Minot: Chapter 17
PSYCHE SMILED SLIGHTLY as she watched the wine pour into the glass. "I'm not a big one on wine, I hope you know," Jenner said, catching her eye. "But I thought maybe I could break it out this once."
"What's the special occasion?"
He smiled back. "Nothing particular. Except everything's going the right way."
She raised an eyebrow. "What about this case?"
He shrugged. "It could be worse." He didn't say anything else about it. He held up his glass and she held up hers.
"To completion," he toasted. "To acts carried out and done."
She frowned inwardly at the odd toast, but clinked her glass against his just the same.
She swirled the wine around in the glass as he took a drink. Contrary to what she'd hoped, her mind was nowhere near the dinner Jenner had presented. All she could seem to think about was Kincaid, and that weird vision. Why would Kincaid be talking with his dead father? Or was his dead father really talking? She wasn't inclined to believe so, yet the words left no room for doubt as to who it was. She'd tried shoving that out of her head earlier. But on the way there, driving past Kincaid's house, she could have sworn she'd seen someone looking out the window at them as they went by--and that had just stirred the thoughts up again.
"You can't get your mind off it, can you?"
She looked at Jenner. He gave her a frank look back. "That obvious?" she asked, a little dismayed--though she didn't know why.
He shrugged again and took another drink. "Just that you happen to get quiet when you're thoughtful. What's bothering you so much?"
She wished she could brush it off as easily as he did. "It's just--well--Thursday this weird thing happened. I've already told you I can pick up on things, haven't I?"
He smiled. "Of course you have. That's what we first started talking about."
"Well, I was wondering about this case. Those dreams I told you about, remember?"
"I wanted to figure out just who's having them. Thursday afternoon I tried to find out."
Now he swirled his wine around, looking interested. "Did you learn anything?"
Psyche sighed. "I think I did."
She paused for a moment; he didn't interrupt, so she went on. "First I just tried listening. I finally heard these voices--three of them. The first one just said, 'Come here a minute.' Then I heard another voice saying, 'You don't believe me!'"
Jenner raised an eyebrow.
"I know the voice," she said firmly. "It was Kincaid."
He lifted his head now. "Kincaid? You're sure?"
She nodded. "I recognized his voice. He just kept saying no one believed him. Then there was a third voice--and this one said it was okay, he wouldn't let them get to Kinnie like they got to him. I know who that was, too. It was Sergeant Kincaid."
"But he's dead."
"I know that. That's what I don't get. Was Kincaid just imagining it, or was he really talking with him?"
"Did you pick up anything else?"
"No...I don't think so, not that time. But--I know something's happened to his leg. That's what was going on in the first dreams. He was getting stabbed in the leg. Tied down." Her fists clenched unconsciously. "And someone kept stabbing him in the leg...." She trailed off. Jenner stared at her. Her eyes widened.
"Hey! Wait a minute!" she exclaimed. "If these animal mutilations are the work of a cult--some kind of cult, like Mitch said they were--then would that explain Kincaid? Tied down and stabbed? That sounds like cult activity! What if he was in the cult too!"
Jenner frowned. "But what makes you say that?"
"I don't know! But that would explain everything! If that were it no wonder he wouldn't want to talk to us about it! God, I can't believe we never thought of that!"
He didn't say anything in response, but his look told her he must think she was at least a little batty. She trailed off again and stared into her wine, flushing. Leave it to me to act like a total lunatic on a date. She took a drink just to show him she appreciated the evening. They were both silent for a while.
"I had this cake," Jenner said, looking around the table. "Damn, I must have left it in the kitchen." He started to get up, but she stood up before he could, nearly knocking over her glass. She steadied it before it could fall over, moving toward the kitchen.
"I'll get it!" she said, desperate to make up for her stupid raving. "It's no trouble."
"No, really, I--"
"No, it's okay! 'Bout time I did some of the work around here. You just sit." He did so and watched her disappear into the kitchen.
She glanced around, leaving the door open behind her. "Cake. Cake," she muttered. She couldn't see one. Maybe he'd left it in the fridge.
"I'm going to look in your fridge, okay?" she called.
