Draw Down the Moon 9
John dropped his collection of keys and loose coins on the hotel room table, and lay down on the bed. A headache throbbed behind his eyes. He wished Dana were there to rub the pain away with her gentle, knowing touch. He missed her scent in the air.
Funny how used to her he’d become. Her scent, her skin, falling asleep in her embrace, her tiny cotton panties in the laundry, the way she sang to the baby, her collection of bottles and tubes in the shower. He suspected it would be hard to sleep without her tonight.
A few days had passed between the first time they slept together and the second. He had spent those nights in restless sleep, dreaming of her skin beneath his lips and her fingers raking over his back. She invited him to her apartment and he went, expecting to have The Talk—but instead the moment she opened the door her mouth was on his and her hands were pulling at his clothes. “Make love to me,” she whispered, and so he did, on the floor, in her bed, in the shower the next morning. At some point he said “Marry me, I want you to marry me,” but it wasn’t until he asked her again a few days later, when they both were dressed and upright, that she said yes. “I didn’t think you meant it,” she explained, and he cradled her cheek in his hand and said, “I’ll mean it until the day I die.”
He missed her.
A knock sounded at the door. John grimaced—his head was still throbbing and he wanted to call Dana before it got much later—and got up to answer it. It was Monica, who smiled at him brightly. “I just had a thought,” she said, and he stepped back to let her in. “Did you notice anything strange about Mr. Wilkes’s house?”
“Other than the noticable absence of Mrs. Wilkes? No.” He sat down at the table and put his feet up on the bed.
“He had no mirrors,” Monica said. She sat cross-legged on the bed at his feet. “Even the toaster has been painted so it won’t reflect.”
He rubbed his temple. “So you think he’s a vampire?”
Monica laughed. “How do you know about that?”
“Dana makes me watch ‘Buffy’ with her. And I blame you for hooking her on that.”
“If you hate it that much you could always refuse,” Monica said mildly.
“But I like it when she watches NASCAR with me, so it’s a trade-off. Besides, the redhead’s cute,” he added with an attempted smile, but the pounding in his head prevented it from being sincere.
“Do you feel okay?” Monica laid her hand on John’s ankle.
“Not especially. So, what do you think the deal is with the mirrors?”
“I don’t know, but I’m sure it means something. I’ll research it tonight. Are you sure I can’t do anything for you? I give great back rubs.”
“Nah, but thanks. I just need to get a good night’s sleep . . . and to get home soon.”
Monica’s expression turned thoughtful. “Must be nice,” she said softly, and explained at his questioning look, “I mean, it must be nice knowing someone’s going to make things better, no matter what.”
“Yeah. It is.”
She nodded, absently patting his ankle, then sighed and got up from the bed. “Good night, John.”
“G’night,” he said, and she let herself out. He sat for a moment longer, then muttered, “Mirrors,” and got up to change his clothes.
Teeth brushed and pajamas on, John lay down on the bed again and picked up the phone. He dialed quickly, and bit his lip while it rang. “Mm, hello,” Dana’s voice purred through the wires.
“Hey. It’s me.”
“I know. How are you doing?”
“I’m okay. I miss you.”
“I miss you too, baby.”
“Asleep, right now. He kept looking for you today.”
“Oh,” John said softly, his heart twisting. “Tell him Daddy will be home soon.”
“I have been. I will. How soon, do you think?”
“I don’t know. This case is a stumper. Our victim, Amy Wilkes, disappeared three weeks ago without a trace.” He plumped up the pillow beneath his head. “No money taken out of their bank account, both cars are accounted for, no reports of her at the bus depot, the train stations or the nearest airport. No one reports picking up a hitchhiker at the time of the disappearance. There is a history of domestic abuse—”
“And one restraining order, two years ago. Physical and mental cruelty. I’m thinkin’ Mr. Wilkes finally cracked and killed her. The house is remote and the property’s big. It could be done pretty easily.”
“But he wouldn’t bury the body on his own property unless he panicked, and if he was able to cover his tracks so well he didn’t panic.”
“Yeah. Monica has a theory about mirrors, but damned if I know what it means. I think it’s garden-variety domestic violence. I’m not sure why the sheriff asked for us.”
“Hm,” Dana said.
“I’m trying to get a warrant to search the outlying property but there’s no probable cause beyond a hunch. The county judge isn’t buying it.” He rubbed his forehead.
“You sound tired.”
“I am. Headachy, too.”
“Oh,” she cooed in empathy, and John exhaled, his longing for her even stronger than before. He loved that little noise—it would appear at the oddest moments, like when she saw something in a shop window she thought William would like, when she knew he was in pain, when she was on the verge of orgasm. He closed his eyes and resisted the urge to ask her to say that again.
“God, I miss you, babe,” he said instead. “I’ve been thinkin’ how much I’d like a neck rub.”
“Oh, sweetie. Did you bring the Tylenol PM?”
“I brought it.”
