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The note had read:
the thirst for blood it is in
their flesh before the old wound
can be healed there is flesh, blood
It was the first thing Cletus took from the file as he sat down across the table from the suspect. It had been pinned to the body of the first boy.
The table was an 8'x 3' pinewood job. Cletus, McGuire, and the still nameless suspect were at the end farthest from the door. At the other end stood two burly deputies, each holding a sawed-off 20-gauge pump-action shotgun. In the center of the table were all the items found in the suspect's possession at the time of the arrest: a torn Bugs Bunny t-shirt, a yo-yo, a bag of marbles, a baseball cap, a small pair of glasses--
--and a twenty-four inch sickle.
"Most of this stuff belonged to the three boys killed recently," said McGuire. "But look here -- this t-shirt belonged to the Simpson boy and the glasses are Danny Wilson's -- see here? The frame's taped together in the middle, and--"
"--I know," said Cletus. "His father told us how he'd fixed them just that day." He turned toward the suspect. "Where'd you get all these?"
The man didn't respond, only sat hugging himself and rocking back and forth. He was small and very well groomed. He wore an expensive three-piece suit, though the rains had left their mark on the material. He didn't look like a serial killer, more like the vice-president of a bank. But wasn't that always the way? Four years ago this man had butchered two little boys, then disappeared. Now he'd come back for more, and three new boys were dead.
It ended here. Tonight.
Cletus picked up the sickle, examined it under the light. It looked ancient but felt solid. The handle was marble with detailed carvings of mythological figures. Cletus felt a sense of power in the weapon, almost like an electrical charge. It ran up his arm, snaked through his neck, and flooded his brain with the urge to swing out and take this guy's head off. The sickle would give him the strength. He put it down.
"Outside," he said to McGuire. The sheriff followed him.
"What is it?"
Cletus closed the door. "Let me ask you something, Joe. Doesn't all this strike you as just a little too convenient?"
"I don't follow."
"You got yourself this guy who's carrying stuff that can be linked to all five of the dead boys. He's also got a sickle, which had to be the murder weapon."
" ... yeah?"
"How'd you find him?"
"Anonymous phone tip."
Cletus shook his head. "Something's not right. Has he said much?"
"Hardly a word. What're you thinking?"
Cletus raised a finger. "Not just yet. C'mon."
They went back in and found the suspect -- Cletus had decided to think of him as QuietGuy -- looking at the note. He was smiling.
Cletus snatched the paper from the man and sat down. "Something funny you care to share with the rest of us?"
"Maybe," said QuietGuy. Then he hugged himself and began rocking again.
Cletus looked at McGuire. "You read him his rights?"
"Whatta you think?"
"Always the eloquent one." He turned his atten'tion back to QuietGuy. "You feel like chatting now?"
QuietGuy rocked back and forth.
Cletus leaned forward, pounded his finger against the note. "You know what this is from, don't you?"
"Well, just in case you forgot, it's from The Odyssey by Homer."
QuietGuy stopped rocking. His eyes locked on Cletus's face.
"You surprised a hick like me would know Homer? I read, yessir. All the classics. Modern stuff too. You caught the new William Goldman yet? Hot stuff." He could feel something rising in his gut. His hands gripped the edge of the table. Cletus knew; as soon as QuietGuy's eyes met his own, he knew. The old instincts hadn't faded with time and empty bottles.
QuietGuy wasn't in this alone.
There was more to this than Joe McGuire suspected.
"I'm gonna say three names," whispered Cletus to QuietGuy, "and I want you to tell me if you know who I'm talking about."
QuietGuy sat frozen, eyes unblinking.
"Alecto," said Cletus--
--and QuietGuy swallowed hard--
--started shaking a little bit--
QuietGuy's shaking grew more violent but he didn't utter a sound.
Cletus sat back in his chair and lit a cigarette.
QuietGuy shook his head and giggled.
"Who the hell?" asked McGuire.
"What is it, Joe? Not up on your Greek mythology? Those are the three Furies. Alecto the Endless, Tisiphone the Retaliator, and Megaera the Envious Rager."
"I don't understand what--"
Cletus slammed his fist on the table and jumped to his feet, nearly knocking over his chair. "Goddammit! I told them, didn't I, Joe? When the governor called in the Feds, I told them this guy had some kinda hard-on for Greek mythology, didn't I? Everyone thought I was just goin' off the deep end 'cause Esther had just left me, thought I was grabbing at straws so I wouldn't lose the election."
"They followed up on that, Cletus, they--.
