Minot: Chapter 8
The Breaking Point
AS SOON AS Damien reached his apartment, he knew something must be wrong.
For one thing, Dino wasn't running around like crazy. For another, DJ wasn't stalking around declaring the worthlessness of men. And he uncovered the greatest shock of all when he realized Puck wasn't on his laptop.
"God!" he exclaimed, at the sight of them all sitting around his room. "What in the world's wrong with you all?"
They just gave him weird looks. Puck, from his station stretched out sideways over a chair, replied, "I think better what's wrong with Psyche. Why don't you tell him what you told us?"
Psyche, sitting on Father Damien's bed, shrugged and rolled her eyes. "I really don't think he'd believe me."
Damien snorted and sat down on the edge of his bed, causing Dino to scoot away. "You may as well try me. Everything else around here is getting a little too unbelievable to bear."
Psyche shrugged again and decided to go for it. "While you guys were at the station I had another one of those dreams," she said. "I wasn't even asleep or anything. I was just practicing my TM and--"
"Huh?" Puck asked, frowning at her.
"Transcendental Meditation," Psyche replied, giving him a dirty look for interrupting. Puck resumed his languid pose. "Anyway, I was practicing my meditation and all of a sudden there I was again, tied to that wooden thing, and those weird people were stabbing my leg. But this time it was different," she said, growing excited. Damien rolled his eyes this time. Uh-huh. "I saw something else--these people changed or something. Morphed. They had horns and they looked like monsters--huge goat-monsters. But, before I could get a good look," she added ruefully, "I blacked out."
"Yeah!" Dino exclaimed jubilantly. "We found her passed out on the floor!"
There was a long silence as Damien stared at Psyche; she shrank back a little, trying to avoid his gaze. "Well," she said in a small voice, giving in again, "maybe I was meditating too long...."
"Yeah, maybe," Damien suggested. "'Goat-monsters'? Stabbing someone in the leg? Just what kind of a dream is that, Psyche?"
"I don't know," she declared, throwing up her arms. "But whatever it is, it isn't mine."
Damien crossed his arms and gave her that smug look she found herself beginning to hate intensely. "Okay," he said, "so suppose you're right. What do you suggest we do?"
"Well," Psyche said thoughtfully, "we might try--"
"I told you, I only have these dreams about--well, you know--women!" Jenner stammered, as soon as Psyche put her question to him again at the station.
"Yeah," she pressed. "But do they ever tie you down and stab you in the leg?"
Jenner only looked baffled. "I don't know--maybe! But I really don't think they'd waste their time stabbing me in the leg when they could--"
"I think we get the point," Damien said, from his post at the wall next to Kincaid's office door. "Psyche here just wants to make sure."
"Yeah, okay," Jenner replied, still looking embarrassed. "But you know, I don't exactly go around discussing my dreams."
"That's okay," Psyche said, looking a little depressed, "I'll just check around some more." She went off to question some of the other cops milling around; all of them gave her weird looks. When Bowen left his office she confronted and asked him; over the hubbub the others couldn't exactly hear what she was saying, but Bowen's deep voice was loud enough for all to hear.
"What the hell?" he boomed. "I don't have any dreams like that. The craziest dream I ever had was when I fell into a huge vat of milk and nearly got eaten by a giant green cat. That weird enough for you?" And he stormed past, out of the building.
Psyche stood where she was for a moment, then turned back to the others, smiled helplessly, and shrugged. "Well...seems I'm getting closer, doesn't it?" she asked the air.
Kincaid's door opened and he stepped out, looking at a paper he held. When he noticed them all standing there, he stopped and looked at them. Psyche made a beeline toward him; Damien covered his eyes and walked away.
Psyche placed her hand upon Kincaid's arm; his gaze fell and stayed there until she removed it. Only then did he look up at her again.
"Hi," she managed to say. This was getting way too embarrassing! "You remember that dream I described at the Falcon's Nest, don't you?"
"I'll take that as a yes. Anyway, I had it again, and I was wondering if you've ever had any dreams like that."
For a very long time Kincaid just stared at her. She felt like turning away but forced herself to stare back. Neither of them wavered. Finally, as if sensing she wasn't going to back down, he replied mildly, "I don't remember any of my dreams," and turned back to the door.
