Read The Ridge Online

Authors: Michael Koryta

Tags: #Fiction, #Suspense, #Thrillers, #Horror, #Occult & Supernatural, #Horror fiction, #Supernatural, #Lighthouses, #Lighthouses - Kentucky, #Kentucky

The Ridge

BOOK: The Ridge
9.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



, B



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Table of Contents

Copyright Page

For Tom Bernardo, whose generosity and friendship carried me
through this one, and in recognition of the incredible mission and
dedication of Joe Taft and the Exotic Feline Rescue Center of
Center Point, Indiana. Deepest thanks.


Spirits pay rent to the basements they haunt.

Joe Pug,

“Nation of Heat”


And I became a thin blue flame,
polished on a mountain range.

Josh Ritter,

“Thin Blue Flame”


drive to the prison before dawn, as he always did, the mountains falling away as dark silhouettes in the rearview mirror. In the summer the fields below had been rich with the smells of damp soil and green plants reaching to meet the oncoming sun, but now the air was cold and darkness lingered and the scents were of dead leaves and wood smoke.

It was an hour-long trip through winding country highways, traffic almost nonexistent this early, and he could feel the familiar weight of a sleepless night as he drove. He was never able to sleep the nights before the visits.

A steady rain was falling when he left Sawyer County, but down out of the mountains of eastern Kentucky and into the fields in the north-central portion of the state the rain tapered off into a thick fog, the world existing in gray tendrils. Foreboding, but peaceful and silent.

Shattered by a cell-phone ring.

He looked at the display, expecting to see his department’s dispatch number, but was instead faced with one he didn’t recognize. He considered letting the call go to voicemail, but it was
and even wrong numbers deserved to be answered at such a time, just in case.

“Chief Deputy Kimble,” he said, putting the phone to his ear.

“Good morning. I hope I didn’t wake you. I had a feeling I wouldn’t.”

“Who’s speaking?”

“Wyatt French.”

Kimble shifted his hand to the top of the steering wheel and swung out into the next lane, away from a semi that was casting a thick spray back into his windshield as it chugged northbound, toward the Ohio River.

“How’d you get this number?” Kimble knew Wyatt French through one thing only—police work, and it was not as a colleague. He wasn’t in the habit of giving out his personal number to the people he arrested or interviewed, the two roles Wyatt French had occupied in the past. Kimble had done such a thing just once, in fact, and endured eight months of physical therapy after that decision.

“I have a question for you,” French said.

“I just asked you one of my own.”

“Mine’s a little more important.” The man’s voice sounded off, something coming up from beneath rocks or behind a sewer grate, someplace home to echoes and faint water sounds.

“You’ve been drinking, Mr. French.”

“So I have. It’s a legal enterprise, chief deputy.”

“Conditionally legal,” said Kimble, who had arrested Wyatt for public intoxication on three occasions and once for drunk driving. “Where are you?”

“I’m at home, where it’s absolutely legal.”

. Wyatt French’s home was a wooden lighthouse he’d built with his own hands. When he wasn’t causing trouble in the Whitman town streets, a bottle of cheap bourbon in hand or tucked into his mouth between a bristling gray mustache and an
unkempt beard, the department still had to field complaints about the man. The strange, pulsing light that lit the woods in the rural stretch of abandoned mining country where he lived drew curiosity and ire.

“You’re on the road,” French said. “Aren’t you? Early for a drive.”

Kimble, who had things more personal weighing on his mind than this old drunk in the lighthouse, said, “Go to bed, man. Get some sleep. And however you got this number? Delete it. Don’t call my private number again.”

“I would like a question answered!”

Kimble moved his foot to the brake, tapped gently, dropping the speed down below the limit. French’s voice had gone dark and furious, and for the first time, Kimble had a sense of real concern over the man’s call.

“What’s your question?”

“You’re in charge of criminal investigations for your department,” French said. “For the whole county.”

“That’s right.”

“Which would you rather have: a homicide or a suicide?”

Kimble had a vision of Wyatt as he’d seen him last, weaving down the sidewalk outside a liquor store in the middle of the day. Kimble was on his way to buy a sandwich for lunch and Wyatt was on his way back from having attempted to buy a bottle of bourbon for the same. They bounced him out when he tried to pay with quarters, dimes, and nickels. That had been a few months ago. Since then, Kimble hadn’t seen the old degenerate around any of his usual haunts.

“Mr. French,” he said. “Wyatt? Don’t talk like that. Okay? Just put the bottle down and get into bed.”

“I’ll get more than enough rest once I’ve had an answer. It
to me, Deputy Kimble. It matters a great deal.”


Silence, then, in a strained voice, “The question was simple. Would you rather have a—”

“Suicide,” Kimble interrupted. “There, you happy? I picked, and I was honest. But I don’t want
Wyatt. I hate them both, and if there’s some reason for this call beyond alcohol, then—”

That provoked a long, unsettling laugh, the tone far too high and keening for Wyatt’s natural voice.

“There’s a reason beyond booze, yes, sir.”

“What is it?”

“You said you would prefer a suicide. I’m of a mind to agree, but I’d like to hear your reasoning.
is a suicide better?”

Kimble was drifting along in the right lane, alone in the smoky fog and mist. He said, “Because I don’t have to worry about anyone else being hurt by that particular person. It’s always tragic, but at least I don’t have to worry about them pointing a gun at someone else and pulling the trigger.”

The very conclusion I reached myself.”

“If you have any thoughts of suicide, then I’ve got a number I want you to call. I’m serious about this. I want you—”

“Now what if,” Wyatt French said, “the suicide victim wasn’t entirely willing.”

Kimble felt an uneasy chill. “Then it’s not a suicide.”

“You say that confidently.”

“I am confident. If the death was not the subject’s goal, then it was not a suicide. By definition.”

“So even if a man killed himself, but there was evidence that he’d been compelled to in some way—”

“Wyatt, stop. Stop talking like this. Are you going to hurt yourself?”



“I wanted to know if there was any difference in the way
you’d investigate,” the man said, his words clearer now, less of the bourbon speaking for him. “Do you pursue the root causes of a suicide in the same manner that you would a homicide?”

Kimble drove along in the hiss of tires on rain-soaked pavement for a time, then said, “I pursue the truth.”


“Always. Don’t give me anything to pursue today, Wyatt. I’m not joking. If someone has been hurt, you tell me that right now. Tell me that.”

“No one has been hurt yet.”

. Kimble didn’t like that. “If you’re thinking about suicide, or anything else, then I want—”

“My thoughts aren’t your concern, deputy. You have many concerns around you in Sawyer County, some of them quite serious, but my thoughts aren’t the problem.”

“I’m going to give you a number,” Kimble said again, “and ask you to call it for me, please. You called me early, and on a private line, and I’ve given you my time and respect. I hope you’ll do the same for me.”

“Certainly, sir. If there are two things I’d hope you might continue to grant me in the future, it is your time and respect.”

French’s voice was absent of mockery or malice. Kimble gave him the number, a suicide assistance line, and he could hear scratching as Wyatt dutifully wrote it down.

“Take care of yourself,” Kimble told him. “Get dried out, get some rest. I’m worried about the way you’re talking.”

“What you should be worried about is that I’ll choose to live forever. Then you’d really have your work cut out.”

It was the first time any of Wyatt’s traditional humor had showed, and Kimble let out a long breath, feeling as if the worst of this strange call was past.

“I’ve dealt with you for this long,” he said. “Wouldn’t be right not to keep at it.”

BOOK: The Ridge
9.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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