Hunted (Reeve Leclaire 2), страница 1
To survivors of kidnapping and captivity everywhere.
Your real-life courage inspires this fiction.
ELEVEN YEARS AGO
TWELVE YEARS AGO
ELEVEN YEARS AGO
The last time she would ever go swimming, all of Seattle was baking beneath a sky of blameless blue. For two whole days, temperatures had soared while she begged her family for a quick trip to the lake. An hour? Thirty minutes?
But no one else cared about swimming. They seemed oblivious to the oppressive heat. Her parents were busy working, and her older sister had commandeered the coolest room in the house as her private rehearsal studio. Rachel was now glued to the piano bench, practicing that same concerto over and over, while Reggie was stranded with nothing to do. Her best friend had gone on a family vacation, and a long, lonely, humdrum summer loomed ahead.
So, if she wanted to go to the lake, she would have to take matters into her own hands. Any kid with a bike would have done the same thing.
She’d ridden down to the local scrap of beach a dozen times last summer. She knew the way. And she made the quite responsible calculation that she had plenty of time to ride downhill, plunge into the lake, swim for twenty-five minutes, ride back uphill, get cleaned up, and be ready for her sister’s recital before her parents got home.
All doable. No one even needed to know. Maybe during dinner she would tell them. Or maybe not. Now that she was almost a teenager she felt entitled to some secret independence.
Reggie put on her new peach-colored swimsuit and covered it with a favorite T-shirt that fell to her knees. There was no need to bring a towel because, cleverly, she would wear her wet swimsuit home, and that would keep her cool for the long, hot return trip uphill.
She shut the back door on her sister’s endlessly repeating concerto—which she’d liked the first ten or twenty times but had grown to hate—and wheeled her bike to the curb.
There was a thrill in setting out alone and unsupervised. She stood up on the pedals and the speed lifted her hair off the back of her neck. The air seemed to cool with each smooth turn downhill, and she coasted all of the last block, feeling strong and happy and alive.
She found the secret path between the hedges and dumped her bike in a patch beside a discarded beer bottle and an empty cigarette pack speared with broken toothpicks. Then she headed down toward the lake . . . left . . . right . . . The path wound through the overgrown shrubs to a small stretch of beach known only to locals.
She emerged from the foliage onto a slope as big as her front yard. Two boys with a dog glanced her way and then ignored her, as if she were intruding on their private shore. She watched the dog swim out to fetch a ball. Then, with the boys turned away, she self-consciously stripped off her T-shirt and dropped it on the grass.
She quickly made her way down to the water’s edge, as far from the boys as she could get, where she kicked off her sneakers and plunged into the water. She gasped to the surface, checked the indifference of the kids with the dog, and started stroking through the cold water.
At a good distance from shore, she flipped over and floated on her back, catching her breath. When she turned back to the beach, the boys with the dog had gone. She looked up and down the shoreline.
Big houses had private docks with boats of all sizes, and the blue water slapped against hulls as she swam past. There was a woman in a hat cutting flowers. There was a man starting a fire in a grill. Reggie spied on their private worlds, feeling mischievous and invisible as she moved through the deliciously cool water.
Sounds carried across the lake. She heard motoring boats in the distance and children’s laughter somewhere out of sight.
With a start, she realized that she had strayed far out into the lake. What time was it?
Kicking strongly, she swam in closer and then started following the shoreline back to the beach. It seemed to take a long while before she could swim close enough to touch bottom and wade ashore. Dripping wet, she slipped back into her sneakers and hurried up to her T-shirt. She shook it once, thinking there might be bugs, and then slipped it on over her head. She had no pockets and had neglected to bring a watch but knew she must hurry.
The T-shirt clung to her wet swimsuit as she ran up the path to where she had stashed her bicycle. She kicked a beer bottle aside, righted the bike, and climbed astride.
It was like trying to pedal through tar. She grunted with effort and managed only a few feet before noticing the flat.
She got off the bike and moaned at the deflated tire, now certain she’d be late. How could this happen? Despair pulsed in her throat.
The glassy whisper of crickets slid back and forth on the air as she muscled her bike out from the shrubbery, off the dirt path, and onto the asphalt. A neighbor getting into his van turned to watch her.
“Got a flat tire?” he called.
“Yeah.” She trudged toward him, pushing the bike along. “Unfortunately.”
“You live nearby? You need a ride?”
She stopped and looked at him: a chubby guy with an unkempt beard, younger than her father, but older than a teenager. She could never guess the ages of adults.