“Take some soon, baby. You need eight hours of sleep or you’ll be groggy in the morning.”
“That’s why I’m not sure I should take one. I get woken up in the middle of the night at least once on these trips.”
There was a brief pause, and then she said, “Would phone sex help?” and John laughed.
“No, but thanks for the offer. I really am too tired.”
“All right. I love you.”
“I love you too. Same time tomorrow?”
“Yes. Take care of yourself.”
“I will,” he said, and hung up the phone. He got up long enough to turn down the covers and click off the light, and got into bed. He took slow, deep breaths, imagining Dana’s ha
nds massaging the stiff muscles in his neck and shoulders, and her sweet voice whispering in his ear.
“Daddy,” Luke said insistently, what felt like seconds after he closed his eyes. “Daddy, get up.”
John rose and got out of bed. Luke was dressed this time, in the clothes he’d been wearing the day he disappeared—but there were, John was relieved to see, no bruises or blood on him. “Luke,” he said, “you’re dead.”
“That’s not important now. You have to go home.”
“I can’t, buddy. Daddy has to do his job. We have to catch the bad guy.”
Luke sighed and crossed his arms over his chest, looking up at John with furrowed brows. “But Daddy, she needs you.”
“Your mommy’s fine, Luke. I talked to her just a few weeks ago. She’s okay. She’s got a new husband now, you know.”
“I know that,” Luke said impatiently. “I mean Emily’s mom. Dana.”
“I just talked to her, too, and she said everything’s fine. The baby’s okay. And she had a friend come over and look over the house, and he said there’s nothing there to be scared of.”
“We hid,” Luke said. “We didn’t want him to send us away.”
“Luke,” John said, and sat down on the edge of the bed so he could look his son in the eyes. “You know I’ll always love you, but I can’t keep doing this. You can’t keep doing this. You’re supposed to be—” He couldn’t remember—what had they told him about death? About the afterlife? “With the angels, aren’t you?”
Luke twisted his toe into the carpet and said, looking down at his feet, “They told us we have to help you but it’s really hard. I didn’t know it would be so hard. Emily can’t do it at all—it keeps going wrong for her. And you always forget in the mornings,” he added accusingly. “Dana at least remembers.”
“If I help you catch the bad guy, will you go home?”
“Will you tell me who ‘they’ is?”
“The other people,” Luke dismissed his question. He held out his hand. “Come with me.”
“Where are we going?” John said, but in a step they were no longer in the hotel and were in a sparsely wooded forest, with scrubby, dry pines and stunted oaks. He recognized this: it was the back acres of Wilkes’s property, near a dry creek bed and a barbed-wire fence. A bullet-dented NO TRESPASSING sign was nailed to one of the trees.
A woman was sitting on the creek bank, waiting for them in the moonlight. She was blonde, and younger-looking than in her photographs. She smiled at them. “Hello.”
“Hi. I’m Luke. This is my dad.”
“Amy Wilkes?” John said, and she nodded.
“Sit down,” she said, and he sat, with Luke on his lap, on the crisp grass. “I have a story to tell you.” She took a deep breath and began, “I met John Wilkes when I was nineteen. He was at our county fair, and we got to talking in line for the Tilt-a-Whirl. He wrote me for months afterwards. He was so kind in his letters. So kind . . .”
When John awoke, he knew there was something terribly important that he had to remember, that he’d been told not to forget—and he couldn’t remember what it was.
In the shower he saw flashes of a dream—Luke walking with him in the woods? Or something like that?
He shaved, frowning at himself in the mirror. He’d had many dreams about Luke in the past eight years but none this vivid-he could still smell the spicy dry needles on the forest floor, the scent of dirt and cool night air.
He was thinking and not paying attention to the razor, and suddenly hissed and winced when the razor cut into his throat.
“Dammit.” He shook the razor in the water to clean it and watched as one drop of blood fell onto the discarded shaving cream.
Blood on white.
*He put a sheet on the floor and made me kneel over it. He pulled back my head by the hair. He said, You’re a disobedient wife. And he cut my throat. There was blood on the white sheet. More blood than I’ve seen in my entire life.*
John dropped the razor, staring at the sink. “I dreamed that,” he muttered, and tears stung his eyes. A good cop believed in clues and facts and truth, not dreams. Not night visions. Not a ghost telling her story on a dry creek bed.
Hastily he splashed the shaving cream off his face, wiped it with the towel and dressed, and hurried across the hotel parking lot to Monica’s room. He banged on the door with his fist.
She was still sleepy-eyed and disheveled when she opened the door. “John?”
“They’re missing a bed sheet. We find that, we get our warrant. We get our warrant, we find the body.”
She shook her head and stepped back from the door to let him in. “John, I haven’t had my first cup of coffee yet. What’s this about a bed sheet?”
*There was blood in the kitchen. On the appliances, on the cabinets, so he painted them. He didn’t expect there to be so much blood.*
John pressed his hand to his forehead. The pounding was back, but he went on firmly, “It’s how he caught the blood. We’re not looking at a crime of passion here. He planned it, he terrorized her with the plans, and then he did it.”
