Read The Ridge Online

Authors: Michael Koryta

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

The Ridge (7 page)

BOOK: The Ridge
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Kimble moved around the room, looking at the old photographs and maps, but then he heard a scribbling sound behind him and turned to see that Darmus had a reporter’s pad out and a pencil in his hand.

“What are you doing? Don’t write any of that shit down. This isn’t a public scene. And there’s not even a newspaper anymore.”

“Did you look at these maps?” Darmus said, as if he hadn’t spoken. “It’s like he was charting accidents, but there’s no way there have been this many accidents out here.”

“Give me that,” Kimble said.

Darmus stopped scribbling and looked up.

“The list,” Kimble said. “You can’t walk out of here with it. This is an investigation, not a sporting event, Darmus. Give me whatever you’ve written.”

There was something deeply wrong with reporters. A corpse was sitting upstairs, and Darmus had willingly come back inside and was now taking notes?

“Come on,” Kimble said, and stretched out his hand. Darmus sighed, tore a handful of pages free, folded them, and passed them over.

“You see whose picture he has on the wall?” he said, tapping on one with his pen. “Maybe there
is
a reason he called both of us. My parents, and her.”

Her
. Kimble followed the tip of Darmus’s pen and saw that it was pointing at a color photograph of Jacqueline Mathis. Her name was written beneath it.

For a moment Kimble just stared, but he saw Darmus watching him and was unsettled by it, felt as if he were suddenly exposed. “What did I just tell you? I’ve got a death scene to deal with. Get out of here.”

“Wyatt told me about you making those visits up to see her,” Darmus said.

“Why in the hell were you talking about that?” Kimble snapped.

“I don’t even know. He just told me that you went to see her every month. I was having trouble following the—”

“Well, it’s none of anybody’s damned business. I tell you, there’s some good things about that paper being shut down, too. Tough that you lost your job, but you know what? There are some things people do in private that should
stay
private. Now listen to what I told you and get the hell out of here.”

Darmus looked at him curiously, then nodded and turned and walked out into the dark and the blowing rain. Kimble watched until the car’s taillights had vanished down the hill, wishing he’d been alone up here, wishing he’d been the first to find the body. He looked down at the folded pages in his hand, torn from the reporter’s notebook, and unfolded them.

Blank. Every one.

“Son of a bitch, Darmus,” he said.

Good trick. A lot better than whatever Wyatt was playing on Kimble from beyond the grave.

He looked up again, at the maps and the photographs. All those old pictures, looking as if they’d been copied out of history books, and then Jacqueline, staring at him with those endless blue eyes.

Why did Wyatt have her picture up?

Kimble reached up, pulled the thumbtacks from the wood, removed Jacqueline’s picture, and put it in his pocket with the blank pages from Darmus.

8
 

I
T TOOK A FEW HOURS
for the medical folks to finish their work in the lighthouse. Kimble stood around in the rain and waited for them, spoke to the deputy coroner, and then watched as they finally removed the body, which wasn’t an easy or pleasant task, coming down those steep, narrow stairs.

Kimble had another deputy on scene now, Diane Mooney, and he discharged her, said he was shutting it down for the day. It wasn’t a bad move; every element pointed to a straightforward suicide.

Except for those maps. And that phone call.
What if the victim wasn’t entirely willing…

As he’d waited for the coroner’s people to do their work, Kimble had perused the maps, reading the names. When he saw Joseph and Lillian Darmus, he felt a pang over the way he’d snapped at the old reporter for mentioning Jacqueline. It had surprised him, that was all. And he’d lashed out because… because it was his own damned business. Personal, private.

After Diane Mooney left, Kimble stepped back inside the lighthouse, armed with a Maglite now, and went to the electrical
panel. He didn’t want to leave the busted light with live current going to it. Last thing he needed was a fire. He snapped the main breaker off, plunging the room into darkness.

He turned his flashlight on, checking for last precautions before locking this place up, and around him the old pictures picked up the glow, dozens of dead eyes watching him. He paced with the flashlight held at shoulder level, taking them all in. With only a few exceptions, they were turn-of-the-century photographs. A few, such as Jacqueline’s, had names, but most were tagged simply with the word
NO
. What did that mean?

Kimble slipped on a pair of plastic gloves, then moved around the room, carefully removing every photograph and every map.

It was a suicide, nothing else to it. No call for investigation. Still…

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

“Why did you do it, Wyatt?” Kimble whispered. “And what is all
this
shit about?”

There was no suicide note, no explanation or farewell. Beyond the maps and photographs, there was nothing except a handwritten sheet of paper taped to the electrical panel above Wyatt’s bunk. Behind that panel existed everything that the man seemed to care about—the circuits that controlled his lights, the power that fed them—and Kimble leaned over the bed to read it more carefully. Lyrics to some poem or song titled “Lantern.”

It’s a hungry world out there

Even the wind will take a bite

I can feel the world circling

Sniffing round me in the night

And the lost sheep grow teeth

Forsake the lambs and lie with the lions

 

The story of the song, which seemed to be a defiance of human darkness, of an evil world, and the significance it might have had to Wyatt French, became vividly clear by the end:

So if you got a light, hold it high for me

I need it bad tonight, hold it high for me

’Cause I’m face-to-face, hold it high for me

In that lonesome place, hold it high for me

With all the hurt that I’ve done, hold it high for me

That can’t be undone, hold it high for me

Light and guide me through, hold it high for me

And I’ll do the same for you, hold it high for me

 

I’ll hold it high for you, ’cause I know you’ve got

I’ll hold it high for you, your own valley to walk

I’ll hold it high for you, though it’s dark as death…

 

Kimble stopped reading, saddened, and turned away. Wyatt had certainly held a light high, but for what? Kimble thought of him living up here in total isolation, listening to the wind work over the ridge and watching from behind the glass as his lighthouse illuminated the night woods. What had it meant to him? These words, that light? He felt the weight of sorrow on him as he always did soon enough with suicides, a hard tug of personal connection that he’d never dare put into words.
I want out, too
. A person was more than twice as likely to kill himself as to be killed by another, and yet people feared murderers far more than what lurked within themselves.

