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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: 20 (всего у книги 26 страниц)

I dial Schroder’s number. I walk through the living room to the French doors. Schroder answers and I open the door to step out onto the deck, wanting to escape the hot air inside.

“Oh fuck,” I say.

“Tate?”

“She’s here,” I say, and the words are thick and catch at the back of my throat.

“What?” he asks.

“Barlow . . .” I have to hold a hand up to my mouth. “Barlow was right.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Only it wasn’t the pets we had to worry about.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Jane . . . Jane Tyrone,” I say, and her name is covered in the taste of vomit.

“What about her?”

The corpse has the same hair but beyond that it’s a mess, any of the features blurred by five months of rot and decay. “She’s hanging from my roof,” I say, and I crouch down and throw up off the side of the deck and onto the lawn.

chapter forty-two

Adrian feels better. The itching has gone, his skin feels cool, he feels relaxed and at peace. Digging up the dead girl was a new experience, and he has to admit, an even more rewarding one than he was used to. He could have done without the mess and the smell of her, but ultimately digging up cats is child’s play compared to digging up and hanging the dead girl.

Like using an ATM at a drive-through, it’s character building. One brought about by a need he never thought he would have. Seeing those people at Grover Hills triggered something inside of him, something Cooper would label as rage, and he knew digging up the girl and hanging her from Tate’s roof would make the rage disappear.

All those times he was locked in the Scream Room with blood running down his thighs and the skin on his face scuffed from the cinder blocks, he would drift away from the cold room and take himself back to the boys who hurt him, and in his thoughts he would kill them, he would kill them the way his friends at the institution had killed others. When he was a boy, digging up the animals was a waste of time. He knows that now, he’s experienced it now. All those years ago he should have been killing the boys who had hurt him and stringing them up for their parents to find.

He’s back in Tate’s neighborhood, and he’s nervous being back. During the drive here he looked at every car as a potential police car. He was beginning to regret taking her car. He should have kept the car he started with—the police wouldn’t be looking for it. In this weather it wasn’t that odd walking the streets without a shirt on, but it was odd carrying a dead girl, so he parked outside the house and carried the dead girl through the side gate into the backyard. The other girl, the alive one, was still asleep.

Then he went and moved his car to the end of the block and around the corner and came back. Since stringing up the girl he’s been waiting behind Tate’s garage, waiting for the reaction. From his vantage point he isn’t able to see it, but he certainly hears it. He can hear him talking on his phone, then silence, then gagging as the ex-policeman starts throwing up on his lawn. The sound of it makes Adrian feel sick too, and for a frightening moment he thinks he’s also going to throw up. He sucks in a deep breath and holds it and the feeling disappears.

He moves around the garage and down the back of the house, staying against it. Light is coming out of the dining room and kitchen windows and hitting the lawn to the side of him. He can see the grave where the cat was buried, dug up, and it looks like buried again. He reaches the end of the house. Tate is crouched off the side of the deck, the phone is still in his hand. He can hear the person on the other end of it, a tinny voice asking Tate over and over “What’s wrong?”

He’s positive he hasn’t made a sound, yet he senses that Tate knows he’s there. There’s a pause, no longer than a second, but it feels like a minute in which both of them hold their breath. Tate has vomit on his chin and his face is covered in sweat, the living room light reflecting off it, the phone is hanging down in one hand and in the other . . .

“No,” Adrian says, barely getting the word out before the gun comes up toward him. Adrian has never seen one in real life. He thought Cooper would have owned one, or the Twins, but the closest he’s ever come to seeing one is on a TV screen. Adrian pulls the trigger on his own gun, which isn’t a gun at all but only shaped like one, and the twin darts are propelled from the Taser and hit Tate in the chest and his body contracts and the gun goes off, an explosion of sound followed quickly by the impact of a bullet splintering into the wooden fence behind him.

The Taser does the same job it’s been doing on everybody else and gives him the same result. He keeps his finger on the trigger, thousands of volts pouring from the Taser down the wires into the barbs embedded into Tate’s body until his eyes roll up and he flops onto his back, four limbs all useless and laying in a heap. Adrian rushes forward and holds the rag over Tate’s face. He isn’t able to struggle. A moment later he’s unconscious.

There was a small fright with the gun, but other than that none of this could have gone any better, plus now he has a gun to add to his collection!

“Welcome to my collection,” he says, and can’t hear the words over the ringing in his ears. He tugs at the barbs in Tate’s chest and they’re caught in there pretty deep but he manages to get them out by tugging harder. He winds them around the weapon and jams it into his pocket. He picks up the gun.

