh at his wife. She only drank tea and Marcus thought he had called her a snob. There was always a laugh in his voice. Marcus strained but he could not remember the sound.
The man returned, sitting beside his unexpected guest, cradling a cup of coffee. “I’m Joseph Parri. Do you drink coffee?”
Marcus smiled. “Thank you Joseph. I don’t, but it is kind of you to ask.” He looked away for a moment. “I would tell you my full name but I don’t remember it. I am Marcus.”
“The bastard that killed those woman is he your father, a friend?”
Marcus frowned causing the lines in his face to deepen. “He is not my father. He killed him a long time ago. Someday we will find each other. I do not know who will walk away. I am living to die.”
“I guess that’s something we have in common. I have a wife and two children somewhere. It was a toxic relationship,” he chuffed. “That’s what my wife called it.” His red-rimmed eyes showed deep wells of misery. “Everything I tried, all the jobs I worked at. I was always a failure. A violin player isn’t a typical bar musician. I wanted to play first violin, that’s what they call the lead violinist in an orchestra.”
“I have no experience with orchestras but I believe you play well enough.”
“My wife told me I did and I thought so too. Came close. Drank the opportunity away. Have one drink, followed by as many as my money will buy, sometimes what I can borrow. We had to separate; my wife and I or she wouldn’t have had enough money to support the kids. I miss them, but not enough to stop drinking I guess, or I wouldn’t be here.”
“I think it is not that you don’t miss your family enough. The hunger for the drink, it is too strong. You cannot go home unless”—he paused—“I think my father would have said, until you slay that dragon. Some monsters are not so easy to slay.” Marcus looked at the bright sunshine peeking through the shear curtains in the other room.
“I have a day job that I’m trying to keep. You’re coming here last night may have saved it for at least one more day.” Joe rose. “When I’m not drinking or playing the violin, I’m cooking. Breakfast place just down the road. If you get hungry later, the meals on me.”
“Could you tell me if there is a doctor here, name…” Marcus’ eyes narrowed as he tried to pull the name from the far reaches of his mind, from behind the places he stored the things he did not want to remember. “Abram.”
“Sure there is. He’s a great guy. Opened, runs and fully supports the shelter on Main Street. Opened it a long time ago. I wasn’t here back then but I understand there’s a rather sad story to go along with it. I’m sure the natives know it.” He called over his shoulder while quickly dressing, “go out the door, turn right go two blocks. It’s on the left, big building. Nicest place in town. Can’t miss it. Will you be here when I return?”
“When will you return?”
“Not until dark. Then it’s back to the bar.”
“I will be gone after it grows dark. If you don’t mind, I would like to stay the day.”
“Whatever you want to do. Just lock the door on the way out.” He grabbed his keys heading towards the door. Hand on the doorknob he paused. “Will I ever see you again?”
“I think for you, it would be best if you don’t. I hope you slay your dragon.”
He heard the door close, knowing the man would need help getting home again, probably many more times. “There are so many monsters.”