As I believed it would, Culver erupts in response to Levinson Ducard’s death. At Jeramiah and I in particular. However, as seen in the footage they release, nothing close to a positive ID could be made. Two reasons for this. One, we knew every angle of every camera in that high-rise going in. The second being unchecked facial hair and a pair of ball caps pulled down tight.
Front page news for days, the Reverand and his wife are portrayed as victims. Pillars of a community who ran a ministry which could do no wrong.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
This man a predator and nothing more. His wife something other than a conspirator. More than an enabler. A person lacking in legitimacy and soul.
Isn’t until what Jeramiah writes on their living room wall leaks to the public that the perspective shifts, shedding light onto what this has always been about. FOLLOW THE CHILDREN is the message Jeramiah leaves, using the blood of a woman who no longer owned a mouth to do so.
This begins, we become more middle of the road in regards to persons of interest. Not that it mattered. In a city the size of Culver, if one were determined enough, it was easy to stay lost.
I needn’t had worried.
Not once they prove the link.
Corroborated, the public turns, the outrage they held for two unknown men now a raging march against law enforcement and the Free Dimensions ministry itself. Free and clear, now back page instead of middle page, we focus on what I can only call an addendum to this whole Ducard thing; another piece of scum who knew no bounds. Another man who would soon realize he was not long for this world.
He comes to our attention by way of a phone belonging to one of five men in a basement which started this all. The cell is in a baggie with all the others, between the front seats of the van, and goes off as we sit at a light.
Jeramiah doesn’t miss a beat.
“I’m told you do deliveries,” All business, like he’d done this a thousand times before, Jeramiah responds as only someone lacking a conscience can.
“Male or female?”
“Anything else you lookin’ for?”
“I was told this number would be pre-teen.” Jeramiah bristles, his grip on the phone tightening, but he finds the stones to continue. They go on about price. Then location. And then Jeramiah disconnects the call.
He looks ahead, out the windshield and beyond. In a better world I might have said something comforting. Something to relieve the edge. This was not a better world, though.
Time to go to work.
• • •
“No. P-please no. I-I have kids!” In socks and sandals, carrying a paunch and sheen of face grease I have seen before, Mackay backs away from me while holding the front of his neck.
Those words. I have kids. It changed things. What I planned to do and how I planned on doing them. Could have been that finger too, the one he continued to point at me as I fully entered the house, but no, it was the having kids thing.
I grab that finger. Snap it clean back. He screams and yelps. His other hand doing its best to comfort the place on his throat I’d punched when he first opened the door.
We enter a living room, me moving forward, him backing up into a recliner. I look to the walls, at pictures of a wife and kids which hung there.
I break more than a finger this time.
I break them all.
His left thumb being the moment I lose him to shock. Doesn’t stop the train we were on. Not as you’d think. I double down. Snap backwards and forward, to the left as well as the right. Isn’t until I turn him over and step on an underdeveloped tricep that he begins to stir. I pull up. The sound the compound fracture makes smaller than what comes spewing from his mouth.
We go again, the other arm, and again he passes out. Fine by me.
Made things easier for what came next.
• • •
He’s leaning forward and toward me when he wakes. Under him rests his dining room table upon which I’d written the same declaration we warned about Ducard: FOLLOW THE CHILDREN. Like any good knot, the noose around Mackay’s neck ran from ceiling fan to collarbone and back again. Inside his mouth: a lime green kitchen rag.
Ultimately the choice—same as the choice which brought us together—would be his. Short trip or long trip. Darkness or explain.
Either way, he ends up in a box.
Either way, he never touches children again.