Minot: Chapter 9
FOR A FEW minutes he could only turn around in circles, staring at the unfamiliar street spread out before him. It looked much the same as Kincaid's part of the neighborhood, only a little more run down. But that didn't help him any. He didn't even know which direction the station was in. He wished he would have told the driver of the taxi he'd come in to wait for him--not that it would have helped, either.
Hearing a honk behind him, he stood up straight and turned to look. A squad car was coming his way, slowing down and pulling off to the side of the road. He went over to see who it was.
As he neared it the window rolled down and Officer Jenner stuck his head out, cocking it to the side to get a good look. "Damien?" he called.
"Yeah, it's me," Damien replied.
"What're you doing out here?"
"Just taking a walk."
Jenner frowned, but waved his hand. "Well, come on, and I'll give you a ride back to the station."
Damien went to the car and got in, and a moment later they pulled away from that place.
As they drove Jenner cast a look at Damien, biting his lower lip. "You weren't checking out Kinnie's place by any chance, were you?" he said.
Damien shrugged and gave a totally unconvincing smile. "Who, me? Why'd I do something stupid like that?" And he sighed and slumped back in his seat.
Jenner whistled through his teeth. "Just hope Bowen doesn't hear about this, or we're both in deep--well, you get the picture. After all, I'm the one who gave you that schedule. Heaven only knows where you got his address."
Damien found himself lying to spare Phil. "Through a wonderful device known as a phone book," he snorted.
"Oh." Jenner looked sheepish. Damien was grateful he didn't seem to know Kincaid's number was unlisted. "We should try to be more careful that way."
"Yeah, you could say so."
"So, what did you find out?" And the officer gave him an eager look, as if he'd been in on it all along.
Damien shrugged again. "Not much. Except for the fact that Kincaid seems to be residing in his late father's room, and nobody seems to be residing in his."
Jenner frowned again. "What's that mean? And what're you talking about?"
"I found out from Falcon," Damien said, giving Jenner a meaningful look. "So everybody can cut the act."
Jenner sighed. "Well, it's about time you found out, anyway. Just about everybody in this whole stinking town knows already. They just pretend not to. You know--Minot's just this all-American town where everybody knows your name." He chuckled. "Kind of like on Cheers. Something like what happened with Kinnie just isn't supposed to happen in a place like Minot."
"Yeah, but it does," Damien said. "And in other 'all-American towns' too. Like Cheboygan. And a lot worse goes on, too."
"I know." Jenner looked depressed now as he turned a corner, headed into town. Damien finally began to recognize the area, and went on.
"Anyway, from what Falcon said--and he was a witness, as I've been told--" Jenner nodded him on "--Mark shot himself in his upstairs bedroom, while Kincaid was presumably downstairs in his own room. But when I checked it out, the downstairs bedroom was locked up, and it was the upstairs bedroom that appeared to be lived in."
"So you mean Kinnie's moved up to his dad's room? That's weird. Just imagine if all those stories about ghosts were real!" He shuddered at the thought.
"Ghosts aren't what scares me about this place," Damien muttered, turning to look out the window.
"Yeah, me neither, not really. It's something more down to earth, if you can call it that." Damien looked up as he noticed they'd arrived at the police station; looking out the window, he saw Kincaid's Buick nearby. He sat up with a start. What Jenner had just said about ghosts suddenly seemed much more plausible.
"What the heck!" he exclaimed, pointing. "How could he be here? He was just home!"
"Jeez! You mean you barged in on him?" Jenner cried.
"No, no! I got there and let myself in. He came in when I was upstairs. How the heck could he be here already?"
Jenner appeared to relax. "Oh," he said, half apologetically. "Kinnie's like that sometimes. He doesn't dally around. I'm sure while you were out walking around the neighborhood he was already on his way back here."
Damien sank back, shaking his head. "This is getting way too weird!"
Jenner put the car in park and let the engine idle while he looked at Damien again. "So he caught you in the act," he said softly. "How--how exactly did he react to that?"