“You need some help?” the man asked again. “I can’t fix your bike, but I can give you a lift. It’s no trouble.”
“Uh, no thanks. I better not.”
He looked nice enough, and in all her twelve years she’d never met anyone dangerous or crazy, but she’d been warned many times about strangers. She trudged on, pushing the bike around the corner and up the hill. It weighed a ton.
The certainty that she would be late coiled in her stomach. She reviewed her defenses—I am nearly thirteen, after all—but instantly heard the rebuke: “Old enough to know better.”
She heard a car approach and slow alongside her. She glanced over and saw that it was the guy in the van. He rolled down his window and put out an elbow.
“I’m just heading out. You sure I can’t give you a lift?”
Reggie felt embarrassed to have to explain it to him. “I’d get in trouble,” she said, as though she were a child of nine rather than a mature individual with an age in double digits.
“Even for a flat tire?”
She shrugged and kept pushing the bike up the hill.
“Okay. I get it. But you live uphill from here, I gather. So here’s an idea. We can put your bike in my van, and you can go on ahead and run home, and I’ll deliver the bike to your door. No harm, no foul, right?”
She stopped to consider this. “What time is it?” she asked.
“Uh, a little before five.”
She felt encouraged. She might still get home in time. She could take a two-minute shower, get dressed, and be ready on time if she hurried. No one even needed to know.
“It’d be a lot easier for you to walk home without having to push that heavy bike, wouldn’t it?”
She smiled at him, grateful for this solution. “Yeah, I guess that would be okay.”
He pulled over to the curb and stopped while she wheeled her bike over behind the van. When he got out and came around to the back, she saw that his right hand was bandaged in gauze. He opened the back doors with his left hand.
“If you could just help me lift it,” he said, smiling with uneven yellow teeth.
She gripped the bicycle with both hands, ready to hoist it up and into the van. As he got close and moved around behind her, she noticed his smell.
He helped boost the bike off the ground while she maneuvered the front tire into the van. It wasn’t that difficult, but as she was shifting her grip, he hit her with a jolt like a snakebite that spun the sky red.
Olshaker Psychiatric Hospital
South Turvey, Washington
Most of the men incarcerated in the forensic unit of Washington State’s largest psychiatric hospital play basketball or cards during rec time. The more delusional converse with imaginary friends. A few spend time exploring their private parts.
As Daryl Wayne Flint steps into the rec yard, he hears an older guard say to a rookie, “See that longhaired guy with the wild beard? The one that looks like Charles Manson? Watch what he does.”
Flint ignores the comment and struts across the damp grass toward the asphalt basketball court. Exactly at center court, he stops, opens his arms wide, and starts a slow spin.
The familiar scenes flash past: the parking lot, the cafeteria windows, the blank wall, the iron-girded windows of the warden’s corner office, the lawn extending to the fence, the woods beyond, and—what’s this?—a wink of light from between the trees.
He wishes he could stop and study but must continue his rotations.
A huge patient named Galt dribbles the basketball toward him. “Hurry up, man.”
Flint sticks to his routine. Again: the cafeteria windows, the bare wall, the warden’s office, the hospital grounds . . . and then, yes, he sees it distinctly: A car is coming down the road, sunlight splashing off its windshield.
“Move your ass, man!” Galt circles Flint, bouncing the ball hard and grunting obscenities. A group of men toeing the asphalt call for the game to begin.
Galt dribbles in a tight pattern, crowding so close that Flint’s fingertips brush his T-shirt. The other men yap and holler. But Flint continues spinning and does not hurry.
He glimpses the car again. White, it comes winding out of the trees. Then, with his third rotation complete, he drops his arms.
The ball smacks the asphalt and the basketball game starts behind him as Flint strolls off the court. He steps onto the grass, where he always turns left. Always counterclockwise.
Now he sees the car approach the gate, but then it moves beyond his peripheral vision. He cannot stop and gawk, but continues walking around the court, looking straight ahead. When at last he makes a turn and has a clear view of the white car, his pulse quickens. He need barely move his eyes to watch it turn into the parking lot.
He calculates: an unfamiliar car, arriving at this particular hour, on this particular day . . . It can only be the new barber.
This might be the perfect day for a haircut.
Keeping the smile off his face, he watches the car cruise past. The driver is a white male wearing some type of hat.
A beret? The guy must think he’s some kind of artist.