She opened the refrigerator door and peered inside, pulling out a bottle and looking around. Still no cake. "You're sure you brought it in the house?" she called, thinking maybe he'd left it in the car. Truth was, she hadn't remembered seeing a cake at all. "Maybe you forgot--"
Something cold and sharp pressed itself against her throat. She gasped and dropped the bottle; it crashed to the floor, sending shards of glass in every direction. She was half pulled, half dragged back toward the middle of the kitchen.
"I truly didn't want it to end up this way, you know," Jenner's voice came next to her ear, and she was shocked to find he sounded sincere about it, even as the knife pressed closer to her throat. "But you and your friends are just finding out too much. Maybe if you'd just buried the animals and left it alone this could have worked out."
She swallowed, unable to speak. The glint of the huge knife stopped her from doing so. She didn't know what amount of movement it would take to send that thing inside.
"--Why?" she finally managed. Maybe it would at least give her some time to think, what to do--
He leaned over her shoulder and smiled. He evidently understood the question as he responded. "There's no answer to why. These things just happen. Kincaid would have been a whole lot better off without your interference."
"--But--you were going to kill him--"
He shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. It all depended. On whether he took care of himself first, as he apparently has. But now that you and your friends have dragged everything back up it seems we'll have to take care of him after all."
"Oh, he took care of himself pretty well. No problem there. We didn't even have to do anything. If you're as psychic as you say you are you should know he's very dead. Kinnie's just cracking up, that's all. You end up talking to yourself when you're crazy."
A million thoughts were whirling around in her mind. She couldn't believe the turn this was taking. Her eyes roamed the room, looking for any means of escape. Yet there was only the door leading back to the dining room, and the opposite door leading to--she wasn't sure where. The knife was still cold and sharp against her throat, Jenner's hand still clamped over her arm.
"I could have handled it all pretty well myself," Jenner continued, "and you know that's not hubris. The more people are involved the messier it gets. And Mitch was simply a nobody. So eager he has to live his life from a book. A neophyte. He was easy to use. I'm pretty sure we'll have to get rid of him, eventually." She didn't understand what he was talking about yet didn't interrupt. "And Mandie, well, she never even knew the half of what was going on. I doubt her empty little head could withstand it all." He bent his own head forward and smiled at her graciously. She stared back, her eyes huge. "It's too bad it had to end up this way. You would've made an excellent candidate. That was one thing Mitch was right about." He snorted. "Probably the only thing." His voice softened now. "I would've liked to get to know you better. I hope you know I mean that, truly I do."
The scariest thing was that she did! All of this was simply too crazy. She had to find a way out before he went over the deep end--as if he hadn't already!
The other door was only a few feet away, if she could only be sure she could make it--that knife and its razor edge--
She had no choice. She had to take her chances.
She took a breath and jabbed her elbow backwards, into Jenner's stomach. He gasped and let go of the knife--it just barely missed her neck. She broke free and tore toward the door, just barely managing to push it open, dash through, and slam it shut. She glanced around wildly, looking for any heavy objects to block it. This appeared to be a laundry room; there was a hamper nearby, and she pushed it forward and under the doorhandle just as it started to turn. It rattled a little, then there was a pounding on the door.
"Psyche?" The pounding continued. "Psyche, open the door! You're stuck in there, you know--the outside door is locked."
She backed away again, toward the far wall. There was another door there; when she tried it she found Jenner was telling the truth. There was the rattle of a padlock and chain.
Locked. From the outside.
Well, so far everything Jenner had bothered telling her had been true. She shouldn't have doubted his word on this.
There was a window higher up in the wall, but looking at it she could tell the only way she could reach it was to drag over the hamper--and there was no way she was going to do that! All she could do was keep glancing around futilely, trying to think what to do next.
Jenner was right. She was trapped.
The pounding went on. Jenner called her name several more times. Then the house fell silent. Psyche saw a flicker of light out of the corner of her eye and turned to look over her shoulder, up at the window. Thunder boomed dully; it was already raining. In the back of her head, one of the crazy thoughts that was zooming around, she wondered when it had started.
"Psyche." Jenner's voice startled her this time, though there was no reason it should have; it was soft and completely free of malice of any kind. "Open the door. We can settle this."
"You think I'm nuts?" she shouted back, knowing it was a bad idea but unable to stop it nonetheless.
A quiet laugh. "I never said that about you. This doesn't have to hurt. You're only making it harder."
