Mermaid in a Bowl of Tears (Exit Unicorns Series) (9 page)

BOOK: Mermaid in a Bowl of Tears (Exit Unicorns Series)
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CASEY WAS ON HIS BREAK, having a smoke outside the warehouse, where a shipment of televisions from Japan was being offloaded. It had been two weeks since he and Emma had sat in a squalid little police station in a New Hampshire village, and explained
ad nauseum
their story regarding the murdered prostitute in the boathouse by the lake.

The sheriff had been mildly skeptical, but had let them go after taking their addresses in Boston. Thus far, Casey had heard nothing; there hadn’t even been a whisper of the murder in the newspapers. The cold chill of that night persisted though, the feeling of darkness hovering just out beyond his line of vision. As though something was coming, and he would not be able to stop it.

“Casey.”

The voice startled him and he dropped his cigarette on the ground, where the dirty snow extinguished it immediately.

It was Emma. He had not seen her since dropping her off at her apartment late in the afternoon the day after Rosemary’s murder. She did not look as though she came bearing glad tidings.

“Can we talk?” she asked, looking about her in a furtive manner.

“Aye. I’m the only one mad enough to come out in this weather for a smoke. No one else is about.” He rubbed his hands together and blew on them, noting that she was still wearing the driving gloves he’d loaned her.

“The state police in New Hampshire called me, and then they sent an investigator down to talk with me. They were asking some questions that really scared me.”

The chill in his hands and feet seemed to have spread into his blood stream.

“Such as?”

She swallowed hard and he knew he wasn’t going to like what he was about to hear.

“Mostly about you—were you sleeping with Rosemary, and stuff like that. Did I know your past? Some of it seemed routine, like they were trying to clear you away before getting focused on hunting for the real killer. But then the detective came back again. He—he,” she sniffed, “was angry, said I was covering for you, that someone had told them you knew Rosemary real well. And that you had the motive to kill her, ‘cause she was pregnant and they figured it was your baby.”

“WHAT?!” The snake that had ridden in his belly since that cold night by the lake uncoiled and slithered in an oily ribbon through his intestines.

She shrugged, eyes bright with tears. “What are we gonna’ do?”

“We—what d’ye mean
we—
they’re not tryin’ to pin it on you too, are they?”

She shook her head miserably, “No, but I feel responsible for asking you to take me up there.”

“It’s not yer fault—I—this makes no sense.” His chest was suddenly tight, and he had to fight for his next breath. How the hell could this be happening?

“You should go, get out of Boston.”

He narrowed his eyes at her. Something was strange here, she sounded far more desperate than she ought, considering it wasn’t her neck they were neatly tying a noose around. And for that matter, why the hell hadn’t the detective come to see him, if they were so certain he’d murdered the girl?

“I didn’t do it, so I’ve nothin’ to fear,” he said with a bravado he simply did not feel, despite his innocence.

“It’s not just the cops, though,” she said, looking around again as if she suspected a thousand ears were trying to listen in on their conversation.

“No,” he said quietly, “who is it, then?”

“Blackie. I think he’s setting you up for a fall.”

“Why would he do that?” His tone was still quiet, but Emma stepped back a bit, eyeing him warily from under mascara-clotted lashes.

“I don’t know—maybe because it’s convenient, maybe because he did know Rosemary real well.” She glanced back over her shoulder again, and Casey wondered just who it was she was so terrified of seeing in the blue shadows that hung about the warehouse.

When she turned back he sensed that she was trying to tell him something without actually using the words. “Look, this isn’t a Hollywood movie, the lone hero doesn’t get to walk off into the sunset at the end. These are very bad people, Casey and even if you managed to get rid of several of them, there would always be more waiting.”

“I take it we aren’t talkin’ about the police anymore?”

“I’m talking about all of them,” she whispered, tears glittering in the corners of her reddened eyes.

“Then what the hell d’ye suggest I do?”

“Get out of town for a bit, until the heat dies down. They can’t order you to stay put until they actually lay charges.”