The cell phone is on the ground next to Tate’s hand. It’s still on, and whoever is on the other end is still listening. He stomps on it, a sharp stab of pain shooting up his leg on impact. It doesn’t break on the first hit, rather it sinks slightly into the ground. He stomps on it a second time, this time it breaks into two pieces and the pain in his leg is more intense.

The ringing in his ears is starting to die down, and he can hear voices. He looks around at the houses next to him and lights that weren’t on before are on now. There are people staring at him from one of the windows. He points the gun at them and they duck away. They’ve heard the gunshot and they’ve called the police. He crouches down and gets Tate over his shoulder, but manages only one step before his right leg gives out and he falls over, Tate landing on top of him. He rolls the deadweight off him and when he tries to stand the pain returns, the same pain as when he broke the cell phone. He reaches down and touches his leg and his hand comes away with blood. He rolls up his pants leg. There’s a groove of flesh missing across the side of his outer thigh where the bullet Tate fired chewed through him. Blood is flowing from it steadily. He never even felt it happen, and now that he’s seen it it’s starting to hurt bad. There’s no way he can carry Tate and get to the car quickly now, and the police are on their way because the damn nosy neighbors would have called them.

“This isn’t fair,” he says, reaching the side gate. “Fairness is only for winners,” his mother used to say, not his real mother, but the one he set on fire. He guesses that wasn’t fair on her being set ablaze like that, and guesses that means she wasn’t a winner. He moves over the front yard onto the street, gritting his teeth as he covers the distance to his car. He holds one hand firmly against the wound as he drives, and is several blocks away before he hears the first of the sirens.

chapter forty-three

For the first thirty-eight years of my life I’d never been shot by a Taser. Now it’s my second time within the last year. Don’t know if that means I’ll go another thirty-eight years before getting shot again two more times, or whether I’m going to get shot every year now until I’m seventy-six. Last time it was my lawyer, this time it’s an ex–mental patient. I don’t know which is worse, but I do know who would bill me more.

I can see the stars and I can feel the ground beneath me, but I can’t move anything and just keeping my eyes open is using up all my resources. There are a few voices and somebody says my name a couple of times but it seems like all the words are being dialed in from one of the stars above me. Shapes move above me but they don’t stay still long enough to snap into focus, but I think they’re faces. Eventually I’m moved. I know this because the stars swirl around a little and then I can see the eaves of my roof rolling by and then the ceiling of a van comes into view. I close my eyes and can feel my head spinning. I think I nap for a little while and when I open my eyes I’m not sure how much time has passed, but I can feel my arms and legs even though I can barely move them.

“It was a mistake letting you out,” Schroder says, leaning over me.

“I’m starting to think the same thing,” I say.

“Huh?”

“I said I’m starting to think the same thing.”

“Whatever you’re saying might sound comprehensible to you,” Schroder says, “but all I can hear is wubwubwubbubwub.”

“Sorry.”

“Huh? Look, just relax. I’ll come back in a few minutes, hopefully you’ll be better.”

My mouth tastes like I’ve bitten into a very raw piece of steak. I can taste what may be copper or may be blood but is whatever chemical Adrian used to knock me out. I close my eyes and try to focus on one limb at a time. I can move fingers and toes but nothing more. I go through each limb again. I can make fists. I can clench my feet. I keep going through them until I can bend my arms, then my legs. I sit up and my head swirls and I pass straight out.

When I come to again Schroder is back. “How you feeling?”

“Like shit.”

“That matches up with how you look. Jesus, Tate, isn’t there anybody left in this city you haven’t pissed off?”

I’m seriously starting to doubt it. I sit up, much slower this time. I’m dizzy and hungry and thirsty and I can’t remember the last time I ever felt so exhausted. I have a headache made up of sharp waves that arrive one after the other, each feels like my brain biting at the back of my eyeballs. The ambulance looks cluttered and it’s a miracle the paramedics can ever know where anything is. I swing my feet out over the edge of the gurney and things swim out of focus for a few seconds but return.

“What the hell happened?” Schroder asks.

“I don’t . . . don’t really know.”

“You were attacked while you were on the phone to me.”

“You rang me?”

“No, you rang me.”

“Hang on,” I say, and I close my eyes and try to remember. I can remember eating a burger. I remember walking through the gardens, all the flowers, the river, lush lawns and healthy-looking trees even in this heat. I remember the bodies at Grover Hills, the guys in their gang patches with the mean dog. Then I’m walking through my house and dialing the phone, I opened the door and there she was. Is that why I was calling Schroder? To tell him about the body? No, no, I was on the phone before I saw her . . .

