Minot: Chapter 4
Ghosts From The Past
THAT VERY DAY they were on the case again.
Chief Bowen, as Damien told the others, had had a change of heart; before they knew it they were flooded with all sorts of information on the case that they hadn't even known existed. As well as information from previous cases, most of them involving the Falcon's Nest. Everybody around them seemed to open up a bit more, too--Phil told them some more about what had happened at his place.
They went to visit him the very next day, on Bowen's recommendation. Phil had a lot to say, and none of it was pretty.
"I know a couple of these people," he said, leading them into the kitchen of the Falcon's Nest and spreading out his arms as if to encompass the room. "I came in here one day and they were butchering some kind of animal--right on the kitchen floor. It was a mess. Blood everywhere. Of course, I told them to get the hell out."
"Did you tell the police?" AJ asked, examining the floor. After all this time there was no blood to be seen, yet it seemed the natural thing to do.
Phil shook his head. "They were just a couple teenagers, looking for a good time," he said. "They never did anything like it again, as far as I know. It was just that one time. And besides, I think the animal was dead before they cut it up--like a car hit it or something, y'know."
"Do you condone what they were doing?" Damien asked, looking up at him.
Phil stiffened defensively. "Hey," he said, "I'm no kook du jour. I know what they were doing was wrong, but what can I say? It's a free country. I just won't have them cutting up their animals in my kitchen."
Damien stood up from looking at the floor. He turned to face Phil, and asked the question all of them had been meaning to ask.
"How come all of this activity seems to center around your place?"
Phil shrugged. "The only real reason I can think of is because this is the biggest place to hang out. We have a dance area inside but also a dance room near the back. I'd say most of this stuff is the teenagers'; they're the ones always looking for a quick fix, y'know what I mean?"
"How big is the dance room?"
"You can see it, if you like. I keep it locked during the day. It's only open on Friday and Saturday night. Here, I'll show you."
They followed Phil toward the back of the building to large steel double doors, which he unlocked and held open. The group first peered inside, then filtered into the darkened room.
They were surprised, to say the least; the outside of the whole building suggested something small and conservative. The dance room, however, appeared much bigger than could have been possible, considering the outer structure of the Falcon's Nest. Phil apparently noticed their puzzlement, and came forward.
"It's sunk into the ground, as you can see," he pointed out. "And it only appears to be so big because it's empty right now. You should come by when it's full."
"Has anything ever happened in here?" Damien inquired.
Phil thought a moment, then shrugged, and then nodded. "Yeah, a couple times."
"Well, we've had a couple fights, but one of the cops was always around to break it up."
"Yeah. Usually Jenner or Kinnie is around to keep the place sane, if y'know what I mean."
"What about Bowen?"
"Oh, no, never Bowen. He's always busy on the weekends. Especially Saturday nights."
Damien and Father Damien shared a look. They both knew of Saturday night's reputation for Satanic meetings.
Puck appeared to read their thoughts. "Do you know what Bowen does on the weekends?" he asked.
Phil shrugged again. "Not really. He's just busy then. Ask Kinnie; he might be able to tell you."
"Besides, he's the police chief," Mandie piped up from behind them. They all turned to look at her; they hadn't even known she was present until now. She smiled at them all, men and women, as if inviting them to an orgy.
"Police chiefs are very busy men," she added, needlessly.
They all turned away from her and back to the room again.
"Anything else we should know?" Damien asked, to change the subject.
"Not really," Phil said, "unless you want to talk to those teenagers. I've got their numbers down somewhere. They live nearby here."
"Sure, that would be great," Damien said, while Phil ushered them out and locked the doors behind them, going off to look up the numbers in his Rolodex. The group filed after him, back up behind the counter. Kincaid had entered since they'd been busy in the back, and he was sipping a cup of coffee which he'd evidently poured himself; the rest of the place was empty except for the young man Dino had noticed at the counter the first time they'd gone there, and he looked up as they entered.
Phil noticed him as soon as he entered the room, and started, "Hey, Mitchell--"
The bar patron responded by getting up so suddenly his stool fell over. He darted for the door. Damien and Puck instinctively ran after him; Kincaid jumped up as well. Before he could get to the door, he was tackled by Puck. His breath came out in a whoosh as he hit the floor.
"Get off me!" he grunted. Kincaid came up and hauled him to his feet, pinning his arms behind his back and slamming him into the wall so hard it rattled. The others behind the counter all cringed.
Mitchell still struggled in Kincaid's iron grasp until the lieutenant pulled out his gun and pressed it close to his face. "Try making another move like that, and you'll get a taste of this," he threatened, at which Mitchell stopped struggling and went limp against the wall.
