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Authors: Lisa Jackson,Nancy Bush

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Crime, #Psychological

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BOOK: Wicked Lies
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Lang muttered, for the fifth time, “Who the hell thought Justice Turnbull could be moved with
one
security guard?”

“His primary physician,” Savvy answered neutrally, for the fifth time.

Lang growled, “Zellman has a God complex.”

“And it got him a surgery and stay at Ocean Park,” Burghsmith pointed out.

“I’m gonna talk to him, as soon as he can talk,” Lang said.

“Whenever that will be,” Clausen responded.

Lang glanced toward the front doors of Side A. His fiancée, Dr. Claire Norris, a Side A psychiatrist, had met them earlier, along with a number of other doctors, orderlies, and nurses from Side B. Everyone was alarmed. Justice Turnbull was no minor problem. But there wasn’t much more to do here. The bird had flown, so to speak.

“Back to HQ?” Delaney suggested.

“We should all be off duty by now,” Lang said, looking up at the dark sky.

“I’m not leaving,” Clausen said, and was met by a chorus of other voices, none of whom had any intention of waiting till morning to go after their quarry.

Lang said without much conviction, “Maybe we’ll run across him on the way back to Tillamook.”

“He can’t be that hard to find,” Savvy said. “He’s in a hospital van in hospital garb.”

“Where is that van?” Lang muttered.

“Bet we find it within the hour,” said Burghsmith. Clausen harrumphed. “Neither of you were around last time. The guy’s a gold-plated, class A psycho. He wasn’t ever easy to find. Even if we find him, catching him will be a trick. He’s wily. And weird.”

And deadly,
Lang thought, but he kept that to himself.

They all knew it, anyway.

CHAPTER 7

T
he sun was rising in the east, its ascent reflecting upon the western horizon in pinks and golds. The dawning colors made it almost appear like it was rising in the west, a blazing orb about to burst into the skies above the Pacific. It was a lie, a trick, a phenomenon Justice had missed for over two years, and now he stared at it hungrily. The sea . . . the Pacific Ocean, which stretched to forever . . . reached into his heart and pulled. It had always been this way.

And now a memory stirred, crept up on him like a thief.

He’d been odd as a child. Everyone told him so.
She’d
dragged him to the cult time and again, but they wouldn’t even look at him.
She’d
shoved him in front of that black-hearted bitch with the blond hair and smug smile who had declared, “Changeling,” in disgust when she’d laid her witch’s gaze upon him. He hadn’t known what it meant, but
she’d
started babbling away, swearing it wasn’t so, sweeping an arm to include all the little blond girls the black-hearted bitch had birthed and who were accepted into the inner circle while he was kept outside, thrust from the heart of their group, scorned. The bitch had smiled at him meanly from her side of the gates and told
her
to take him far, far away.

“He has no soul,” she’d decreed solemnly, crystal blue eyes staring through the iron bars of the gate. Then, with one final disparaging look cast in Justice’s direction, the bitch had swept away from the gate back to the lodge, where her precious brood of blond angels were waiting. Giggling. Laughing at him. Secure in their huge lodge with its tall fence.

While he’d been left with
her.

He hated the bitch with the knowing blue eyes.

But not as much as he hated
her
—the sobbing, babbling puddle of a woman who’d brought him to be judged by them in their high and mighty fortress hidden in the trees.

Her.

His mother.

She’d
dragged him from their lodge, swearing, crying that they would accept him. He was no changeling. He was one of them. Couldn’t they see?

It was all so pathetic and futile.

Back in his bedroom at the time, he’d hidden from
her
and looked up the word surreptitiously.
She
hadn’t suspected he’d had the means. A fine specimen of a fortune-teller, one who couldn’t keep track of her only child. While she’d still been wailing at the unfairness of it all, he’d been pulling a nail from the floorboard of the rough-hewn planks that made up his bedroom floor and taking out one of the books he’d stolen over the years and made his own. The one he needed was merely a dictionary.

Heart pounding in dread, he’d rifled through the pages until he found the word he’d sought:

Changeling: idiot; a being of subnormal intelligence; a human child exchanged for another being in infancy.

Another being . . . something
not
human . . .

