CHAPTER FORTY ONEDeath Like a CrownDetective Bridger woke up thrashing.He gasped and waited for his heart to slow down, which took longer and longer to do.“Dreaming about that girl again, sweetheart?” asked his wife. Her lovely face was full of sympathy, and traces of apprehension lined her forehead. Her husband had a tender soul and she was beginning to fear for him, because it seemed harder for him to shrug out of the coat of grime and murder he wore home each evening. He was growing distraught and driven and she knew the impending death of this lovely girl was behind it. Although she hadn’t seen the woman herself, she believed in her darling Ian, and she believed him when he said this girl wore death like a crown, and the crown was growing heavier and more difficult to endure, and one day her frail bones would snap entirely under the weight of it.“I have to go over the files again,” he said, and then he was gone. She knew he would be locked in the home office for the rest
CHAPTER FORTY TWOFalling into Fish and FlowersEddie no longer spent his days playing Jasmine the Guitar at Pike Place Market.“Where’s your husband?” Chad the Fish Guy asked Bryony one day. He was trying hard not to look at the noticeable stitches on her hands and face, but it was difficult. Bryony helpfully held her hands out for him to inspect. He touched them gingerly.“He’s busy,” she said. “He’s recording.”Chad the Fish Guy was impressed. “Wow. When things started to take off for him, they really took off.” He ran his finger over one of her new scars with some trepidation, but she grinned at him.“They don’t hurt, not really. You don’t have to be so gentle. Yes, I’m very happy for Eddie, but I’m sad because I miss him. I’m lonely without him. Are you ever lonely, Chad?”Chad was always lonely, but he would never say. He was constantly surrounded by people, and especially by women, but he was always lonely. He often curled up in his cold apartment and wished he had somebo
CHAPTER FORTY THREEA Broken HeartThis is what Chad thought:He thought, “Oh, rats, that guy is going to go after Bryony. I have to help her!”He thought, “Why aren’t my legs working? I can’t seem to make them move.”He thought, “Just when I figured out how to really love someone . . . ”The sad irony is Chad had finally discovered his heart after many years of denying it. He discovered he loved the girl at the flower shop and, yes, even Eddie for his grouchy protective ways, and with this new knowledge he could have gone on to live a beautiful and productive life.It could have been a life full of a witty wife and five children and a family dog whose name would have changed bi-weekly due to the whim of the family, although he would have been called ‘Buckley” more often than not. Chad could have purchased a home his wife would convince him to paint a whimsical dark purple with white trim, thereby being both creative and tidy, and he would have mowed the lawn every Saturday morn
CHAPTER FORTY FOURMeanwhileWhile Chad the Fish Guy died alone in a seldom used part of the building, Bryony went to her favorite fruit vendor for their Lunch Special. The Lunch Special cost a dollar fifty and consisted of a freshly plucked peach, a bottle of water, and a paper towel.“You’re looking rather peaked today, my dear,” said the kindly old woman who ran the stand. She was picking out the perfect peach, heavy with juice and full of flavor. “You really ought to go home and get some rest.”Bryony accepted the peach and bit into it, careful to keep the juice from running into her rag doll stitches. “This is delicious. Thank you so much. I think I miss Eddie, and I’m tired of . . . everything. I miss my father. I think I might be homesick, but I’ve never been happier anywhere other than here. Is that not strange?”Before the old woman could answer, Bryony heard somebody calling her name. She turned to look and there was Peter, his cheeks still flush from his most recent kil
CHAPTER FORTY FIVEIn The Murderer’s CarBryony rested her head against the window.“Peter? I’m . . . I’m not really feeling well. Do you mind if I close my eyes for a little bit?”Did he mind? Of course he didn’t mind, not in the slightest. Wouldn’t this be perfect? Wouldn’t this be almost romantic in a way, the two of them companionably enclosed in the car, she dreaming sweet dreams and he driving them off somewhere exotic and adventurous?“Of course I don’t mind. You’re safe with me.” He nearly giggled, but he was not a giggling sort of fellow, so he managed to abstain.“Can I tell you something?”He nodded, but realized she couldn’t see him with her eyes closed. “Yes,” he said aloud, and beamed at how sensitive he could be to her needs.“When that man was . . . on the trail. When he was . . . ”“When he was trying to kill you,” he prompted helpfully. He heard Bryony sigh.“Yes. When he was trying to kill me, it was strange. I keep seeing his face in my head. I thought I w
CHAPTER FORTY SIXPrioritiesOnly things did not go as planned for our deviant and murderous Peter. When he pulled up to the Warshouski’s apartment, he noticed a car outside. Their car. And when he helped Bryony climb the stairs, they were soon greeted by an agitated Eddie.“What are you doing home?” Bryony asked happily. Peter echoed the sentiment in his head exactly.He thought: “Oh no, this was going to be so lovely!”He thought: “Can I take Eddie out, too?”He thought: “Not a chance, that is one irate man. Okay, better go!”He opened his mouth to hand Bryony off to her husband and beat a hasty retreat, but Eddie spoke before he ever had the chance.“Bryony, it’s your father. They called me at the radio station. He had an attack of some kind, and he’s not doing well. You need to go home.”Bryony reeled a bit, and Eddie and Peter both reached out to steady her. She steadied herself, however, as she had always done, and she straightened her back.“All right, Eddie. Can we le
CHAPTER FORTY SEVENBryony Sleeps on Peter’s ShoulderThis is what the murderer thought:He thought, “I can’t believe my luck! They’re so trusting. Useful.”He thought, “Perhaps she is fated for the desert after all, only . . . with my help.”He thought, “It’s not long now.”Beneath the flying airplane, the desert howled and hissed and coiled around itself in painful anticipation. It somehow sensed Bryony’s arrival, somehow tasted the soft flesh hidden under her skin. It sucked greedily at what it knew would sate it.It is time. It is time. The desert always knew it would come.
CHAPTER FORTY EIGHTKill HerBryony knew he wouldn’t be there, but she checked the house first.“Daddy? Daddy?” she called, and ran from room to room.“Wouldn’t he be at the hospital?” Peter asked. It alarmed him to see Bryony worked up to this state, to see her flying wildly around the house like a bird newly thrust into a cage. Where was her serenity? Where was her ethereal acceptance? This panic seemed so unlike her, and it was equally endearing and disconcerting. He silently begged her not to change so that it was like killing an unfamiliar person. He knew exactly how he wanted it to be, what expression he would read in her face and eyes. He wanted to see her hands flutter to the knife and then stop, accepting her fate and his role in it. No, not merely accepting. Embracing. He wanted her to look at his comforting face while her soul finally shrugged off this beautiful yet hindering body, and slipped off to the stars. He didn’t want to kill a stranger; he wanted to murder his d