She caught him by the arm, quickly letting go when he looked at her hand again. "Really," she said, desperate to find out just who was behind the weird visions. "Everybody has some dreams, and just about everybody remembers at least one of them. Haven't you ever had a really vivid dream?"
This time he turned back and actually smiled at her. She was so used to seeing him look blank that this caught her completely off guard; the smile, however, seemed to be more of a grin, and hollow at that, only pasted on, as Kincaid's eyes remained empty. "You get me," he said. "I've had lots of vivid dreams." And he turned once more to his office and went back inside, slamming the door behind him. A moment later the blinds in his windows flicked down, and his office was invisible to any of them.
Psyche stood staring at the place where Kincaid had been. From somewhere behind her, one of the cops chuckled and another one said, softly, but loud enough for her to hear, "Cuckoo!" She turned around just in time to see one of them twirling a finger at his temple; when he noticed her stare, he immediately quit, clearing his throat uncomfortably, and went back to work. Psyche, likewise, disconsolately returned to her group, and they all left the station.
"I never thought a smile could look so--grotesque," Psyche murmured as they sat sipping coffee at the Falcon's Nest. "I mean, it was all emptiness. And that's what made it look so sick."
"I don't think Kinnie actually knows how to smile," Puck said; evidently several others lounging around the tavern overheard him, for there were a few chuckles. Puck merely glanced over his shoulder to see who might have noticed, then turned back to cleaning his nails.
"I don't know," Psyche sighed, staring down into her cup as if the depths of her java might reveal the dream once more. "I get the feeling he wants to smile. It's just he really doesn't feel it enough to actually do it."
"Or can't feel it," Damien said absently. The others looked at him. Noticing their stares, he quit swirling his spoon in his coffee. "Oh," he said, "just something Bowen told me." He got up, leaving his coffee behind, and went to the counter to talk with Phil.
"I wonder if this place is inbred," Puck thought aloud. Everybody at the table looked at him but he ignored them, staring into his coffee as Psyche had. After a minute he snorted. "Y'know, I don't really like coffee. I don't even know why the hell I ordered this." And as if to prove his point he gulped it all down.
Damien had to wait a minute for Phil to finish with one of his customers; after that he came over smiling, drying off a glass with a towel. "Can I help you with anything else?"
"Yeah, kind of," Damien said, sitting down. Phil, taking the hint, found a pitcher of ice water, filled the glass, and passed it across to Damien. He received it and took a drink. "You say Kincaid comes in here a lot."
"Orders the same thing every day?"
"Uh-huh. Cup of coffee and a roll!"
"Does he ever talk with anybody?"
"Not really. Kinnie's more of a loner. Oh, sometimes somebody'll come along and talk with him, but he doesn't talk back very much."
"Somebody like who?"
"Usually Bowen, when he's got the time. Sometimes Jenner. Or one of the local hoods."
"You mean like Mitch?"
"Yeah, exactly like Mitch." Phil rolled his eyes as he picked up another glass to fill for a new patron sitting down nearby. "Go figure, huh?"
Damien was puzzled. "I kind of came to think Mitch hated Kincaid. Or at least the other way around."
"I wouldn't know. Kinnie, I don't really think he hates anybody, he just doesn't like talking to people. But he's a great listener, if you can catch him in one of his better moods."
"What do they talk about?"
Phil shrugged, and said, a little too defensively, "I don't eavesdrop."
Damien raised an eyebrow. As Phil moved away to tend to the other customer he decided to try something he'd never tried before; when Phil returned and tried to refill his glass he saw a twenty-dollar bill under it. His face went red, and he looked up at Damien.
"You're sure getting desperate for info, huh?" he asked, trying to keep the quaver out of his voice.
Damien shrugged. "Just anything you've got."
"Listen, you keep that. I don't want that. I run a respectable tavern here." He pushed the bill back under the glass.
"Really?" Damien said thoughtfully. "Then how come all the bad guys choose this place to make their 'transactions'?"
Phil flared. "Hey, that's none of my doing! I don't know why they come here! Maybe it's Kinnie they're after. You ever think of that?"
And immediately his face fell.
