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Collecting Cooper
  • Текст добавлен: 4 октября 2016, 23:15

Текст книги "Collecting Cooper"

Автор книги: Paul Cleave





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Текущая страница: 15 (всего у книги 26 страниц)

She stayed unresponsive and he needed another drink, a drink would help him think, so he went back out to the living room, passing clumps of her hair in the hallway, strands that had been pulled out when he fought her into the bedroom. He leaned against the dining table and knocked back a shot of whiskey, then slowly sipped at another. His hands were shaking and there were spots of blood on his palms. The shot glass kept clicking against his teeth.

To this day he still doesn’t know what she used to hit him. One moment he was leaning, the next the living room floor was rushing up to reach him. His face slapped into it, and when he came to he was tied up. He was spread-eagled, his legs tied to couch legs. His arms were over his head, tied to the TV cabinet. Something was in his mouth. His vision was foggy.

“You want to know how that felt?” she asked. “You want to know what I just went through?”

Her questions were calm. None of the words were stressed. It was like she was asking him if she could get him a drink.

He couldn’t answer. She lifted a pair of pliers in her hand. They were his pliers. She must have taken them from the garage, and he’s never seen them since. She didn’t say anything. She put the pliers onto his testicle and squeezed. She didn’t even hesitate. He heard something pop. Felt every nerve in his body catch fire. He screamed into the rag until he passed out, and when he came to he was alone, untied and bleeding on his carpet. He made his way to the hospital. He kept waiting for the police to arrive, but they never came.

A month passed. The student was reported missing. Nobody knew where she was. He knew he was the reason she had vanished. He thought she had killed herself somewhere. Part of him felt guilty, part of him felt relief, and the part of him that had lost his testicle was angry he hadn’t been given the chance to kill her himself. That first year he thought about her every waking moment. Then he started to think of her less. Two years after the attack and he still hated her, but the anger had dulled, he didn’t think about her constantly. Three years after the attack she was hardly in his thoughts anymore, and then she showed up in the papers last year. Her name was Melissa. She was on the front page, and he was sure it was her. There were differences, of course there were, a person can change a lot physically in three years if they want to, but it was her, and she was doing bad things. He couldn’t understand the psychology. There must have been more to it than his attack on her. He wanted to know. He needed to understand. He wanted to kill her. What she was doing to other people, that was his fault. He knew that. He had made her into a monster. He wanted to feel bad about it too, but he didn’t.

It had all been an accident. It was his wife’s fault. If she hadn’t cheated on him, none of it would have happened.

He wanted to track the girl down but there was no way to do it. He wasn’t an investigator. Seeing her in the papers brought the anger back. He became obsessed again. He hadn’t had a drink in three years, but this made him return to it. He wanted revenge. He wanted that night with her back so he could do it differently. It would start the same but end with his hands around her throat.

He couldn’t take that night back. He would sit in his living room staring at the wall while the bottle of whiskey disappeared in front of him. He would dream about what he would do to her if he found her. He would go to work the following day disguising his hangover, and nobody ever knew what was really going on inside his head.

Then he met Jane Tyrone.

She reminded him in some ways of Natalie Flowers. Same hair, young and pretty, same smile. She worked at his bank. He had gone in to deposit a check. She gave him a big smile that was part of service. He wanted the service to include seeing her naked. He wanted it enough that he followed her after work into a parking building in town. It was an impulsive thing to do, but also very simple. Just a matter of timing, really, as long as nobody else was around, and there wasn’t. He walked up to her while she was unlocking her car. He smiled at her and she smiled back and she didn’t recognize him. Then he reached behind her and banged her head down into the roof, once, twice, and a third time for luck. She was out cold. He put her into the trunk of her car and left her there for fifteen minutes until he returned with his own. He had to park a few spaces down, and he killed five minutes reading the newspaper until again there was nobody around, and then he made the switch.

He kept her alive for a week. That hadn’t been the plan. There had been no plan, really. He had woken up that morning with no intent of harming anybody, and had ended it at the institution with her locked in a padded cell. He thought he would use her and dispose of her the way he should have disposed of that bitch three years earlier.

Things had changed. He found he began to like her, and part of him, there’s no kidding himself here, part of him wanted to be liked by her too. Sometimes, within the moments after using her, he would tell her he was sorry, and tell her everything was going to be okay. In the beginning he thought he meant it. In the end he knew he didn’t.

He kept her alive, he used her over and over, and each time he found himself not caring as much about her as the time before. He wasn’t sure how long he wanted to keep her, but after seven days she just went and died on him. It was okay, because after seven days there was nothing left to be attracted to, nothing he hadn’t done a dozen times to her already that he felt the urge to do again. It had been time to move on anyway. For both of them. It was bound to happen. People drift apart.