“I can’t just leave,” he said, “I’ve a life here.”

“If you want to keep that life, you’d be better off elsewhere. It might be convenient—” again the fearful look over her shoulder, “if they don’t know where you are. You’d have a better chance of moving around undetected.”

Casey rubbed his temples in frustration, “I feel as if you’re giving me only half the picture here, Emma.”

“I can’t afford to give you any more. I’m sorry. I really am.” she said, and now the tears were slipping freely down her face, soot black lines of mascara like dirty rivers destroying her makeup.

“Don’t be sorry,” he said wearily, fishing in his pocket for a tissue and handing it to her. This gesture only served to make her cry harder.

Suddenly she clutched his hand, the supple leather of his gloves far too big for her tiny hands. “I need you to know that I am sorry though—for all of this.”

And then she was gone, the wind catching the cheap material of her too short skirt and flaring it around her cold-stippled skin.

Casey stood frozen to the spot, his most prescient thought being what the hell he was going to tell his wife.

THE INTERIOR OF THE BIG CAR was wonderfully warm after the bitter chill of the warehouse yard. Still, Emma thought she would rather walk a hundred miles in the teeth of a blizzard than ride next to the man in the seat beside her.

Right now he was looking at her, a question in his face.

“It’s done,” she said in a small voice.

Love nodded to the driver in the mirror and the big Lincoln slid out into traffic.

Emma huddled in the corner of the luxurious leather seat, as far from Love as she could manage. She watched him from the corner of her eye. He wore a triumphant look on his face, not a hair out of place, clothing impeccable, hands smooth, cologne discreet. Objectively viewed, an attractive man, made all the more so by the power he wielded and the money he had. Subjectively speaking, though, she thought she’d never seen an uglier human being.

Once she had loved the smell of him, the discreetly expensive cologne, the scent of French milled soap and cigars. These days, though, all she could smell around him was the corruption that rose from his white skin like wisps of brimstone. It smelled a lot like blood.

Chapter Six
Priest and Friend

THERE WAS A SOFT WHICKER as the ball curved around the hoop, then tilted in Casey’s favor and swished through the net.

“Luck of the Irish,” Father Kevin said, between wheezing breaths.

“Believe what ye need to if it helps ye sleep at night,” Casey grinned, feeling jubilant despite his scraped and stinging palms.

“Come on, let’s go sit down for a minute,” Father Kevin suggested, hands on knees, blood trickling from raw knuckles.

Casey nodded, flapping his sweaty t-shirt away from his body. The gym had been used only an hour before by two teams of overheated, hormonally charged teenage boys, and a thick fug of perspiration still clung to the air.

“Jaysus,” Casey hit the outside door, welcoming the rush of freezing cold into his lungs even as his skin protested the assault. “Did they not teach ye that mercy was a virtue in the seminary?”

“Mercy,” Father Kevin said emerging onto the steps, his red hair sticking up in sweaty spikes and giving him the general appearance of a pissed off leprechaun, “has no place on the basketball court. You weren’t holding back yourself out there.”

“I was fightin’ for my life,” Casey protested, wiping sweat out of his eyes with a broad forearm, while digging in a crumpled pack for a cigarette.

“If you’d stop puffing on those coffin nails you’d be able to keep up,” Father Kevin said sweetly.

“Ye know, for a priest ye’ve the devil’s own guile,” Casey responded, lighting the cigarette with two bruised and swollen fingers. “But it’d take a saint’s patience to wean me off these things— ahh—there’s somethin’ more like it,” he breathed out a long stream of blue smoke, eyes closing in pleasure.

“I’m surprised Pamela lets you.”

“Ah, ye’ve noticed the woman’s a fearsome will on her, have ye?”

“It’s a little hard to miss,” Father Kevin said with a smile, “she has a quiet way about her that kind of sneaks up on a man before he realizes he’s outmaneuvered.”

“I take it she got her playground equipment for the wee ones in the Flats?”

“Oh, she got it alright,” Father Kevin said, “appropriated the funds from no less than the Cardinal if you can believe it.”