Another snort. "Pretty good. It wasn't that that bugged him. He even offered to get me a warrant so I wouldn't get in trouble for breaking in!" Jenner's look changed; he now looked just as confused as Damien felt. "But when I asked about his dad he went off."
Jenner's eyes widened. "Really? You mean he lost his temper?"
Damien nodded. "At first he just looked surprised, and kind of turned around and stared at the bed; then he screamed at me to get out." Damien shivered. "Thought he'd break my head if I didn't haul butt right then!"
"Wow," Jenner breathed. "That's really--I mean, I've never seen Kincaid lose his temper! I bet nobody in this town has! Sure, he's shoved people around a little, but he just--I mean, he just never seemed able--"
"I know what you mean," Damien assured him, opening the door and getting out. He winced. "I just hope he didn't feel fit to tell Chief Bowen about what happened."
"Pray he didn't," Jenner agreed, turning off the engine and also getting out.
After what had happened at Kincaid's place, Damien didn't even want to venture inside the police station; he felt as soon as he did both the chief and the lieutenant would be on him. However, as he opened the door and stepped inside, he saw something much different. All of the other police, usually at work, were standing around, staring either at him or in the direction of Kincaid's window. Damien stared back at them, then glanced at the window himself. The blinds were still drawn; a framed sign that had been hanging on Kincaid's door earlier now lay on the floor, as if it had been jarred loose. Chief Bowen's windows were likewise shuttered.
"What the heck happened?" he asked the air.
"Is that Damien?" a voice called from Bowen's office. He turned to see that Bowen's door was very slightly open. "Please tell him to come here."
It sounded innocent enough, but several officers nearby turned to look at him, and he didn't like the feeling their looks gave him; they seemed to be wishing him good luck. He sighed and, leaving Jenner behind, walked across the room and into Bowen's office.
Bowen sat at his desk, his hands folded on top of it. While Damien shut the door behind him he gave the singer an icy smile and motioned for him to sit down. "Please have a seat."
Damien glanced at the seat, just to make sure it wasn't covered with tacks, or maybe a coiled rattlesnake, then sat down, fidgeting uncomfortably. Luckily for him--or unluckily, perhaps--Bowen got right to the point.
"Now, I don't know what it is that's going on here," he began, all icy politeness, "but I'm sure you must know, and I'd like you to do something about it as soon as possible. Is that too much to ask?"
Damien shook his head and swallowed, finding it hard to catch his voice behind the lump in his throat. "No, sir."
"Good. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like you to try to talk with Kincaid and find out what's going on." Damien froze. What had Kincaid done? "In case you didn't know, I was informed he left work early only to return, slam his door, and barricade himself in his office. He won't answer my knocks. I believe he's playing with his letter opener again." Bowen tapped his fingertips together, still with that chilly smile. However, Damien saw his eyes were burning, and wondered how he managed to hold his temper. "Do you try it out yourself and see what you can get out of him. Capisce?"
"Capisce," Damien echoed, feeling very low and stupid. When Bowen said nothing else, he stood timidly. "Is that all, Chief?"
"That's all. Dismissed." Bowen flicked a hand at the air as if swishing away a bug. Damien turned away and exited the office, and it was only after he'd shut the door behind him that he leaned back and let out his breath in a loud whoosh.
Then he realized all eyes were upon him.
He lifted his head and glared at the police standing around. "Don't you guys have work to do?" he snapped, irritated.
There was a murmur as the office sprang back to life, the cops turning back to desks and bulletins, and pretending to be busy--pretending, because he knew they were just listening for the moment he knocked on Kincaid's door.
Which was just what he didn't want to do, with what had happened back at Kincaid's house. He looked down at the framed sign, now shattered, that lay before his feet as he stepped to the side of the room, and wondered if it had in fact fallen when Kincaid had slammed his door. He scooped it up into one hand, noticing it was a letter of commendation. Tentatively, he knocked.
There was no answer. The hubbub behind him calmed somewhat, but he ignored it and knocked again. "Hello? Lieutenant Kincaid?"
