Alex wasn't able to continue working so he closed and saved his work and opened several internet browser windows. One he set to a local news affiliate, a second to an internet news site, and the third to CNN. He read headlines, conjecture, theory and very little fact. Part of him wanted to breathe easier because of this, but he did not. He knew it didn't mean anything that there wasn't much information yet. It certainly didn't mean he could afford to relax.
He drank tea and sat in front of his computer, drifting off for stretches of time where he retraced his steps up that hill, thinking of all the time he had spent up there, all the bodies he had buried. Had he left anything behind? Had he done anything that would work against him? Had anyone ever seen him?
He was quite confident that the answer to the last question at least was no. No one had ever seen him. He'd made sure of that. If anyone had ever seen him, they'd have been buried on that hill as well. His car could have been spotted from the road, but even then he usually parked it at an angle so that the brush on the side of the road made his license plate difficult to spot. He'd been cautious, just as he had trained himself to be.
But he knew there would be no sleep for him that night. He would stare at his ceiling and recreate events over and over again, not enjoying them at all, but rather analyzing them over and over again to see if he'd made any unfortunate mistakes. He told himself that he didn't, of course he didn't, he was always careful and conscientious, but there would be no peace.
Finally, after hours of obsessing, reading, and pacing, there was a press conference. Alex watched it live online. The camera captured two men standing in front of a police van. Off to one side was a still, thin woman with short hair. First, a thin, balding man spoke. The lights were not kind to his complexion. The caption said he was Gus Pounds, Auburn Chief of Police. He announced that earlier that day a citizen who would remain anonymous had identified the smell of a dead body. Investigation into the matter had produced not just one but several bodies from a mass grave located up the hill behind him. The Chief did not take questions, but after his statement he handed the camera over to the man next to him and took a step back.
The caption identified the new man as the chief investigator, Detective L. Randolph Wozcynski and Alex could immediately identify him as a man who took himself very seriously. He straightened his tie, cleared his throat, and then basically repeated what the Chief had said, offering little in the way of useful detail. Alex leaned forward in his chair, as though proximity would offer something more.
“We will do everything in our power to bring the killer or killers to justice. This investigation is just beginning, but we will expect to have more information to release to the public soon. Presently none of the bodies have been identified, but that is obviously one of our highest priorities. If anyone has seen anything suspicious in the area, particularly recently, please call the number on your screen. I can take a few questions at this time.”
“How many bodies are there, Detective?”
“There are presently several bodies, but some are severely decomposed, which makes a total number difficult at this time.”
“How old are the bodies?”
“We cannot determine how long the bodies have been there with any accuracy yet. We can say that the bodies we have found have certainly been there for quite some time.”
Liar, Alex thought. There were new bodies there. He supposed it were possible they hadn't found them yet, but it was unlikely. They'd have brought in dogs by now and the most recent body couldn't possibly have stayed hidden for long.
He wondered where they'd started. The original pit, which he'd dug for Liz, contained several other men, but the holes he'd dug on that hill... Well, if he hadn't been such a meticulous man, he might not know how many there were himself. But he knew. He could picture every one of their faces, from the first, so many years ago, to the most recent, just the other day.
He stopped watching the press conference, knowing that now it was open on his computer he could watch it again and again at his leisure. He began to think about the hill, what else could be tracked back to him...
And then he remembered. It had been arrogant, foolish, certainly, but oh the results would be priceless. And they would buy him time. Time was probably what he needed the most now. Giving the cops something to chase, something that would take them away from him, at least at first, had been an excellent idea. As soon as it came up, though, he knew he would have to leave.
He looked around his small apartment and realized that really the first thing he should do is pack up. He didn't want to, he wanted to leave his desk and leave his apartment and go make things happen, see how close they would get before he vanished, just like he always did, but a crawling feeling in the pit of his stomach told him not to push his luck. Not yet.
So he started packing, half-heartedly. He knew he would need his laptop and some clothes, but he filled the trunk of his car with his books and few belongings. Then, even though he was still antsy to be out and about, he loaded up his back seat as well. He had everything he would need to start a new life in his car. He packed a small suitcase and put his laptop on the passenger seat of his car. He stood in his almost empty room, debating what to do next. He could not afford his traditional parting gift, and in a place like this, he was not sure anyone would notice.
Instead, he filled two trash bags with the various detritus of his years in the room and managed to cram that into his car as well. Then he got the vacuum out of the common closet and cleaned up after himself. He made a weak bleach solution and wiped every surface in the room, including the ceiling.
Once he was finished, he stood in the room, smelling the bleach, taking in the emptiness. His hands began to shake. He felt like he was leaving his work unfinished. He did not like the feeling that came with abandoning traditions that had served him so well in the past.
But, he told himself, it could not be helped.
“You're on the run now, son,” he told himself, in the quiet of the room.
The words hung in the air, ominous. He liked the way they sounded. He was homeless now, but in his mind he had never truly had a home, anyway. He would visit one of his safety deposit boxes to get the money he would need. Then he would drive an hour east of the city and put his things in the storage locker that he had rented the day he moved to Seattle. He kept it for just such an occasion and he'd spent his first hours there saying goodbye to Liz. They would expect him to run. That's what they wanted. It was time for him to make a stand.
Alex had never been one for sports, but a metaphor occurred to him. He'd heard it somewhere. He spoke again to the empty room.
“The best defense is a good offense.”
A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth and then his mouth slowly opened into the grin of a ravening wolf.