Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Coming Soon!

I had some issues breaking the story of the next project, and I thought I was going to have to go with something else instead, but everything fell into place, I'm ready and I feel good about it.  This book will be published in a cleaner, more readable format.  There will be fewer errors and it will be fact checked and edited before being posted.  It will still be a first draft, but a 1.5 draft instead of the 1.0 one. 

I'm writing it already so I'll have a bit of accumulation before I start posting it.  Look for it starting on January 1st or so.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Author's Note: All Done!

Just put the finishing touches on the first draft of the adventures of T.K. Anderson. Still don't have a title.  I am damn happy with how this project turned out and the final count is 36 chapters, so there are four more to go that will not be posted here.  Inquire about them today! 

Also, I would like to say I have a pretty solid idea of what my next project will be, so look for further announcements in a few weeks. If you're a gmail user, become a follower of my blog and stay in the loop!

For now, I'll tell you that the story will largely take place in a house in West Seattle and will involve a young writer and a horror novelist.  It's an idea I came up with several years ago and I'm excited to share it with you and sure it will be a more substantial story than November's.  I don't have a working title yet, but the story involves nightmares.

Author's Note: So here we are

And there you have it!  The end is within sight, but this is all that will be posted here on this blog.

If you wish to read the final few chapters, please contact me personally.  I will ask you to PayPal me a few bones, and I will give you the option of reading the ending in one chunk or continuing to have it sent to you in serial format.

Please leave any comments on the work in general or anything in particular after this post.

I appreciate your patience and support with this project.  The people who told me they checked back every day for another chapter particularly kept me relatively honest and definitely motivated to keep up with their demands.  I hope you found the exercises as satisfying as I did. 

I found that this style of writing lends itself to stories that want to be told at a fair clip, and I have several ideas for several more of those, so check back later in December or in January for another novel to be told in serial format.  The idea that I am currently batting around will be longer, so it won't be told in a month, necessarily, but I'll start with it in the same format.

As always, thanks for reading.  Love and kisses.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Part Three: Pursuit. Chapter Thirty-Two

Alex had a full gun in one hand and a knife on his hip. It was early yet, but he could tell this would be a good day. It took all his focus to keep his mind from wandering away to that cabin in Vancouver where he would soon be building exciting new memories.

He practically danced up the walk, knowing they were expecting him, knowing they could recognize him, and somehow even more exhilarated by the knowledge.

He stood before the stoop for a moment, thinking, then smiled. He wondered what they were doing inside. Were they waiting for him? Were they panicking? Were they ready?

He stepped into the well-maintained garden to the left of the front door and rang the bell. Then he tromped through the garden to the second window. The first was a small affair, frosted, and clearly leading to a bathroom. The second window was larger and clearly led to a larger room.

There were two shots from inside the house and he jumped. From the sound of it they had fired at the door. He grinned.

Then, he banged the base of the gun's handle into the glass twice, shattering it with the second blow. He snatched the curtain aside and looked in. It was a dusty study, books piled about, a shelf of trophies, and there was a desk just beneath the window. It would be easy for him to climb in, but he was not ready for that yet. Instead he waited, conscious of the fact that soon he would have to get inside. If the shots had not caused anyone to call the police yet—but of course, the police themselves would have called the police, as soon as they had heard gunshots, and police officers would recognize gunfire, wouldn't they?

He would waste no more time then. He would take the fight to these two, kill one and take the other. He would have minutes, now, at the most, but he could take the blond man's car if necessary, it was standing just outside the house. There was nothing about his car that would attract suspicion. That was a good plan, he thought, as he watched the door to the study, his mind racing with possibilities. He would take her, run to the car, and then—

The doorknob began to turn, ever so slowly. He aimed above the knob, where he envisioned a hand must be, and opened fire.

Then, dropping the curtain back into place, he began to run around the house. Time, time, he had very little of it left. Still, as sweat dripped from his hairline, he was grinning like a madman. He was having so much damn fun!

Around the back of the house, he saw two more sets of large windows. He fired a round through each, weakening the glass, then bashing them with the gun to get them to shatter. As he approached the next corner of the house, he could see a large glass sliding door that entered off a small concrete patio. He didn't want to enter there, he wanted to be more clever, to create more of a trap, but he did not have time. His destruction of the other two windows would keep their attention, at least keep them distracted. There was a propane tank by the glass door, standing next to a gas grill.

He picked the cannister up in his left hand, hefting it. With his right hand he fired a round through the glass door, then he hurled the tank after. There sound was much louder, somehow, than the other windows he had broken, and the tank swept the drapes up as it tumbled into the house.

There was no gunfire in return and Alex could not wait any longer. Time was slipping away. Still grinning, a vein throbbing obscenely in his forehead, sweat burning his eyes, he ducked through the curtain himself.

He immediately smelled the tang of cordite in the air, from the rounds they had fired through the door. Perhaps they had fired more rounds and he had missed them in his excitement.

He entered on the dining side of a kitchen pass-through, and he immediately dropped to his knees, staying out of sight. He tried to slow his breathing, it was difficult for him to hear, but he was too excited.

He heard a yell, a man's voice, high and scared, from deep in the house. “I think he's inside!” Oh, yes, he was inside alright.

He began to edge his way to the corner of the dining room, which opened into the living room. To his left, he knew, would be the entry hall, where they had shot at him, and the rest of the house. He hadn't heard them, so they must still be down there. They must be waiting for him.

He pictured them, the two of them, in one of the rooms he had shot into, holed up like frightened rodents, waiting for him, hoping he would leave them alone. His grin widened, envisioning their terrified faces.

He knew he must leave. He did not have the time for a protracted hunt, not today. He wanted the woman badly, and he knew on some level she must realize this as well, as he fired round after round into her house, she had to have known he was coming for her. Could he bring himself to leave? Did he have that much patience?

His smile began to subside. He did not want to leave. He had built this up in his mind, this final triumph of his, this visible, incredible assault, his coming out, his announcement to the world that he would do what he wanted when he wanted. But there must be some logic. His desires must wait upon sensibility sometime. And right now was that time.

As much as he wanted, no, needed, this, he knew that he was not ready to stop. More than that, he was not ready to be stopped.

He backed up to the end of the dining room wall. He could just lean out now and look into the glass door of the range in the kitchen. There was no one in the kitchen watching him.

He would take two steps and be outside. He would jump the fence at the back of the yard, walk back to his car, and he would be gone. Like a wraith. No, he told himself, like a myth. Like a boogeyman that would haunt people, whose memory would live on far longer than he would. That sounded right. Alex began to smile again as he stood to walk to leave.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Part Three: Pursuit. Chapter Thirty-One

Anderson had somehow known that Antonov would follow her, without even asking her if he could and that was what he did. No doubt to critique her suit and assist her with her makeup, she thought bitterly.