He tried to peer through the blinds, and knocked on the window; still no one answered, but inside he thought he could hear a thumping sound, and he swallowed. He turned back to the door, tried the knob, and found it unlocked. Uneasily, he entered.
"Hello?" he called softly. Kincaid sat in his chair, his back to him; he was jabbing the letter opener into the padded arm of the chair. Damien swallowed, setting the fragments on the desk and working his way to the side of the room to get a look at his face, as he had at Kincaid's house. The lieutenant was staring out the window fronting the street; he seemed to be angry, but somehow Damien knew it was just the look on his face.
"Uh--" he stammered, trying for words. Kincaid made no move to show that he'd heard, and only continued stabbing the chair. "Hi. I'm, uh, sorry about what happened back at your place. I mean, I shouldn't've said that. I mean, it is your life."
"And, uh, I'm sorry about breaking into your house like that. Listen, if you want, you can tell Bowen all about it. Heck, have him chew me out. It's not like it hasn't happened before."
"Listen, I shouldn't even be asking around about you. I'm starting to think maybe it is you these guys are after."
Jab-jab--Kincaid turned his head to look at him, and Damien could swear the look on his face was more accusatory than blank. At least eye contact is established, Damien thought, and he's stopped with that darn jabbing. But, as if to spite this thought, Kincaid turned back to the outside window and began the jabbing anew. Damien frowned, and took a step forward.
"It's about time you saw the light," Kincaid said to the window.
Damien shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. "I know," he said. "It's you these guys want, and I've been checking up on you instead of them. But you have to understand, I'm just confused with everything that's going on around here. I mean, not everybody's telling everything--"
"People have pasts," Kincaid replied, still staring out the window at the street, at the people driving and walking by. "Not everybody likes them to be known."
Damien cocked his head and leaned on Kincaid's desk. "Really?" he said. "If people have pasts, then how come you won't tell about yours?"
Kincaid looked at him again, and now even the "accusatory" look was gone. Damien sighed. He was almost wishing this guy would burst out again. At least then he'd gotten some kind of reaction. "Do you go around telling your past to strangers?"
Damien swallowed at that, uncomfortable. His past had gotten him in trouble before. But Kincaid's gaze was penetrating. "Every single little suspicion of yours, every single little doubt, every single little fear," he continued, the letter opener going up and down. Thankfully, before Damien felt he had to answer, the policeman turned away again. "I'm certain you wouldn't appreciate that," he said, jab-jab-jab. "And I'm also certain you wouldn't especially appreciate me doing it for you. So, I'd appreciate it if you didn't do that for me."
"Sure," Damien mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck uneasily. "But I wouldn't even be tempted if you were to--"
Kincaid swirled around in the chair and stood up, picking up his cane. "I believe it tells a lot about temptation in the Bible," he mentioned, almost offhandedly, putting away the letter opener and briefly straightening out his desk. "Perhaps you should talk to your uncle of temptation. Now, if you don't mind, I'm sure Chief Bowen wishes to know what's been happening lately. Since you're not going to tell anybody what you've recently been up to, I'll do you a favor in return. The chief won't hear about your incursion into my house. That'll be kept between you and me."
"Sure," Damien said again, unable to get anything else out.
"Good. I wish you good luck on your case." With that, the lieutenant, scooping up some loose papers, came out from behind his desk, opened the door, and limped out of the room.
Damien sighed as he looked out after him, at the faces of the rest of the policemen, who he was sure had just jumped back to their stations after listening at the door, and were still only pretending to work, and at Kincaid working his way to Bowen's office--
He frowned; something nagged at the back of his mind, something which he couldn't quite place his finger on. He'd noticed Kincaid's limp before, but hadn't really thought anything of it. Now something else was trying to connect with it, something else he hadn't paid attention to, and it was because of that that the pieces refused to fit.
Growling with frustration, he left the building for the Falcon's Nest.