Damien grinned at him; the others, back at the table, were all looking his way, having heard his outburst. Phil just about shrank back behind the counter, but before he could, Damien reached out and placed a hand flat on his chest. It wasn't a threat, just a warning.
"I think maybe you'd better open up a little more," he said, friendly enough. "For starters, how about telling me about the local attractions?"
Phil swallowed hard. "Sure," he quavered. "Jonnie, mind the counter for a while. I'm going out to get some air."
One of his attendants came to take his place, and Phil shakily motioned Damien to follow him. They took the back exit, past the dance room, and disappeared outside.
"First of all, not everybody's being on the up and up with you," Phil managed to say as he and Damien walked outside behind the Falcon's Nest.
"Really," Damien said.
Phil apparently failed to catch the sarcasm. "Yeah, really. Me included. It's just that it's something nobody likes to talk about. Jeez, if Bowen knew I was telling you this--"
"I don't care about Bowen right now," Damien interrupted him. "What I care about is knowing just what everybody's hiding here."
Phil took a deep breath and sighed, spreading out his arms. "All right," he said. "For starters, I'm sure Bowen's shown you that picture of Mark Kincaid on the office wall. Am I right?"
"Well, just to get things straight, and you never heard it from me, that's not Kinnie's dad."
Damien stopped in his tracks abruptly. "What? Then who the heck is it?"
"His adoptive dad. I don't know who his real parents were. I don't think anybody in Minot knows. Nobody respectable, at least. But I'm sure you noticed the man in the picture looked too young to be Kinnie's dad. And you're right. That's because they found Kinnie when he was around sixteen, and when Mark was in his twenties."
"Hold on!" Damien exclaimed. "Found? What do you mean by 'found'?"
Phil gave him a sympathetic look and shrugged. "I'm sorry I can't tell you more. And it's not because of what Bowen might do to me. It's because I honestly don't know. All I know is that Mark found Kinnie on a bust when he was around sixteen, and they needed to put him in the hospital for a while. I don't know, I think maybe he'd been kidnapped and transported here from somewhere else. That would explain why nobody could find him or his parents on record. Mark took him in when they found out he was a John Doe."
"Just what kind of bust was this?"
Phil shrugged again, and Damien could hear the strain in his voice this time. "I don't know. Maybe drugs or something."
He decided to save that one for later. "So what about Mark? When he shot himself? Do you know anything about that?"
"Yeah. I was there. Not when he shot himself, I mean, but afterwards. I live a couple houses away from Kinnie's place. I was sick that night, so Jonnie was minding the Nest while I was in bed trying to recuperate." He gave a short, nervous laugh. "But it was around eight or nine in the evening--nine or nine-thirty, I think--and all of a sudden I heard this bang!--and so I shot out of bed--no pun intended, of course--and ran outside to see what had happened."
"How did you know it was at Kincaid's place?"
"'Cause that's where everybody else was running to. Most people in my part of the neighborhood go to bed kind of early; Kinnie's lights were on. It seemed he'd been the only one awake when it happened."
"What about after that?"
"I ran up to the door and started pounding on it. I swear," and he was chuckling now, "by the time Kinnie finally came to the door my hands were all bruised and raw. He just opened it a crack and looked out at me. 'God, Kinnie, what the hell was that?' I asked him. He told me Mark shot himself, and that the police were on their way."
"Hold on," Damien interrupted him again. "How did he tell you this? How was he acting?"
Another shrug. "He just told me. He just looked at me and said something like, 'Mark'--he never called Mark 'Dad' or anything--'Mark shot himself. He's upstairs. I've called the police and they're coming.'"
"He wasn't upset?"
"Hell, no. Not at all. He sounded almost bored, though I know he wasn't. And he'd seemed just fine earlier that week." This with a puzzled expression.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, a day or two before, he'd been at the Nest with Mark. They were joking and laughing and everything. Not that Kinnie himself was laughing much; but at least he was smiling then! But when I met him at his place it was like talking to a piece of plywood."
Damien paused a minute, trying to take everything in. When he realized Phil was waiting for him, he nodded. "Go on."
"Well, I pushed the door open and ran upstairs to see if maybe I could do anything to help, since Kinnie obviously wasn't. I think I was the only one besides Kinnie and the cops to actually see him. He was upstairs in his room, the door was busted open, so he must've locked himself in first. Kinnie broke it open--I know, he doesn't look it, but believe me, he's pretty strong when he wants to be!" And he laughed again.