She waved at Larry and Moe as she jangled her keys. The middle-aged rambler was in good shape and she was proud to see it again, as she always was. She had been left in something of the lurch, being required to maintain and keep up the place and it always stirred her to see what a good job she was doing. She thought often of what a poorer job another, lesser daughter might have done.

She placed one key, and then another in the lock and the two deadbolts, then threw the door open and ushered Antonov in, mocking his careless assumption.

“Do you trust me to put the damn thing on by myself?” she asked.

“Look, I know you're not running on a lot of sleep and you're fueled by nothing by stress and coffee, but cut me a break, okay? I know what I'm about.”

She shrugged.

“Seriously. Half the time I wind up working with idiot cops who get small awards and I have to tell them not to pick their goddamn noses. Maybe you think I'm a dick, but I'm really enjoying the opportunity to work with someone who A: Has a career ahead of them and B: Doesn't think I'm gay.”

She chuffed a small, short laugh. “You and me both, you pretty bastard.” She turned and went to find her room.

“Good genes should not be punished!” he called after her.

Her room was cluttered, the only room that ever was. The public rooms, including the bathroom, she kept immaculate, even though she rarely had visitors. Her father's den and her mother's sewing room were almost never opened, so keeping things clean was never much of a chore. Except for this hole, she thought, kicking a drift of clothes to one side. She hadn't lied, she had a clean suit, but she had several more that were shamefully wrinkled and she just hadn't gotten around to taking them to the dry cleaner.

She took of her work outfit, dumping it in the pile, and set her gun and other personal items on the bed. She changed out of her backup, comfortable travel undies and found something a bit more befitting a suit. Black. She always wore the same shirt with the suit, and it all hung safely together in her closet, safely covered in plastic wrap, still hanging on a 'We Love Our Customers' hanger. She tore the plastic off, balled it up and tossed it into a corner.

Then, she heard a shot. Anyone else on the block might have mistaken it for a backfire or some other pedestrian, ambiguous noise, but not her, and she hoped not Antonov.

She looked down and grabbed the first pants she could see, blue and gray striped pajama bottoms.
From outside, there was a string of further reports, right on top of each other. Someone emptying a gun.
She tugged a t-shirt over her head and ducked out into the hall, gun at the ready. Antonov was already there, safely around the corner from the entry corridor, across the hall from her, his own gun out.

“I called it in,” he hissed. “Do you think it's him?”

Anderson was taken aback. Her training had kicked in, she was just ready to start some shit, it had not crossed her mind that the gun fire might be HIM. But as soon as the thought cross her mind, she knew it was right. Poor Larry and Moe were either under fire or laying down fire themselves, and either way it had to be the son of a bitch they were after.

She edged to the corner and threw open the coat closet there. Inside, resting in the corner, not quite hidden beneath the sleeve of a trench coat, was a shotgun. She placed her gun on the upper shelf in the closet, next to a locked case that she knew also contained a Smith and Wesson .44 revolver. She jacked the first shotgun round from the magazine into the chamber, feeling a cold satisfaction roll over her. It a Remington 10-gauge pump, loaded with double-ought buckshot and armed with a choke to lessen spray. It was not a gun for hunting wildlife, it was a gun for hunting men.

“Thanks, Daddy,” she said to herself.

“Papa Anderson was not fucking around,” Antonov said.

“No, he was not.”

“Now what?” Antonov asked.

The doorbell rang and both of them leapt. After a moment, both of them made to aim at the door and she hissed. “Put a round through it,” she whispered to him.

He nodded, leaned around the corner, and fired not one, but two quick rounds through the heavy front door, which, now that she thought about it, was probably not locked. The two reports were loud in the hall and punched small holes in the door. She noted with some satisfaction that even though the deadbolts were still open, the doorknob was still in the locked position. It was the only door they'd come in, so the rear door, in the kitchen, should be open as well.

The sound of smashing glass came from down the hall, away from them.

“What room?” Antonov asked her. After a moment he dashed across the hall to join her. She nodded down the corridor to her father's den. “You don't have another one of those, do you?” he asked, looking at the Remington.

“Sorry. One of us should be able to pivot, anyway.”

“Lucky me.”

She led them down the hall to the door of the den, just past the door of her bedroom, but on the other side of the hall. The took places on both sides of the door and she reached for the knob with her left hand, the shotgun held in her right. She began to turn it slowly, ready to push in as soon as the catch was clear.

Several more reports rang out and she jerked her hand back purely on instinct. Antonov cringed back from the shots, crying out. Her hand stung, and she was certain she must have been shot. She looked down and saw that the last three knuckles on her left hand were bleeding, skin torn off them as if she'd been in a slugging match. She couldn't tell if the bullet had grazed her or if the splinters from the door had ripped her up, but either was much better than the alternative. She looked over at the blond PR agent next to her.

“This is bad.”

Antonov nodded, his cheeks hollow and his eyes wide.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Part Three: Pursuit. Chapter Thirty

At first, as they neared the state's capitol, Alex began to think they were going somewhere official, Anderson was taking care of some essential piece of business before the press conference. But just as he knew the capitol building itself was about to hove into view, as they drove toward the ivy-covered overpass, the blinker in the back Dodge came on. They exited on Sleater-Kinney, and Alex pulled into the exit lane and slowed, giving them sufficient lead. They were turning left at the top of the ramp, crossing over the highway.

Alex managed to stay a light behind them, distant enough not to be obvious, but ready to run a red light in an instant if it looked like he was going to lose them. He did not.

After a few simple turns they were in a residential neighborhood and excitement began to crawl into Alex's belly. They were going to her home. He didn't know how he knew, but he did, he knew it as certain as he knew anything. Sure enough, a few blocks ahead on the wonderfully open and clear suburban Olympia streets, he saw the two Dodges pull over in front of a small rambler.

He put on his own blinker and made a right hand turn, breaking his eye contact with them and removing himself from their awareness. He drove just far enough to park in front of another car, and killed the engine, sitting behind the wheel, panting, almost hyperventilating.

He wanted to believe that this was it, that he would just be able to walk into her home and enjoy his time with her, but he knew that, realistically, his other plan, that of taking her to that nostalgic cabin in Vancouver, was more realistic. And why the hell not? By the time anyone responded to this situation, he could be half way there! He was already closer than he would have been in Auburn or Seattle. It was a straight shot down I-5. His van would hold for a day or two. What was the worst that would happen, he would get a parking ticket? He could live with that. It wasn't in his name, anyway.

