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Minot: Chapter 11


THE NEXT DAY Damien could find neither head nor tail of either Jenner or Psyche; he decided that was just as well, since he didn't really have anything to say to either of them, apart from the fact that he'd have liked to ask Psyche a little more about her so-called "dreams." But he figured that could wait until later; the only thing he could think of that was left to do was to ask anyone else in town if they knew anything about what was going on. Falcon had a lot of patrons. And there must have been more than he and Mandie who saw Mark Kincaid's "bust."

Father Damien was already gone when he left; he went to the police station to ask around, either if anybody had seen him or if anything new had come up. The police were more open now; not all of them were as doltish as he'd at first taken them to be. It was only the circumstances which had made them seem so. In fact several of them were quite helpful; he recognized the one Jenner had called Hawthorne, who was as polite to him as to anybody. After asking around he found out that, no, no one had seen Father Damien that day; but yes, they had seen Psyche, she'd left earlier with--you guessed it--Jenner in tow. He left them and went to see if Kincaid was in. His blinds, for once, were up, and he was in, but he was on the phone, listening to someone and jabbing his desk with the letter opener. Damien decided not to bother him; he might still be stewing about what had happened at his house the other day. He knocked on Bowen's door, which was standing open; Bowen looked up and waved him in. He seemed to have cooled down since yesterday.

"Anything new?" Damien asked, before Bowen could ask him the same thing.

Bowen shrugged. "Not really. I was just about to ask you. What're you up to now?"

"I was gonna go downtown and see if there's anybody else I could ask about anything."

The chief frowned. "'Anything,' what?"

Damien shrugged himself, then sighed and decided maybe he'd better let it out. "Let the truth be known, I'm telling you what I've found out. There's two major things here I need to clear up, and it seems I'm going to have to ask a lot of people who weren't really involved because, for some reason, those who were involved don't feel like talking."

"Go ahead."

"Number one, is Sergeant Kincaid's suicide. You've told me about that. So I can say thanks."

"You're welcome."

"Number two, is this drug bust thing."

Bowen looked confused. "Drug bust?"

Another shrug. "You tell me. Nobody else seems to know just what it was. It was the one Sergeant Kincaid was involved in." He noticed Bowen's expression change as he said this. "The one where he found Kincaid."

"Who told you about that?" Bowen asked.

"A couple of people who'd rather remain anonymous." Bowen looked disgusted but thankfully didn't blow up. "And that's the truth. What about you, Chief? Were you inv--"

"It's a closed case," Bowen interrupted him abruptly, turning back to his files. "And I'd prefer it to stay that way."

Damien sighed and shrugged once more. "Fine, if you won't talk about it, then I won't badger you." He thought it best not to say, "Then I'll see who will." Bowen might be more lenient, but he certainly wasn't that lenient. At least, not yet. "See you later." He started to leave, then turned back. "Oh, by the way, you seen Officer Jenner today? I heard he was with a friend of mine."

"Yeah, earlier this morning. Asked for a little time off. I don't know where he went. You'd have to ask your friend."

"I'm sure she knows," Damien murmured, as he left.

The sun was shining down through the leaves still left on the trees; and there were a good number of them, considering it was almost November. The ones that had fallen crunched noisily under Officer Jenner's and Psyche's feet as they took a trail through the woods, he pointing out the interesting aspects of the scenery.

"There used to be a fort there," he said, pointing at a small hill. Minot was situated near the Souris River, and as such there were more trees around than in most of the rest of the state, which she knew to be mostly very flat and very plain--in two meanings of the word. This neck of the woods looked a lot like Michigan. "Really old," Jenner went on. "1800s. They had to set up this archaeological dig to find all of the stuff the soldiers left behind. Lots of pans. Some rifles, I think, and even a human skeleton."

"Amazing," Psyche said.

Jenner nodded. "He was still dressed in his army gear. Of course, it mostly disintegrated when they unearthed him."

Psyche was only half listening. In truth she was thinking about some other, more recent, corpses.

As if sensing this, Jenner changed the subject. "Up over there there's a manmade pond. They rent out paddleboats and sell tourists fish food to feed the trout."

She nodded, watching the patterns the sunlight made on the fallen leaves. Yellow, orange, red...

Jenner peered at her closely. "You don't like to talk very much, do you?"

She shook her head and looked at him. "I'm sorry?"

He smiled awkwardly, and kicked up a bunch of leaves. "Never mind."