Casey laughed, “Oh I can believe it, she’d flirt with the twelve disciples did she think it’d improve things for that lot of ankle-biters down there.”

“She’s a good woman,” Father Kevin said, voice suddenly and unaccountably sober.

Casey narrowed a dark eye at him, “I know it man, an’ if I forget for a minute or two sure the woman sees fit to remind me of it. So tell me why yer givin’ me the confessional tone?”

“It’s just that you seem like a man with something on his mind, something that’s bothering the hell out of you.”

Casey sighed. Father Kevin was nothing if not direct. It was, for the most part, one of the things he liked best about him.

“Do I strike ye as completely mad?” he asked, tapping his ashes carefully onto a broad leaf that lay on the top stair.

“Near to it, but no, not completely. Why do you ask?”

“Because the woman’d have my ballocks neatly stuffed an’ roasted did I so much as cast an eye on another female. Besides, I meant it when I married her,” he added gruffly.

“I think most couples do when they are standing before the parish priest, but life can get complicated, as we both know.”

“Well, Pamela an’ I are not most couples,” Casey said firmly, “an’ I’ve a notion yer talkin’ around the edges of the apple when ye really want to discuss the core.”

“The spirit may be strong but the flesh can still be tempted,” Father Kevin said, face turning red and muting the white spaces between freckles.

“It’s not like ye to speak in priestly platitudes. It doesn’t sit well on yer tongue, so whatever it is ye feel ye have to say, say it plain.”

“A man in your position has a lot of temptation thrown his way, and not to belabor the fruit metaphor, but you’ve been walking around with a face on you like an apple with a worm for a conscience. So I’m thinking,” Father Kev ran a stubby-fingered hand through his bright hair, making it stand on end, “maybe you’ve done something you shouldn’t have and it’s eating you up.”

“Are ye speakin’ as a priest or a friend?” Casey asked sharply.

“I’d like to think I can manage both for you,” Father Kevin said, expression unruffled by the hostile tone.

“Aye, well,” Casey said warily, “’tis nothin’ to do with my wife.”

“Your employer?” Father Kevin asked, tone carefully neutral.

“Maybe,” Casey gave him a slantwise look, taking a long draw on his cigarette. “How much are ye willin’ to hear, man?”

“Am I friend or priest now?” Father Kevin asked quietly, eyes fixed firmly on the pebbled surface of the ball he held.

“Both, I hope,” Casey rejoined softly, trying to still the shaking in his hands, feeling a mix of fear and relief that unsettled his body. “What will ye know of the man?”

Father Kevin suddenly threw the ball away with a quick, violent thrust. “Enough to have to ask God several times a month for forgiveness for the hatred in my heart toward the man.”

Casey let out a breath that was mostly made of relief. “Then ye know.”

Father Kevin nodded and turned a hard eye on Casey, “How much did you know before you went to work for him?”

Casey returned the hard eye in full measure. “Not enough, obviously.” He shook his head, stamping his feet to keep them warm. “Hindsight is twenty-twenty though, aye? I can look back now and think maybe I knew somethin’ was off, didn’t smell right, that I always scented the reek under all that cigar smoke and expensive aftershave. But I don’t think I did. At least that’s what I tell myself at three a.m. when I can’t sleep.”

“Lord preserve us, the boy’s got a Catholic conscience after all,” Father Kevin said lightly, though the brevity didn’t come off as he’d intended. Then he took a deep breath and asked the question that might well end the friendship he was coming to value dearly.

“How much do you know now?”

“Too much,” Casey said bluntly. “Do ye know what it is when ye’ve seen too much an’ ye know yer not innocent anymore, that the blood is on yer hands as much as the man who committed the crime?”

“I’m a priest man, I know it everyday.”

Casey nodded as if digesting Father Kevin’s words, but Kevin knew him well enough to know that he was weighing how much he could now safely say.

“When ye were anglin’ about before, were ye askin’ because of Emma?”

BOOK: Mermaid in a Bowl of Tears (Exit Unicorns Series)
13.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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