It’s common knowledge that killers like to keep souvenirs, and it was no different for him. He had a digital camera in his briefcase. He used it every day with her. He took one photo, then another, and it turned out he enjoyed taking photos. It’s a good thing too, because he liked to spend time looking at those pictures. It was a week’s worth of fun compressed onto a microchip smaller than a fingernail. The irony is he actually thought of bringing her to Grover Hills. He needed an abandoned building, and this one suited his needs perfectly. However there were two others that were the same, two other mental institutions he used to visit to talk to the patients to write his book, both closed down within months of this one. In the end he settled on one of the locations to take the girls, a place called Sunnyview Shelter.

If he gets out of here alive, how much of his life can he return to? The camera has been destroyed, but what of the photographs on the flash drive behind his filing cabinet? There was another one too, hidden in his office at home, surely as melted and ruined as everything else in his house. He knew it was a bad idea hiding them at work, but he needed to be able to look at them any time he pleased.

The day he took Emma Green had been a lousy one. There had been another article in the previous Saturday’s paper about Melissa X, or rather, Natalie Flowers. It was a feature piece that covered three pages and had pictures of her taken from a video recording the police had. The entire weekend he read that article over and over, each time a little more fueled by alcohol. Monday he went to work. The hangover was a bitch and a struggle to hide at work, but thankfully some of his classes were canceled because of the heat wave. There was a girl in his class who reminded him a little of Natalie. She worked at a café he went to sometimes. He went there to see her and nothing more, just to take a look at her and fantasize what it would be like to hurt her, and then that old man assaulted her in the parking lot. He first went toward her to help her, he’s sure of that, because he was never going to harm another of his students because then the police might have questions for him. So he went to her aid and changed his mind. Just like that. His thought process went from helping her to hurting her in under a second and it was a mistake. He knew it then but couldn’t help himself.

He was going to keep her for seven days like Jane Tyrone. He liked the symmetry. Other’s would call that a signature. Taking the pictures was stupid. He knew it was stupid but took them anyway. It went against everything he had learned. There were rules you had to follow if you didn’t want to get caught. He had broken them. Killers always ended up becoming smug enough and arrogant enough to think they won’t get caught and they take bigger risks, and he knew, he absolutely knew that he was better than that. Better than all those smug bastards. It’s unlikely the police have found the photos. They would have no reason to even look. At this point he’s a victim, nothing more. Emma Green being a student of his doesn’t look good for him, but at least the bank teller was a random stranger.

His fingertips are completely black with ink as he continues to stroke the newspaper. He turns it over and looks at the second page. A picture of Nurse Pamela Deans stares out at him from a black-and-white square about the size of his palm. There was no warmth to her, and every time he spoke to her he was sure it took all her energy to remain cordial. However she was extremely useful in his studies and exceptionally efficient. He always imagined her living alone in a house full of straight edges and starched bedsheets, perhaps a few cats, a small TV and a radio tuned only to classical music. Now she is dead, burned in the same way his house was burned.

Burned, no doubt, by Adrian.

This is bad. Really bad. If the police make the connection between the two fires, is it possible they’ll connect everything to Grover Hills? Yesterday he’d have loved it if the police showed up to rescue him. But if they come today they’ll find the girl who helped him, and who he killed in return for that help.

Again, that was stupid. For a man who knows a lot about killers, for a man who knows what their common mistakes are, why can he not stop himself before acting?

There is still blood on him. His clothes are stained, and there’s a murder weapon with his prints on the other side of the door. He begins pacing the cell. The police will make the connection. At some point somebody will drive out here to take a look around. They’re going to find the dead woman and there are going to be some tough questions. He has to get out of here. He has to kill Adrian. He has to make it look like Adrian killed the dead woman. He needs to destroy his clothes. If he escapes he can change and he can set the stage any way he wants to. As long as the camera or the photographs in his office haven’t been found, there’s no reason for the police to suspect him of anything.

He turns the newspaper over and goes to the front page where he saw the sketch earlier when Adrian was holding it. Up close it looks like his brother-in-law, except it’s supposed to be Adrian, only it doesn’t look much like Adrian.


He has to escape.

He has to convince Adrian to let him out of here.

It’s time to try a different tactic.

chapter thirty-two

The study is tidier than I last left it. All the files have been swept up and taken. I move into the hallway and look outside the front door. No sign of anybody. Back in the study it’s only a matter of time before what pages are left in the printer start curling in the heat. The flash drive is still hanging out of the front of the computer. I snatch it out and stuff it into my pocket. I go through the house room by room before heading outside and going around the property. I do a full sweep of the section then head back inside.