“She was hanging from my roof somehow.”

“Jane Tyrone,” he says, reminding me.

“He shot me with a Taser and drugged me.”

“We know, and no doubt it’s how he’s taken the others. There’s something he said to you.”

“Huh?”

“Not long after the gunshot. Probably when you were unconscious. He said, ‘Welcome to my collection.’ So Barlow was right and Adrian is obsessed with Cooper, he’s building up a collection that was going to include you. If he hadn’t freaked out at the gunshot, you’d be in a locked room somewhere on display.”

“Shit,” I say, thinking how things could have gone differently, thinking that right now I could have been waking up in a Scream Room all my own.

“I’m missing something,” I say.

“The gun?”

“No. I mean, yes, but there’s something I had to tell you.”

“Where’d the gun come from, Tate?”

I figure it’s likely that Adrian collected the gun after attacking me. I think about telling Schroder that Adrian brought the gun with him, but there’d have been no reason for him to fire it.

“It was a gift,” I tell him. “After my cat was strung up and Adrian broke into my house, I didn’t feel safe here.”

“A gift from who? From Donovan Green?”

“Why’s it matter?”

“Because it’s illegal, that’s why.”

“And if I hadn’t had it, who knows where the hell I’d be waking up right now?”

“Okay, Tate, I’ll let the gun slide for now, but I’m not forgetting about it. By the way, you shot him.”

“What?”

“We found the bullet in the fence. There’s cloth and blood on it, so it went through something. And we got drops of blood on the lawn surrounded by the Taser ID disks, and we’ve got blood leading up the street. Not enough to be something major, but you got him pretty good.”

Schroder helps me out of the ambulance, taking some of my weight so I can step down. My first few steps are like those a baby foal will take and Schroder has to help me for a few seconds. The headache stays, though. I remember pulling out the gun. I was holding the phone in my good hand and reached for the gun with my bandaged one. It made me a split second slower. It made the grip more difficult. If I’d had a fraction longer I could have taken aim. This would be all over now. Problem is Adrian would be lying in my backyard with a bullet in his head, his brain pulped, along with Emma Green’s location.

The ambulance is parked in front of my house. On the footpath are plastic markers sitting next to what must be blood drops. We head to the backyard where six people are looking around, all of them slightly out of focus. All the lights in my house have been switched on, and a couple of large lamps have been set up outside. My neighbors keep peering over the fences.

Jane Tyrone is hanging where I last saw her. There’s rope wrapped around her chest and under her arms, and she’s been strung up, the rope thrown around the chimney on the roof and pulled back down to lift her weight, then tied off against the leg of the picnic bench. I can imagine Adrian heaving her into the air, the actions like climbing a rope. Nobody would have seen a thing over the fence. Ever so slowly, her body is rotating a hundred degrees or so, the rope spinning, she comes to a stop going one way then slowly starts to spin back the other. Her body is bloated and there isn’t much left in the way of skin, just a few patches, but mostly it’s just raw-looking flesh and even bigger areas of no flesh at all. There’s a large slice across her chest that must have been made by the shovel that unearthed her. She’s naked, but covered in dirt. Parts of her are moving slowly, and I realize she has bugs squirming inside her. What face she has left is dark and sagging, the remaining skin is loose and her fingers and hands look like she’s wearing gloves that’re two sizes too big for her.

“Anybody see anything?” I ask.

“Lots of people heard the gunshot,” Schroder says, “and most of them looked out their windows. We got a bunch of matching descriptions that line up with Adrian Loaner, along with a description of the car.”

“That it?”

“That’s about as good as we can get. At least this time he didn’t take all your files.”

“Remind me to thank him,” I say. “So we don’t know anything more than we already knew, is that what you’re telling me?”

“Not true. We know he’s obsessed with you.”

“Can’t somebody cut her down?” I ask, nodding toward the dead girl.

“Not yet.”

“Jesus, Carl, she’s been up there long enough.”

“Not yet, Tate. You know how it goes.”

“Goddamn it,” I say, and I’m hit by another wave of nausea and have to crouch down before I lose balance.

“You okay?”

“No, I’m not okay,” I say, sounding pissed off and wanting to sound that way. “I was ringing you earlier because there was something I had to tell you. Goddamn it, it was important.”

“It’ll come to you.”

