The Dark Sleep Chapter 15

Just getting Escott out to the car wasn't the end of it. We had a body, a famous one at that, on our hands, and though it would have been easy enough to sink what was left of Archy Grant/Raymond Yorke into the lake, it wouldn't have been too smart. His disappearance would have raised too many questions and left an open case on the books. I wasn't so sure what we arranged was particularly smart, either, but it would have to do.

As soon as we left Escott dozing in the Nash's backseat, Coldfield and I dealt with the wounded. We found a breakroom and dragged them all inside so I could go to work. Reviving one man at a time with a splash of cold water, I'd put him under again and made sure that whatever he remembered about the last couple hours did not include me, Coldfield, or Escott. I was tired, and the work made my head ring, but it was either this or the cops on our doorsteps.

There was a problem with Ike LaCelle, though. I hadn't been as careful as I should have been when I'd hit him. The side of his skull was black with blood, and was spongy. No amount of cold water would ever wake him up again.

Coldfield scowled at the body and spared a hard look at me.

’’You okay?’’

’’No.’’

But I'd feel bad about it later. I got an idea, and he helped me lug LaCelle upstairs next to Grant. We found a box of grease rags and used them to wipe down everything we might have touched in the joint, and I cleaned my prints from the gun I'd used for the clubbing. I put it in Grant's lax hand, while Coldfield tried to place LaCelle's hands around Grant's neck.

’’No one's going to believe this,’’ he said. ’’If someone was strangling me I'd shoot, not hit him with the gun.’’

’’It's a semiauto,’’ I said. ’’Grant just forgot to flick the safety.’’ I reached across and made sure the safety was indeed on. ’’He's a radio star, what does he know about guns?’’

’’The evidence is all wrong and they'll know it. The cops won't buy this for a minute.’’

’’They don't have to, so long as they never find out about us being here.’’

’’But those other mugs... what you did won't last, will it?’’

’’It'll last a few weeks. Long enough. By the time they recall anything useful, they'll know to keep shut about it or else get dragged in by the law.’’ I'd put that suggestion in their heads as well, along with the idea that they should just leave the country altogether. They were all still in the breakroom, having a nap at the lunch table. I did not envy their waking when it did come, knowing what they would find on the upper landing.

It was bad. The blood from Archy's torn throat made a spectacular flow down the building's metal side to soak into the bare earth below. The scent of it was a constant torment to me. My corner teeth were out, and I had to fight a near-constant fluttering behind my eyes. I was weak and in need. If I'd been there alone, I might not have been able to fight off the urge to feed from the unconscious men. I didn't care to use people in the same way I used cattle, but had done so before when forced by necessity. Things weren't that dire for me yet, but the likelihood of my losing control increased the longer I delayed going to the Stockyards.

Coldfield's presence helped me to keep focused, but I knew I wouldn't be able to hold out for too much longer. I told him to hurry, but didn't say why.

We were careful and thorough, though, knowing we could never risk coming back to fix some forgotten detail.

The last thing Coldfield did before we left was to spit on Grant's body.

’’Too fast,’’ he muttered, turning away.

The story hit the city and then the rest of the country the next morning like lightning, or so Coldfield told me that evening when I got up. Every paper had a different account about the shocking deaths, which I took to mean either the cops couldn't make up their minds or the editors were improvising to fill space under the screaming headlines.

Probably both.

I'd called Gordy the night before to warn him of what was about to happen. He didn't have a lot to say, only that it'd be tough on Adelle, and he'd take care of things. He never asked the why of it, either. It said something for the measure of trust he had in me;that, or he'd already had some inkling of what was going on. I wouldn't put it past him. He kept close tabs on nearly everything in his corner of the world.

He had some pull with the city and a lot with the thugs-who'd taken one look at the artistic tableau on the landing and run like hell. He said we wouldn't see any trouble if he could help it, but to keep our heads low anyway.

LaCelle had been well-liked in certain quarters.

As the days passed with no progress for the cops, local citizen groups began demanding action from their politicians. If a famous and popular man like Archy Grant could be killed by the mob (it was widely assumed he was defending himself from LaCelle), then no one was safe, so ran their logic. The fact that most of those politicians were virtually owned by the mob didn't come into it.

Grant had many admirers, allowing him a magnificent funeral. Bobbi attended to help Gordy with the stunned and grieving Adelle. Their pictures got in the papers, but that was only to be expected. They were all questioned by the cops and the press, but were unable to shed light on the mystery.

Lots of people thought it sad Grant had no family to mourn him. Somebody suggested starting a charity in his name using what money he'd left, but there wasn't all that much of it. He'd bought a lot of women diamond bracelets, after all. LaCelle was buried someplace back East with a lot less fanfare and fewer photographers.

