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 (6 page)

“Sorry man. I stopped down here to
catch a nap for a bit,” he replied. “I’m too tired to be on the
road.”

“Have you been
drinking?”

“No.”

The light left his face and he
could now see the guard better. He’d been right—the guard looked to
be about twenty-five, with short brown hair and a neatly trimmed
moustache. He wore a black jacket, white shirt and navy blue
trousers. A two-way radio was clipped to his duty belt.

The guard gave him a long, level
stare before finally saying, “How long have you been
here?”

He winced at the time.
5:04.

“An hour, maybe.”

“Can I see some
identification?”

He swallowed.

Can’t let him know who I am. Where
I live.

With some hesitance, he reached
into his back pocket and removed his wallet. He took out his
driver’s license and handed it to the guard.

“Herb Matteau,” the guard said.
“Says here that you’re from Acresville.”

Herb looked at him. “That’s
right.”

“You’re a fair distance from home,
mister. What’s your business in Halifax?”

Quickly, Herb thought of an excuse.
“I was at the casino.”

“They have rooms there, you
know.”

Herb shrugged, a light twitch of
his shoulders. “If you can afford them. I lost most of my
money.”

The guard jabbed the flashlight
into the pickup, moving the beam around. Muscles tight, Herb
watched the light glide over the heap of clothes, the purse, and
the duffel bag. He felt the weight of the knife in his hand, the
moisture of his palms against the handle.

The flashlight came to Herb now,
making him squint.

“Who do those clothes belong to?”
the guard prodded.

Snapshot images. A hand jutting out
of black water. Clutched fingers.

Herb shuddered.

How long would it take for the body
to surface? Days? Weeks? Would she be forever lost to the
Atlantic?

“Sir?

“My…” Herb cleared his throat. “My
girlfriend’s.”

The guard fell quiet for a
moment.

C’mon buy it and just go
away.

“Well, you can’t be hanging around
down here,” he said at last. “I’ll have to ask you to
leave.”

Herb could only nod.

The guard walked away without
another word. In the side mirror, Herb watched the dark figure
round the back of the pickup, light bobbing over the pavement in
front of him. His movements were slow, hesitant. Herb turned toward
the rear-view mirror. The guard lingered near the tailgate, aiming
the beam down at the license plate. Chest pounding, Herb saw him
reach into his jacket and produce a notebook. The guard was going
to record his plate number. Herb touched his eyes and shook his
head. This night had gone gravely wrong.

His life, with his future hanging
in the balance, now seemed to concentrate itself on this guard and
that notebook in his hand. If the body of Trixy Ambré washed ashore
somewhere, Herb could become a suspect. They would know he wasn’t
from Halifax, a stranger with no connections here.

He imagined the police, guns drawn,
storming his farmhouse, clapping handcuffs on his wrists, grilling
him with their questions. He would remain steadfast in his
innocence. Deny everything to the bitter end.

He knew their subsequent
investigation could uncover the rest—a case beyond their
imaginations.

Suddenly, he saw the avalanche of
consequence—the loss of his property, his name and face plastered
all over the news, scorned by a society of hypocrites, locked away
behind bars like an animal. Trapped. Afraid. Alone. Much like he
had felt as a child.

Herb looked back at the rear-view
mirror. As fresh as yesterday, a haunting memory crept into his
sight, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. He
saw a frightened little boy, kneeling at his bedroom window and
gazing out at the night sky. With no moon, the stars were bright
and close. Tears in his eyes, the boy prayed to a God he didn’t
know existed for the protection against his father’s violent mood
swings.

Then, as if transported in time,
the image of the boy became a young man. He stood in the north
pasture of his farm at the base of a lone crab apple tree. Its
naked branches were like jagged cracks in a drab sky that
threatened rain. The surrounding mountains were a splash of green,
red, orange and yellow. In the late afternoon hour, shadows were
encroaching in the hollows of the pastures. A brisk autumn wind
chased fallen leaves around.

In his shaky hands, the young man
held a shovel. His face was streaked with dirt and sweat. Before
him lay the shallow pit he had just dug. Piled beside that was a
mound of soil. Exhausted, he began to toss spadeful after spadeful
of soil into the pit. As he watched it slowly fill, the young man
felt a sense of deliverance mixed with a stab of sorrow.
Deliverance and freedom. Sorrow for the love and support he had
sought but knew he would never have.

From that moment on, there would
remain only one certainty in his life—he would never be a victim
again.

Herb snapped out of his reverie.
Goose bumps rippled his arms. He returned his attention to the
guard and forced his mind to go cold. Knife in hand, he stepped out
of the pickup.

The guard was stuffing the notebook
into his jacket when Herb came around the back of the truck.
Seemingly surprised, the guard shot the beam at him.

“Is there some kind of problem,
man?” Herb asked him.

“What do you mean?”

Herb concealed the blade behind his
leg. “Why are you recording my plate number?”

The guard lowered the flashlight.
The two men stood facing each other. Six feet of grainy darkness
separated them. Through it, Herb saw the guard’s face was tight
with fear and strategy.

“Just precautions.” A tremor
carried his words. “If you don’t leave, I’m getting the police down
here.”

Slowly, Herb took a step forward,
then another. “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

The guard put up a hand. “Stand
down, mister. Don’t make me get on the radio.”

Herb seemed not to hear. He moved
closer still.

Four feet.

Three.

Easy now.

He could see the guard’s throat
working, the flitting movements of his eyes, the stiff shrinking
away of his body, as if he were ready to run. To Herb, he looked
pathetic, a coward.

“Sir
…”

Herb brought the knife out from
behind his leg. The steel blade flashed.