Alex took deep, satisfying breaths, his earlier fatigue vanished, his body winding up and tightening like a clockwork toy. He closed his eyes and forced himself to relax. This was his moment. This was his time. This was, he now realized, what he had been building up to for so very long.

He did not pack his bag, not this time. He did not want to have anything that would hold him back. He found a sweatshirt and decided he would pose as a jogger. The gun fit snugly into his belt at his side, beneath the sweatshirt, if he loosened his belt a notch. His hunting knife sat in its welcome place on his left hip. Into his back pocket he put a handful of zip ties, confident in their usefulness, as he always was.

Then he began his walk. It was almost 6 in the morning now, and still quite dark. Mist hung in pools around the streetlights, making the hour feel even more gloomy than it was. The reassuring weight of the gun on one side of his body and the knife on the other soothed him and slowed his fluttering heart, already far ahead of him, ready for the fun to begin.

He turned right onto the woman's street, 138th SE, he noted, which was boring and anonymous. Not as exciting as the resident who lived on it, who would probably be his most famous victim.

He so rarely thought of the people he spent time with as victims exactly. They were certainly not his friends, but they gave to him, he enjoyed their company so that the word victim seemed...inauthentic. No, they were his...subjects! Yes, he liked that quite a bit. It implied both that he was a scientist conducting experiments and that he was a ruler and they were beneath him. Both true, both appropriate, both sensible. They were his subjects.

And there were two now, sitting in a large Dodge wagon before the woman's house. One was intently looking out the left side, at the other side of the street. The other man was lounging, his head lolling against the passenger side window. He did not look alert.

Alex slid the gun from his belt and held it tight against his right leg, beneath the line of sight of the men in the car. Perhaps he would talk to them. Pretend to be a local, someone out looking for a pet or a child. He would be casual, treat them as anyone else, and he could hear the conversation in his mind. “Oh my, you're police officers? Well then I'm sure you can help me.”

The apathetic man twisted a little in his seat and Alex forced himself to keep moving as he knew he was entering the man's peripheral vision. Freezing or moving quickly would arouse suspicion. There would be none of that. He was just a casual citizen, out for a morning walk. Hell, they were the suspicious ones, sitting in this neighborhood in a running car—

The man in the passenger seat twitched, as if stung, and Alex moved without thinking about it. He raised the gun, just as he saw the man was reaching inside his own jacket and, with the muzzle just a few feet from the window, pointing directly at it, he opened fire.

The first round took the man in the head, shoving it violently away from the window with a spray of human material, then flopping back into the glass, aping his position from just moments ago. The sound was a whip-like crack in the thin morning air, and the sound of the glass cracking from the impact a lesser, hollower noise.

Alex couldn't see his second target, but he knew that there was no time, so he adjusted his aim to fire past where the passenger was sitting and emptied the gun in the direction of the driver's seat. The rapid reports bled together into a single exaggerated sound, like a string of firecrackers, the individual sounds becoming one and remaining individual. The gun dry fired several times before Alex realized he was out of ammunition.

He grabbed the handle of the passenger door and pulled on it. The man with holes in his head tried to flop out, but was held in place by his seat belt. Holding the now empty gun before him, Alex looked past to see the driver. His window was now a ruin of red as well, and Alex could see that one of his hands was almost destroyed by gun fire where he had protectively held it up. It had done no good. There was a hole in his chest that was slowly leaking blood, a hole high up on his shoulder and...yes, that was not blood in his eye, half the eye was, in fact, missing.

That was when Alex saw it. Miraculously clear of blood, bone and brain, there was a photocopy at the passenger's feet. It was him. It was not perfect, of course, but the likeness was striking. That was why the passenger had reacted when he had seen him. It was a damn good thing he'd brought Wozcynski's gun along after all.

With that thought, he took the gun from the passenger. His hand was still resting on it and Alex had to pull it out of the way. It was still warm and supple.

Alex smiled happily as he checked the chamber. It was ready to go. There was no safety. He carefully closed the door on the passenger, marveling at the destruction the small gun had been able to create. It was not as satisfying as some things, he admitted, but the picture of the aftermath was astounding. He looked at himself and was surprised that, other than the hand where he had touched the body guard, his body was completely clean. It was so unusual for him to create so much destruction and remain so clean.

Not what he would have favored, certainly not what he was saving up for Anderson, not at all, but satisfying in its own way, to a degree at least.

Alex turned for the house.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Part Three: Pursuit. Chapter Twenty-Nine

The beeping of her cell phone dragged T.K. back to consciousness. She had set the alarm to wake her at 5 a.m., well in time to prepare for the press conference. She blinked blearily and wrenched the crinks from her neck, grunting at the loud cracks she elicited from her joints.

She made her way to the showers by way of the coffee machine, mentally preparing for another full day, her guards faithfully in tow. Perhaps not the last day, they might not be that lucky, but a day when things would start to fall into place. Certainly, at least, there was something to report at this morning's press conference.

Once she was awake and clean, she called Antonov's number.

“You ready to go home?” he asked.

“Why are we doing this again?” she replied.

“Because you can't do two press conferences in a row wearing the same clothes.”

“No one gives a shit.”

“Lots of people give a shit and we're not going to argue about this again. If you're ready, I'm around the back.”

“Be right out.” Once she hung up, she told Larry and Moe that Antonov was around the back.

“We'll get you to the back door and then meet you on the road,” Larry said.

The followed her dutifully down the stairs to the back door, where she signed out with the desk officer. She stared at the door for a moment and just as she raised her hand to push it open, one of the guards stopped her.


She turned. “Yeah?”

“Are you armed, ma'am?”

She was surprised for a moment. It was a perfectly good question, just not one she'd been expecting. She lifted up the edge of her coat. “Of course.”

“Great. See you in a minute.”

She exited through the door and nodded at Antonov, who waved at her. She took a breath of the cool morning air. The sun was still down, she reflected. No one should be awake at this hour, let alone all of us. A dark thought occurred to her. This was his time. This was when he would be awake, just heading home after an evening that ended with a body dump or a dead family. She shivered and began walking to Antonov's car.

It smelled good, like it were a fairly recent purchase, and the leather interior was still being generous. It also smelled like the driver himself, no doubt dosed daily with his own aftershave or whatever.

“Morning,” he said.

“Hey,” she replied, hoping they wouldn't have to be chatty on the drive. It was too damn early.

“You need breakfast or anything?”

“Maybe later. Let's just get moving for the moment.”

“You wanna listen to anything?”

“So long as it's not news,” she said. “Or country,” she amended.

“Snob,” he said with a sniff, and turned on a light pop station.

Larry and Moe fell in behind them at the first light, driving an unmarked Dodge Magnum.  Being on the open road like this, she was strangely comforted by their presence, as annoying as it might be otherwise.

