Read Double dexter Online

Authors: Jeff Lindsay

Double dexter (page 2)

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And when Valentine hears them on his scanner, coming to his address, to his apartment, he will naturally want to be sure he issomewhere else before they get here. He will take any material he has that hints at his hobby—and he will have some material, they always do—and he will hurry downstairs and out into the darkness to his car, thinking that he can drive away until the radio tells him that things have calmed down again.

He will not think that Someone would bother to look up his car’s registration and know that he drives a light blue twelve-year-old Chevrolet Blazer with CHOOSELIFE! plates on it and a magnetic sign on the door that says, PUFFALUMP THECLOWN. And he will not think that Something might be waiting for him in the backseat of this car, hunched down carefully into the shadows.

He will be wrong about both of those things. Someone does know his car, and Something does wait silently hunkered down on the floor of the dark backseat of the old Chevy, waits while Valentine finishes wiping his face and smiling his secret smile of small triumph and finally—finally—puts the key in the ignition and starts the engine.

And as the car sputters into life, the moment comes, suddenly,finally, and Something roars up and out of the darkness and snakes a blinding-fast loop of fifty-pound-test nylon fishing line around Valentine’s doughy neck and pulls it tight before he can say anything more than, “Guck—!” and he begins to flail his arms in a stupid, weak, pitiful way that makes Someone feel the cold contemptuous power running up the nylon line and deep into the hands holding it. And now the smile has melted from Valentine’s face and flowed instead onto ours and we are there so close behind him that we can smell his fear and hear the terrified thumping of his heart and feel his lack of breath and this isgood.

“You belong to us now,” we tell him, and our Command Voice hits him like a jolt of the lightning that crackles outside now to punctuate the darkness. “You will do just what we say and you will do it only when we say it.” And Valentine thinks he has something to say about that and makes a small wet sound and so we pull the noose tight, very tight, just for a moment, so he will know that even his breath belongs to us. His face goes dark and his eyes bulge out and he raises his hands to his neck and his fingers scrabble madly at the noose for a few seconds until everything goes dark for him and his hands slidedown into his lap and he slumps forward and begins to fade away and so we ease up on the noose because it is still too soon, much too soon for him.

His shoulders move and he makes a sound like a rusty ratchet as he takes in one more breath, one more in the quickly dwindling number of breaths he has left to him, and because he does not yet know that the number is so very small he takes another quickly, a little easier, and he straightens up and wastes his precious air by croaking, “What the fuck!”

A string of nasty mucus drips from his nose and his voice sounds cramped and raspy and very irritating and so we pull once more on the noose, a little more gently this time, just enough so he will know that we own him now, and he very obediently gapes and clutches at his throat and then goes silent. “No talking,” we say. “Drive.”

He looks up and into the rearview mirror and his eyes meet ours for the very first time—only the eyes, showing cool and dark through the slits cut in the sleek silk hood that covers our face. For just a moment he thinks he will say something and we twitch the noose very gently, just enough to remind him, and he changes his mind. He looks away from the mirror, puts the car in gear, and drives.

We steer him carefully south, encouraging him now and then with small tugs on the noose, just to keep that one thought in his mind that even breathing is not automatic and will not happen unless we say so, and he is very good for most of the trip. Only one time at a stoplight does he look back at us in the mirror and clear his throat and say, “What are you—where are we going?” and we pull very hard on his leash for a long moment and let his world go dim.

“We are going where you are told to go,” we say. “Just drive, and do not talk, and you might live a little longer.” And that is enough to make him behave, because he does not yet know that soon, so very soon, he will notwantto live a little longer, because living as he will come to know it is a very painful thing.

We steer him carefully along side streets and into an area of battered newer houses. Many of them are empty, foreclosed, and one of them in particular has been selected and prepared and we drive Valentine to this place, down a quiet street and under a broken streetlightand into an old-fashioned carport attached to this house and we make him park the car at the back of the carport, where it cannot be seen from the road, and turn off the engine.

For a long moment we do nothing except hold the noose and listen to the night. We push down the rising gurgle of the moon-music and the soft compelling rustle of inner wings aching to open wide and take us up into the sky, because we must be very careful. We listen for any sound that might stalk unwelcome into our night of need. We listen, and we hear the lash of the rain and the wind, and the splash of water from the carport’s roof and the rattle of the trees as the summer storm moves through them, and nothing else.

We look: The house to our right, the only house that could see into this carport, is dark. It is empty, too, like the house where we have parked, and we have made certain that there is no one there either, and we silently reach out along the street, listening, carefully tasting the warm wet wind for the scent of any other thing that might see or hear—and there is nothing. We breathe in, a deep and beautiful breath filled with the taste and smell of this marvelous night and the terrible-wonderful things we will soon be doing together, just us and Puffalump the clown.

And then Valentine clears his throat, trying so very hard to do it softly, quietly, trying to clear away the tight sharp pain of the line around his neck and somehow make sense of the impossible thing that is happening to special, wonderful him—and the sound of it grates on our ears like all the awful clatter of a thousand cracking teeth and we pull hard on the noose, hard enough to break skin, hard enough to squeeze out forever the whole idea of making any sound ever again, and he arches back against the seat with his fingers scrabbling feebly at his throat for just a second before he slumps down into bulge-eyed silence. And we get rapidly out of the car, open the driver’s door, and pull him out onto his knees on the shadowed pavement of the carport.

“Quickly now,” we say. We loosen the line so very slightly and he looks up at us with a face that says the whole concept ofquicklyis fading away from him for all time and as we see this new and wonderful awareness grow in his eyes we tighten the leash just enough to bringhome to him the truth of that thought and he lurches up off his knees and trundles ahead of us through the jalousied back door and into the darkness of the empty house. And now we have him in his new home: the last place he will ever live.