"So you noticed that too, huh?" Puck murmured as Damien sat beside him at the bar counter at Falcon's, scowling down into his drink. Puck smiled faintly at his frustration. "Maybe yon Birdbrain can clear that up for you."
Damien shrugged. "I'm already in debt to him enough. He's told me far more than anybody else around here."
"Yeah, that's true, but not me." Puck leaned forward a little and waved his hand. Phil came their way and reached out to refill his glass. Puck's hand shot out to cover the mouth of the glass, and Phil stepped back, puzzled.
"Wanna ask you a question," Puck said.
Phil sighed. "Great," he muttered. "I just know Bowen's gonna get after me for flapping my trap too much. What do you want to know now?"
"You ever get a good look at how Kinnie walks? Notice that limp of his?"
"Yeah," Phil said, looking puzzled again.
Puck smiled innocently and shrugged. "Well, any idea how he got it?"
Phil shook his head. "Nuh-uh. Unless it was from the bust. I'm sure Damien's told you all about that."
"True. But you really don't know?"
"Listen, I wasn't there. Maybe he was hurt during the raid. Like I said, he had to be put in the hospital, 'cause he was injured or something."
Puck shot Damien a look. "Physically or mentally?"
"Hey!" Phil nearly shouted. "I'm not some gossipmonger, no matter what you think. I don't know what might be wrong with Kinnie. All I know is that he's a damn good cop, and an even better patron. So don't even try to ask me any more questions about him." So saying, he swept off, muttering to himself.
"Whoo," Puck said to Damien. "Tempers flare easily here, don't they?"
"You can say that again," Damien muttered. He sighed as an idea hit him. "Come on," he said, sliding off his stool. "I know someone we haven't talked to nearly enough."
"Really?" Puck got down also, tagging after him. "Who?"
Damien sighed again, looking miserable. "Mandie."
It took them a little longer than they'd expected, for at first they couldn't remember just where Mandie lived; they found themselves asking for directions, and actually received them, once they'd asked the right person (the right person being a young man walking along the street, Damien noticed with some trepidation). He felt as if they were about to enter the lion's den, but he knew they had to get any information they could, and even the littlest details could be tied in; Mandie he'd so far refused to question thoroughly, and he also knew the time had come to do so.
They finally got up the stairs to her apartment and knocked. "Just a minute!" came the reply, and they could hear a slight thumping sound.
"Hope she doesn't have company," Puck commented; Damien only scowled again.
The door opened. Both of them looked up, ready to speak; Damien then found the words stuck in his throat, and he turned away quickly, his jaw dropping and his hand going to shield his eyes. Puck only smiled again. Mandie had answered the door totally nude.
"Visitors!" she cried, clapping her hands together excitedly.
"And I'm afraid not for pleasure," Puck said, still smiling as if she were his baby sister.
Mandie's lower lip stuck out in a pout. "Darn," she said, sounding truly disappointed. "And I've just run the bathwater, too." She smiled coyly at Damien, who was trying to peer back, his hand still shielding everything below her neck. "You're sure you don't want to join me?"
"Positive," he replied, turning away and seething. He honestly didn't know how he was going to explain all this to Kat.
"Too bad. You?" Mandie turned back to Puck, smiling and batting her eyes. "Oo, it'd be fun!" And she jumped up and down.
"Please--" Damien ventured, putting out a hand. The jumping only made things worse. Puck still smiled back; Damien wondered if he was enjoying it, just playing along, or if his face was frozen that way. "We'd just like to ask you a few questions, that's all. Then you can--get back to your bath--or whatever."
Another pout. Then she shrugged. "Your loss." She turned around and went back inside, bouncing slightly as she walked. As they entered Puck reached down and scooped up the towel Mandie had dropped--on purpose, Damien was certain--on opening the door.
"I believe you dropped this," he called, as Mandie disappeared into the bathroom. She reappeared a moment or so later, dressed in a light long blouse; Damien couldn't be sure if she was wearing anything underneath it, but at least it was covering up everything it should. He sighed and uncovered his eyes, and Mandie gestured to her couch for them to sit down. They did, and she sat down on a chair in front of them, crossing her legs and smiling.
