Authors: Victor Methos
The cabin was swarming with forensic techs and investigators looking for evidence of other crimes, but Stanton knew they wouldn’t find anything. They thought maybe Tate had made a habit of bringing people to the cabin to kill them, but Stanton didn’t think so. This kidnapping was an isolated incident.
handed over his gun and badge to the two Internal Affairs detectives who had shown up. Any time an officer was involved in a shooting, Internal Affairs Division made an appearance. Stanton had found that no matter the police agency, it took a special type of person to investigate and arrest his or her own co-workers.
The detectives took a quick statement from him
then asked that he come in for a formal interview the following day. They informed Stanton that he was officially on paid leave until he was cleared of the shooting.
When he was through with IAD, he watched the two bodies being hauled away.
Laka told him that as soon as he ran off into the jungle, an officer had spotted the body of Tate’s accomplice, the one Stanton had already seen. The paramedics told Stanton that one of the slugs had nicked his femoral artery in his thigh—a one in a hundred shot. The man had bled out and died within five minutes of being shot.
over to the ambulance where Eliza Miller was sitting in the back, getting evaluated. She had no injuries, but they were worried about shock. Stanton could sense that she was much stronger than she let on. She would be fine, eventually.
“You doing okay?” he
She nodded but didn’t say anything.
“They’re going to take you to the hospital, Eliza. I’ll come by and visit to make sure you’re okay. Do you want me to bring anything when I come by? Any special clothes from your house or something to eat?”
She shook her head. “Where’s my mom?”
Stanton had to look away at the men going in and out of the cabin. He didn’t speak for so long that she understood, and she began to sob. When he put his arm around her, she didn’t push him away. They sat that way for a long time until the paramedics finally told him they had to leave. Stanton let her go and watched as the ambulance drove away. Her father had probably fled the state. She was an orphan, for all intents and purposes. And why? Because her father didn’t have the courage to face her mother and tell her their marriage was over. Instead, he’d put evil into the world, and it had engulfed everything in his life.
wanna stay a little longer?” Laka asked as she came up next to him.
“No. I’ve had enough of this place.”
The office was cooler than it normally was. Stanton could hear an air conditioner
running somewhere as he waited. A new painting was hanging in Dr. Vaquer’s lobby, or maybe it was an old painting that he hadn’t noticed before. Stanton knew the painting. It was a recreation of Rothko’s
Pretty Color Palette
. The whites and blues melded into something unique that brought emotion to the surface without words. Stanton got the sensation of staring into a tunnel or maybe falling.
Vaquer opened the doors and welcomed him back. He rose and followed her inside. The couch felt softer somehow.
“So,” she said, “how are you doing?”
“I was put back on duty two days ago and cleared for the shooting.”
“That’s good news for you
, I assume.”
“Why do you assume?”
She grinned slightly. “Don’t be coy, Jon. You know how I feel about you in police work.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“So how do you feel now that the case is over?”
“I don’t know. I guess like a heavy weight was taken off my chest. It felt like it was getting harder and harder to breathe as the case went on, and then suddenly
, that feeling was gone, and everything went back to normal.”
“Until the next one, you mean.”
“I read a little about the case in the
. They said that the husband was never caught. Is that true?”
He cleared out their safe deposit box. We found a ticket a few days after the shooting for a cruise ship headed to Baja. We put in a BOLO request with the sheriff’s offices down there, but I doubt they care much about that. A lot of people go to Mexico to get lost.”
She nodded. “How does that make you feel? That the man who put everything in motion has gotten away with it?”
“I don’t know that he has.”
“Why do you say that?”
“It’s like you told me once. Whatever you put out there is what you get back. I think I believe that.”
“Evil people prosper all the time. CEOs, politician
s, billionaires… there are a lot of successful people that rose to where they are because of their lack of empathy.”
“I know, but I don’t believe they’re happy. I can’t believe that. I think it’d be hard for me to do what I do if I didn’t believe in some sort of justice. That’s why Richard Miller’s escape doesn’t bother me as much as I think it should.”