I’m still thinking it could have been somebody from Grover Hills who killed Daxter, but now that the Melissa X file has gone, I’m also thinking that it could have been Melissa. I’m not sure which one of those two possibilities scares me the most. What I am sure about is that I’m the world’s biggest idiot for leaving the front door open, but front doors are open all across the city, people desperate for the breeze. I lock the front door now. I plug the flash drive into the computer and print out the rest of the document.

I give Schroder a call and update him.

“Jesus, Tate, how can you have been so careless? That file is confidential! Did they take the DVD too?”

“No, the DVD is still here,” I tell him, and it is—it’s still in the player.

“Well, at least that’s something. If that footage was ever made public . . . God, what a nightmare that would be. Still, it’s bad enough you lost the file.”

“You should never have given it to me.”

“Ah, I see, so it’s my fault then.”

“I didn’t mean it like that,” I tell him.

“Yes you did,” he says, and he’s right.

“I need another copy of the file.”

“I’ll think about it,” he says. “So now what, now you’re thinking maybe Natalie Flowers is the one who broke in and stole it and killed your cat?”

“The thought had crossed my mind.”

“Listen, there’s been an update. We’ve found the car that hit the dumpster behind the café.”


“A few hours ago.”

“And you’re only letting me know now?”

“I’m sorry, boss, you’re right—you should have been the first person I told. Jesus, Tate.”

“Okay, point taken,” I say.

“Yeah, I’m sure you’ll remember it. Anyway, we sent out the details to all the panel beaters in the city yesterday. We figured it was a long shot. I mean, it’s not like somebody is going to abduct a girl and have his car looked at two days later, but we did it because it’s procedure, and because it might not have come from the car that took Emma. One of them called us this morning saying he had a match to the color, and metal transfer from what could have been the dumpster, and the damage matched the height of the paint on the dumpster. So we checked it out, and sure enough, it was our car.”


“And a couple of detectives go around and speak to the owner. He’s seventy-six-year-old Arnold Sweetman and they can tell right off the bat that he’s got nothing to do with Emma’s disappearance. He goes into the café at least once a week. He says he was sitting in his car getting ready to leave when a girl tried to steal his wallet. They show him a picture of Emma Green, and he tells them that’s the girl.”


“That’s what he said. He said he was sitting there when she opened up the door, leaned in, and tried to take his wallet from his pocket.”

“Are you serious?”

“I know. It doesn’t make sense. So the detectives take him down to the station and keep on questioning him. His answer doesn’t change. He really thinks Emma Green was trying to mug him. So we check the side of his car for prints, and sure enough, we find a couple on the handle that belong to her.”

“There must have been a reason she was opening it,” I say. “I mean, she just isn’t going to walk up to a car with somebody sitting in it, open the door, and try to mug them, especially right behind her work where people could recognize her.”

“There is a reason,” Schroder says. “After an hour, Sweetman asks for a lawyer, so the detectives have to leave him alone. His lawyer shows up, and when they go into the interview room Sweetman has fallen asleep, only he looks like he could be dead. So the lawyer puts his hand on Sweetman’s shoulder and slowly tries to shake him awake, and when he comes to he starts screaming at his lawyer accusing him of trying to molest him. It only lasts five seconds, but it’s possible the same thing happened the other night. The café owner remembers Sweetman being in there, and remembers him leaving at least an hour before Emma left. He probably went and sat in his car and fell asleep, and Emma came along and saw him and was concerned. She probably opened the door and he reacted the same way he did with his lawyer.”

“And then Sweetman sped away,” I say, finishing the story, “and Emma was either abducted from the parking lot, or somewhere between there and her home by Cooper Riley.”

“That’s how it’s looking. But none of it gets us any closer to finding where she is now,” he says, and hangs up.

I’m thirty pages into Cooper’s manuscript when a patrol car and a station wagon pull up outside. I return the gun to its hiding place beneath the mattress. Three men come to the door and none of them is Schroder. Two of them are officers and the other the crime scene technician. I lead them through to Daxter. One of the officers looks away and the other one groans. The crime scene technician stares at my cat as though he were a puzzle. The wire that was around his neck is still there. It’s an unwound coat hanger. One end is wrapped around Dax’s neck, the other hooked over the edge of the gutter on the roof. I show them the grave.

“Jesus, this is sick,” one of the officers remarks.

I agree with him. The two officers take a customary look around the backyard. I tell them about the break-in. They keep glancing at each other as if confirming a suspicion they had about me earlier, or out of an attraction for each other. One of them heads out to the street while the other goes through the house for a few minutes before joining him in canvassing the neighborhood, leaving me with the forensics guy. His name is Brody and I’ve worked with him before but he seems to have wiped any memory of that from his system. His forearms are red from the sun and his nose is peeling and he has a palm-sized bald spot that’s burning and he keeps sniffing, maybe an allergy to the cat. He goes about ignoring me, spending some time inside then coming back out, taking plaster casts of the footprints before dusting the shovel for prints.

