Minot: Chapter 6
Lines Of Defense
AS DAMIEN PASSED Kincaid and walked out of Bowen's office he put a hand to his head; he was feeling dizzy and all of the office desks were swirling around him. He figured it must be the stress of all this. Kincaid followed closely behind, as if expecting him to fall; Jenner came up also on his left, peering at him with concern.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yeah--I'm fine," Damien said, sitting down at an empty desk and putting his head in his hands. He tried to close his eyes to make the sick feeling stop; however, images of slain goats and bloody pentagrams etched themselves onto the backs of his eyelids, and he had to open his eyes again. He shook his head abruptly and looked up.
Kincaid and Jenner stood above him, staring down with a sort of fascination. That was fine except there were about four of them. He shook his head again. Two. That was better. He stood up and rubbed his temples, looking around the room.
"I think I need to get out," he said. "Anywhere but here. Someplace where I feel useful."
"There's always people to interrogate," Kincaid said, as if it were the most normal statement in the world.
Damien glanced at him to see if he were joking, because now was definitely the worst time. Kincaid's eyes revealed no trickery; they revealed nothing. He may as well have been staring at a block of stone. He gave up and sighed again.
"Sure," he said. "I'm game if you are."
"Good. I was hoping to get something done," Kincaid said, brushing past them and to the door. Jenner and Damien shared a look, wondering what exactly he meant by "something," then they both sighed once more and followed.
When they reached Mitchell Barnes's "house" (Damien could hardly bring himself to think of it as a house, it was in such bad shape), they saw that there were two cars, as battered as the building, parked outside. Damien leaned forward, placing his hand on the dash of the squad car he and Jenner were in, peering out the window.
"Looks like Mitchell's home," he mused.
"And it looks like he's got company," Jenner replied.
They pulled in and got out. Kincaid's Buick pulled in behind them and he slammed the door, looking around.
Damien heard Jenner's growl of irritation on noticing the dog tied to the tree again; this time it didn't even get up to greet them, instead barely lifting its head and wagging its tail feebly. He and Kincaid left the officer behind while he gave the dog another piece of jerky. Kincaid reached the porch and knocked on the door.
As they'd approached the house there had been the muffled sound of heavy metal music issuing from inside; now, however, it stopped, and there was a brief silence, followed by a scrabbling sound of the door being unbolted. Damien couldn't understand why they even bothered to lock it now, that they were there. It opened several inches, and a man about Mitch's age, with long, lank blond hair and little glasses perched on his nose, looked out.
"Hi," Kincaid said, amiably enough, holding up his badge. "City police."
"Whoa," the guy said. He turned his head to shout into the house, "Hey, Mitch! The man's here!"
Instantly he turned away from the door completely, ducking back into the house and yelling. "Mitch?"
Kincaid didn't give him any time to answer; instead he darted inside, nearly knocking the man over. Damien dashed in after him, grabbing the guy's arm to steady him, then following.
The back door of the house, in the back room where the symbols had been painted, was wide open; through it Damien could see Kincaid exiting the room in one catlike leap, chasing after the disappearing figure of Mitch. The lieutenant didn't have to steady himself after landing; it was as if his feet never even touched the ground. As soon as Damien shot outside Jenner joined him from around the corner of the house, shooting bewildered glances around the field.
"Jeez!" he exclaimed. "Doesn't he make anything easy?"
Damien didn't reply, having no breath left with which to do so. Kincaid, no matter what his looks, was evidently in much better shape than the rest of them. He reached Mitch and tackled him as Puck had at the Falcon's Nest; from as far away as he was Damien could distinctly hear the thud of them both smacking the ground. He winced, and he was sure Jenner was doing the same.
As soon as he reached Kincaid and Mitch, everything erupted into chaos--as if it hadn't already. Jenner came up as well, panting. Mitch's friend had followed them out of the house, and was approaching from nearby. The dog, which Jenner had evidently set at liberty, ran up and began barking harshly in Mitch's face. Mitch, meanwhile, was struggling to escape Kincaid again, but his eyes widened as soon as he saw the dog's snarling teeth.