"Well." For once it seemed Puck had nothing to say. Damien gawked at him in astonishment, and nudged his ribs when he still continued to stare. Puck shook his head and started again. "We were just wondering, as we've been questioning everybody else in this town, if you might have anything to add to what we already know."
"Really? All this time and you're only just coming to see me?" Another pout; Mandie's full lower lip was certainly getting a good workout. "I've got lots of stuff to tell. All you have to do is ask--and maybe a little something else, too." She winked at them.
"Sure." Composed as ever. Damien sometimes wished he could be that way, and knew it was only through long, hard work, work which he didn't have the patience to deal with. Just like he didn't have the patience to deal with Mandie. "For one thing, do you know anything about Lieutenant Kincaid?"
"Oo! Kinnie!" She bounced up and down again, clapping her hands together and giggling. "I know a lot about Kinnie. Ask away!"
"Okay. Do you know anything about his past, before he became a police officer?"
Mandie frowned and bit her lip. "No, not much," she said, after some thought. Don't rack your brain too much, Damien thought. "Most of what I know of him comes after that. Way after that." And she giggled again.
"Well, what do you know about him?"
Damien tried to stop the question while it was coming out; now he knew Mandie would answer it no matter what. "Well, for one thing," she started, counting off on one long, well-manicured finger, "he just loves his coffee black." Damien grimaced. "And number two, he's the strong silent type. I love the strong silent type. They're so--mysterious." Another giggle. "And for another thing, I don't think he and Bowen get along too well." She waggled her finger as if scolding a small child. "Not that you heard it from me!"
"What makes you think that?" Puck asked.
Mandie shrugged. "Just a feeling I get when I'm around them both. It'd be pleasant but for that!" She grinned now. "It's like something's crackling between them--vibes, your little psychie friend might say."
Puck raised an eyebrow. Damien decided right then and there that he and Psyche were going to have a nice long talk later on. "Vibes? Good or bad?"
"I dunno. Neither. But, hostile, maybe." She shrugged again, looking honestly at a loss for an answer. "Like they don't want to, but they have to tolerate each other." The corners of her mouth formed a vampy grin. "I could tolerate them both together pretty well!"
"Yeah, yeah, that's nice," Damien interrupted. "But what we need here is some solid information. Something that can help us. So do you have any to give or not?"
Mandie pouted at him, looking hurt. "Okay," she said sullenly, "I'll try to be helpful. Just tell me what you want to know."
"Did you ever hear anything--anything at all--about Mark Kincaid's suicide? And how Kincaid came to be here?" Puck questioned.
Mandie sighed, and instantly her demeanor changed--she now seemed listless, almost bored, and impatient, as if she'd been through this many times before. "Sure, everybody did. News travels fast around a dull place like this." She waved a hand at the air, sneering and snorting. "Everybody knows the whole Kincaid family is kooky."
"Kooky as in--?"
"Kooky. You know, downright nuts." She drew circles at her temple. "Probably inbred, for all I know."
"And about the whole Kincaid family?"
"Hell, there were only two of them here." Damien was shocked to hear such a word come from what had earlier seemed such a honey-sweet mouth. "Kinnie and his dad. Mark. They're both wacked. At least, were. Till Mark blew his head off." She faked having a gun pointed in her mouth, pulled the trigger, and, making an exploding noise, fell back and twitched. Damien winced. Mandie just stayed in that position, draping an arm over the back of the chair. "Next question?"
"Why did he shoot himself?" Puck asked.
"Oh, everybody knows that. He knew Kinnie was kooky, just like him. So he blew his brains out rather than live with it."
"Kooky like him."
"Yeah, sure. They weren't blood relatives but you can pick that stuff up real quick, just from being around somebody who's already kooky enough. God knows Mark was." She snorted again. "After the raid he was babbling and bawling about everything--'Kinnie this, Kinnie that. Kinnie's kooky just like his good ol' dad.'" She shrugged and looked back at them through heavy-lidded eyes. "So, of course, he just decided to take the chicken's way out and end it all."
