Read Grave Situation Online

Authors: Alex MacLean

Tags: #crime, #murder, #mystery, #addiction, #police procedural, #serial killer, #forensics, #detective, #csi, #twist ending, #traumatic stress

Grave Situation (3 page)

“Sure it is.” Allan smiled into
the telephone. “I’d really love to see him again. Can I speak to
him?”

Another pause. In the background,
Allan could hear music. The opera, he realized. Melissa had always
been a fan.

“Brian’s gone
out, Al,” she answered at last. “Tom took him to see the new
Iron Man
movie.”

“Tom?

“Tom Godfrey.” Melissa became
quiet again. Something about her silence made Allan wonder what she
was hiding, if anything.

“Who’s he?”

“He’s a man I’ve been dating.”
Melissa’s voice conveyed an edge. “Didn’t Brian tell
you?”

Allan felt himself wince. How often
had he wished to have those final days before the separation to
live again, to have chosen a different route.

“Al?

“No, he never told me.”

“We’ve been seeing each other for
about two months. Brian had a hard time adjusting to him at first.
But now he seems to be taking to him.”

Allan shut his eyes. In a flat
tone, he said, “That’s swell.”

“I know you’re probably not happy
about this.”

“No, I’m not happy at all” Allan
gripped the phone tighter. “Another man is taking my
place.”

On the other end,
Melissa exhaled. “He’s not taking your place. He’s a nice man.” Her
voice turned softly bitter. “Besides, he’s been there a hellava lot
more than
you
ever were.”

Now quiet, Allan fought through a
maelstrom of emotions. He realized he had never truly recovered
from the hurt and anger of Melissa’s leaving, nor had she, he
supposed, for the absent husband burdened by obligation and a
delusive belief he could somehow make a difference to a faltering
society.

With a weary patience, he answered,
“Let’s not get into this again. I didn’t call up to get into a
fight. I know I was selfish, that I was neglectful. But you should
know I had never intended to be that way.”

“I’ll get Brian to call you when
he gets home. If it’s not too late.”

With that came a click in his ear.
The sound of dead air. Then the dial tone.

Allan cradled the handset. “Jesus
Christ.”

Absently, he stared at Buddy curled
up on a chair by the fireplace. The thought of Brian’s coming visit
brought a smile to Allan’s face, but the thought of someone else in
his son’s life bothered him. He felt a thrust of jealousy and a
pang of heartache that went a lot deeper.

He sat back and lifted his gaze
from the cat until settling on a silver-framed picture on the
mantle of the fireplace. All at once, his mind tapped upon a
fleeting memory.

 

* * *

 

Melissa sat on the edge of the bed
with her head lowered and a tissue crumpled in her hands. Her hazel
eyes glistened in the bedside lamp. Allan had just walked in after
coming home late.

“Is there something wrong?” he
asked. “You’re not usually up this time of night.”

“I can’t take this anymore, Al,”
she replied in a broken tone. “What happened to the man I
married?”

“What do you mean?” He walked
closer. “I’m here.”

“Don’t you see the rift between
us? You’re never here anymore,” she shot back, then lowered her
voice, as if remembering Brian in the other room. “ Don’t you get
it? You’re obsessed with your job. You come home this late or later
every night. You’re gone first thing in the morning. And when I do
get the chance at some us time, it’s like you’re off in another
world. And your son in there keeps asking when Daddy is coming
home.” Melissa turned to him now, her expression serious. “Goddamn
you for having me make up excuses for you.”

“Excuses? You know the demands of
this job.” Allan knelt beside her. “After we wrap up this case,
I’ll take a leave. Then we can spend some time together. Me, you
and Brian.”

Silent, Melissa rose and walked to
the window, gazing out at the crisp fall evening.

“Promises, Al. All of which you’ve
broken before. You know that long before this case is solved, there
will be a line of others waiting at the door.”

Allan sat quiet, stunned. He saw
himself balancing on a tightrope of hope and harsh truth. Melissa
turned around and tears rolled down her cheeks. For as long as he
lived, he would never forget her face at that moment or the words
she said.

“I’m leaving you, Al.”

Two nights later, Allan came home
to find Melissa’s hatchback missing from the driveway.

 

* * *

 

For a few moments more, Allan
stared at the picture without expression. Then he reached for the
remote and flipped through some programs on the television, settled
back and watched a stupid sitcom, only partly absorbed. He still
reflected on his conversation with Melissa, even as his eyelids
grew heavy.

Several hours later, he awakened to
the sound of static from the television. He didn’t even remember
falling asleep.

The clock on the wall read 2:45
a.m. Allan picked up the remote and stabbed the off
button.

He rose to his feet and crossed the
room to the bay windows. In the dark, he gazed out at the empty
street. Through the branches of the elm tree on the front lawn
glowed a bright three-quarter moon. There were no sounds in the
neighborhood. Everything was peaceful but his thoughts.

Eyes sad, he turned around and
looked at the dark shape of the telephone on the coffee
table.

Brian hadn’t called
back.

4

Halifax, May 9

3:35 a.m.

 

Killing time.

The hooker took a quick pull on her
cigarette. Restless, she paced the sidewalk at the corner of
Barrington and South Street, her nightly haunt. She was tall and
elegant, with long flaxen hair that framed an unblemished face. A
narrow waist accentuated the gentle flare of her hips. Her long,
shapely legs resembled those of a dancer.

She wore clothing meant to
allure—red leather jacket, black mesh stockings, and red shoes with
stiletto heels. Her black mini-skirt was cut high enough to reveal
a peek of cheeks. Her white halter-top was draped low in front so
eyes would be drawn to her cleavage and her nipples were visible
points under the fabric.