"Take--take him off! Take him off me!" he gasped, trying to squirm back.
Mitch's friend caught the dog by the collar and hauled it back; obviously the dog knew its friends, and Mitch wasn't one of them. It too struggled at its collar, barking and snarling.
Kincaid ignored them all, planting his right knee in the middle of Mitch's back and pulling out his handcuffs. "I'm taking you into custody for vandalism and resisting arrest," he managed to make himself heard above the clamor. The tone of his voice, however, suggested that he may as well--
Be making out a shopping list?
"You have the right to remain silent," Kincaid continued, snapping the handcuffs over Mitch's wrists. "Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you."
Mitch didn't appear to be listening; he just continued trying to back away from the dog, and didn't even struggle as Kincaid hauled him back to his feet.
"He's rabid," he stammered; for a brief ridiculous moment Damien wasn't sure whether he meant Kincaid or the dog. "Keep him off me!"
"He's not rabid," Jenner growled from behind Damien. "He just should be."
Mitch turned at the sound of his voice and, seeing him, his eyes widened again. He seemed both surprised and dismayed. He opened his mouth and started to say something but shut up at an acidy glare from the officer.
"I warned you about treating animals like that," he said simply, his voice all ice. "Didn't I?"
Mitch just continued gaping at him for a moment, then stammered, "Y-yes, Officer."
"Maybe you'll remember that." Jenner went over to Mitch's friend, still holding the dog and watching the scene with awe. He relinquished the animal immediately, after receiving the same stare from the cop, and Jenner walked away with the dog, which tagged along, now as amiable as could be. They disappeared around the corner of the house.
"Do you understand all I've told you?" Kincaid said, as if the whole interchange hadn't taken place.
"Y-yeah," Mitch said, his voice a mere stutter. "I underst--ow! Not so tight!" He wriggled against Kincaid's grip.
Kincaid, in response, turned Mitch around and marched him back to the car. Now the only ones left were Damien and Mitch's friend, who both watched as the others departed. As soon as Mitch and Kincaid disappeared around the house they could hear the dog barking again, and Mitch screamed.
Damien finally turned to look at his companion and stuck out his hand. "Hi," he greeted, with an odd smile. "Name's Damien."
The long-haired guy just looked at him as if he were nuts, then dazedly shook his hand. "Hi," he said, his voice low with awe. "Nice to meet you."
At first Mitchell vehemently affirmed his right to remain silent; he refused having a lawyer present and during his grilling by Kincaid he sat with his hands locked in his lap, staring ahead at nothing. They were in the interrogation room; it was just like every interrogation room Damien had seen on TV, with its bare walls, bare lightbulb, and bare table. There was a window in one wall which they couldn't see out of and which Damien understood the presence of. He wondered if it was in use right now. Jenner stood near the door, his arms crossed and his head cocked to the side, a cup of coffee in his hand. Damien and his uncle sat in chairs in the shadows at the side of the room, both leaning their heads on their hands. Kincaid wasn't sitting; he was pacing around the room, just like one of those cops always ended up doing on TV.
"Did you have anything to do with any of that crap painted on the back of Falcon's?" he demanded.
Mitchell said nothing.
"Did you kill that goat and nail it to the tree?"
"Have you ever been involved in killing anything?"
Kincaid pulled out his folder and slammed it down on the table in front of Mitch, causing him to jump back. Papers scattered all over the floor. Kincaid bent down and jabbed his finger in Mitch's face.
"I want you to tell me if you had anything to do with this," he hissed, his voice deadly.
In response Mitch turned to look pleadingly at Jenner, as if expecting him to help. Jenner just gave him an ugly look, the same look one might give to a carcass lying on the sidewalk. Mitch turned back to Kincaid with a shuddery sigh.
"Lesser of two evils, do you think?" Damien murmured to his uncle. Father Damien shrugged.
"I've dabbled in it a little, yeah," Mitch admitted. "But nothing real bad--nothing to get us arrested--"
"Us? Who do you mean by 'us'?"
