Ellis Teller had a routine. It kept him on track. It let him forget the troubles he had seen.
When the sun peeked over the horizon, he would practice the different forms he had learned after leaving the sanitarium. He considered it like yoga. It kept him in tune and quieted some of the things his mind told him were real.
Then he sat at the edge of the rock garden he had put together next to his practice yard. He cleared his mind and meditated. Sometimes he was gone for hours, but usually the voices intruded after one hour.
The last part of his ritual was to pull out a metal box hidden in a buried chest in the ground next to where he usually meditated. He opened the box, wrote down whatever he felt on a piece of paper with a pen stored inside it, and sealed the writing in an envelope. He put the envelope at the bottom of the stack he kept in the box, and pulled out the top one. He put everything away before he opened the envelope and read the contents.
Trouble comes with a bird. It brings news of an old rival from the past.
He frowned at the message on the paper. He looked around. His area in the desert was clear of birds as far as he could tell.
He placed the note in the center of his circle of red rocks and burned it with a lighter he carried just to do that.
Teller stood up. He brushed off his workout pants. This was the second trouble note he had opened in the last few days. He considered running as he walked toward his trailer.
He couldn't run unless he was running on his own two feet. The nearest town was ten miles away at the edge of a desert. He used a train to get there and back on grocery days.
He supposed he could pack up all the full water bottles he could carry and strike out. He might reach someplace he could hide before trouble caught up with him.
He didn't want to do that except as some kind of last resort.
He showered and changed into a T-shirt and jeans. He had enough food in his cabinets to carry him a few more days. After that was gone, he would have to head into town.
Teller looked around his small home. He hated to think of abandoning it. He had bought it with money held for him by his job while he was recovering. It had seemed like the best place to retire to when he was looking for a place to live.
No other people for miles had been the goal.
He should have known something would happen.
He pulled on his running shoes. He didn't have anything to do but his daily walkabout. It wasn't as important as his morning routine, but it let him patrol the area for problems he might have to deal with at one point or the other.
And sometimes he ran into people out in the desert who needed to be pointed in the right direction.
If he still carried a gun, he might have taught some of those coyotes a lesson for leaving their customers to die.
Teller looked out the window as he tried to decide what to cook for breakfast before taking his morning walk. A cloud of dust reached for the sky. It looked like he was about to have a visitor. His trailer was the only one out there as far as he knew.
He decided to step outside and see what his visitor wanted. He didn't have any money, and had nothing to steal.
That didn't mean that some joker wouldn't try because they had heard some bull about how rich he was.
The car pulled up a few feet away from the trailer. The driver got out, and brushed some lingering dust in the air from his clothes. He smiled when he saw Teller not smiling back at him.
"How's it going?," asked the suit. He took off his sunglasses and put them on the dashboard of the Honda he was driving. "Ellis Teller?"
Teller nodded. He wondered why someone from the government would visit him. He was retired, and had spent a few years locked up. He was the next best thing to a has-been.
This was starting to look like when Jack Crawford visited Will Graham to recruit him in Manhunter.
"I'm Agent Bobby Byrd," said Byrd. He pulled out his credentials and showed Teller the badge in the wallet.
Teller nodded. This was looking more and more like a recruitment pitch. He decided to turn it down if it was.
He had spent time locked away because he had a nervous breakdown. He didn't need to get back into that world again.
It was better to not risk more problems and his sanity by turning the agent away.
"I wanted to ask you some questions about Henry Norvell," said Byrd. "Can we talk inside?"
"Right here is fine," said Teller. "Norvell is dead."
"Are you sure?," asked Byrd.
"I shot him a few times in the head," said Teller. "That doesn't count what Scotty did."
"Scotty?," said Byrd.
"If you know about me and Norvell, you know about Scotty," said Teller.
It had been years since he had thought about Norvell. The voices started tracking around in various expressions of hate and disbelief that the guy was asking if he was sure he had shot the right person.
And to act like he didn't know that Norvell had stabbed Scotty in the eye before they killed him and left him for the coroner.
Scotty Wainwright had been consigned to another sanitarium by the Bureau. Teller didn't know if he had picked up the pieces of his life and returned to the world, or if he still wore a strait jacket and asked for tea from the nurses.
"Agent Wainwright was mentioned in the report," said Byrd. "I couldn't talk to him."
Teller waited for the delivery. Something must have happened to Scotty in his hospital. It wasn't like he was going to go anywhere if they still had him.