Another flash of lighting, and a boom of thunder. Psyche gasped when she heard a loud bang from the direction of the locked door. She backed away again, tripping on something and knocking over a wall shelf as she fell.
"Psyche?" Jenner sounded alarmed now, as if afraid she'd hurt herself.
Psyche cowered back in the furthest corner she could find. The door suddenly rattled in its frame as something ran into it; it rattled again, and then a third time as it crashed inward, falling forward on the floor, taking part of the frame with it. A dim shape came staggering in, soaking wet and wielding a gun. It looked at her.
Psyche's eyes widened with disbelief. "Lieutenant Kincaid?"
An insane smile crept up his face, and he gave a short breathless laugh. It looked as if he'd been running around the entire neighborhood for two hours. Water was running in his eyes and his sleeves were torn, his arms bruised from slamming into the door, yet he didn't seem to notice. "So," he croaked, simply. "He's been getting through to you, too."
He turned away, promptly forgetting her, toward the barricaded door. He flung the hamper aside as if it were a foam brick. "Jenner!" he screamed, his voice shrill and ragged. Psyche cringed and covered her ears. "I know you're in there!"
This time there was no reply from beyond the door. Kincaid yanked it open, disappearing into the house.
"He's got a knife!" Psyche shouted after him; it was silly, as Kincaid had a gun, yet she felt she had to warn him somehow. Jenner, at least, had lost it; she wasn't sure about Kincaid, but she felt she'd rather be stuck with him than the former. At least he hadn't tried to kill her yet.
She got up to run to the door and look inside and nearly fell over; her head was spinning. It had to be Kincaid doing it; she'd picked up his thoughts unbidden before, so why not now? But what was he thinking? She couldn't see straight and just about had to drag herself over the doorsill. She could see neither Jenner nor Kincaid; there were sounds coming from further inside the house, and she decided that must be where they were.
Lightning flashed; the sounds were coming from the den, which Jenner had shown her on arriving. There was an arched doorway leading from the dining room into the den; as soon as she staggered into the dining room she saw Kincaid's silhouette, brandishing the gun.
"Where are you, damn it?" he hissed at the air. "You can't hide when I see where you are."
"Lieutenant Kincaid, be careful--"
"You heard him. You know what he had to say," Kincaid said to her, then turned toward the hallway.
Jenner stepped out, and now Psyche's heart jumped when she saw he had a gun. She'd nearly forgotten that, as a policeman, he had one, too.
"Get out of my house, Kincaid," he said, his voice level but slightly raised to be heard above the storm.
Kincaid laughed crazily. "Out of your house? Now you say I'm trespassing? What kind of a crime is trespassing compared to what you've done?"
"It's nothing compared to what I'm going to do. Now get out!"
The sight of the two cops, their guns trained on each other, was a little more than Psyche could take. She backed away toward the arch in case she had to make her escape. Kincaid crept in a circle around the room, keeping his gun aimed between Jenner's eyes. Jenner didn't look the least bit afraid; in fact, he looked slightly offended, as if Kincaid had burst in in the middle of a private party.
"I know you're hiding behind your badge," he hissed. "It's a tight little spot. You can't fit back there. Not when I'm looking down on you. Overhead. Looking down!"
"You're nuts! Get out of my house!"
The weirdest sound rose in Kincaid's throat. It started out as a sort of growl, rising quickly into a high-pitched whine. Even Jenner was caught off guard. Kincaid leapt forward suddenly, knocking the gun from Jenner's hands and knocking Jenner to the ground.
Thunder blasted and lightning ripped open the sky; the lights flashed and went out. Psyche gasped and brought her head back into the dining room. Jenner managed to gain his feet and he and Kincaid started fighting for the gun. A shot rang out, ricocheting off the wall. Psyche ducked now as plaster splintered over her head. A piece hit her above the eye; she blinked and everything went red. She looked again at the two struggling in the next room, and gasped at what she saw.
Kincaid's teeth were set in a snarl as he attempted to keep a hold on his gun; I can make it I can make it I can make it and *You can do it you can do it you can do it* were buzzing in his head. But then his own thoughts and the voice started to melt together, rising into a screaming crescendo; his eyes widened with horror as he saw that Jenner's face was melting too, changing, horns sprouting from his head, his eyes going wild, a bloody inverted cross forming over his forehead--
"LET--GO!" Jenner/the goat-monster screamed, its own voice distorted past recognition.