"It--it's okay, Kinnie," Phil called, sounding strained. "He's just scared. You can let him go now."
Kincaid continued staring Mitchell in the eye for a moment, then did so; Mitchell pulled away, rubbing his sore arms and glaring at him.
Damien stepped forward and held out his hand, trying to make an awkward situation better. "Hi," he said, "I'm--"
"I know who you are," Mitchell interrupted, "and I know why you're here. So cut the crap."
"He just wants to ask you a few questions, Mitch--" Phil started.
"Well maybe I don't wanna answer any," Mitchell shot back. He turned to the door, then whirled around again and jabbed his finger at Kincaid, who still stood nearby, his gun unholstered.
"You try anything like that again, cop, and I'll have you for police brutality," he warned. "Hotshot dad or no hotshot dad. You better check yourself into the funny farm before I do." And he pushed the door open, going outside and letting it slam shut behind him. Everybody else in the room was left in silence.
"Well," Phil finally said, breaking that silence and offering a too-bright smile, "anybody want any chow before they leave?"
Damien paid a visit to the police station the next day; he hadn't heard anything further from Kincaid, and was wondering what yesterday's little tirade at the Falcon's Nest had meant. "Hotshot dad"? "Funny farm"? It didn't make any sense to him. As he was entering he nearly ran into Jenner, who was exiting the station with a Styrofoam cup of coffee in his hand.
"Hi!" Jenner greeted. "How's it going on 'the case' so far?"
"We seem to have hit a snag," Damien replied. "We'd sort of have a suspect, only he doesn't seem to want to talk right now. Can I have a word with you outside?"
"Sure." Jenner shut the door and sat down on the porch stoop, taking a drink from his cup.
"Yesterday we were all over at the Falcon's Nest," Damien explained. "And there was this guy there named Mitchell--"
"That would be Mitchell Barnes," Jenner confirmed. "He's one of the local hoodlums. Nothing really bad, though. Go on."
"Anyway, he seemed kind of touchy about talking to us. And he was really tough on Kincaid; like he had something against him."
Jenner gave a sort of sad smile. "A lot of people in this town have something against Kinnie, Damien. It's nothing serious. Just 'us versus them,' you know?"
Damien nodded, filing that away. "Yeah, but he said something I don't get; he told Kincaid to get off his back or he'd get him for police brutality--'hotshot dad or no hotshot dad,' in his exact words." He noticed Jenner's smile grow strained and fade out. "And he said something about shipping him off to the funny farm. Any idea what that means?"
Jenner stood up, obviously uncomfortable. "I think you'd be better off asking Chief Bowen," he said, pouring the rest of his coffee into the dead carnations planted outside the windows. "We don't really talk about it much. Now, if you'll pardon me, I have to get back to work. It was nice talking with you." He nodded and walked away to his car.
Damien was left alone on the porch stoop, wondering just what was so bad that they didn't "talk about it much." His curiosity burning now more than ever, he pushed open the door and went inside.
Chief Bowen was in, as luck would have it. Damien knocked and went in without waiting for an answer; the chief looked up but his reaction was different from their last meeting. He seemed a little hopeful now.
"Good morning," he said. "Any leads so far?"
"Yes and no," Damien said, without elaborating. He instantly went into what he wanted to talk about. "Chief Bowen, I'd like to get something straight here, all right?"
"Now, since we're both working on the same case, we shouldn't be keeping any secrets."
"Well, then, why is it that everybody around here's so secretive about Kincaid?"
Bowen frowned. "How do you mean?"
"I mean his reputation. He has got a reputation, doesn't he?"
"Sure. He's the best on the force. Ask anybody. He's busted more people than any of us."
"Then how come nobody ever talks about him?"
Bowen leaned back in his chair. "He's not the kind of guy you go around bragging about, if that's what you mean."
"No, it's not what I mean. Everybody has a past, Chief Bowen, even me. And from the little I've heard, Kincaid's isn't very pretty."
Bowen was silent. Then he said, softly, "You mean Kincaid's father, don't you." It wasn't even a question.
Bowen sighed and spun around. "Somehow I knew this would be coming up again."
"What would be coming up again?"
In response Bowen pointed up to a picture on his wall. "Read that."
Damien went over to look at it. It showed a mustached man, obviously a police officer, with the caption,
MARK H. KINCAID
HE WILL BE SORELY MISSED
BY THE MINOT POLICE FORCE
Damien turned to face Bowen.
"Is this a relative?" he asked.