"What about the raid?" Puck inquired. "Do you know anything about that?"
She pouted. "I tried to get in on the action, but Bowie wouldn't let me. He never lets me do anything fun. But I snuck up and watched!"
Damien himself snorted. "And how old were you at the time? Three? Four?"
"Hey, I was old enough!" Mandie snapped. "Not that it's any of your business." She smiled coyly again. "And I suppose I should be flattered by your estimate of my age."
He winced again with disgust and turned away. No winning with this woman.
"But anyway, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, I snuck up and hid behind one of the cop cars--that was exciting! The thrill of danger, being someplace I shouldn't, with the lights flashing and the sirens wailing!" Her eyes shining, she then sighed and slumped slightly. "But really, there was nothing much to it. Just a couple cops running into this big ol' building and hauling some guys out. Drug raid or something, I don't know. Mark came out last; he had Kinnie with him." She smiled, only now it seemed--dare Damien think it?--a little sad. The expression made her seem older somehow. "Kinnie was only around sixteen or seventeen then, but he looked like a five year old. I tell you, his eyes were this big." She made rings around her eyes with her fingers. "And he was just looking around, like all these cars were monsters. I think he had amnesia or something. Nobody ever found out where he was from or how he got there; none of the people they busted ever said anything, and they were extradited somewhere else on other charges. Everybody just said he was a kidnap victim and left it at that." A shrug. "So, when nobody came to claim him, Mark adopted him and took him in. All the rest is history." She spread her arms. "Anything else?"
Puck finally got down to the point. "We heard that Kincaid had to go to the hospital for a while after this. Was he injured in any way?"
Mandie frowned. "I don't know. He looked okay to me, just scared. But then again, if he was really kooky even back then--"
"What about his leg?" Puck demanded. "Did you see anything wrong with his leg?"
Mandie stared at him for a long time, and then her face slowly began to brighten. "Say! You're right! When they got him out of there, he was limping real bad--like he just stepped on something sharp or something. Ow ow ow." She made a jerky hopping motion, which was difficult as she was still seated. "He still walks with a cane, as you've probably seen. Maybe he got hurt in the raid."
"Or maybe not," Puck murmured to Damien. "Maybe it was before the raid."
"Say! That could be it!" Mandie exclaimed. "I mean, nobody really knows what those people were doing with him there, they could've been cutting off his leg or something when they were caught."
"Or something else," Damien said now, his face starting to fall. One of the pieces of the puzzle was finally beginning to fall into place. He stood up. "Thanks, Miss--Mandie. That's all we need to know for now. We'll be sure to come back if we get any more questions."
Puck stood now, and Mandie followed. "Oh please, don't go!" she pouted, taking Damien's arm; he wrested it away from her. She stroked Puck's arm instead. "It gets so lonely around here, if you know what I mean--"
"Why? Don't you have Jenner to keep you company?" Puck asked suddenly. Damien whirled around to look at him, ready to ask what the heck he meant. But the look on Mandie's face stopped him short. She was scowling at them both now, her eyes narrowed to mere slits, her teeth showing white against her lips.
"What's that supposed to mean?" she growled, her voice grating, not at all honey sweet.
Puck smiled disarmingly and shrugged. "Nothing. Just thought the two of you got along. Maybe I was wrong." He turned back to the doorway, and Mandie relaxed, though only very slightly. "See you later."
"Yeah. Later." As soon as Damien and Puck were out in the hallway the door behind them slammed abruptly, causing them both to jump. Puck looked down to notice he still held the towel he'd retrieved from the floor, and, with one last shrug, he tossed it over his shoulder as they left the hall.
"So," Damien said, needlessly and conversationally, as they departed the building, "did we learn anything today?"
"Yep," Puck replied, twirling the towel. However, his answer wasn't the one Damien had been looking for. "Seems to me Officer Jenner isn't as lily white as we'd suspected."