"Could we go inside?," said Byrd. "It would be shadier than standing out here and cooking."
"Say your peace, then go away," said Teller.
This was his home. He didn't want to lose it after he had taken so many steps to at least be functional again.
And he was only barely functional at that.
"There is a chance that Norvell is still alive," said Byrd.
"Only if he could survive being set on fire and thrown off the roof of a ten story building after being shot multiple times," said Teller. "A man who could do that wouldn't be a man."
"Some women have been found with all the marks of Henry Norvell on them," said Byrd. "Are you sure that he died?"
"Yes," said Teller. "I made sure."
"Did he have any partners?," asked Byrd.
"None that we could find," said Teller. "He seemed to like working on his own."
"Could you walk me through it?," said Byrd. "We need something we can use."
Teller wiped his brow with the fingers of his hand. He shook the water off. It had been a long time since he had thought about Norvell.
The voices in his head howled at the thought of trying to make sense out of the gruesomeness of the crimes Norvell had committed. Did he really want to walk on that path again?
Did he really want to start talking to ghosts again after putting all of that behind him?
Teller glanced at his rock garden. He walked over and pushed one rock up more than its brothers. He stepped back. It looked better to him.
"I need to go into town and get some groceries," said Teller. "I don't have time for you."
"We need something," said Byrd. "We just twigged on the Norvell connection."
"Let's go for a walk," said Teller. He walked into the trailer. He came out with two hats, and two bottles of water. He put one hat, an old fedora on his head. He gave the other hat, a ball cap for a minor league team that didn't exist anymore, and one of the bottles of water to Byrd.
"Seriously?," said Byrd.
"You want to talk about Norvell, I don't," said Teller. "You can come along, or you can wait here. I'm good with either."
"All right," said Byrd. He took off his jacket and dropped it into his car. He put on the hat, rolled up his sleeves, and loosened his tie. "Let's go."
Teller picked a path along the dry ground toward some cacti in the distance. He didn't know how long he usually marched in the desert, but today he was going to do a shorter circle of his patrol.
"Norvell picked a small town in Kansas, Juneville, as his hunting ground. His targets were young women, thin, small, hair color ranging the spectrum, preferred blue eyes. We figured the only brown eyed girl he killed was a mistake," said Teller.
"Why?," said Byrd.
"Why what?," asked Teller.
"Why did you think it was a mistake?," said Byrd.
"Because she wore contacts to change her eye color," said Teller. "We thought that she was wearing them when Norvell picked her up."
"And he wouldn't have noticed," said Byrd.
"That was our reasoning," said Teller.
"How did you two get involved with this?," asked Byrd.
"The investigation was being run by the state police and the Sheriff of the county Juneville was in. VICAP was asked to go in and make a chart of what was going on so we could match it against other crimes. Scotty and I were based out of the Kansas City office so we were asked to cover the VICAP paperwork and if it crossed state lines, we were supposed to pursue things with a fugitive warrant," said Teller.
"So you arrived in town, and then what?," asked Byrd.
"We started assembling the evidence gathered by the state police and the sheriff's department into a chart," said Teller. He turned right at the cacti and kept walking. "We started making connections across the county. Luckily, we stumbled onto Norvell while he was trying to cover up how he selected his targets."
"How did he do that?," asked Byrd.
"It's in the file," said Teller. "He used a dating service. The victims got a romantic dinner, and then the axe."
"How did you figure that out?," asked Byrd.
"Scotty figured that part out," said Teller. "I don't know what tipped him off about it. I assume it was something he saw in the victim's background that no one else saw."
"Once he had figured out what was going on, you guys tracked down Norvell and tried to arrest him?" Byrd paused to pay attention to a snake that paused long enough to look at him before slithering away.
"The whole task force was looking for him," said Teller. "We just found him first. We were using a list of properties that he might have access to for our search."
"And that's when everything went sideways?," asked Byrd.
"Yes," said Teller.
Teller fell silent. He wanted to talk, but the voices in his head said no more. They wanted him to shut up about what had happened to him and Scotty.
He took a bearing on a rock out in the middle of the burning plain, sipped water from his bottle, and kept walking. He didn't want to talk about his mismatched eyes and the scar he had received, or the months of just screaming in a room where he couldn't hurt himself any more than what he had already been hurt.
It was better to send this agent on his way and let him investigate his new murderer without him. He didn't want any trouble now that he was retired. He just wanted to look at the desert until he went blind and work on his garden.
"There's been a string of murders in Juneville," said Byrd. "They resemble the Norvell killings."