We lead him into the kitchen and stop to let him stand for a few silent seconds and we stay close behind him with a taut hand on his noose and he clenches his fists and then wiggles his fingers and then he clears his throat again. “Please,” he whispers, in a ruined voice that has already gone on ahead of him into death.

“Yes,” we say with all our calm patience lapping at the edges of a wild shoreline of joy—and it may be that he thinks he hears some hope in that smooth anticipation because he shakes his head, just a little bit, as if he could persuade the tide to go backward.

“Why,” he croaks. “It’s, it’s, just … why?”

We pull the line very tight around his throat and watch as his breath stops and his face goes dark and he drops once more to his knees and just before he goes off into unconsciousness we loosen the line, just a little bit, just enough for a small cloud of air to roll into his lungs through his ravaged throat and bring him back up into his eyes, and we tell him all of it, with full and joyful truth. “Because,” we say. And then we pull the noose tight again, tighter, very tight, and we watch happily as he slides down the long slope into airless sleep and flops over onto his now-dark-purple face.

We work quickly now, arranging everything just right before he can wake up and spoil things. We get our small bag of toys and tools from the car and pick up the manila folder he dropped onto the car’s seat and we go quickly back to the kitchen with these things. Very soon Valentine is taped in place on the counter with his clothing cut away and his mouth sealed shut and around him we have arranged the pretty photos we found in his folder, lovely shots of small boys at play, laughing at a clown in a few of them, in others simply holding a ball or riding a swing. And three of them are placed oh-so-carefully in just the right place so hehasto see them, three simple portrait shots taken from the newspaper stories of three small boys who had been found dead in a canal.

And as we finish making everything just right, just the way it has to be, Valentine’s eyelids flutter. For a moment he lies still, perhapsfeeling the warm air on his naked skin and the tight unyielding duct tape holding him motionless, and perhaps wondering why. Then he remembers and his eyes slam open and he tries impossible things, like breaking the duct tape or taking large breaths or screaming out of a carefully sealed mouth loud enough for anyone else in his receding world to hear. None of this can happen, not ever again, not for him. For Valentine, only one small thing is possible at all, only one unimportant, meaningless, wonderful, necessary thing, and now it will start to happen, now, whatever futile flopping struggles he might try.

“Relax,” we say, and we put a gloved hand onto his bare and heaving chest. “Soon it will all be over.” And we meanallof it, everything, every breath and blink, every leer and chuckle, every birthday party and balloon animal, every hungry trip into the dusk in the wake of a small and helpless boy—all over, forever, and soon.

We pat his chest. “But not too soon,” we say, and the cold happiness of that simple truth floods up through us and into our eyes and he sees it and perhaps he knows for sure and perhaps he still feels stupid impossible hope. But as he melts back onto the counter in the tight unbreakable grip of the tape and the stronger need of this delirious night, the beautiful music of the Dark Dance begins to rise around us and we go to work, and for Valentine all hope washes away forever as that one essential thing begins to happen.

It starts slowly—not tentative, not out of uncertainty, not at all, but slowly so it will last. Slowly to draw out and relish each well-planned well-rehearsed often-practiced stroke and bring the clownslowlyto the point of final understanding: a clear and simple insight into how it ends for him, here, now, tonight.Slowlywe paint for him a true portrait of how it must be, stroking strong dark lines to show that this is all there will ever be. This is his very last trick, and now, here, tonight, he will slowly, carefully, meticulously, slice by slice and piece by piece, pay the toll to the happy bridge keeper with the bright blade, andslowlycross that final span into an unending darkness that he will soon be very willing, even very anxious, to join, because by then he will know that it is the only way out of the pain. But not now, not yet, not too soon; first we have to get him there, get him to the point of no return and just beyond it to where it is oh-so-clear to him thatwe have arrived at the edge and he can never go back. He must see that, understand that, absorb that, accept it as right and necessary and immutable, and it is our happy task to take him there and then point back to the border at the edge of the end and say,See? This is where you are now. You have crossed over and now it all ends.

And so we go to work, with the music rising around us and the moon peeking in through a rift in the clouds and chuckling happily at what it sees, and Valentine is very cooperative. He pitches and hisses and hurls out muffled squeals as he sees that what is happening can never be undone, and it is happening so very thoroughly to rapidly disappearinghim, Steve Valentine, Puffalump the clown, the funny happy man in whiteface who really and truly loves kids, loves them so much and so often and in such a very unpleasant way. He is Steve Valentine, party clown, who can take a child through the whole magic rainbow of life in one dark hour, all the way from happiness and wonder into the final agony of hopelessly fading sight and the dirty water of a handy canal. Steve Valentine, who was far too clever for anyone ever to make him stop or prove what he has done in a court of law. But he is not in a court of law now, and he never will be. Tonight he lies upon the bench in the Court of Dexter, and the final verdict gleams in our hand, and there is no access to court-appointed lawyers where he is going and no appeal will ever be possible.

And just before the gavel falls for the very last time we pause. A small and nagging bird has perched on our shoulder and chirped its troubled song:Cher-wee, cher-woo, it must be true. We know the song and we know its meaning. It is the song of the Code of Harry, and it says that we have to be sure, have to be certain that we have done the right thing to the right person, so the pattern will be complete and we can finish with pride and joy and feel the satisfied rush of fulfillment.

And so at the place where breath comes slow and very hard for all that is left of Valentine and the final light of understanding is in his red and swollen eyes, we pause, lean over, and turn his head to face the pictures we have placed around him. We rip up one corner of the tape on his mouth and it must hurt, but it is such a very small pain compared to what he has been feeling for so long now that he makes no sound at all beyond a slow hiss of air.

“See them?” we say, shaking his wet slack chin and turning his head to make sure he sees the pictures. “See what you have done?”

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