"That," Bowen answered, nodding at the picture, "was Kinnie's dad."
Damien had to look twice; the man in the picture looked way too young to have been Kincaid's father. There was barely any resemblance at all. "How did he die?" he murmured.
"Suicide. He shot himself."
Damien turned back to the police chief, startled. "Why?"
Bowen shrugged. "We don't know. We think maybe he knew something we didn't, and couldn't live with it. So he just blew his head off."
"How--how old was Kincaid at the time?"
"Oh, around twenty-something. Grown up. But he was there at the time. Heard the shot. He was the one who reported the suicide."
Damien sat down. All of this was getting too hard--not to mention weird--to handle. He knew it was gruesome but he had to ask--"How did he act when they came to get the body?"
Bowen shrugged and sighed, exasperated. "Like he always does. He just came to the door and said his dad was dead, he'd killed himself and we'd find him over there and such and such, like he was making out a shopping list. He didn't cry or anything, if that's what you mean."
Now Damien was beginning to get an idea of what Mitchell had meant by the "funny farm." "Chief Bowen, is there anything...wrong with Lieutenant Kincaid?"
Bowen fanned out his fingers and sat in thought for a while. "I'm not sure," he said finally. "He's always acted like nothing bothers him--I've rarely seen him cry or laugh or anything--when he does laugh, it's like it's fake or out of place." He sat forward, as if suddenly thinking of something. "Not like nothing bothers him," he corrected himself, "more like nothing can bother him. It's like he's got no feelings or something." He shrugged again and held out his hands. "Can you top that?"
Damien shook his head. "No, sir, I don't believe I can." He stood up. "Well, if that's all you can give me, I'll be on my way. Don't worry about the case; we're still on it."
"Good," Bowen replied, sitting back again. "Call me if you need anything else. I'm usually here. Except on the weekends. It's really busy then."
"I'm sure it is," Damien said, exiting before Bowen could see the strange look he'd gotten on his face at those words.
And so, that afternoon, the group was gathered in Damien's and his uncle's room, confused as ever. It seemed nothing they were getting made any sense. As far as they knew, everybody was suspicious.
"First there's Chief Bowen," Damien pointed out. "He's in charge in this city, and for some reason he's always 'busy' on Saturday night."
"What about Kincaid?" Puck inquired. "I heard you got some info on him."
"Yeah, I did. And it's weird. His dad shot himself and Kincaid reported it; I talked with Bowen and he says Kincaid's hardly ever showing any emotion."
"You can say that again," AJ agreed. "Plus there's that thing he does with his letter opener." He made a thrusting motion with his hand.
"Then there's Mandie," Father Damien put in. Damien's face reddened.
"Yeah," Puck said, "where does she come in?"
"Her apartment was vandalized. Some kind of altar," Dino said thoughtfully. "But she doesn't seem so upset about it. In fact she seems to be enjoying the attention."
"You can say that again," Damien muttered, echoing AJ's words.
"And Mitchell Barnes," DJ said. "He wasn't acting lily-white innocent, either."
"Phil. Don't forget Phil," Puck continued. "He appears to be acting like he knows something we don't. Plus, if I found some kids cutting up an animal on my floor, I'd call the cops." He shrugged and smiled. "Or bust their heads."
"Well, what about Jenner?" Psyche asked. Damien gave her a sidelong glance; there was something funny about the way she asked the question. "I don't see anything wrong with him."
The group fell silent. Indeed, none of them could think of anything wrong with him.
"Moving on," Damien said eventually.
"And the dream," Psyche suddenly blurted out. "What about that? Where does that fit in?"
"Psyche," Damien said, as if he were speaking to a small child, "I thought we agreed you had that dream, not someone else."
"Well, I really don't know about that...."
"Fine. Keep it that way." He turned back to the others gathered around his bed. "So, got any ideas about who might be behind all this?"
"First let's narrow it down to the police," Puck suggested. When they all looked at him, he explained, "We all know that somebody on the force is involved in this. Plus, if what Kincaid's been saying is true, he's the one being threatened. So we should rule him out."
"But he could be doing it to himself, to lure suspicion away from him," Damien said.
"True," Puck agreed, "but I hardly think it's him."
Damien couldn't say he totally agreed with that, so he said nothing. Instead he just nodded.
"So someone there is a Satanic traitor. We've got it narrowed down to all the cops except Kincaid." Puck sat back and gave his famous crooked smile. "That sure makes things a whole lot easier, doesn't it?"