"I don't know what that has to do with me," said Teller. He did know and could see the trap.
"There has been a lot of talk that Norvell was the wrong man," said Byrd.
"Really?," said Teller. Of course there would be a lot of talk if a second man started doing what the first man did.
"And naturally some of that is you and Wainwright framed him to clear the case," said Byrd. He sipped his water.
Teller shrugged. He had his own voices talking to him. He didn't care to pick up extra opinions if he didn't need them.
"Did you?," asked Byrd.
"Did I what?," said Teller. He paused to take another bearing against his map.
"Did you frame him so you could kill him?," asked Byrd.
"No," said Teller. "All the evidence was handled by the other agencies. The search parameters were set up by Captain Flanders. The list of properties we were given were in the middle of the list that was split up between our three agencies. We had a deputy with us. He's the guy who called for help when he found what was left of Scotty and me."
"So how does this guy know enough to copy the crimes scenes from Norvell's earlier crimes?," asked Byrd.
"I don't know," said Teller. "Evidence, including crime scene photos, were given to the State Police to hold. I don't know what their security is like."
"So anyone from the original task force and the State Police could have access to the evidence?," asked Byrd.
"And the prosecutorial team that was going over everything so we could get warrants," said Teller.
"I would like you to look at the photos from the new killings," said Byrd.
"I can't do that," said Teller.
"I need something to show for the trip out here," said Byrd. "These killings have to be stopped."
Teller sipped his water and doubled his pace. He didn't want to get involved in another manhunt. His trailer and garden were right there.
There was no way he was going to look at crime scene pictures. That would be the worse thing he could do. He might break again. He didn't want to be locked up and forced to listen to the voices until he was a wreck.
He needed his freedom and space. He needed it more than life at this point.
He looked at Byrd trying to keep up with him. He had walked the desert for days. The heat wasn't a problem for him. He didn't even sweat anymore.
He paused to take a bearing. He needed to turn right and walk past the rock he called Red Man, then he could hit the last landmark before heading back to the trailer.
"I'm not going to beg," said Byrd. "But would you at least give me something helpful."
Teller looked at him. The agent must be desperate to even think he knew anything about these new killings. He needed to do something to get rid of the man so he wouldn't come back.
The desert was calling, and he wanted to answer it.
"Do you have the autopsy paperwork?," Teller asked. He turned his gaze on a column of stone trying to leap into the sky. "I can look at that for you."
"I have copies back at my car," said Byrd. He wiped his forehead with the back of his forearm.
"I'll look at those, but I don't know how much help I'll be," said Teller. He took a bearing from the Red Man back to his trailer. He could do a good circuit after he put Byrd back on the road. "Scotty was the profiler. He knew how people worked."
Teller started across the land toward the dark speck in the distance. He sipped his water as he walked.
The voices howled at the mistake he was making. He tamped them down. He didn't need their reminder that he was doing the wrong thing out of expediency.
Once he had gotten rid of Byrd, he could settle in for the rest of the day, and plan his grocery trip for the next day.
The train trip would allow him to watch for other things that might try to bother him in his refuge.
Why was this happening now? The predictions had been simple and easy so far. He wondered what they would say in the next few days. Would he have to act when he was so ready to retreat back to nothingness?
Teller smiled when his trailer drew closer. He didn't want to deal with the mess, but just looking at the reports would allow him to get rid of Byrd. Once the agent was gone, the voices would settle down.
He finished his water and placed the empty bottle in a bin he had gotten just for recyclables.
Byrd did the same thing when he staggered to the shadow drifting from under the trailer.
Teller waited for the agent to get himself together.
Byrd rubbed his face.
"The reports," said Teller.
Byrd grunted as he went to the trunk of the car. He opened the lid and reached into the space. He pulled out a small box.
He carried the box to the front of the car and opened it. Separators kept various reports from collapsing together. He pulled out three packets and handed them over to Teller.
Teller read the reports, putting his hand over any picture he found in the packets. He didn't need to see the victims. The voices howled at him for being stupid. He put that aside as much as he could.
"The obvious thing is your copy cat is doing the cutting after they are dead," said Teller. "And there is a lack of consistency in the victim look. I'm sure you already knew that."
"We noted that the victims' wounds were post mortem," said Byrd. "I don't understand the other."
"Norvell kept his victims alive while he worked on them," said Teller. "And he only went after women with blue eyes. The eyes on these victims don't match up. I doubt they all wore contacts."