"I'm sorry," Psyche echoed herself, and she was truly so. "I wasn't listening. I just got kind of caught up--"

"I know what you mean," he said as soon as she paused, trying to think of an excuse for her behavior. "Sometimes I come out here and I just lose all track of time. I snap out of it and it's the middle of the night. Whoa! Time to go home."

Psyche smiled, letting him accept the explanation as her own. Then she frowned and stopped walking so abruptly that he took a step or two beyond her before stopping and turning around.

"I'm sorry," she said a third time, "and I know this sounds kind of--you know--but--aren't you married?"

He smiled again, sort of wistfully. "I was. Had a little girl, Chelsea. But she's living with her mother now."

"Oh. I didn't know--" She flushed, not knowing why she should be embarrassed.

"That's all right. I was wondering if anybody would notice that." He shrugged fatalistically. "But apparently not!"

She laughed at the look he got on his face, and they continued walking, passing the pond Jenner had spoken about several minutes before. It was a while before she spoke up again.

"I know I shouldn't be letting it get to me," she said slowly, not sure how to start, "but it's just that these dreams are so--well, foreign to me, you know?" She didn't wait for him to answer, but instead went on. "I know I'm not the one having them. I mean, I'm having them, of course, but it's like they're being sent to me from somewhere else. Like from a radio transmitter. And I'm picking them up."

"Like a radio."

She looked at him to see if he were joking; he didn't seem to be. She continued.

"It's not often that I get such strong images, you know. Usually it's just a feeling, kind of like a feeling of foreboding I get for no real reason--"

Jenner grabbed her arm suddenly and she jerked to a stop, looking up at him. He was staring ahead of them, his eyes wide, his mouth open. He quickly turned to her and forced a smile, but it was as unconvincing as Kincaid's. "Hey, I think I've got some change in my pocket," he said quickly and breathlessly, as if he'd just come up with a wonderful idea. "We can go check out those fish."

She looked away from him and ahead on the path, even though he squeezed her arm harder. With a start she realized that they'd walked almost in a circle, and had come around behind the Falcon's Nest. The trees here were growing thinner and she could see the whitewashed back of the building far ahead through the scrub. But it wasn't the building that got her attention. It was a tree further along the path, on their right side. There was something in the tree.

She broke away from Jenner, ignoring his call, and strode toward the tree. She'd never been particularly faint about blood or bodies, as many women were thought to be; but what she saw nonetheless made her pale and reach out to grasp a sapling to steady herself. It was that bad.

Hanging by its neck from an outthrust branch of the tree, over the path, was the carcass of a German shepherd. It had been skinned completely, its eyes gouged out. Like the goat, its tongue was lolling out of its mouth. Its throat wasn't cut, so she guessed that the poor thing must have been flayed alive.

Jenner reached her just as she put a hand to her mouth, uncertain if she could take the sight any longer. Obviously the dog had been here a while; already there were flies buzzing around it, even in this cold weather. She'd never been able to tell just where they came from, so quickly and in such great numbers.

"Shoo. Go away," she said, trying to swipe them away ineffectually with one hand. Jenner caught her other hand and she started to cry. Though she didn't really think it was proper, especially for somebody she'd just met, she couldn't help it; she turned around and buried her face in his chest. He put his arms around her back and stared at the tree and its gruesome burden.

"Looks like maybe Kincaid was right," he murmured, and she looked up again, her eyes red and running. The bark had been torn from the side of the tree, and carved into it was a wooden testament:


Psyche was sitting near the exit to the police station, her head in her hands, oblivious to all that was going on as police rushed to and fro. Jenner had had a Polaroid camera with him when they'd gone into the woods, in case they'd seen any unusual birds (he'd told her he liked to go out and watch for them, even if he wasn't a full-time birdwatcher); with it he had taken pictures of the tree, and brought them back with him to show to Bowen and Kincaid. Bowen didn't seem to want Kincaid to see them; however, he'd been the one whom they'd seen first, and so he'd been the first to see the pictures. He was staring at them blankly while Bowen shook his head.

"Okay, Kinnie," he said, in a resigned voice. "Maybe I should've listened to you before. Whoever's up to this is getting serious."

"I'm afraid they already are," Kincaid said, though he didn't sound afraid at all.

Bowen sighed. "Yeah, of course you're right. So what should we do? Any ideas?" He looked up at Jenner, and over at Psyche, as if asking for help.

Jenner shrugged helplessly. "I really don't have any, sir."