Kincaid didn't let go. His fingers were frozen. The gun slowly turned to aim his way, waving at his face; he didn't notice, he was too preoccupied with what was going on. The gun wasn't even a gun anymore, it was a knife, a long-handled ivory knife; the blade was covered with blood, and he knew without looking, so was his leg; blood was all over the face of the thing in front of him, the thing that had been a man but wasn't a man any longer--
BANG! Psyche jumped. Kincaid's mouth opened but nothing came out. He let go his hold on the gun and staggered back, a blossom of red growing over his left shoulder. No, no, no! Psyche screamed in her head, only dimly aware of a strange crashing, tumbling sound coming from behind her. Don't back up, don't back up, he'll get you--!
He's got me, he's got me, Mark, what do I do? Kincaid cried in his head.
Yet there was no answer.
Jenner snarled this time, panting from the fight; he stepped forward, lifted the gun, aiming it this time and cocking it--
Chief Bowen stepped in beside Psyche, his own gun drawn. "Don't do it, Jenner!" he shouted, aiming at his officer's head.
Jenner froze. Psyche moved aside as Officer Hawthorne and several others appeared, all of their guns also aimed at him. A few more came into the dining room from the porch where she'd first entered the house earlier that evening. There must have been at least six or seven total not counting Bowen; she could hear others still behind her and outside.
Damien and his uncle crept up behind Psyche. Damien touched her on the shoulder; she turned to look at him, her face stark white in contrast to the blood still dripping from the cut on her forehead, and nodded, affirming that she was all right. They looked back into the other room.
There was a tense pause. Everyone seemed frozen to the spot, unable to move. Only Kincaid made any noise at all, and he was touching his bleeding shoulder, staring at the blood with a mixture of terror and confusion in his eyes.
"Drop the gun, Jenner," Bowen said, his voice very low.
Another moment passed. Jenner turned his head slowly to look at Chief Bowen. The police chief's eyes were cold and emotionless as steel. The barrel of the gun was aimed directly between Jenner's eyes. He looked around, and it was the same from every other gun. Hawthorne's hands were shaking slightly, yet he looked as if he could get off a good shot or two should he really want it.
Bowen spoke up once more. "It's not worth it."
A faint smile crept up Jenner's face. For a moment Damien--and, he was sure, most of the others--thought he was either going to take a chance or put the gun in his own mouth. History has a way of repeating itself, his head said. Often in the most unusual ways.
Yet Jenner slowly and carefully put one hand out to the side, crouching and gently laying the gun down on the floor with the other. He stood again, just as slowly, keeping his arms out straight. There was a brief second when a look passed between him and Chief Bowen. Then, as if at some unspoken command, several of the other cops rushed forward, grabbing both the gun and Jenner's arms, clamping handcuffs over his wrists. It was Hawthorne who dared to speak up first.
"You have the right to remain silent," he started, his voice wavering. "Anything you say--"
"'--Can and will be used against me in a court of law,'" Jenner interrupted. "'I have the right to an attorney. If I cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for me.' I understand these rights, Officer Hawthorne; I've memorized them myself. And no, I don't need an attorney, because I did it."
Chief Bowen was the one to freeze this time. "You did it? You killed that woman?"
Psyche glanced at Damien, her eyes widening. He nodded, saying nothing; I'll explain it all later.
Jenner shook his head. "No. Mitch did. But I told him to do it."
Bowen had a look on his face that Father Damien had seen before, Thursday at the station when Kincaid had given him Mitch's book. It was a look of complete betrayal. "Why?"
Jenner simply shrugged. "Mitch pulled the trigger. But I'm the one who planned it."
Chief Bowen was fighting to keep himself under control; first his lieutenant had gone crackers on him, and now one of his other men was admitting to murder! "You have the right to have an attorney present--" he said, his voice desperate.
Jenner just shook his head again. "I don't need one. I'm confessing." He smiled at Father Damien; the priest crossed himself and backed away as if he'd just been smiled at by Satan himself. Which Damien wasn't sure was too far from the truth. "I also ordered the planting of the animals and the death threats for Kincaid. Mitch carried out the killings and brought the other dead animals to me." Damien was reminded of how Mitch's friend Ace had testified that Mitch handed the animals over to someone else; and that Mitch had taken orders from a person "in the position to do away with us if he wanted." He shuddered despite himself. It looked as if his early guess about who might be behind the mutilations was at least half right--he'd thought it might be a cop, though not this one. Anybody but this one.