“Poor bastard,” Kimble said, and then he turned away. As some odd temple of loneliness the lighthouse made sense to Kimble, almost perfect sense—
You’re right, Wyatt, it’s too dark too often here—
but the maps seemed to suggest something more than that.
He had been a lonely man, certainly, but there was more than loneliness here, and perhaps Kimble should be grateful that he’d not harmed anyone else. Another year or two of living in this place and brooding over whatever the hell he brooded over and he might have picked up the same gun and ventured out. It happened sometimes. Chief Deputy Kevin Kimble had been around long enough to know that terrible things happened sometimes, strange things, things that you couldn’t even say out loud…

With every passing minute the place felt smaller and colder, and Kimble found himself thinking of the infrared illuminators, that ring of lights below the main bulb. What in the hell was he using those for? He moved away, leaving Wyatt’s treasured song lyrics where they belonged, on the front of the electrical panel, and returned to the stack of photographs and maps he’d placed on the desk. After a moment’s pause, he reached into his pocket, withdrew the photograph of Jacqueline Mathis, unfolded it, and added it to the collection. For a long time he stood above the desk, staring down at her face.

One in the hole,
he found himself thinking numbly.
Rookie fucking mistake. Inexcusable error. It was your own fault.

He’d taken the gun from her without incident. Ejected the magazine, slipped it into his pocket, and then, as her husband wheezed on the floor, he’d set the gun on the coffee table and turned to the dying man. Never pulled the slide, never checked the chamber. It was his own fault.

She crossed the room for it, Kimble. That wasn’t your fault. She moved like a shadow, moved fast and silent, and she came ten feet across that room to grab the weapon and then she pointed at you and fired. That was your fault?

She’d been scared. She’d been terrified, and he had to remember that.

No. She
was
terrifying. There’s a difference.

He could still remember the way she’d moved, remembered it
so damn vividly that it made his whole body tense. It had been a feeling more than anything else, an instinct—he didn’t remember hearing her or seeing her. There’d just been some flutter of recognition in his brain, some primal warning, and then he’d glanced back and seen her in the darkness with the gun in her hand and a smile on her face.

Well, no, she wasn’t smiling. That was just how he—

Yes she was! Yes she was, don’t lie to yourself, she was smiling.

Kimble remembered it, caught in his own trauma. Surely she hadn’t been smiling. She’d been frightened. Thought she was shooting at her husband again, thought she was protecting Kimble.

Yes, that was it. She’d wanted to help him. Not kill him.

He took the gun from her without incident initially. She didn’t fight, didn’t say a word, appeared to be in shock. They knew each other by then; he was surprised by her silence, but his oath to protect and serve covered the son of a bitch on the floor, too, and he had to attend to him. The house was in total darkness except for a patch of living-room floor illuminated by the flashing lights of Kimble’s cruiser. It had stopped raining, but there was still thunder on the other side of the mountains. She handed the gun, a Glock, over to Kimble calmly. Her eyes weren’t even on him, but rather on her husband, who lay on the floor in his own blood. He was still breathing, but there was an awful lot of blood. Later Kimble would find himself wishing that the man hadn’t been breathing. It was the breathing that rushed things along, the breathing that forced Kimble to handle the situation the way he did. The man was dying, and Kimble had to try to do something about that.

It was just him, though, no backup yet, no ambulance. Everyone was en route, but en route was awfully damn different from being there, and it was just him and the dark house and the silent woman with the gun. He took the Glock and asked her what had happened and she did not answer, but she did not need
to; he could see the bruises even in the shadows. He’d been in this house before. He knew what happened here.

She was trembling, and she was glassy-eyed, and she was silent and passive, so passive. Even with the gun in her hand she hadn’t appeared threatening, and once it was out of her hand, what was there to fear? She’d called Kimble for help. The man on the floor was breathing, too, he was breathing and needed attention and Kimble had to move fast.

So he didn’t cuff her. He told her to sit and stay, as if she were a dog, and she had lowered herself onto the floor with her back against the wall. Kimble was standing there with two guns in his hands—her Glock and his own, which he’d drawn upon entering the home—and the man on the floor was bleeding and breathing and Kimble had to move fast. He’d holstered his own weapon and put hers down on the coffee table. Before he did it, though, he released the magazine and put that in his pocket. He was not wearing gloves and he was tainting all of the evidence, but such concerns did not seem important right then, alone in the dark house with the bleeding and breathing man on the floor.

He’d had just enough time to turn his head before she fired. Turned and saw her…


smiling! Absolutely delighted, she was so happy to shoot you, she was so happy…

… with the gun and couldn’t even lift his own. The bullet caught him low in the back and drove him down into her husband’s blood. Jacqueline Mathis laid her Glock down, calmly, and walked toward him, knelt, and pulled his gun out of its holster. Then, while he tried to get his mouth to work, tried to tell her not to do it, she’d leveled the muzzle at his forehead.

BOOK: The Ridge
3.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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