It only took ten minutes for one of the morning DJs to reference the case, and Anotonov snapped the radio off. By that time they were pulling onto I-5, a straight shot from Olympia and Anderson's home. After another minute of silence, the driver spoke.

“So, where do you live?”

“By Chambers Lake, you know it?”

“Yeah, had a friend who used to live down there. Take Sleater-Kinney, right?”


Antonov refused to take the hint. “Do you have a suit?”

“I'm sorry?”

“A suit. Do you own one?”

“Of course.”

“Is it clean?”

“Do you mind?”

“Well, it's just, it's too late to get it pressed and cleaned at this hour, or to get you a new one, so if you don't have a clean one, I'll have to make a contingency plan.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“This is serious, Anderson.”

“Not as serious as you make it out to be.”

“Get this straight,” he said, taking his eyes off the road for a moment, locking them onto her. “You're tough. You look tough, you talk tough, you act tough. That's awesome. It means men and women want to respect you. You're not too pretty, which means women aren't going to be threatened by you. But right now, people respect you because they respond well to you and because they've been told to. Tomorrow morning, when you present, for the first time really what the fuck is going on, you need to look like an authority figure, and you cannot do that in a leather jacket. You just can't.”

“Fuck!” Anderson replied. “I have a clean suit, alright! It's my church and funeral suit.”

“Excellent. What kind of church?”

“My parents were half-assed Presbyterians.  I thought you knew all this stuff about me.”

Antonov shrugged.

“I'm not feeling chatty.”


They rode in silence the final few minutes to the Sleater-Kinney Road exit, and then she began to give directions to her home.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Part Three: Pursuit. Chapter Twenty-Eight

Lights burned in many of the windows of the Auburn City Hall, which housed not only the Auburn PD, but also the courthouse, public offices, and the city jail. Alex suspected he was the reason why so many lights were still on.

He drove once around the building, knowing that any more would be likely to draw attention from a police department that was already closing ranks. He noted with satisfaction that the flag before the building was flying at half mast. There was a rear entrance, a single door at ground level, as opposed to the imposing, official double doors at the top of the stairs in the front. Alex could not watch both doors, but he would be laying odds that she would use the rear door after the press conference in the morning.

He knew he couldn't park on this block. Even on a day when the police weren't paranoid, such action might draw attention, but on a day like this, it would be suicidal. He was not that person. He might be taking risks but he was not open to failure.

He found a small parking area on the roof of a building two blocks away, which would allow him to watch the rear door. He had binoculars, but he would not be able to use them much, as it would draw attention. Camping out in a parking lot was bad enough.

He put on several sweaters and cracked the windows to keep the heat from building up. He ate a granola bar and drank some water, emptying a container he could urinate in later. He had some No-Doz in the glove compartment, and he took two to stay alert. Later, if necessary, he would break out the harder drugs, stimulants that he had acquired through the years, for those rare stretches when he had to stay up past his normal threshold.

Periodically he would turn on the car to defrost the windshield. At those times he would quietly listen to news radio to see if there had been any developments. None were reported.

He did not have a wireless signal, but every so often he would open up his laptop and watch the press conference featuring Deputy Anderson. He would focus on one attribute of her, the way she talked, the way her lips moved, the way she used her eyes, the way she used her hands. Every time he did he was more reassured that she would be very special, one of his finest achievements.

The hours passed slowly, but he kept himself busy, entertaining himself with ideas of what was to come, as well as revisiting some of his greatest hits, notably Liz. He knew he would not be able to help but compare his experiences with the two women. Women rarely crossed his path, certainly not the way Liz had, and he knew that no matter the circumstances under which he took the Anderson woman, he would run as far as he must to insure that he could spend as much time with her as possible. Perhaps he'd load her up with drugs and make the three hour drive south to Vancouver and stay in the same cabin. The nostalgia appealed to him.

The No-Doz were wearing off and he was pondering moving on to something else, something to keep him alert, when it happened. There she was.

It could have been any woman from that distance, and he quickly checked through the binoculars, even though he knew in his gut that it was her. It had to be. It was his time. Sure enough, when the small figure snapped into view on his binoculars, there she was, the big eyes, the short hair, walking quickly across the space between the back door of the city hall and the waiting car. He looked briefly at the car, fixing it in his mind. It was a dark color, difficult to tell in the streetlights, he thought it might be dark green. It was a Dodge, he saw, a sedan, and that was good enough. He tossed his binoculars on the passenger seat beside him and quickly backed out of his parking space.

He only had two ramps to descend before pulling onto the street and he immediately moved toward the city hall. He made a left hand turn and was on the street the dark Dodge had been on and he saw it just as it was making its own left hand turn onto the main town thoroughfare. Even though he had perhaps taken a moment too long watching her, after he had known it was her, things were working out perfectly.

As he made his own right turn to pull in behind Anderson's car, he heard a siren offer a single whoop at him as another Dodge tore through the intersection, running a red light. As Alex made his own turn, he saw the second Dodge pull in behind the first, making a small convoy. Her police escort, Alex supposed. That was a close thing.

He followed the two cars and pulled in behind them at a light. At the next light, the convoy made to pull onto Highway 18, heading east, which would take them to I-5. He let the cars pull onto the highway without him and drove on. As soon as they were out of sight he pulled two quick U-turns, running one red light, and then pulled onto the highway himself. With several hundred yards between them, and exceptionally light traffic at 5:30 in the morning, he would have little trouble following them without being noticed.

After a few minutes the two cars merged onto I-5 heading south. Anderson was due to give a press conference back in Auburn in just a couple of hours. Where were they going?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Part Three: Pursuit. Chapter Twenty-Seven

“Lemme see that,” said Stockton, reaching out for Raynes' laptop. His brow furrowed as he worked with the computer. “It wasn't an automated response, the guy sent that email in real time as soon as he received it.”

“What, so he's sitting in front a computer somewhere,” Anderson asked. Her hands began to tighten.

“No, I don't think so...yeah, he was using a Blackberry. It just notified him of the email and he sent a reply.”

“What? But then—“

“Yeah, I know. I'm on it. I can track the IP address, but now we just have to get...Sprint, it looks like, to kick loose the information. We can triangulate where he was and track where he goes if he leaves the phone on.”

“So, we got him?”

Stockton looked up and gave a crooked grin, his skin sickly in the light of the laptop. “We will. As soon as we get the info from the phone company.”

Anderson pulled out her phone. Florio answered on the second ring.

“You got something?” he asked.

“The arrogant prick sent us an email, so we can track his phone once we get some cooperation from Sprint. We'll need a subpoena.”