"--they sent one guy to the library for a couple of hours and decided I was full of shit. For a long time I thought maybe I was, but I've had a lot of time these past four years, time to do some reading of my own, some thinking." He spun around and pointed a finger at QuietGuy. "And you know what I'm talking about, don't you?"
McGuire grabbed his arm. "Cletus, this isn't the place to--"
"--yeah, yeah, I know. Your office, right?" He stormed over to the door, unlocked then opened it. "Let's go."
As McGuire came over to Cletus, QuietGuy picked up the note, shook his head, and whispered, "Paris."
"What?" said McGuire.
"Paris," repeated Cletus.
"Is this guy French or something?"
"No. Paris is someone's name."
"Care to tell me whose?"
"Not until you've had a drink. You'll need it."
Helen rolled over in bed and groaned. Her back was throbbing but she refused to let that stop her. She had mythology reports to grade as soon as the agency man left. Her students were always pleased when she handed back papers on time. One of the few pleasures in her life was being treated with respect and not pity by her students. Of course, one shouldn't expect any less when teaching at a grade school for gifted children. They needed her and Helen liked being needed. If only for her mind.
A glass shattered in the kitchen and Helen snapped her eyes open.
"Dammit!" came a male voice. She blinked, trying to remember the man's name. Young fellow, blond hair, gray eyes, twenty-five or so, terrific body ... what did the agency say his name was?
She couldn't remember. After a while they all got to be the same, especially after the lights went out; then they were nothing more than a hot, sweaty body touching her where she needed to be touched, kissing her in places no freewilled lover ever would, slowly and patiently enduring the obstacle course of her body long enough to bring her home. And sometimes, like this guy, themselves.
She reached over to the bedside table, turned on the light, and picked up her purse. "What's your name again?" she called.
"Just call me Paris," said the voice from the kitchen. "Everyone does."
"Would you stop messing around and come here, please?" A few moments later he was standing by the bed, still naked. God, what a beauty he was!
"Usual agency fee," said Paris.
Helen sighed and began counting out the cash. "You were very nice. Most of the men they've sent me aren't usually so ... considerate."
To her surprise, he knelt on the bed, bent down, and kissed her; a long, warm, deep kiss.
He pulled away. "You have the most beautiful face I've ever seen."
Her defensiveness kicked in, telling her that she'd just been patronized. She sat up and covered herself with the sheet. "Thank you. You've got your money, please go now."
"Because we're finished, that's why. Because I have to get dressed and it's a little awkward with--"
"Then I'll just go in the kitchen and finish making our dinner, how's that?"
She stared at him. "Do you always make dinner for your, uh, your ... ?"
"No, but you're ... special."
"I've been making my own meals for almost thirty years, thank you. You may not believe it, but I don't call to have a nurse sent here. I don't want your pity and I don't want any false sympathy. I'll tell the agency that you were nice. There. Now you don't have to suck up any more."
"Don't get nasty with me, Helen. I like you. I loved being with you."
She shot him an angry glance, not sure how to take that. "What is it with you?"
"Let's just say that the traditional female body does nothing for me and leave it at that." There was genuine admiration in his eyes. "Scrambled eggs and bacon, all right?"
He kissed her again. "I really do love your face." Then he went to the kitchen.
Helen was surprised at how quickly she was able to dress. Usually the leg brace gave her trouble but tonight it snapped into place without the slightest discomfort. It wasn't until she was buttoning her blouse and looked across the room that she saw it.
The wall around the bedroom window was cracked. Not the paint, the wall.
And not only was it cracked, it seemed to be bulging inward as if the outside of the house had warped.
But there were other things.
like the chipped plaster on the carpet
like the odd angle of the window
and the gaping, half-inch space between the wall and window sill where a draft sliced through.
The gap ran the entire length of the window as if something had been used to saw through. She reached out with her good arm and touched the window, gasping when she saw it ever-so-slightly swing -- not much but enough to let her know this section of wall was on the verge of collapsing. She stepped back and shook her head.
Not once in thirteen years had there been a problem with the house. This was an old house, they were supposed to be built better, weren't they? Three thousand dollars away from paying off the mortgage and now the place decides to fall apart! She nearly cursed out loud--
--then saw the odd substance that leaked from the gap and ran down the wall. Thick and gummy, white yet almost clear. She wondered if something hadn't gone wrong with the wiring, perhaps causing something in there to melt--
--which would be fine if this house was built with plastic and glue.
She reached out and touched the substance, shivered when her fingers made contact. She looked down and saw it pooling on the floor. There seemed to be quarts of the stuff. She shook her head and wiped her fingers on the skin of her malformed arm.
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