“Okay,” said Mitch, “What’s this?”
“This,” Wolf explained, “is a list of jobs that somebody who can get into other people’s heads could cheat at. I figured he’d probably be a salesman of some kind – cars, or art, media, or real estate, or any kind of high-ticket stuff. But art is underlined, because it’s also shelter. I was going to cross it off again when Rose was having trouble with it after she’d been pushing people around, but it turns out there’s stuff she has trouble with and stuff she doesn’t.”
“So you think he’s going to be some kind of art dealer?”
“Either that, or he just gets people to give him what he wants. He doesn’t really have to have a job.” Wolf shrugged.
Mitch turned the page. “What’s this one?”
“That’s kinds of places that work for shelter. Next to it is a longer list with a few examples of each kind of place.”
“Good thinking,” said Mitch. “You were trying to get ahead of him while we were all looking for patterns in the shit he’d done.” He flipped the page again. “Okay, what’s this?”
“That’s personal,” said Wolf. “It’s places that Maria still owed money to when she died. I crossed them off when I went and paid what she’d owed them.”
“Libraries, bookstores, art places … Wait a minute,” Mitch said, flipping the pages back.
“Yeah,” Wolf said. “I noticed that already. “Maria must’ve been a little sensitive.”
“We figured it out,” said David. “Sensitive people are his main victims. I … Mitch, back at the station, when we figured this out, that wasn’t really…”
“It’s all right, David,” said Mitch. “I’m just glad to have you back.”
“What gets me about this guy,” said David, “is how the stuff he calls up when he wants to pull your chain, is your own stuff. My dad ran afoul of the Klan before he
moved out here, and my mom’s family… well, they ran afoul of the Nazis. The ones who survived came to America. So to me genocide is …. Well, when he wanted to pull my string
and make me nuts, he did it by making me think of genocide. When he wanted to pull Jensen’s string, he made us into the snipers from Jensen’s Viet Nam days. Whatever shit you got running around in the back of your mind, that’s going to be the shit he uses on you.”
“Yeah,” said Wolf. “It’s what Rose said. He uses whatever your own crap thinking is against you.”
David’s throat tightened visibly and he replied in a hard, flat voice. “That’s not crap thinking, Wolf. Genocide really is every bit that bad.”
“Mass murder’s never nice,” Mitch said, cutting the argument short. “Neither are serial rape or torture killings.”
“The profiler said our boy started out as a serial rapist,” said David.
“That’s another thing,” said Mitch. “Who the hell is this Agent Dover?”
David frowned and shrugged. “He’s the FBI profiler that they sent out from the ISU. He did a profile on our killer.”
“Except he’s not,” said Mitch. “I talked to MacLaren at the FBI office yesterday and they didn’t send out a profiler on this case. They don’t even have a Special
Agent Dover. They referred us to Doctor Abelard, who’s a professor of criminal psych that trained a bunch of their profilers and lives here in the city.”
“I know Abelard,” said Rose, dully, setting one of her watches down on its cloth and staring at its mechanism slowly rotating inside it. “Little guy, elderly. Baldheaded. He comes in at Morey’s all the time. Buys a lot of special books.”
“So, is he … one of you guys?” Mitch asked.
“Mitch, everybody is a little bit. It’s just a question of how much and what kind. But he’s … yeah, more than most people. Most everybody pretends it isn’t real. But some of them have to work harder at pretending than others do. Abelard is one of the hardest-working pretenders I know.”
“But either Abelard never got the message from the FBI, or he never contacted us. And instead, we got this pretend FBI Agent named Dover,” Mitch said. “Wolf, I think this sketch of our killer is as good as it’s going to get. Can you two get a fresh sheet of paper and show us what Dover looks like?”
“Sure,” said Wolf. “But first, I got a different question. Mitch, you know why bulldogs have flat noses?”
Mitch frowned. “Chasing parked cars, of course. Old joke, right?”
“Ask yourself this, Mitch,” Wolf continued. “If we do catch up to this guy, what happens then? Is there something we can do, or do we just get our noses flattened? If you arrest him, what stops you from letting him go the next minute? What stops people around us from killing us, themselves or each other? Hell, what stops us from killing each other, or them? And assuming we can bring him in, what jury’s gonna be able to convict him?”
In the long silence that followed, the faint ticking of a hundred lovingly handmade watches could be heard.
“Mitch, I know you believe in the system,” said Wolf. “I know you believe in the law. But it just can’t work with this guy.” He shrugged and turned to his sketching with David, leaving Mitch to work out the inescapable conclusion for himself.
“It’s true,” said Rose. “Every time one of us comes up on charges for using this kind of thing to commit crimes, that’s when pretending it isn’t real pays off, because if we can believe it then the jury winds up believing it isn’t real too. Never mind that everybody knows about it, and people write books about it, and tabloid news publishes stories about it every day, and people are so sure psychics are real that they go pay good money to folks pretending to be psychics. Never mind that every family has stories about how family members who were apart knew the instant something happened to each other. The official story, whenever one of us has our necks on the line, turns out to be that it doesn’t exist.”
She stared back down at her watches, then started to pack them back into the box, wrapping each one in its little scrap of velvet and putting each one in its place, still ticking.
This is one chapter of The Hook, a novel which is being published serially on this site. This page links to all chapters so far serialized.
The complete novel is available from Amazon.