Through Gordy, I heard bits and pieces of what was really going on. Gil Dalhauser, ever neutral, was keeping quiet. The cops knew it all for a setup and didn't believe in it for a minute, but quiet pressure from above eventually got them to close the case. They gave a special release to the press stating they were satisfied that for reasons unknown LaCelle and Grant had had a falling-out and killed each other. They repeated the lie loudly and long enough until everyone got tired of hearing it, and the nine-day wonder got replaced by other crimes and disasters.

Not one word surfaced connecting Grant or LaCelle to the Cabin Killings. They'd been carefully silent about that to shield themselves, and it served now to shield Escott and Coldfield. And me.

Escott decided to stay home from his office until his face healed up. Coldfield spent time with him during the day, and I hung around at night to keep an eye on him. For a guy who'd killed an old enemy with his bare hands he was acting pretty normal, which worried me. I had Coldfield and Gordy and Bobbi to talk to if I wanted, but Escott just went on like nothing had happened, never mentioning it.

He did apologize for shooting me, though. I told him he was a son of a bitch and never to do it again. He took that to mean he was forgiven.

Two days after, he got a frantic call from Mary Sommerfeld. Jason McCallen had broken his promise to stay away and was driving past her house again. Escott told her to call the cops, but she said she didn't dare because of the adverse publicity it might generate. She pleaded with him to come help her.

Escott still looked like a car wreck, so I told him I'd handle it. The woman was genuinely scared, and I wanted to be out of the house for a while. Bobbi was working until late on the club show;there was plenty of time for me to deal with one crazed playwright. I didn't think McCallen would do anything stupid, but I changed my mind fast when I pulled into the street and saw his Ford parked before the Swiss chalet house. Bailing fast out of my Buick, I hurried up to the front door and found it had been broken open. She'd changed the locks, but one good kick had turned them into so much junk and splintered the frame.

Beyond the threshold all was dark. I slipped in quietly with my heart in my mouth and listened.

Then I heard a crash from the back and Mary's muffled scream, followed by the deep, aggressive rumble of McCallen's voice.

I'll kill the bastard.

Another crash, much louder than the last, and Mary cried out. I rushed toward the back, toward her bedroom. The lights were out there as well, but I had no problem seeing every detail.

There was a broken lamp on the floor, and a table had been toppled over. The real damage was the bed, which had collapsed under their combined weight and exertions.

Mary screamed again, quite caught up in the moment as she beat and clawed McCallen's broad back amid a tangle of sheets and discarded clothing.

’’Yes! Yes! You big hairy Scotsman! Oh, God, yes!’’

Deciding she didn't need my help after all, I got the hell out as quickly and quietly as I could, though neither of them was in a state to notice much of anything except each other.

Returning to the house I found Escott in the parlor where I'd left him. He looked up startled from a paper that still bore headlines about Grant's death. ’’That didn't take long. False alarm?’’

I dropped into a chair and put my feet on the coffee table. ’’Sort of, but you can close the Sommerfeld case for good.’’

’’Really? How did you manage?’’

’’Let's just say she worked out her differences with McCallen.’’ If she called later asking for me-which seemed very unlikely-I planned to give her a song and dance about a flat tire. ’’How's the riot going?’’ I asked, nodding at the paper's bold print asking questions that, with any luck, would never be answered.

’’As well as one can expect.’’

’’How about yourself?’’ Simple words with a lot behind them. Whether the action is justified or not, taking a life is going to have its effect on the soul. I should know.

’’I'm fine,’’ he replied after a moment. ’’Just a little tired.’’

’’Yeah?’’ Usually he just said he was fine and left it at that.

’’I think I shall take some time off and go on a little trip.’’

He never took trips. Not unless they were connected to his business. ’’Where to?’’

’’Toronto.’’

That caught my attention. ’’Why Toronto?’’

’’Miss Katherine Hamilton settled there. Some of my other old friends are there as well. I'd... like to see them again.’’

See them and maybe let them know Raymond Yorke had met with his judgment. I almost offered to tag along, but kept it to myself. If anyone went with him it should be Coldfield.

’’Sounds like a good idea,’’ was my only comment.

’’Sometime in the next few days I'll make arrangements, then.’’

’’I'll hold the fort. Stay as long as you want.’’

He nodded and went back to the paper, but after a few minutes folded it onto the pile on the table, wished me good night, and trudged upstairs.

I sat and didn't do much of anything, just listened. The house was very still, and when I concentrated I could hear its every tick and groan. It didn't take much to follow Escott's muted progress as he got ready for bed.

Upstairs, he opened and shut his closet, then a drawer. I could follow the padding of his bare feet as he crossed and recrossed the room. For a while I feared it would be another of those nights where he'd pace and pace, but this time he got into bed. The springs creaked as he lay back with a sigh. Then he clicked the light off.

I sat and listened, and waited and hoped.

And after a few infinite minutes heard his breathing gradually lengthen and deepen.

I sat and listened and offered up silent thanks.

He'd found his dark sleep at last.


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