Bowen said nothing. Instead he and Jenner stared at each other for several minutes. Bowen felt like everything was crumbling apart beneath him. He turned, and finally saw Kincaid at the side of the room, cowering against the wall; he quickly holstered his gun and went to him, stooping down to look him over.
Kincaid's eyes were still wide, and he was murmuring something at the air. His hands were covered with blood from his wounded shoulder. Bowen felt his insides twist; the lieutenant looked just as he had so many years ago after the raid, only now it wasn't his leg that was bleeding, and he was much older. When he touched the top of Kincaid's shoulder he looked up at him. His eyes were glazed and vacant, yet he kept talking as if confiding a secret.
"Not listening anymore," he whispered, "not listening anymore. I've lost him, I've lost him. He's gone. Gone gone gone. Horns and hooves and blood--horns and hooves and blood--he got me with the knife." He touched his wound and glanced at the blood. "He got me with the knife. Horns and hooves and blood. All over."
Bowen's face screwed up. He stood up and turned around to face the other officers, who were still holding Jenner nearby, waiting for orders. Damien was surprised to see that tears were streaming unheeded down his face; yet when he looked at Jenner his expression changed to one of subdued fury and disgust.
"Get him out of my sight," he muttered. "I don't ever want to see him again."
"Yes, sir." Hawthorne and the others turned away. As they passed Damien Jenner stopped, forcing the others to stop too. He smiled at the singer.
"Don't take this the wrong way," he said, as if in passing, "but I really do like your music." With that, he lifted a hand slightly as if to wave goodbye, and was taken from the house. Damien was left staring at the wall in dumb shock.
He felt his uncle's hand upon his shoulder. Chief Bowen turned to one of the remaining officers. "Call central dispatch. Get an ambulance over here," he said, his voice choked. The officer nodded and scooted away, out to his car. Damien and his uncle turned back to Psyche and started to ask what happened; she pushed past them and into the den, kneeling at Kincaid's side. Chief Bowen cast a glance up at her but said nothing. He was squeezing Kincaid's arm as if to reassure him that everything would be all right; yet Kincaid appeared to notice none of it. He was still murmuring to himself, staring blankly into space.
"Lieutenant?" Psyche asked softly. He didn't seem to hear her voice. She took his other hand and held it. "Kincaid."
This time he looked at her. She wasn't sure if he actually saw her or not; she'd been offered a glimpse of what he'd really been seeing when he'd looked at Jenner, and wondered briefly if that's what he saw now. He gave no indication that he did and none that he didn't. He just stared.
"I can't hear him," he said, his voice faint; they all realized he'd lost a lot of blood. Bowen ground his teeth, wishing the ambulance would hurry up. "He quit talking to me. He won't answer me now."
"Who, Kinnie?" Bowen asked, his voice desperate again.
Psyche held out a hand to quiet him; Bowen did so. "It's okay, Kinnie," she said, keeping her own voice soft. "He's still with you. Even if you don't hear him. Especially if you don't hear him. That doesn't mean he's gone."
Kincaid continued staring at her for a long time. Damien's ears pricked when he heard the faint, distant wail of a siren approaching. Bowen glanced up briefly as well, then looked back at his wounded lieutenant.
"You hear that, Kinnie? They're coming. We're going to get that wrapped up good and tight, you hear me? Stick with me, Kinnie. Listen to my voice."
Kincaid turned and looked at him. Psyche backed away, off to the side of the room, hugging her elbows. Doors slammed outside, voices conversed; then a couple of paramedics were entering, a stretcher between them. Bowen squeezed Kincaid's hand this time.
"Stick with me, Kinnie, you got me? That's an order, Lieutenant."
The others watched as Kincaid was helped up and placed on the stretcher, still casting glances at everybody around him; he didn't seem to know what was going on. Bowen didn't let go of his hand. Then Damien and his uncle backed out of the way as they passed through. Damien made eye contact with Kincaid, but it was only for a second, and the policeman didn't seem to recognize him. A moment later and he was gone.
Damien placed his hand against the arch. When he swallowed it hurt, and he knew without consciously realizing it that his eyes were not dry. And he didn't care.