A frightful understanding
registered in the guard’s eyes. His mouth formed words with no
sound. Scrabbling at his side for the radio, he turned to run. With
lightning quickness, Herb was upon him, driving the knife between
the guard’s shoulder blades.

The guard’s scream shot through the
air.

The next few moments passed in slow
motion. Back tensed, the guard toppled forward, arms flailing.
Hitting the pavement face first. Another sound, one of glass
shattering as the flashlight tumbled across the parking
lot.

Herb stood over the guard and
watched as his legs made pedaling movements. Gurgling sounds came
from the guard’s throat.

The knife was lodged in his
back.

Herb knelt and glanced around the
lot along with the empty streets around it. He knew he had no time
to dispose of the body. At any moment, the headlights of a passing
car could expose him.

After patting the guard down with
the backs of his hands, Herb found the shape of the notebook hidden
in his jacket. Carefully, he slipped it out. In the semidarkness,
the notebook shook in his hands as he began turning pages. It was a
journal containing a chronological list of dates, times, and
observations the guard had made during his shifts. At the last
entry, Herb stopped abruptly. The handwriting was scribble, that of
a man hurrying to record facts.

Date: Sunday, May 9,
2010

Time: 5:08 am

Location: Impark lot, Lower Water
St.

Herb Matteau from Acresville.
D.O.B. August 14, 1973. He’s 6 feet, possibly a little taller. Was
sitting down. Hard to tell. Heavy-set build, muscular. Short wavy
brown hair. Brown eyes. Pale complexion. Clean-shaven. No
distinctive features. Wearing a black T-shirt and jeans. A gold
framed watch with Roman numerals.

Herb felt himself swallow as he
read the next few sentences.

Man acted very suspiciously.
Sitting alone in his truck with a poor excuse to be there. A navy
blue sport-like bag and women’s clothing, he claimed belonged to
his girlfriend’s were inside.

The entry went on to describe the
make and model of Herb’s truck. Below that, his license plate
number.

Herb’s eyes filled with animosity.
He closed the notebook with a snap and shoved it into his back
pocket. Then he drew his face close to the guard’s ear. Only then
did he see and hear the blood bubbling on the man’s parted
lips.

“You should’ve left me alone,”
Herb whispered.

He saw the guard’s stricken gaze
turn toward the sound of his voice. His legs no longer pedaled.
Instead, they just made slight spastic movements.

Herb placed one fist on the guard’s
shoulder for support and reached for the knife. Through the handle,
he could feel the blade throb, as if with its own life. With one
powerful tug, he wrenched it free.

The guard let out a moan so low it
was barely audible. A gush of blood flowed from his mouth and then
he lay still. Expressionless, Herb stared as the guard died in
front of him. He felt no pity. The guard had only meant to destroy
him and to possibly reap the accolades for doing so.

Herb wiped the blade off on the
guard’s jacket and stood up. Without looking back, he walked to his
truck, got inside. The engine started. Headlights off, he turned
around. When he reached the corner of Lower Water Street, he took a
left and turned the lights on.

The guard had changed his escape
route. Herb realized someone would soon discover the body. He
imagined police vehicles swarming the waterfront, the shrill cry of
sirens splitting the air, the incessant blue and red strobe
reflecting off the buildings. He knew that he couldn’t go back over
the MacDonald Bridge. The guards at the tollbooths might remember
him—a lone man who perhaps looked out-of-place, in a hurry to get
somewhere at such an early morning hour. There could be no
witnesses.

Herb was now unsure of how to get
out of Halifax. The streets and lights seemed to close in on him. A
maze that both trapped and confused him. Signs had no meaning. The
refuge of his farmhouse in Acresville felt like a thousand miles
away.

Near panic, he stopped at the curb
past Historic Properties on Upper Water Street to check his map. He
found a route leading into Bedford and then to the 102 Highway. By
memory, he drove toward it. Blocks passed without notice. His
thoughts were filled with images of the hooker drowning in the
harbor and the guard twitching on the pavement.

Get a
grip,
he told himself.
That’s the key to survival. Don’t lose it. Just be
cool.

Up ahead, signs directed where he
should go. Within minutes he skirted the Bedford Basin and left
Halifax behind.

On the horizon the first light of
dawn touched the sky.

9

Halifax, May 9

6:18 a.m.

 

Can a civilized
society ever exist?
Allan
wondered.

In a job where he had seen the true
detritus of man’s morality, he didn’t think it possible. There were
simply too many disturbed people in the world living on the fringe
of ethical judgment, poisoned by greed, hatred, and
indifference.

Beyond the crime scene, the early
sun spread across the harbor water. The location was a paved lot
that served as a convenient parking facility for customers of many
waterfront merchants. On this day it was the site of mindless
carnage, of man’s unbridled brutality against another.

In the solitude of his car, Allan
marked down his arrival time in his spiral notebook: 6:18 a.m. Only
twelve minutes earlier Sergeant Malone had paged him about this
homicide.

Parked close
enough to view the general outline of the scene, yet far enough
away to not disturb it, Allan watched those already at work. He saw
familiar faces of uniformed officers in the swirl of red and blue
lights as they busied themselves stringing up barrier tape around
the perimeter of the lot. Black on yellow repeated the
words,
Police Line. Do Not Cross.
The Special Identification Unit van sat across
the street in front of Alexander Keith’s Brewery. Two figures,
sheathed in full Tyvek coveralls, pulled equipment out of the back.
Several yards from the body, Sergeant Malone talked to a uniformed
officer. In the sergeant’s hand, he held a clipboard. Close-by,
another man watched all the activity around him with intense
interest. He was heavy-set with a pushed in face. Allan noted the
radio clipped to his belt, the shoulder patch on his black jacket
with the word
security
embroidered in silver. At that point, he realized the man
wore the same type of clothing as the victim.

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