"Hold on," Psyche interrupted, "If Lieutenant Kincaid says these threats were meant for him, how come the Satanic traitor sign was on the goat? Wouldn't that be meant for him, too?"
"Not necessarily," Puck said. "Sometimes members of a cult will kill someone and mark them with the sign; usually this means this person was the traitor, but it can also be a warning to anybody else who might think of 'betraying' them. On occasion they'll kill an animal, or even someone not even remotely related, and mark them, and leave the body on this person's--or people's--doorstep. A sort of warning, if you will."
"Kind of like The Godfather?" Dino asked. He seemed to be getting excited by the prospect now. "When they left the horse head in that guy's bed."
Puck nodded. "Exactissimo."
Dino frowned. "I really don't believe that's a word."
Puck shrugged, indifferent. "My Italian is a little rusty." He turned back to the others. "Well?"
Damien gave an aggravated snort. "We're not getting anywhere," he said. "For all we know, it could be anybody. That's not exactly a lead."
"I'd say the main perpetrator is somebody on the police force," Puck mused, half to himself. "There must be more than one; the accomplices probably wouldn't be with the police. So one of the cops is it."
"And anybody who isn't a cop could be in on it also." DJ gave an exasperated sigh. "So much for deduction!"
Father Damien had been sitting off to the side, making a list. "Well, you're right; that doesn't narrow it down any. It still could be anyone; it's just that the ringleader is a policeman. Or woman," he added.
"Run the list by me again," Puck said, closing his eyes.
"Mandie, Lieutenant Kincaid, Chief Bowen, Phil Falcon, Mitchell Barnes, Officer Jenner. There's also Dr. Steiner. He doesn't seem very suspect but we have to consider everybody."
"So where do you think we should start out?" Psyche asked no one in particular.
Damien looked over the list with his uncle, and bit his lip. "I believe we should find Mitch and have a little 'chat.'"
At first Phil was reluctant to help them find Mitchell; he mentioned what had happened the day before, but Damien and his group were persistent, so the tavernkeeper gave in and flipped through his Rolodex again.
"Here's his number," he said, handing over the card. "I don't keep his address. You can look him up in the phone book to find it out if you want, though I doubt you'll be finding him there. He wanders around a lot."
"Why do you keep his number if he's in the book?" Damien asked.
Phil shrugged. "Hell, I keep everybody's number. Lots of people pass through here and sign my book. It's over there, if you want to see it." He pointed to a large ledger resting on a stand across the room. "Sort of like leaving your mark, if y'know what I mean. Lots of guys leave their addresses too, so I write 'em all down, just in case I need to get in contact with any of them."
"'Contact'? What kind of 'contact'?"
"Hell, you know. Just in case I ever find anybody chopping up an animal in my kitchen again."
"Did you ever tell the police about that?"
"Of course not. They're just kids." He looked at Damien closely, seeming to just realize something. "Hey, I'm not a suspect, am I?"
"We just have to make sure."
Phil looked amazed. "But you think I did it? Would it make sense to you if I spread animal guts all over my bar? That's pointless! You can see for yourself I'm having trouble whitewashing it! Don'tcha know how much it costs to get rid of that stuff? And it doesn't exactly attract visitors, either."
"I'm sorry if I'm upsetting you, but we have to check out everybody. You see, we have no leads in this case."
Phil sighed and gave up. "All right," he said. "I'll answer all your questions, 'cause I've got nothing to hide. Plus, if I did do it, how long would I go to jail for staking a goat?"
"This goes a lot deeper than goats, Falcon, and you know that."
The group turned around. Kincaid had entered silently behind them, and was standing near the door, staring at them all. Again everybody got that uncomfortable look and began shuffling their feet and mumbling.
Phil offered a half-smile to the lieutenant. "Hi, Kinnie. Come for coffee and a roll?"
"No," Kincaid said, surprising him. He was looking straight at Damien. "I've come to find out why you've been checking up on me."
Damien was surprised this time. "But you understand we have to check out everybody," he said, not wanting to explain it all over again.
"Yes, but I'm not the suspect here. If anything I thought I'd end up being the victim."
"How can you be so sure?" Puck asked, sliding between the others to come up to Damien's side. Damien was grateful for having him there; Puck was much better at facing down authority than he was, and he had more "experience" with this sort of thing. A lot more, judging from his shoulder.
Kincaid's voice was as measured as ever. "Because I'm the one who's been getting the threats. They're directed at me."
"What I don't understand is why this cult would be after you," Puck pressed on.
Kincaid gave him a look bordering on disgust--but it didn't go quite that far, as it was all just ice. "Because," he replied, "I know too much."