At first he’d been repelled; he’d wanted to scream at the world, rage at the black-hearted witch behind the gates that she was wrong about him! He was their cousin. All those twittering, nasty blue-eyed girls. He was of them! He belonged!

Of course, he’d been invited back, and as time had passed, he began to realize that the blue-eyed guardian of the gates was right, in her way. He
was
different than they were. Better. Further along the path chosen by their Maker. God.

He
was God’s choice.

Over time his mission became clear, and as
she
, the embarrassment, the charlatan,
the fortune-teller
, scratched out a living by accepting coins from the tourists, he chronicled the blond angels, learning their names, their habits, their special abilities.

The first one he’d killed had been easy.

Too easy, as it turned out, because he’d been filled with a sense of self-importance and overconfidence, which had tipped off the blond angels, who were much wilier and clever than he’d first imagined.

He’d been blinded by success and he’d lost track of the ones outside the gates, only reconnecting when they were pregnant, when he could smell them again.

And when it had all been coming together again, when he was about to send another of them into the raging fires from whence they’d come, he’d been tricked! Fooled. Cheated by them. Captured and incarcerated.

Laughed at . . .

He’d been patient.

But now he was free.

His lips twisted at the thought that he’d fooled them all again. Including the weakling who had borne him.

He watched the western horizon turn an eye-hurting shade of pink and smelled the dank scents of the sea. A huge whip of kelp, a bladder attached to one end, its way of floating and capturing air, lay twisted on the sand in front of where he stood.

It was in the shape of an
m
.

Mother.

God’s sign. He was being guided by a divine hand.

Once again he felt himself going to his special place, his outer shell dissolving, revealing his true person, his beauty. But there was work to be done, and he reluctantly fought it off. He couldn’t succumb as he had in the past, letting his true self rule, because in this outside world he could stumble and be captured again.

No . . . no . . . !

With an effort he held his eyes open wide, refusing to see and feel anything but what was right in front of him: the beach littered with debris; the rising swirl and plaintive caws of the seagulls, scrounging at the tide’s edge; the brilliant refraction of light burning in his eyes; the restless, beckoning water in shades of gray and green.

Now he spurned his true self and almost wanted to cry out. It was his only refuge. His sanctuary.

But God had a plan, and he couldn’t tarry.

Turning away from the beach, he climbed up a row of sand-dusted stone steps to the parking lot above, where the Vanagon awaited in all its colorful, floral splendor. Anyone who saw it would remember it, but no one had witnessed him driving into this turnout with its view of the ocean.

He walked past the Vanagon without so much as a sideways glance. Cosmo wasn’t going to need it anymore, and he couldn’t be seen with it.

He was several miles south of a small hamlet called Sandbar, which was south of Tillamook, which was farther south from Deception Bay, his ultimate destination. He had Cosmo’s driver’s license and his clothes, which fit in length but were too big around. Not a problem for beachwear along the Oregon coast. June’s weather was unpredictable, and winds and rain could beat down at any time; the dress code was whatever worked.

He also had Cosmo’s backpack, hiking boots which fit okay, and a watch cap he’d discovered beneath the baby gear. He was growing a beard. He had thirty dollars, courtesy of Cosmo, who was really James Cosmo Danielson. He liked the name.

He hiked up the road until he’d passed the jutting rocks that divided this section of beach from the one where he’d left the Vanagon. Now he clambered down a sharp cliff of stones where rubble shifted under his feet and bounced down to the beach thirty feet below. Reaching the sand, he walked to the water’s edge and kept meandering northward. Fingers of wind snatched at his jacket, flapping it open. It was colder than it looked, and he passed several people: a couple strolling along, bundled up, their heads tucked together; a woman jogging; a man with a golden Lab, throwing a stick.

No one paid him the least bit of attention, which was just what he expected. He’d grown up in these parts, and he knew this section of coastline better than anyone. No one knew him except the ocean. It whispered to him, God’s voice trapped inside its swells and troughs.

A finger of land jutted out to the sea and then took a sharp turn northward, creating a natural bay, dividing the Pacific from a small protected area of smoother water. Justice climbed up and over the jutting, rocky spit, moving closer to the road rather than the ocean. At the eastern bay’s edge stood a bait shop, a rickety wooden hovel, part of a dilapidated structure that had once been a cannery; the cannery, in turn, being all that was left of a once thriving industry that had all but vanished over the last decades. Blackened, barnacle-clad posts stood in broken rows along the waterfront, revealing where docks, long rotted, had once stood.