“How do you know this?” she said softly, her brows furrowing.
“I . . . don’t know how I know this. I just do. Maybe trying to think like Mulder is finally paying off. But the bed sheet, Monica—where can we look for that? Where would he hide it?”
“What if he’s burned it or cleaned it or destroyed it? What if he buried it with the body?”
John felt almost feverish, perspiration beginning to gather between his shoulder blades. “He didn’t. He kept it. It’s his souvenir.”
“John,” she said, horrified, and she gripped his shoulders. “Sit down, you look like you’re going to fall over.”
“He has a place where he keeps things . . . ” He let her sit him on the bed and leaned his head on his hands.
“What place, John?” Her face was close to his as she whispered, “Can you see where it is?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know . . .” He stood up again abruptly and bolted for the bathroom, barely making it in time to vomit into the toilet. Monica hurried to him, grimacing, and poured him a cup of water when he was through. He rinsed out his mouth and spat into the toilet.
She whispered, “What’s happening to you? What’s wrong?”
“I can feel it,” he said dully. “I can feel all that . . . hatred.” He looked up at her. “He hated you. You’re a woman in authority. To him, women are like children—to be led, to be taught, to be disciplined, but never to be above him.”
“I noticed he didn’t like me,” she said, kneeling down. Her face was drawn with concern. “Where is this coming from?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know.” He drank some of the water and pushed her hand away when she started to touch his face.
“You’re scaring me.”
“I’m scaring myself.” He looked at her again, grateful for her worry.
*He wrapped me in a tarp and carried me over his shoulder to the creek. Nobody comes back here but hunters, and it won’t be hunting season for months. There will be plenty of time for the grass to grow back. There’s grass growing over my bones.*
John fought back his nausea and gasped, “The creek,” before the world grayed out and he felt the back of his head hit the floor.
He could hear Amy Wilkes’s voice in his head during the entire drive to the Wilkes farm. She had recited her history dispassionately, as if reading from an uninteresting book. But he could remember her voice: faintly scratchy, warm, with the flat vowels and emphasized liquids of the midwest. She had died a long way from home.
He could remember too the weight of Luke in his lap, and how the boy had listened to the tale without fidgeting. In death he’d learned patience.
Stop that, he thought, staring hard out the window.
Monica wouldn’t let him drive. This was wise, he thought: they didn’t know what had brought on his nausea or the fainting spell, and now he had an egg-sized bump on the back of his head. There had been no bleeding and no cuts, however, so the sheriff of Bradford County had permitted John to come along as long as he
stayed out of the way.
“And he knows where the body is,” Monica had said, and the sheriff had sighed and accepted this. She was following them on this wild hunch, had convinced the stubborn judge to issue a warrant to search the farm. A second Jeep sped behind them up the road, and Monica had mentioned wanting to call more agents in from Billings or Salt Lake.
Monica touched his arm. “Are you okay? Hanging on?”
Monica said quietly, “A husband is supposed to love his wife. Not terrorize her. Not take her away from everything she loved. Not make her live like a prisoner in the middle of nowhere.”
“In a perfect world, nobody dies too young.”
Monica pressed her lips together and didn’t answer.
John leaned back his head gingerly against the car seat and closed his eyes. My body is here, Amy had said, pointing to the bottom of the creek bed. In the spring this creek floods, and will either bury me further or sweep me downstream.
When the story was over, Luke had twisted back to look at John. His bright eyes had reminded him of William. There, Daddy. Can you go home now?
His instincts said this was not the way to do it. There needed to be a forensic team, not four deputies with shovels.
Stronger than the desire for procedure, however, was the desire to close this. He wanted to find Amy Wilkes’s poor body and lay it with respect in sacred ground. He wanted to hear John Wilkes admit that he’d taken the life of his wife.
Most of all, he wanted to reaffirm to Dana that she need never fear anything like this from him. He wanted to lie down in her arms and feel her soft, comforting touch. He wanted to be in a place made of safety and love.
They crested the small hill that protected the farm from the highway, and Sheriff Harris glanced at them from the driver’s seat. “You folks ready? Looks like Wilkes is home.” She chuckled without humor. “I don’t know where else he’d be.”
“Maybe you’d better do the talking,” Monica said to John. “If he can’t accept female authority figures he won’t listen to Sheriff Harris or me.”
“He’ll listen to a court order,” Sheriff Harris said darkly. “But you’re right, Agent Reyes. Agent Doggett should be our point man.”
“All right,” John said, and thought, I’ll start by asking him if he enjoyed it when she begged for her life.
The two Jeeps pulled up in front of the farmhouse and John Wilkes, thin, greying, and openly hostile, appeared on the front porch.
“Show time,” said Harris and swung down from the vehicle.
Monica touched John’s arm again. “Time to catch the bad guy.”
“I’m ready,” John said, and got out of the car.