"Anything else you can tell me from the reports," asked Byrd.
"The killer is a left handed man," said Teller. "He's white. And I think he has some kind of vision trouble, but I am not sure."
"How do you know that?," asked Byrd. "There's no way."
"It's just a guess," said Teller. He held out the paperwork. "That narrows the search down to a quarter of the population in Juneville. Good luck weeding out the rest."
Byrd took the paperwork and returned it to the trunk of the car. He slammed the lid.
"A left-handed white man with vision problems," he muttered. "How do you narrow that further?"
"You should be excited," said Teller. "You had a tour of the land, talked to a retiree, and have a clue to follow up on. Wait until you catch the killer, you'll be famous."
"I'm real excited," said Byrd. "Why don't you come in and explain your guess to the SAC?"
"I would rather eat nails," said Teller.
Byrd shrugged. His phone buzzed and he pulled it loose from its holder. He checked the number before he answered it.
"Byrd," he said, before listening to the caller.
Teller stepped back. This could only be bad news. Why else would they call him while he was on a recruiting mission?
He remembered the prediction. Should he get involved with this?
The voices muttered to him about what had happened the last time he was involved with the Bureau. He didn't need another trip to the looney bin to fix his problems.
He rubbed his face. Byrd didn't look happy with the news. Another victim seemed to be in the offing.
The agent hung up the phone. He looked around at the desert.
"Another victim?," said Teller. He didn't want to get involved. He liked not chasing evil screwballs.
"Yeah," said Byrd. "I have to go. I'll pass on the whole left-handed man guess up the chain."
Teller consulted his voices. They weren't in agreement on what he should do. He took a vote. Most of them wanted him to get involved. Some wanted him to stay in the desert. The last one, a singular voice in the back of the crowd, told him that justice required his intervention and he should do his duty.
Teller stared at the persona. It glared back at him with its scales in one hand, sword in the other.
"I changed my mind," said Teller. "I have to get some things."
"What?," said Byrd.
"I said let me pack some things, and I'll talk to your SAC for you," said Teller.
"Why?," said Byrd.
"The voices in my head said I should," said Teller. He went into the trailer.
He came outside with a bag in hand. He only had a few changes of clothing and a small amount of money. He went to where his box of predictions were buried and dug them up. He packed them in a carrying case and placed them in with his clothes.
"Let's go," said Teller. "I want to be back before the rain comes."
"Does it rain out here?," asked Byrd. He got behind the wheel of the car.
"Twice a year," said Teller. "It always wrecks my garden when it does."
"Okay," said Byrd. "We'll have to fly back."
"I'm good with that," said Teller. "Planes are okay."
And if you hit something hard enough, you don't have to worry about the voices in your head complaining about the crash.
That was equally fine in his book.
"Why did you change your mind?," asked Byrd.
"I don't think you want to know," said Teller. "It would make you doubt your decision to talk to me."
Byrd had arrived at Teller's place late enough in the day that he couldn't reach the small airport that serviced Irly, the biggest town near Teller's place, before service was closed. He called to inform his boss they would stay overnight in the closest motel, and then fly to a big transportation hub like Phoenix, or Albuquerque, in the morning. Then they would head out to Kansas City, then Juneville.
Teller took his bag to his room. He slept with his back to the door so someone would have to push his body out of the way if they wanted to get into the room.
He napped. The voices kept yowling at him for being off his land. They wanted to go home. The exception was the voice with the scales and sword. It stood at attention in the back of the crowd.
He snapped awake at the edge of dawn. He performed his exercises and meditated. He wrote down the prediction as soon as he came to himself. He placed the envelope at the bottom of the carrying case and drew out that day's prediction.
A woman with a bird will need a kindness she would never request.
He burned the note over the sink and flushed it down the drain with running water from the faucet.
It looked like he would need to keep his eyes open on the way to the airport.
Byrd knocked on his door a few minutes after the prediction burning part of his day. He sniffed the air. He made sure the fan in the bathroom was on.
"Ready to go?," Byrd asked.
"Ready when you are," said Teller. He made sure all of his possessions were in his bag before shouldering the strap. "Lead on, Duff. We have miles to go before I sleep."
"All right," said Byrd. He sniffed the air once more before leading the way from the room.
They arrived at the small airport without incident. Several other passengers were already waiting in the terminal. One of them was a pale woman with a pink shirt. A parrot had been sewn into the shirt at the shoulder. She wore sunglasses and kept looking around.