As a seagull cawed, he climbed up a clattery wooden ramp to the back deck of the bait shop, glancing toward the bay before reaching for the door handle. He’d seen the faded
FOR RENT
sign when he’d driven by earlier, and he’d disposed of the Vanagon at the particular beach parking lot where he’d left it with the express purpose of heading back to this place. If, and when, the search for Cosmo began, it would fan out from the van, and Justice could be vulnerable to detection, except for the fact that he knew this area and he knew exactly what kind of person the bait shop’s owner, old man Carter, was: an ex-con with a healthy disregard of police in general, and the Tillamook County Sheriff’s Department in particular.

That was, if he was still alive. And still around.

As Justice walked in, a jingly bell above the door announced his arrival. Carter, a few pounds heavier than he remembered, his hair a little grayer, was standing behind the bait shop counter. Though Justice knew of Preston Carter, the man didn’t really know him; and anyway, he was half blind and older than dirt.

“Yeah?” Carter barked in greeting, lifting his head. His eyes were bluish, rheumy, above a grizzled beard that sported a bit of oatmeal from the morning’s breakfast.

“The room,” Justice said.

“You want the room?” Carter repeated loudly. Undoubtedly, he was hard of hearing, too.

“I only have thirty dollars.”

“Thirty?” He seemed to consider. “Okay. We can start with that. Ya got any ID?” he shouted.

Justice slipped Cosmo’s driver’s license from his wallet, and Carter squinted at it. He didn’t write anything down, just slid the license back across the scarred Formica counter to him. “What’s your name, son?”

“Dan,” Justice said, handing him the money.

Carter fingered the bills. “I’m gonna have my girl, Carrie, check to make sure these are tens,” he warned. “I don’t see as well as I could.”

“Go ahead.”

He nodded in satisfaction. “All righty. But I guess meanwhiles I can give ya a key. You know, there’s a toilet? Back over there by the clamming sinks.” He waved an arm to encompass the other dilapidated buildings. “That’s all we got.”

Justice glanced toward the next building, with its rusted corrugated roof, where a row of sinks and clamming and crabbing paraphernalia, shovels, nets, and the like, stood beneath a listing roof that was streaked with seagull crap.

Justice made a sound of acceptance. He’d certainly seen worse. And despite the building’s dilapidated state, he was free. Away from that hellhole of Halo Valley Hospital.

“Good.” Carter turned to a coffee can on a shelf behind him, dug inside, and fished out a key. He handed it over to Justice and the deed was done. Justice determined he would stay in the room above the bait shop as long as he needed. Days . . . weeks . . . months . . . But he would be vigilant. If the sheriff’s department came looking for him, he would know it.

Climbing the outside stairway, the steps teetering a little, he let himself into a one-room space filled with cobwebs and worn linoleum flooring whose scarred and blackened surface looked like a permanent stain. He thought longingly of the sleeping bag in Cosmo’s van, but he’d sensed that people would remember him more later on if he were seen as a hiker of some sort, the guy with the sleeping bag. . . . No, that wouldn’t do. So he’d left the bag.

No matter. Justice was an accomplished thief, and he could gather things as needed. He was no good with conversation. No good dealing with people. He was too odd. Said too little. He caused people to remember him without even trying.

But he was a wraith.
She
had once said that about him. “You’re in the shadows. A listener. A plotter. A wraith.”

It had not been a compliment, but it had been accurate.

Dropping Cosmo’s backpack in the center of the room, he unzipped it and rooted through it. The hippie had a few interesting items, one of them being a jackknife. To go along with the box cutter. Moving the knife to his pocket, Justice also pulled out a pack of beef jerky, a picture of a woman holding a baby and the hand of another child, and two joints. He stuck a piece of jerky in his mouth and chewed slowly. The joints he transferred to an inner pocket of his coat. Nothing he planned to use himself, but they might be collateral. The picture of the woman and kids he tore into tiny pieces and shoved the pieces in the pocket of his pants. Later, he would scatter them to the wind.

BOOK: Wicked Lies
6.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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