Damien managed a grim smile, remembering Kincaid's tackle on Mitch. He nodded again.
"And there was Mark, half on the bed, half on the floor; he'd shot himself through the mouth." Phil shuddered. "First dead body I've ever seen, and believe me, I don't ever wanna see one again."
Damien sighed. Indeed he was learning a lot, but none of it was making any sense. "Doesn't anybody know just why he shot himself?"
"All the cops have a theory. They say he was upset about Kinnie. I mean, when they first found Kinnie, he was in bad shape. I don't know what was wrong with him. They had to hospitalize him. I heard they had a few private sessions--y'know, just Bowen, Mark, and Kinnie." He twitched his index fingers at the air. "Pure 'three on three,' if y'know what I mean. Nobody was told anything about what any of them said. But afterwards, Mark, man--he was crushed for some reason. I never saw him look so broke."
"I'm not sure. Maybe he and Bowen found out just what happened to Kinnie. How he got to be there, y'know. But nobody really knows. Bowen doesn't say anything. If you even try to ask--" He shuddered again. "Just believe me, you'd better not! And of course Kinnie won't tell you anything. Hell. Maybe he doesn't even remember."
"So when did Kincaid become a cop?"
"He was just getting into it before Mark killed himself. 'Following in his father's footsteps,' if you'll pardon the expression."
"How did he get to be lieutenant?"
Phil smiled almost wistfully at that. "True duty! He was--is--a great cop. When he became an officer, I swear, he was after everybody--with reason, of course. He uncovered this minor drug ring they had going on the outskirts of the city. Busted everyone in it. And he's the one investigating most of those animal mutilations going on around here. But all in all, as I'm sure Bowen or somebody else's told you by now, he's busted more people than any of the other cops have. Minot could always use a good cop. So Bowen up and made him lieutenant. So far he hasn't let anybody down yet." He sighed, and his shoulders slumped slightly. "Except for finding those guys messing up my bar!"
Damien nodded sympathetically. "Don't worry. I'm sure he'll find them sooner or later." Or better yet, we'll find them, he thought.
Phil sensed the catch in his voice but said nothing, instead leaning against the tree that had been impaled earlier. He spread his arms again and let out one last dramatic sigh. "So there you go!" he said. "The history of the Kincaid family, as told by Philip J. Falcon. But if Bowen ever asks, you never heard it from me."
Damien's mouth twitched into half a smile. "Oh? And what if Kincaid asks?"
Phil hitched a shoulder. "Well, not like he'll blow up or anything. Like you've seen, he mostly freezes when he gets pissed off. And though they're bad Kinnie's freezes are nowhere near as awful as Bowen's fireballs!"
A final nod. "Well, thanks for telling me everything you know. Oh, and by the way--" he turned back, from where he'd started to return to the tavern "--since they seem to be unlisted, could you give me Kincaid's address and number? Just off the record, you know."
Phil gave him a look, then nodded. He looked a little strained. "Sure," he said. "Why not. As long as it's off the record."
Damien smiled at him as they went inside, Phil's face pale, his mouth twitching, and followed. The people of Minot were beginning to open up after all.
He obtained a duty roster from Jenner the next day; all he had to do was ask for it, and the policeman gave it to him, though with a puzzled look, and returned to work. When he was by himself in his apartment he studied it, and found Kincaid's name and work period. He knew Kincaid was on duty now; just to make sure, he picked up the phone and dialed the lieutenant's number, waiting for it to ring. After three rings an answering machine picked up, and he hung up before it could beep. No one home.
So far, so good.
He dropped the schedule in the dresser drawer and, after studying Kincaid's address, dropped it in too. He got up and, putting on his coat, left the apartment.
It was just after he left that Dino and Father Damien came in, Dino yammering about ordering a pizza. "With extra toppings!" he exclaimed, scrabbling in Damien's dresser for the phone book. As he pulled it out the schedule and address fell out with it. Father Damien stooped to pick them up while Dino called the pizza place.
The priest sighed as he read the schedule and address. "Oh, Damien," he whispered.