“I'll get a judge out of bed. You'll have it in an hour.”


“Keep at it, hon, we're almost there.”

“Damn right.” She hung up. “Alright, Stockton, we're running down a subpoena for you. Otherwise, keep at what you're doing. Especially matching those veteran's records, that might be what finally sticks with this mess, if it all adds up.”

“You got it.”

“Russell,” Anderson said, “Seriously, go home. You're no good to us exhausted.”

He nodded and began to gather his things. “What about you?” he asked, “You look wiped out.”
Anderson bit back a snide comment and thought for a moment. “I'm going to find somewhere to take a nap.”

Her guards, who had been introduced to her, but who she continued to think of as Larry and Moe, followed her out to the parking lot as she got her bathroom bag from her car. One of them checked the bathroom for her before she was allowed to use it, and then they waited for her outside as she washed her face and brushed her teeth. One of them checked the first empty office that she found and then they took up stations outside her door while she turned off the lights and sat down at the desk.

She put her head down on her arms at the desk. The posture echoed in her muscle memory and she realized that she hadn't slept like this since college. Finals week, she supposed, getting an hour in between study sessions. Even with all her traveling for this job, which was seeming more and more ridiculous to her, she had never had to sleep at a goddamn desk. Shitty hotel rooms that she regretted sleeping in, certainly, but never at a desk. It made her feel removed somehow, as if what was happening wasn't concrete or real. The fact that she'd been to two obscene crime scenes in 24 hours probably didn't help.

She realized that her education had failed her. The breakthrough in this case had come because of plain, boring, old-fashioned police work, not anything she had learned at the knees of experts from around the country. Her education certainly had not prepared her for what she had seen at the Wozcynski house. On the other hand, she supposed that nothing really would have prepared her for that.

She stared at her hand, so close to her eyes as to be fuzzy, and tried to let her thoughts drift. He had practically handed himself over to them and she wondered if he had done it on purpose. Clearly his activities in the last day had become reckless and radically different from the cautious movements he had been making previously. She didn't believe in the old trope about killers wanting to be caught, so she was stuck wondering what he was doing, why he was being so brazen, so aggressive.

It was clear that he had been operating for more than five years, in Portland and now here, so it didn't make any sense that his compulsion had finally taken him over. If it was going to do so, it would have done so before now.

She sighed and turned her head, looking now at her elbow, seeing the fibers in her blouse up close. People were lazy, she thought, she knew that. They generally didn't act on their own, they tended to react. What could this guy, Cambuto or whatever, be reacting to?

The answer to that was plain enough, he was reacting to being discovered. After years of operating without anyone being the wiser, he had become public. Admittedly, his name wasn't released and his details weren't made public, but the fact that he existed was now known. Was that all it had taken? Was the fact that he had been uncovered like a crab underneath a rock what had pushed him to start acting out.

She considered this idea. It made a certain kind of sense, she supposed, just like the crab, if it was cornered, it would start trying to nip at its attacker, even if it were 100 times larger. Was the killer so primitive that as soon as he was spotted he would take to the offensive? It certainly seemed like that could be the case.

She thought of the killer's naked aggression and compared it to the idea of a cornered animal and it seemed to fit. Her thoughts were slowing down now, sleeping creeping in at the edges of her vision, but she grasped for one last thought.

Cornered animals were dangerous and unpredictable. That fit. It also meant that no matter how careful their plans were, they couldn't be careful enough. Not with a cornered animal. There was just no telling.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Part Three: Pursuit. Chapter Twenty-Six

Alex found a public library and parked outside to bootleg their wifi signal. He was quickly able to find the full version of the press conference he had caught the end of, and he watched it three times over.

She wasn't beautiful, he reflected, even though he knew he wanted her. There was something about her that struck him like Liz had, not in the way that she had filled him with fury, but in the sense that just looking at her he could feel the inevitability of her fate.

He googled the detective and chased her name around the internet. Her first two names, Teresa and Katrina, were a strange enough combination that he was able to find her on occasion, popping up in a graduation notice (criminal justice, University of Washington), and a mention of her in a case from Boise where a mass murderer had been apprehended. According to the article in the Seattle Times, local Deputy Sheriff T.K. Anderson had assisted the investigation. He found a photo of her, from another article, this from Seattle Weekly, which ran a short feature, “She Hunts Killers”. The interview spoke largely in generalizations and talked about her education (UW again) and her specialty training from places like the FBI academy in Quantico, Virginia.

“The biggest factor I have to work against is the public perception of these individuals. They rarely consider the people that they are killing to even be people. The world is little more than a playground for many of them. The media, particularly films, has fastnened onto the serial killer as a new boogeyman and it has both weakened and strengthened them in the view of the public.”

What must it be like, he wondered, to study some of the most frightening figures of the recent past, to make them your focus, your understanding, but never have the actual practice of learning from them in person, of facing the truth instead of the learning. He would find out.

The wailing of a fire engine momentarily distracted him as it tore past where he was parked. He smiled, thinking of where it might be going. The sad, burning body of that lonely, pathetic gas station attendant was nothing compared what would be, what he was looking forward to.

There were five rounds left in the gun he had taken, that would be enough to get started. Beyond that, he had his entire bag of tricks, including hypodermics, knives, surgical gloves, and the like.

Now, with a full stomach and a true vision of what was to come next, Alex began to drive. As he did, he began to fantasize about what was to come. He was sure that after Wozcynski it would be more difficult than his last kill had been, but that just made it more exciting.

He stopped for gas before started the drive to Auburn. He would wait for her, lie in wait, as he had not done since, well, since Liz, he supposed. The thought excited him even more. He was going to play it entirely by ear, let his instincts guide him, as they had so successfully done already.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Part Three: Pursuit. Chapter Twenty-Five

Anderson wasn't sure that you could call what had happened a break in the case, but at least there was finally something to work towards. The tireless crime scene nerds had finally come up with something. One of the bodies from the dump (which had produced 27 and counting) had come back with an identity due to dental records. Elizabeth Wilson-Reilly had been reported missing more than five years ago in Portland, Oregon. The circumstances of her disappearance were such that foul play was suspected and her employee, one Jerry Cambuto, had stopped showing up for work at the same time. An ATM in Vancouver, Washington, had made withdrawals of several of Wilson-Reilly's accounts, but the video from the ATM was not helpful in identifying the individual.

The file from Portland had included a composite drawing of Cambuto, put together after interviews with several of his co-workers where he had worked as a transcriptionist. This had lead to another line of questioning that Anderson had handed off to a member of her task force, which had been waiting for her at Auburn P.D. after she had returned from the Wozcynski home. She really was in charge now, she thought, as the cameras and television lights were turned off.