“We’ve talked about this before, this belief in retribution. Do you believe that applies to you, as well?”
“Of course. I’ve done terrible things. I neglected my wife and children
. I killed people. I’ve lied to get confessions… I’ve done a lot. And I don’t know what’s waiting for me, but I know it’s something. I can’t get away with all that forever.”
“Well, maybe losing your wife and kids is the punishment. Maybe the anguish and the sleepless nights and the depression are the retribution
, and there’s no grim ending out there?”
“Maybe. I don’t know.” He exhaled loudly. “I was hoping we could cut today’s session a little short.”
“Certainly. May I ask why?”
“I’ve got a date.”
She grinned. “Really? That’s fantastic. With whom?”
“Her name’s Debbie. I’ve ditched her a couple of times. I was making the same mistake I made with Melissa and Emma.
Good women I left behind for the job. I don’t want to do that to her.”
, I think that is about the best thing you’ve told me in here.”
He nodded. “I wanted to talk about something first, though.”
“We’ve never talked at length about the disappearance of my sister. It’s not something I
talk to a lot of people about.”
“I think I’ve told you that she disappeared from a movie theater when she was out with her friends in Seattle. The police didn’t really turn anything up. I tried investigating it myself, but I was a kid. I didn’t know anything.” He paused. “I’m giving serious thought to taking a leave of absence from the Honolulu PD and going to Seattle.”
She watched him
for a moment. “Are you telling me you’re thinking about investigating the disappearance of your sister?”
“Yes. I want to know what you think about it
“I think we don’t always want to know the truth. I think the truth can be more painful than the not knowing.”
“You wouldn’t say that if it was your sister.”
“You didn’t let me finish. I also think that closure really is the first step in the healing process.
You were admitted to medical school but chose not to go. You have a doctorate in psychology and had a reputation as a good professor. And even though you admittedly enjoyed both careers more than police work, you stayed with the police force because you considered yourself mediocre in those other fields. Those things speak about the power that unresolved issue has over your past.”
“You think I’m a cop because my sister disappeared. I know. I’ve thought about it a lot. The research suggests I’m solving my sister
’s disappearance with every case. But none bring me any healing. If anything, each one takes me farther away from it.”
She leaned forward. “If you think this will bring you some healing, then I don’t see anything wrong with it. But I want you to be prepared for what you find, Jon. You keep calling it a ‘disappearance
,’ but you’ve told me before that you believe she was murdered. You may not like where this leads you. You need to be strong enough to handle what you find, or this will do more harm than good.”
He nodded. “I’ve
got one more case to finish up, then I’m heading up. I don’t know what I’m going to find, but whatever it is, it has to be better than the things I picture in my head. I can’t imagine that it’s worse.”
She leaned back and stared at him
for a moment. “Sometimes, it’s difficult for us to imagine the horror people really can do to each other—even for a homicide detective. Don’t forget that up there, Jon.”
“I won’t.” He rose. “I better go.
Debbie’s waiting for me. I’ll call you when I get back.”
As Stanton left, he looked
at the Rothko painting again. It seemed different. The painting looked less ominous. Instead of falling or a tunnel, he saw mountains, water, and sky. He stood silently watching it for a second before leaving.
The frigid air froze the snot in his nose
. Richard’s scarf kept slipping, and when he was tired of constantly pushing it up, he pulled out the full ski mask. His coat was puffy, and he was wearing thin gloves beneath a pair of thick Gore-Tex gloves. But the sun had set, and with the wind howling, the atmosphere was pretty much the epitome of arctic. He’d never enjoyed the cold. Not ever. But Alaska was the least likely place someone would look for him after his trip to Baja.
The little fishing vessel banked hard to the right
, nearly toppling him. He glanced back at the flying bridge, and the man at the controls said, “Sorry.”