Business was slow for a Saturday
evening. In the last five hours, she had received many looks from
action seekers, but only one taker—a lousy executive who had always
looked down on her, always talked down to her, and she always ended
up feeling like trash when he left for home to his wife and kids,
but he paid well, and that was all she cared about.

A cool breeze sent a chill up her
spine. Shivering, she buttoned up the front of her jacket. A few
minutes more and then she would call a cab to take her
home.

She finished the cigarette, tossed
the nub to the sidewalk, and ground it out under her a
heel.

The neighborhood around her was
dead. The early morning hour had killed it. Some cars came and
went. The last of the drunken patrons had left the bars and
cabarets. A few had staggered home on foot, while others rode off
in taxis.

Sudden headlights drew her
attention. A car slowed to a crawl across the street. The face of a
young man appeared behind the windshield, staring out at her with
narrowed eyes, as if considering. She blew him a kiss.

“C’mon honey,” she muttered under
her breath. “Come get some sugar.”

The left signal light flashed and
the car turned down South Street, passing only feet away. As she
watched the taillights head down to the waterfront and then vanish
around a corner, the hooker sighed. She wondered if the young man
would come back. Often the younger ones would circle the block
several times before working up the nerve to approach
her.

A minute passed.

Two.

Then three.

No sign of the young
man.

Discouraged, she reached into her
purse and removed a pack of cigarettes, tapped the bottom and
pulled out a stick with her lips. After this smoke she promised
herself she would call it a night.

She gazed across the street at the
dark area of Cornwallis Park. The grounds, a tree-bordered square a
block in size, were still and empty. Someone had left a beer can on
the statue of Edward Cornwallis. On Hollis Street, a limousine
pulled up to the front entrance of the Westin Nova Scotian. Moments
later, a chauffeur emerged, opening the rear door for a couple in
business wear.

Another car drove by; this time so
fast the woman didn’t have time to register it. She turned and
glanced left down Barrington. No one there. The same in the
opposite direction.

She checked her watch. It said
3:50.

Ten minutes and
I’ll call a cab
, she
thought.

5

Halifax, May 9

3:52 a.m.

 

Adjusting the center dial of the
binoculars, he brought the hooker’s face into sharper
focus.

“Nice,” he whispered. “Very
nice.”

His palms were damp. A strange
blend of fear and desire coursed through him. Breathing in, he
shifted around, feeling the stiffness of sitting in the same
position for too long.

He had the radio turned low and the
twangy voice of a country singer floated out from the speakers. The
clock read 3:53. He knew he had to make his move soon before dawn
cast its first light.

For a brief moment, he thought
about how lucky he’d been to find the hooker. In retrospect, he
realized it had been entirely by accident.

He had arrived in the city four
hours ago and found the downtown to be a beehive of
activity—surging crowds gathered outside nightclub doors, taxis
lined up at curbs.

As if in a dream, he crept along
block-by-block, up and down steep hillside streets, scanning faces
of people on the sidewalks, a mixture of men and women, mostly
young, some older, of different shapes and races. They were only
alike in their shared interest of Halifax’s vibrant nightlife.
Looking at them heightened his feelings that he didn’t belong here.
As long as no one noticed, he would be fine.

He saw several hookers standing on
street corners dressed in rather provocative clothing. For some he
slowed down to look them over. The younger ones, a bit eager to
turn a trick, would step to the outer edges of the sidewalks,
gesturing for him to pull over. Only the older ones, harder
looking, restrained, street-wise, stayed where they
were.

Self-conscious, he drove on. He had
to protect his anonymity. There could be no room for
error.

Many of the women were in pairs,
while others were being watched by men in parked cars some distance
away. Either undercover cops or pimps, he suspected. Too risky. He
needed to find one alone.

After two in the morning, he found
the vacant parking lot of a Superstore on south Barrington Street.
Beyond the reach of lights, he cut the engine and sat.

Waiting.

Watching.

Though his heart raced, he felt
calm.

A few hookers had taken up shop in
Cornwallis Park across the street. Mechanically, he took the
binoculars out of the duffel bag and pressed them to his face,
focusing on a stage show of degradation, seduction, and
exploitation. Some of the hookers would leave in cars, only to
return a short time later. Others would drift away on foot with
their johns, seeking a dark alley to conduct their
business.

Watching them, he thought of
himself as a voyeur; they in turn, were unable to see
him.

Around him, he became barely
conscious of the activity of a city passing by—cars pulling in and
out of the Westin Nova Scotia; a drunk man stumbling through the
parking lot near the gas pumps, babbling to himself; and sidewalk
people hustling along with urban energy. No one noticed
him.

Time crept by.

The action hit its peak and then
wound down. The number of hookers in Cornwallis Park began to
dwindle, and then all were gone.

It was three-thirty. He felt
pathetic, a failure. He had come here to complete his first job.
Now he sat alone, empty-handed.

What were his choices? Cut his
losses and leave, or continue searching?

Disappointed, his grip tightened on
the binoculars and he stuffed them back inside the duffle bag. He
would leave.

About to turn over the engine, he
saw a gray BMW roll up Barrington Street. It stopped at the curb on
the corner of South. Clumsily, he reached inside the duffel bag for
the binoculars again. Once more he adjusted the focus, watching as
the passenger door swung open and the profile of a female figure
bent out. Long stockinged legs, then flowing blonde
hair.

A crooked smile formed on his lips
and his pulse quickened.

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