“Good job,” Ash Antonov said, “I was watching on a monitor. You looked good, a little pale, and you spoke really well.”

“Thanks,” she replied flatly.

“Seriously, you did good work. It was important that it be done and you did it well. You should be proud.”

“I just wanna get this guy and I feel like we wasted the better part of a day running around in circles.”

“No, you wasted the better part of a day circling the wagons after one of our own was attacked. There's no shame in that. And now you actually have something to follow up on, right?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Seems like it's more than we had, anyway.”

“Well, we've got a nice assortment of fingerprints from the Wozcynski's that we're sorting through. Theoretically his might be there somewhere, but checking them off is a bitch since all of the bodies were burnt at least a little.”

Antonov shrugged. “The process is what it is, I guess.”

Anderson shook her head and left the room, Antonov tailing her.

“I'll need a meet with you tomorrow morning by 7. We have another press conference scheduled for 8 a.m. tomorrow.”

“To report our lack of progress?”

“There was something to report tonight, there'll be something more to report in the morning. Even if it's small, there will be something. And we need to be able to keep bragging up what we're doing, that's a common mistake. You don't report the small progress you make, people will think you didn't make any at all.”

“Noted,” Anderson said shortly. Is that all?”

Antonov rolled his eyes at her attitude. “Yes, that's all.”

She kept walking to the war room they had set up in a conference room. It seemed like Auburn's police headquarters was now half given over to her task force, forensic techs, a stable of detectives, grunts chasing down leads, and the inevitable offers of help from the FBI until they found an excuse to force themselves to be included.

“What have we got?” she asked as she entered the war room.

No one answered her. The night shift was just coming on, but she saw that Russell, a state trooper assigned to the task force, was still on the phone, several hours after he should have gone home. Anderson didn't give a shit about overtime, but she wanted him to be able to keep working.

There were three others, two women and one man. She wasn't sure if they were assigning her more women because she was a woman or if it was the luck of the draw. One of the women, another Deputy, Allison Raynes, looked up and nodded at her, then returned to the photocopies of the Portland file. The other woman, a Seattle patrol cop named Petros, was sitting at a laptop, a phone cradled in her shoulder. She was in contact with another patrol cop who was running down leads, including the possible identity of several other bodies. The man, Stockton, was running the computer scans on fingerprints and dental records, a long-term commitment and a tedious job.

Finally, Russell hung up the phone and signaled her. As she approached him he stood up and led her to the corner of the room.

“I don't want to make a big deal of this yet, boss,” he said, “But I think we've got something.”

“Talk to me.”

“I did like you suggested. I contacted the psychologist, and he told us who does his medical records. He sends them off to a company called RNX Records. I got their answering service and put in a call to their manager. Then I began running down people at Stafford Mental Health, the clinic in Portland. I got some additional information on the guy from Portland to go with the file they sent us. Then the guy from RNX calls me back and I asked him about their employees. I faxed him the composite sheet we put together. He ID'ed the new version we put together, without the beard. Says the guy is Paul Mercer, one of their transcribers. This Mercer guy typed up the psych records and interviews for the first vic that was ID'ed as Walsh. Since Kelty, the shrink, farmed this stuff out, he would have never met Mercer, but Mercer knew who the shrink was. I think if we narrow our dental records search against just vets we'll turn up some more IDs in short order.”

“Good call. What else?”

“RNX had an address for this Mercer guy, but it was just a PO Box. I won't be able to follow up on that until business hours tomorrow.”

“Paul Mercer, huh?”

“That's what I've got.”

“The picture without the beard?”


“Alright. Listen up!” Anderson yelled, standing up. “Russell here has manufactured us some solid leads for once. We have a picture of this guy to offer the public starting tomorrow and I want everyone in the world to see it. I don't want this son of a bitch to have room to breathe. Russell, give the phone number for the Portland manager to Raynes. Raynes, take the info he's put together and keep building us a picture of this guy. Stockton, narrow your dental search to veterans and see if anything comes up quicker. What have you got so far, Russell?”

“He smiled too much.”


“That's what the manager said. Most of the people in the office really liked him, he was a solid worker, but he and his boss had some kind of disconnect, never really got along. Manager said that at one time Liz, the vic, complained that she always felt like the suspect, Cambuto or Mercer, was hiding something. But the manager said the only thing he really noticed was that he was always smiling and it made him uncomfortable. Like there wasn't always something to smile about.”

Something dropped in Anderson's stomach.



“First thing I want you to do is get with the manager in Portland and dig into their records. Find out how many people they did records on died under mysterious circumstances: Disappearances, suicides, whatever. If this is how he finds who he goes after, we might be able to track it back to him.”

“You got it.”

“What else?”

Raynes spoke up. “Portland file has old contact information of his, email, cell phone. All of it was disconnected at the time.”

“Have you tried them?”


Anderson looked at Raynes until she picked up the phone and dialed the number in question. She visibly reacted as the phone was answered.

“Hello, is Jerry there? Oh, I see. I'm sorry. Do you know a Jerry Cambuto?” The volume of the speaker on the other end of the phone grew louder. “I understand.” She hung up. “No dice. I'll run the number to see who has had it since then, run their records, but I think it's a dead end.”


“Just a sec.” She started typing. “What do you wanna say?”

“Put both names there. Paul and Jerry. See what happens.”

Raynes' fingers flurried over the keyboard and then she gave an emphatic nod. “I put the subject line as 'Hello' and the text of the message is just 'I am looking for Jerry Cambuto or Paul Mercer.'”


“Holy shit.”

“What is it?”

“I got a reply already.”


Raynes spun the laptop around to face Anderson. The text of the reply came from the old address of Jerry Cambuto, The reply was just one sentence. “Nice try.”

“Goddamn. The bastard is fucking with us.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Part Two: Bodies. Chapter Twenty-Four

Alex woke, groggy and disoriented. It took him a moment to remember where he was, laying down in the driver's seat of his car. It had started raining again, and it sounded like he was in a car wash. It was almost dark and the truck next to him had gone away. He looked at his phone and saw that he had been asleep for the better part of eight hours. He felt like he could sleep for eight more and his arm still deeply ached.

He returned to the truck stop and took another shower and ate dinner. He felt more awake and more present afterwards, but still like something was missing. He was just paying his check when one of the station attendants walked past him, reeking of unleaded and cigarette smoke.

“See you tomorrow, Earl,” he called to a guy behind the counter, who grunted in reply.

Alex admitted to himself that he was letting himself be carried away, that he was not acting like himself. But he was a different man now, the kind of man who could respond to a situation as it arose.