“There’s a couple of sets on here,” he says, “we’ll need to compare them against yours.”

“Probably against my parents too,” I say. “They’ve been looking after the garden for me.”

“Well, there’s a few sets there, hopefully we can find a match. See there?” he says, pointing to the base of the fence. “That’s dirt transfer. Your cat killer left that way, and I’d guess he arrived that way too. I’d say he watched you burying the cat and drove around the block to your front door. There’s plenty of shoe prints too, which we’ll try to match up, but there’ll be a thousand identical shoes. There’s enough wear and tear in them that if you bring me something I can match it.”

“What else?”

“We’ve got prints inside. We got them over the computer desk. They might all end up being yours, but we’ll run them. We might get lucky. Between the study and the shovel, we might get a hit if this guy has a record.”

“Nothing,” one of the officers says, coming back through the house. “We’ve gone right up and down the street—nobody saw anything.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right,” I say. Other than the stoned guy who lived opposite Cooper Riley, the last time somebody in this country actually admitted witnessing a crime was around 1950.

“We’ll run the prints and get the cat autopsied. You should fill the hole back in and stay awake tonight in case he comes back,” Brody says.

They pack everything up. Daxter is slipped into a dark black bag made from thick plastic. I follow them out to the street.

“I want him back when you’re done,” I say, nodding toward the bag.

“I’ll make sure of it,” Brody says.

I make sure the doors are locked. I retrieve the gun. My knee is getting sore again. I refill the grave. I get a strong sense of déjà vu. I hold out hope the fingerprints will get a match. If it is somebody from Grover Hills they might have been sentenced there after committing a crime. We could have a name within an hour. We could have Emma Green by the end of the day. Or they might match Melissa’s fingerprints, which are on record from surfaces she touched when she murdered Detective Calhoun. If they do belong to her, how did she know I was working on the case? Only Schroder knew. No, it can’t have been her.

I sit in the shade and read another chunk of Cooper’s manuscript. I’ve read similar things before, written by profilers from the UK or the US, and I imagine this is what Cooper was attempting to do. Cooper’s one reads like a textbook. There is no flair, no emotion in those words, not like other books I’ve read where the author is genuinely disgusted and upset about the cases they’re writing about, the kind of author who you think was crying into his keyboard as he detailed each victim he had to look at. Some of the names in here I remember from when I was on the force, there’s even one that I arrested, a man by the name of Jesse Cart-man who raped and killed and digested parts of his sister—and not in that order. Cooper attempts to explain the criminal mind. He tries to get inside their heads. It works when police profilers do it, because they’re dealing with people who for the most part are sane. Many of the people locked away at Grover Hills and the other institutions Cooper visited were purely delusional, which skews all of Cooper’s data. He’s not studying a criminal mind, he’s studying one where two and two equal nineteen. He struggles to draw connections from one patient to the next. Some have bad backgrounds, some come from good homes, some are making stuff up. He will make one point and then a chapter later he will contradict it. This could explain why the book is still in manuscript form and not for sale in bookshops. Or he stopped trying. The version I got from the university hadn’t been touched in three years. Did Cooper give up writing after he was attacked?

I jot down every name I come across, thinking of each as a potential suspect. I list them by the institution they were kept in, focusing mainly on Grover Hills. In the end I have a list of forty-one names. It’s possible one of these people abducted Cooper Riley and killed Pamela Deans, and it’s equally as possible none of them did. It’s possible the two things are unrelated, it’s possible they’re related but by different means.

Forty-one names. I start with the Internet, using an online newspaper site and running their names through the search engine. I rule out six of them due to suicides. Another six are currently in jail for crimes ranging from breaking-and-entering to rape, one for repeated defecation in the middle of a shopping mall, another for killing his mother. There is little information on the others, and none on the rest. Jesse Cartman, the man who ate part of his sister twelve years ago, was released along with all the others, having served the term equivalent to what he would have done if he had gone to jail, and on the days he remembers to take his medication he works as a caretaker at the Botanical Gardens.

Other than Pamela Deans, Cooper doesn’t mention any of the other staff, and I can’t find any other nurses or doctors or orderlies mentioned online. Getting hold of any medical records is going to be impossible. Schroder would have shown the sketch to some of the doctors and nurses who used to work at Grover Hills. Maybe he already has a name.

Grover Hills.

It’s at the center of all of this and I don’t even know what it looks like.

Is it possible that’s where Cooper is now? It’s an abandoned building that would make an excellent place to hide out.

Is it possible an ex-patient has returned to it, thinking of Grover Hills as home?

I load up the city map on the computer and write down directions to the abandoned mental institution, grab my gun, and jump into the car.

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