He’d rented the vessel
to take him across the bay. The big cities were too populated, Anchorage especially. Until he could get the plastic surgery and find somebody who could create a new identity for him, he thought it best to stick to the smaller towns. No one asked questions in little towns up here, and no one cared who he was. Alaska was too wild for anyone to care.
The problem was that working in the fishing and oil industries were the only jobs. And Richard had never been a manual laborer.
He had a law degree, and he hoped that he could still be a lawyer after assuming his new identity, so he could do something he was accustomed to.
A cold gust of wind blew across the bay
, and he had to squint. The boat was far enough from land that all he could see were the twinkling lights of the city where he had spent four months, trying to lie as low as possible. He’d rented a small room, taken his meals at the café next door, and otherwise stayed inside to read or watch television. When he got lonely, he visited the brothel close to the motel, or the girls came to him when he called.
He glanced up to the bridge to ask him how much farther, but no one was there. Suddenly, he realized that the rumbling of the engines underneath his feet had stopped. Richard looked into the cabin and didn’t see anyone there.
Then he heard footsteps.
Three men came up from
below deck. Two came close to him, and Richard took a few steps back until he was pressed against the railing.
“What the hell are you doing? I rented this vessel.”
They grabbed his arms.
“Hey! What’re you doing! I chartered this damn boat. It’s mine. Let go of me.”
One of the men slammed his elbow into Richard’s face, knocking him senseless. His jaw instantly burned, and pain shot through his head.
“You always did have a big mouth
.” The third man stood in front of him.
Richard looked up as the man lowered the mask covering his face. He lifted the glasses on his face, and Richard recognized him
—Sharon’s father, Eli.
“What’re—how did you find me?”
“You think you’re so fucking smart. That you could kill my only daughter and a man of my means wouldn’t do anything about it? You know what we called guys like you in Vietnam? We called you rabbits. ’Cause guys like you aren’t good for anything but running.”
“Eli, no… no
, that’s not true. I didn’t hurt Sharon. I loved her. I would never hurt her. I was set up. You gotta believe me.”
He sighed. “I told her not to marry you. I said you were gutless and
that she needed someone strong. This is my fault, too, Richard. Maybe if I had pushed the issue, threatened her… something, she wouldn’t have gone anywhere near you. So we’re both to blame for this.”
“No, Eli, listen to me. Eli, I did not kill her. I didn’t do it. It was a set
“Don’t worry about Eliza. She’s with me, and she’ll never want for anything. And I sure as hell am
gonna have a say in who she marries.” He looked at one of the men. “Throw him in.”
“No! Eli, no!”
Richard screamed, trying to break free. But he couldn’t move. The men were much bigger and stronger than he was. They lifted him as if he weighed nothing, and he felt his feet leave the deck.
“No. No! Eli, I didn’t do it.
He slammed into black, freezing water. U
nderwater, the world went silent, until his head thrust through the surface. Richard kicked and splashed with his thickly gloved hands as the water seeped into his coat and prickled his skin. It splashed up into his mouth and choked him. He saw the lights of the boat as the engine turned on, then it sped away from him.
“No!” he gurgled. “No! Eli, please. Please don’t leave me. Eli!”
The water soaked his heavy clothes, making him feel as though he weighed three hundred pounds. He kicked furiously, but the effort needed to stay afloat was exhausting him. He reached down to take off his clunky snow boots, but his gloved fingers couldn’t grasp the latch or the laces. He tried taking his gloves off. The instant the first one came off, his fingers felt as if they had been stuck in a freezer for an hour. A high wave hit him and pulled him under.
Water flooded his mouth and nose. He burst out of the surface again, coughing and gagging. He tried to suck in air
, but as soon as he did so, another wave slammed into him and spun him. Underwater, he wasn’t sure whether he was right side up or not. He tried to swim, but he couldn’t get more than a few feet. His arms and legs had already become exhausted in the cold, and he had little willpower left. Within a few minutes, the cold had numbed him to the point of apathy.
And as he
sank below the surface, Richard Miller looked up at the sky. His body dipped farther into the darkness, until he could no longer see the stars.