He followed the gas station attendant at a distance as he drove his smoke-belching truck through Chehalis, which was, it turned out, where Alex was. It would be a substantial drive back to Seattle eventually, but for now he was happy just to have something to do.

They wound up several miles outside of town, driving past pastures and the occasional mobile home. The man pulled his truck into one of these, a blasted patch of ground, half dead grass and half naked dirt, a pit bull chained in the yard. Alex drove past, went on for a mile, and then turned around. Past the man's house he found a wide shoulder where he could leave his car. He took his bag, which now contained his regular tools, plus the gun and the cleaver from the Wozcynski house.

As he walked up the driveway, a song returned to his memory, from where, he was not sure. “Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose,” he said to himself, rolling the words over in his mouth. For him, in this place, at this time, it felt like the truest words every spoken.

He walked up to dog, which stood at the end of its chain, straining and furious, spraying drool. He lifted his gun and held it a foot from the dog's head, pulling the trigger. The sound, in the open air, was quieter than he would have imagined, and the hole the bullet made above the dog's left eye, but the exit wound, between the dog's ears, erupted, and it seemed that Alex was able to see it in slow motion, the back of the dog's head expanding and then popping, first in white chips of bone, then gray matter, then a fine spray of blood. Alex came without even thinking about it, proceeding towards the front door of the trailer, seeing the dog's head erupt over and over again, in his mind's eye.

The door flew open and there the attendant stood, out of his gas station coveralls now, dressed only in some baggy, shapeless sweat pants.

“What in the—“ the man started, but Alex, feeling 10 feet tall and as powerful as a god, placed his hand in the center of the man's chest and he fell back, arms grabbing at nothing, feet sliding out from underneath him. His head hit the linoleum floor of the entry way with a solid clunk and his eyes rolled up into his head.

The man awoke twenty or so minutes later, tied to his narrow, sagging bed, his thin frame straining futilely.

“Now,” Alex said, standing over the man with the cleaver, enjoying the animal panic in his eyes, “We're going to have a nice talk.”

Alex was able to find a balance between his urgency and his patience, dragging out his time for almost two hours. Then he was tired and hungry again.

He found a stack of Hungry Man frozen dinners in the freezer and helped himself to one, the smell of the enchilada's temporarily overtaking the smell of blood and offal that filled the trailer. He turned on the small television while he ate.

He flicked past the Northwest News Channel and briefly heard the word “bodies” as he went past, then quickly returned to the channel.

The news scroll on the bottom spoke of new leads in the Auburn murder case, but Alex wasn't paying any attention to that. He was transfixed by the woman on the screen. He felt that he might have seen her before, but he felt immediately that he knew her and that he would know her even better.

The woman was labeled, “Deputy Anderson, Chief Investigator”. They had replaced the dead detective quite quickly, Alex thought to himself. She had short, light brown hair that stood up on the top of her head, somewhere between fashionable and unruly. The bright television lights washed out her skin, making her look almost translucent, and her eyes leapt from her face, large and lamp-like. He finally came out of himself enough to hear her words. She was talking about him, of course.

“We are pursuing several leads at this time. Notably, one of the bodies from the site in Auburn has been identified via dental records. This has created a strong line of inquiry for us to follow. The investigation continues and I regret that I cannot take any questions at this time. If you have any information on the Auburn site or the murder of Detective Wozcynski and his family, please contact us at the email address and phone number located on the screen. Thank you.”

Alex scoured the trailer but could not find a computer. He was driven to go online and find more about Deputy Anderson. If she had replaced Wozcynski, she must know what she was getting into. And what body had they identified? All of the homeless veterans he had taken would almost surely never have been reported as missing and going through their dental records would surely be—

“Liz,” he whispered. He had known as soon as they discovered the dump site that she would be the big loss, the one that counted, but even at that time he had just taken it personally, he had not stopped to think that she would be the thread that led back to him. The case in Portland had lain fallow for years, but this was something different. What they had so far combined with what there was from Portland...

But what did that matter now? He wasn't hiding, not any more. He found a dusty old taper under the sink and lit it from a stove burner. He used a piece of duct tape to fasten the taper to the side of the kitchen counter, blew out the pilot light, and turned on the oven.

He stopped in the yard for a moment to admire his handiwork with the dog. It was dark and the stocky corpse was illuminated only by blue light from the street. The dog looked so peaceful now, restful in spite of the gaping hole in the back of its skull.

Alex walked down the side of the street to his car, watching for oncoming traffic. His thoughts returned to the young woman from the television. Anderson was a much more common last name than Wozcynski, sadly, but it was still a place to start.

“Deputy Anderson,” he murmured, as he climbed into his car. “Deputy Anderson.”

Monday, November 23, 2009

Part Two: Bodies. Chapter Twenty-Three

When T.K. had staggered into her hotel room, she had been forced to take the time to remove her clothes, as they had retained the stench of corpse on them. Whether it was from the body dump or the autopsy was unclear, as in the end it was the same body, she supposed, but she was pretty sure she would never be able to wear that outfit again.

She chastised herself for her first thought as she entered what was left of the Wozcynski residence. She immediately realized that she was another set of clothes that was not likely to recover.
The frame of the house itself was sound. There were no holes in the roof or any of the exterior walls. Much of the interior of the living room, where the fire was set, was ruined from the fire and the aftermath of fighting it, but aside from broken windows and the stench, parts of the house seemed completely undamaged.
Like her clothes, Anderson wondered if this house was ruined forever.

The smell was massive. While the smell at the body dump had seemed somehow light, as it floated in the air on the top of the hill, suspended beneath the trees, this smell seemed captive, and therefore thicker and meaner. A brief mental image flashed through Anderon's mind of photographs of the aftermath of the holocaust, trolleys, chimneys, ovens. The smell was dark and oily, like a grease fire, with an unexpected and gut churning sweet undertone. An unbidden memory returned to her from the creeping corners of her mind. Longpig. Cannibals, somewhere out of time, had once referred to white colonials that way. Because of how they smelled and tasted. She forced herself to swallow the bile that came creeping up her throat.
The living room was where all four bodies had been found. The first fireman into the building, after the small blaze in the living room had been extinguished from outside, had stumbled across Wozcynski's wife. Things changed rapidly after that.

The tour of the house started with the living room. The bodies were lined up with precision, smallest to largest. The coffee table had been moved to one side, where it was a singed and crumbled pile of ash and small shards of blackened wood. The couch, likewise, was largely a ruined relic. Family pictures and other art that had hung on the walls were completely colored by smoke, black or dark gray boxes of blankness.
She drug her vision back to the bodies. This was her job. This was what she did.