Another sigh. "Well, that Damien guy went out today to do some checking up. Maybe he'll come up with something we can use for a change. But we're gonna have to start mobilizing ourselves here. A cut-up goat stuck to a tree, sure, I guess that's pretty routine, especially around here. But this is a bona fide death threat we've got on our hands now. I'm just surprised it didn't come along a lot sooner."

"It came along a lot sooner than you know," Kincaid corrected him, and said nothing more.

When Father Damien showed up at the station Psyche got up to go with him. Jenner had called the motel room and found him there, wondering where Damien was. As he and Psyche left the building he cast a glance at her.

"Where were you, anyway?"

"I was with Jenner, taking a walk. Where were you?"

"Just picking up some groceries. It seems all I have to do is be gone for two minutes and something else erupts."

"At least Bowen seems to be taking it more seriously this time," Psyche sighed. "If someone I knew were getting death threats, I'd have done something sooner. I was wondering how Kincaid fel--" She stopped abruptly and keeled over, landing on her knees. Father Damien quickly dropped and caught her by the arm.

"Psyche?" he asked, alarmed. "Psyche, what is it!"

She was holding a hand to her head. "My--head--hurts--splitting--falling--apart--"

"Let's get you back to the motel," he said hurriedly, helping her to her feet and not letting go as they staggered back to his car.

All the way back to the Motel 6 Psyche was murmuring, shaking her head with her eyes closed. Father Damien wondered if it was another one of those dreams--but didn't dreams usually take place at night? Then again, the one she'd had while meditating hadn't; but she'd never said anything about actually living through the dream! All of this had him too confused.

He just about had to carry her inside, and was grateful that AJ and Dino were there. They helped him put her on the bed, and then stood around staring down at her.

"Is she having a dream?" AJ asked, puzzled.

"I'm not sure. She was talking earlier. Psyche, can you hear me? I'm right here."

"--Pounding," she said breathlessly. She shook her head. "--Music candles."

AJ and Father Damien glanced at each other. Music candles?

"--Something in my head. People people people. Voices."

"Whose voices? Psyche, are you awake?"

"Awake?" She opened her eyes briefly. "Yes...." Her eyes closed again and she lapsed back into semiconsciousness. "He's talking to me," she said suddenly, her voice clear now.

Father Damien frowned. "Who?"

It seemed as if she'd broken the initial hold the dream had over her; now she appeared to be talking in her own voice. "I'm not sure.... I don't know him. But I do. I should know him, and this other one does, but I don't...." She lapsed again and frowned. "I knew it," she said, her voice changing and her eyebrows going down. "Times telling them listening no one telling telling always looking upward not in far down in hurting with blood everywhere red red red mad no one's listening."

The whole sentence had been spoken so rapidly the words had run together and were hard to understand. AJ was actually backing away as if she were possessed.

"Psyche." The priest was still trying to get at her. "Psyche, wake up."

"Of course they're all wrong," she muttered. "He told me before. Shouldn't have trusted. I should show them now. He tells me--"

"Psyche, wake up!" He didn't care if whatever she said had any importance; he wanted to stop this thing now!

She opened her eyes and looked at him. This time he backed away; there was something vaguely familiar about the look she gave him. He couldn't remember where he'd seen it before, but when Psyche smiled dimly, her eyes not obeying her smile, he crossed himself as if he actually were facing some demon.

"He's talking to me," she said, still with that empty grin. "And he doesn't like you."

She gasped and started, sitting upwards and grabbing her head. The other two--Dino had left the room almost from the first, crossing and muttering to himself--came forward again, both asking questions at the same time.

"Psyche, what was that?" AJ asked.

"What did you see? Who was talking?" Father Damien prodded.

"My head!" Psyche cried, cringing. "Is there any aspirin?"

AJ shakily poured her two, and she took them dry. "It won't stop pounding," she said, her voice faint.

"Do you remember anything you said?" Father Damien asked. "You were talking."

"Yeah, I kind of remember.... God, there was someone talking to me--two voices. I know one of them, but I couldn't place the other one."

"Who was the first?"

"I'm not sure. All I know is I've heard it. And it wasn't exactly a voice; it was like thoughts. But these thoughts! They slammed into me just like a wall!" She shook her head. "I don't know what to say, FD, but whoever we're dealing with has a problem."

He frowned again. "What do you mean?"

"Well, for one thing you've probably realized there's something very unusual about the way he's thinking. And for another, whoever else was talking to him is somehow convincing him we're the bad guys now."

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