Just as he'd expected, after the taxi had dropped him off, no one came to answer the door when he knocked, rang the doorbell, or even pounded. He decided to quit before any neighbors wondered what was going on. Kincaid's house was in a quiet, tree-lined section of the neighborhood, quite unlike downtown Minot. Out here, one could almost forget all of the troubles surrounding Falcon's place. Almost.
He stooped, rubbing his hands in the cold, and felt under the porch for a key. He tried above the door. Then he stooped again and began looking under rocks. Leave it to Kincaid to be paranoid with his housekeys. Damien finally had to resort to taking out a bobbypin he'd stolen from DJ and, bending it just right, inserting it into the keyhole. He put his ear to the door and listened as he moved it around; finally there was a click! and he could open the door. He did so slowly, moving cautiously inside.
The inside was just as all-American normal as the outside was; all in all, even after an extensive search, there was nothing to see. He decided to go upstairs and try to find the room Mark had allegedly shot himself in. Damien was beginning to think there was more to that than anyone was willing to say.
He found one bedroom upstairs, as there had been one downstairs; to his confusion, the one downstairs had seemed out of use, while this one appeared to have been recently lived in. But that didn't make any sense; Phil had clearly stated that Mark had shot himself in his upstairs bedroom, while Kincaid had been downstairs--so what did that mean?
He heard a cough behind him, and whirled around to face the doorway, his heart jumping up into his throat. Kincaid stood there, his hands in his coat pockets, giving him a cool stare.
Uh-oh, the more annoying part of Damien's mind thought.
"Might I ask what you're doing?" Kincaid asked mildly.
Damien could only blink at him for a moment, wondering just why--and how--he was here now. "Uh--I was--kind of--"
"Uh--" Damien gave it up, and decided to take his chances and be truthful. He held up his hands and gave what he was sure was a stupid smile. "Yeah."
"In my house."
Damien nodded, breaking his gaze and glancing at the floor. "Yeah."
"Without a warrant."
"You could say so."
"I suppose you'd like me to get you one then."
Damien looked up at him again, trying to tell if the policeman were joking or not. Kincaid looked back, and it seemed he, too, was being truthful. And, for some reason, that frightened him.
"Uh--no," he stammered. "No thanks."
A short silence. "Then why are you still here?"
Damien took a deep breath. Should he take his chances again? It seemed there was nothing else he could do. So he let his breath out, and braced himself.
"I'd like to ask you a question," he said slowly, "and I'd like you to answer."
A cold stare. And then, finally, the most encouraging thing he'd ever heard. "Go ahead."
"I want to know why your dad shot himself up here."
Almost immediately he noticed a change in Kincaid's eyes. A second before they'd been icy, totally blank; as soon as the statement left Damien's mouth, something flared in them, something that could have been surprise, or shock, or even fear. Then Kincaid opened his mouth as if to speak, and only a slight gasp came out. Damien backed away; he didn't know if this was a good sign or a bad sign. He cringed, half expecting the lieutenant to come at him.
But that didn't happen. A moment passed, and Kincaid said nothing; he just shook his head abruptly and blinked, looking around dazed, as if just waking up. He turned around, away from Damien; if he hadn't known any better Damien would have thought he'd been asleep until reaching the room, and couldn't remember how he'd gotten there. He crept away from the wall, going to Kincaid's side and peering at his face. Kincaid was staring at the bed, taking deep breaths. A long time passed. Damien, feeling a cramp begin in his neck, cleared his throat softly.
Kincaid's head whirled around to face him. Damien ducked back again. The policeman's eyes had changed again--now they were on fire. His lip curled up and he actually snarled like a cornered dog. "Get out!" he hissed, throwing up an arm to point at the door.
Damien was startled. "Excuse me--?"
"GET OUT!!" Kincaid just about screamed, and Damien did so.
He ran out into the hallway, slamming into the wall in his haste. He nearly tumbled down the stairs, so intent was he on getting out. He ran through the house and out the door and down the street, and didn't quit running until he was well away from that place. It was only then that he stopped in the middle of the road, gasping, his lungs burning for oxygen, and bent over, hands on knees, to gulp at the cold autumn air.
And then he looked around him, wondering where on Earth he was.