Smallest to largest, largest to smallest. There was a pattern to it. She wondered if there would be patterns upstairs as well. She had so little to go on so far, a pattern could dramatically help her start thinking in the right direction. She still felt so lost, without a place to start, and now this son of a bitch had turned the tables, come right into a cop's home and butchered the bodies.

Because, according to Steele, that's what had happened. She was brought in to do a preliminary finding because of the urgency of the case and she was able to report that though the bodies were burned, and at best they were still just assuming the bodies was the Wozcynski clan, until there was dental confirmation, all the bodies had suffered trauma.

The preliminary findings showed serious dental trauma to the mother, possible gunshot wounds, missing teeth, and several missing digits on the father, and the children...

She was going to think as little about the children as possible.

Then she was crossing the scorched living room to see the crime scenes upstairs, where at least two victims had been killed. It was assumed these two victims were the children, based on some circumstantial findings like a slipper and a toe, but it was still just guess work.

“Found one,” she heard someone report as she walked up the stairs. She looked back to see a crime scene tech chalking a circle on the floor where the couch had been. Inside the circle was what appeared to be a finger.

At the top of the stairs she followed the strobes of a flash to the master bedroom.

The room had been decorated twice. Once by a conscientious resident, matching colors to bedspread and headboard, the second time with sprays of arterial blood, arcing across the ceiling and the walls. A child's t-shirt, stained red, was crumpled up on the floor next to the bed. The flash continued to blast as the photographer captured the horrific scene. She could see the indent where the small body had lain on the bed, the puddle of blood where the last flow had been captured. It turned her stomach.

She returned to the hall and saw another tech exit the next room. She looked inside and saw that it was a girl's room, posters of cartoon characters and a cork board covered with photos of a grinning girl, maybe five or six, with gaps in her teeth.

In this room there was no blood, which was a mercy. Beside the bed was a pink waist cord from a robe, with a loop at each end. Her chin began to quiver, not with held tears, but with rage. On the floor, near the knotted belt, was a small, fuzzy, pink slipper, shorter than Anderson's hand. She hiccuped audibly and then moved out into the hall.

She strode straight ahead, ignoring the crime scene beneath her, making straight for the front door. She continued her stride across the lawn, chest hitching, to the curb where a coroner's van was waiting. There, she placed her hand against the side of the van, leaned over the gutter, and vomited up her breakfast. The strong smell of coffee hit her tongue going the wrong way and made her wretch again.

She spat and gasped to clear her throat, rebelling against further gags, knowing her stomach was empty.


She turned and there was Florio. She no longer cared about her image or who was watching. She fell into the arms of her dead father's best friend, her boss, and she wept.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Part Two: Bodies. Chapter Twenty-Two

Alex slept.

He had seethed as he drove his car south, his hands clenched on the wheel, breathing the scent of diesel on his clothes and hands. His teeth ground against each other and his eyes burned as he drove and drove.

When he came to himself, he was almost a hundred miles south, and his jaw ached. He pulled into the first rest stop he found, walked to a quiet picnic area, and spent an hour in penance, doing pushups and crunches until his muscles burned and the smell of his sweat began to compete with the scent of the diesel.

Then he pulled himself together, finally realizing that, although it had been dark, he had been driving with blood stains all over his clothing. He mentally castigated himself as he changed his clothes into a fresh set, knowing that the diesel stench might ruin this set of clothes as well. He would have to buy more clothes, but that, at least, would not be an issue. The safe in the Wozcynski's closet had been open, simply requiring a twist of the handle to open it, and leaving Alex several thousand dollars in cash.

He kept driving south until he found a truck stop and pulled in. He entered with his head down and a pack over his shoulder, ignoring the customers and the employees, heading straight for the bathroom facilities. A fistful of quarters got him a shower and when he was done he changed into yet another set of clothes. He wrapped his previous clothes in a trash bag and crammed it into his backpack. Then, against his impulse to keep running, he took the time to shave and put his hair in place. His eyes were a little bloodshot, but otherwise, he looked like just another man from the road, perhaps dressed a little neater than some of the other long-haulers.

He took his bag back to his trunk and then returned to the truck stop to eat. He had not thought about eating since...he couldn't remember when. He had eaten the evening before, sometime. A taco salad, he remembered, on the way to his storage unit. That had been a long time ago.

He had a double order of biscuits and gravy and drank two glasses of orange juice. When he lifted his right hand to pick up his fork, he was aware of an intense ache in his right shoulder. He hadn't realized how overworked that arm was after his night's work. The food hit the bottom of his stomach, the fat and the carbohydrates congealing into a warm, thick porridge.
He paid his check in cash from that night's takings and returned once again to his car. It was now just after 8 a.m. and the sun was piercingly bright, so Alex moved the car into the shadow of a tractor trailer.

He reclined the driver's seat and closed his eyes. His shoulder throbbed and he replayed his grievous errors. He had let himself go, he knew that, and it was what he had wanted, but the consequences were now far greater than he had thought they would be. Always he had been able to cover his tracks before, to misdirect or remove that which would come back to haunt him. His lusts had traveled faster than he was able to follow and now he would have to pay for it.

But would he? he wondered, as he replayed his actions on the insides of his eyelids. He had done exactly what he had intended and when he had fantasized about kicking open the door, which could not have happened more perfectly as the woman's teeth were dislodged and her face was dented, as he had driven to her house with that thought in his mind, he had not given the least thought to what the consequences of his actions would be. The consequences, of course, were inevitable. He would leave behind something of himself. And then, because he had been unprepared to cover up his actions, as he usually was, he had fucked up and had to run, leaving behind any number of clues that might enable them to track him. He did not assign any magical power to the police, but he knew that the less you gave them, the better off you were. He lived his life leaving behind as little as possible and this was the worst transgression of that rule in his life.

Still, he thought, as he trailed away into sleep, his thoughts beginning to slow, his mind's racing revving down, it had been worth it. He reflected, drowsily, that he had broken a lot of his personal rules of late and that it certainly seemed that he would continue to do so. Would it continue to be worth it? If his days were like this one, he felt, then yes, they would be. This was what he should have been doing all along. Not masking who he was at all, but letting himself be who he had really, truly, deeply wanted to be all along. The real person that he let himself be with people like Liz and McConnell, in the moments when the facade of himself he had taken so long to build, when that false face completely fell away.

He opened his eyes for a moment, staring at the soft, gray ceiling of his car, realizing that he had just made a breakthrough. That he was becoming something different, something true. He should not be afraid. He should be proud. And grateful. People like Wozcynski had helped him find his truth. That he could no longer live in the shadow of fear, that he would no longer live under the storm cloud of what may be. He would use the time he had to be true to himself in the most complete way possible.

And if that meant that they all had to die for him to be happy, then that was just the way it would have to be, he thought, as he drifted off.