I close my eyes. I hate it when people say that, but I hate even more forgetting something I’m about to say before I can say it. This feels just like that. I squeeze my eyes shut even tighter in the hope it will help. I’m in the backyard, I’m on the phone to Schroder, I’m thinking about Emma Green, about Grover Hills, about places where Adrian can keep his collection. Grover Hills . . . for a while Christchurch did what it could to hide the mental people away until one day they realized they were going to need a hundred institutions, so instead they closed down the three they had and let everybody go.

The three they had . . .

All within driving distance!

My eyes snap open. Every muscle in my body is humming with energy. “I know where she is,” I tell him, almost but not quite grabbing hold of Schroder and shaking him.

“What?”

“Emma Green. It’s what I wanted to tell you. I know where she is.”

“Where?”

“I’m going with you,” I say and head to Schroder’s car. In the last few minutes a couple of vans have shown up, TV network slogans stenciled across the sides. I feel nauseous again. “And we’re going to need to lose these vultures,” I say, nodding toward the vans.

“You’re staying here, Tate. Tell me, what’s your theory?”

I open up the passenger door and climb in. “Let’s go,” I say, ignoring him, “and get some backup. We’re going to need it.”

chapter forty-four

His mother used to tell him only girls cried, and when he went down to the basement and came back with tears on his face that’s what made him a girl. He never thought so. He always thought it was what those two orderlies did to him sometimes when they stripped him naked that made him a girl, or they thought of him as a girl, he isn’t sure exactly which. But right now he is crying. He’s pulled the car off the road well away from Tate’s neighborhood and he’s holding his hands tightly on his leg and there are tears streaming from his face. He cries not only from the pain but from the frustration. Nothing is working out. He always has to fight for everything in his stupid life and this is going to be no different. Why can’t things just come easily to him like they do to everybody else?

Why can’t people just like him?

His hands are covered in blood. There isn’t anything in the car he can wrap around the wound, and if he takes his pants off to use he would be almost naked. His leg is itchy and too tender to scratch. He lowers his head and stares at the hole, tears dripping into his blood, and he imagines he’s back in his room at the Grove and he’s pacing the room, counting the footsteps, preferring the even footsteps over the odds, starting with his left and finishing with his right. Then he thinks about the cats, the boys who pissed on him and beat him, then he imagines putting them in the ground and digging them back up, ending their lives the same way they ruined his.

His tears start to slow, and the pressure in his chest from sobbing begins to ease. Strings of snot dangle from his nose and he wipes them with his hands, forgetting about the blood for a second until it streaks across his face. He begins to cry again. Life isn’t fair. It never has been. It never will be.

His leg hurts but it’s not bleeding as much now. His pants are completely soaked in blood. He can’t stay on the side of the road all night. He wipes his hands dry on the passenger seat, starts the engine and drives slowly, but not too slow, not wanting to attract the kind of attention that will get him pulled over. Blood has pooled into his shoe and makes a sucking sound when he presses on the accelerator. The wound is bad, but he knows if it were that bad he’d have passed out or died from loss of blood. He has no idea how to treat the wound or take care of it. In the past, cuts that were bad were bandaged for him by one of the nurses or his mother, and since leaving the Grove he’s never needed a doctor or a nurse to take a look at anything. What he needs is his mother, either one of them, but one’s dead and so is the other and he has never felt their loss as much as he feels it now. He truly is alone with nobody to care for him, he’s out of mothers, out of old people, his best friend left him for a girl that isn’t even real, and those at the halfway house never warmed to him the same way ninety-nine percent of everybody else never warms to him.

Including Cooper.

Friendship is such a simple thing for others, but not for him. And he’s being naïve if he thinks Cooper really wants to be his friend. Although Cooper was right about the police.

He begins driving, heading back home, unsure if Cooper will help him, trying desperately to think of another option. Each turn is painful as he switches from accelerator to brake. There aren’t many people on the streets, not in the suburbs. People don’t go out much at night. He learned not to. At night the last place he ever wanted to be was outside the walls of the halfway house.

He could go to the hospital. He couldn’t go in, but he could get one of the nurses coming out to help him. She wouldn’t want to at first, but he would make her do it. He could hold a gun to her head and she wouldn’t say no. The problem is somebody might see him. The hospital is a public place.

What then?

“Why couldn’t you have helped me?” he says, talking to his second mother. If she had helped him in the beginning, none of this would have happened.

He pulls over and stops the car, thinking, thinking, the only person who would help him is somebody who doesn’t know him already, somebody who hasn’t formed an opinion.


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