Flint aches to turn his head and study the driver as the car continues in search of a place to park, but now his feet have arrived at the next corner. He must turn south. He keeps a steady pace as he walks past the cafeteria, past the long blank wall, past the warden’s ironclad windows. All the while, he’s straining to hear any sound from the new arrival. The car door slamming shut? A cell phone conversation as the driver crosses the parking lot?
But he hears only the trash talk of the basketball game, the ball slapping asphalt, thwacking the backboard, rattling around the rim.
He swallows his disappointment.
At the next corner, he turns east, heading toward the guard tower that overlooks the nine-foot fence and the deep woods beyond. He has no interest today in the colors of the leaves or the gathering clouds. Instead, he’s weighing risk versus opportunity.
And he’s wondering just how much he can trust his mother.
Has she done everything needed? It’s hard to know.
Visiting hours aren’t so lax in the medium-security wing that inmates can speak freely, no matter what their status. No matter how addled they might be. No matter what meds might be flooding their brains. People are always listening. So, of necessity, most of his conversations with his mother have been in code.
During their most recent visit, his mother had said, “I’ve been thinking about your dear, departed father.”
He’d nearly choked.
“Thinking about our wedding day,” she said, widening her eyes at him. “You remember the date, don’t you?”
He shifted uncomfortably, wondering where this was headed.
“Don’t you remember? It was April.”
“Shush. April fifth, 1968. Repeat it back to me.”
Perplexed, he recited, “April fifth, 1968.”
“That’s exactly right. The fourth month, the fifth day. The fourth month, the fifth day.”
That’s when he realized she was speaking in code.
“It’s hot in here,” she said abruptly. “I wish they’d open a window or something. Let in some air.”
He nodded to let her know he was following.
“Oh, it was such a lovely day. In the early fall, like this.” His mother gestured toward the girded window.
He scowled. Hadn’t she just said it was April?
But she went on describing “the perfect little church—the ideal location for an April wedding. And it was so close to our first house. We got a few things out of storage,” she said with emphasis, “and moved right in.”
Her meaning dawned. “So, the church and the house weren’t that far distant.”
“You could say that.” She looked to the north. “Less than three miles apart.”
His lips curled into a smile.
“Anyway, we were just starting out, your father and I. But we had enough cash for essentials. Food and water, a little gas for our motorbike.” She lifted a penciled-on eyebrow, waiting for a response.
He sat forward. “Not much, but enough to g
“Oh, yes. Enough.” She gave a sideways glance at the guard.
Flint stroked his long beard. “Tell me again, how were you dressed?” Noticing the guard, he added loudly, “I mean, for your wedding day, Momma. You know I love this story.”
“I wore white, of course,” she replied, with a wave of her hand. “But your father, he wore black.”
“Completely,” she said, squinting at him. “From his cap to his toes.” She seemed to wait for the guard to turn away before adding, “You know, he was about your size when he died.”
Flint replays this conversation as he reaches the corner and turns again toward the parking lot. He scans for the white car, quickly locates where it is parked, and studies it as he marches forward. A Honda. Compact and non-descript. Washington plates.
The sun disappears behind the clouds, and a cold wind whips Flint’s hair across his face as he continues his walk. No one pays any attention. He’s the repetitive inmate with post-concussive syndrome who never causes problems.
“Mentally disordered, with frontal lobe dysfunction, obsessive tendencies . . . antisocial behavioral problems that render him unsuitable for incarceration in the state penitentiary,” his psychiatrist had said.
Sure, let them think that.
Let them think that.
Let them think that.
Because every crazy thing he does is useful. And each day brings him closer to Plan B, closer to recapturing his favorite girl.
The daily rec yard routine? Three spins at center court allow him to take in the entire 360-degree scene within minutes of exiting the building. Three turns around the basketball court? It’s a leisurely way to observe all the inmates and the staff. And three tours of the fence line? Well, one needs a daily search for weakness along the perimeter. All very innocuous, all due to his mental impairments. And none of the doctors—not even the brilliant Dr. Terrance Moody—has found a way to cure him.
During rec time he gathers information about the comings and goings of visitors and staff. He knows, for instance, that the regular barber’s car is the color of Dijon mustard, not the bland mayonnaise-white of this new vehicle. Wanda-the-Warden drives a BMW, which she parks in the slot marked “Chief of Psychiatry,” just beside the head cook’s Cadillac. The cook’s car is as black as his hair. The warden’s car is the same red as the scarf she wears like a slash across her throat.