"Us--me. Me and my friends. You know. Ace." He nodded his head sideways at the door, meaning the long-haired guy who'd answered his own door back at the house. "There's just a group of us. We get together once in a while, have a few drinks--"
"Kill a few animals? Trash a few houses?"
"No!" Mitch shouted. "We just sit around and listen to music. That's it. The only stuff I've ever painted is in that house. Don't tell me you're gonna get me for putting graffiti in my own house."
"No, but I'm sure to get you for putting graffiti on the back of Falcon's," Kincaid replied softly, spreading out several of the scattered papers before Mitch, who cowered away from his icy stare. "And for all the graffiti everywhere else."
"Don't tell me you're gonna go on that!" Mitch screeched. He shot another look at Jenner; the officer curled his lip with disgust and left the room, slamming the door behind him. "I didn't have nothing to do with that--I've been at the house all the time--"
"Oh really?" Kincaid asked, giving a smile. There was nothing icy to it, but it was only a mask, the others knew. "Then where were you last Saturday night?"
"Hey!" Mitch nearly screamed. "I was just out partying with my friends! That's all!"
"And listening to your heavy metal music."
"And skewering animals to trees!" Kincaid screeched, tossing a paper into Mitch's face. The man jumped back again and scrabbled at the paper. He held it up to the light, his hands shaking so badly he could barely read it. As soon as he did, he shot a terrified look at the lieutenant.
"I--I didn't do this! Believe me!" he begged. "I didn't do this!"
Damien stood up and took the paper from Mitch's trembling hand; he too held it up to the light to read its headline:
He scanned it; "Jeez!" He showed it to his uncle, who read it in turn.
Two chickens. One dog. Four cats.
And a pig.
He left Father Damien reading the paper, his own eyes widening as Mitch's had. "When did this happen?" he demanded of Kincaid.
"Saturday night," Kincaid replied, giving Damien that cool, blank stare.
"Saturday night? But we were just at Mitch's house on Saturday afternoon!"
"Good, then. Witnesses. Tell me, was Mitch home at the time?"
Damien opened his mouth to talk, only to find his voice was stuck. Dull realization dawned as to what Kincaid was getting at. "No," he finally managed to force out.
"Good," Kincaid said again. "Which proves my point. You have no alibi." He looked down at Mitchell and crossed his arms.
Mitch could only gawk at him for several minutes, then shake his head violently. "But--but I didn't do this!" he insisted. "I was with Ace! We were in the dance room! You could ask Falcon! I didn't do this!"
"If you were at Falcon's dance hall that's close enough for me," Kincaid said, but Father Damien put a hand on his shoulder. Kincaid looked at his hand, not up at the priest; Father Damien removed it and cleared his throat.
"I think we should at least check this out, see if he's telling the truth," he suggested.
"Yeah! What he says!" Mitch agreed, nodding vigorously.
Kincaid stared at Father Damien for a moment before answering. "And you," he murmured. "I'd think you'd be the last to side with him."
Father Damien's brow furrowed; Damien's did the same. "What do you mean, side with him? I'm not taking anybody's side. I'm just saying that we should investigate this fully before we decide on whom to lay the blame."
Kincaid only cocked his head, emotionless as ever. "If you agree with him, then I say you're taking sides," he said, his voice still soft. But it fell even more with his next statement. "Do you even know what they do to people?"
It was spoken very softly, yet it hung in the air like an open threat.
All three of them started, Mitchell most of all. "What do you mean, people?" Damien whispered.
"I didn't do ANYTHING to ANYBODY!" Mitch squalled. "I swear!"
Kincaid ignored him, continuing to stare at Father Damien for a moment more, then glanced at Damien. "You'll probably find that out soon," he murmured, then turned away and exited the room.
For the longest time there was a deep silence which permeated everything, even Mitchell; he just sat where he was, shooting terrified looks around the room. Damien, finding he'd been holding his breath, let it out in a whoosh. Considering the stillness it very nearly rang off the walls.
"What they do to people," he said softly, his uncle turning to look at him in the dim light. "Do you think what he means is human sacrifice?"