"Go check us in," said Teller. He waved his hand to shoo the agent away. He walked over and settled in the seat beside the woman. She looked at him, but didn't say anything. He didn't remark about the black eye she hid.
"How's it going?," Teller said. He put on a fake smile. The voices fell silent as they waited for something to happen. "Name's Ellis Teller."
"Dorothy Gibbs," said the woman. She looked confused that anyone wanted to talk to her.
"Flying out of town, Dorothy?," said Ellis. "I'm headed to Phoenix I think."
"Yes," said Dorothy. "Don't you know where you're going?"
"This all Byrd's show," said Ellis. "Once he tells me which way we're going, I'll know."
A man strode through the terminal. He aimed for Dorothy. Fury painted his face red. He grabbed her arm as soon as he was close enough.
"Where do you think you're going?," he demanded in a loud voice. He yanked her to her feet.
"I think you need to take your hands off of her," said Teller. The voices in his head were focused on the stranger. They were not saying nice things.
"Who do you think you are?," asked the boyfriend, or husband. "This is none of your business."
"Take your hand off of her, or I'll kill you," said Teller. "This is the only warning I am going to give to you."
The man swung at Teller. Rage was on his face. He would put this guy down, and then drag his victim back to the lair to give her punishment for trying to run away. He would give her that punishment all the rest of her days.
Teller flowed into one of his beginning works and turned away from the punch, directing it with a forearm. His fist came in over the directed arm and landed against the man's throat. The boyfriend went down on his knees, choking. Teller moved into the next work. His hand slammed the man's forehead against the padded seat hard enough that the padding didn't do much.
"Did you kill him?," asked Dorothy.
"Probably," said Teller. The voices were cheering with the one with the scales simply saying Justice. "The police will have to be called. You'll miss your flight."
"What will happen to you?," asked Dorothy.
"Nothing," said Teller. "I just need to have someone call for emergency aid, and then I am catching my flight too."
"But you killed him," said Dorothy.
"In self-defense," said Teller. "Go ahead and check your flight so you can catch it. You don't need to be involved in this. If someone calls to check, tell them your husband had an altercation with another man and you fled."
"I can't do that," said Dorothy.
"There are plenty of cameras," said Teller. "I will be cleared. Go catch your flight before it's too late."
"What the heck happened here?," asked Byrd as he walked on the scene. "This guy is lying down on the floor. Did you do something to him?"
"He fell," said Teller. He waved his hand behind his back to urge Dorothy on.
"This is my husband, Frank," said Dorothy. "He tried to drag me out of the airport. Mr. Teller asked Frank to leave me alone. Frank attacked him and he fell down."
"You should have left," said Teller. "You're going to miss your flight."
"It's okay," said Dorothy. "You shouldn't have to defend yourself because of me. I knew that leaving him would be difficult. I thought I could just run away. I didn't think he would follow me."
"We're all going to miss our flights," said Byrd. The other people in the terminal got up and walked away as he looked at them. None of them wanted to get involved. The agent checked the man's neck for a pulse. "He's dead as a door nail."
"You might want to call your boss and tell him there will be a slight delay," said Teller.
"We're going to pull the security cameras and get this over with as fast as possible," said Byrd. "I can't believe you killed the guy. What was that all about?"
"I told you," said Teller. "He fell down."
Byrd looked at him.
"He fell down hard," said Teller. He chose a seat further down the row and sat back down again.
"Thank you for defending me," said Dorothy.
"It's the first time I have left my home in a while," said Teller. "I should have showed more restraint."
"It's okay," said Dorothy.
The local sheriff's department arrived a few minutes later. They took statements. Byrd showed them the footage from the camera. The sheriff, Craig Bearclaw, approached the seated Teller and Dorothy with pad in hand, and poker face on.
"How's it going?," said Bearclaw. "I looked at the camera footage. Do you two want to make a statement?"
"Sure," said Teller. "I was talking to Mrs. Gibbs. This guy comes in and grabs her arm. She didn't want to go with him, so I asked him to go away. He attacked me, slipped, and fell down."
"Fell down?," said Bearclaw. One eyebrow went up.
"Fell down," said Teller.
"That's what happened," said Dorothy. She took off her sunglasses. Her black eye was going down, but still looked puffy. "I was leaving Frank, and flying to Phoenix to find a place to live and start over without him."
"I want you to talk to my deputy over there," said Bearclaw. "I would like to talk to Mr. Teller alone."
"Go ahead, Dorothy," said Teller.
Mrs. Gibbs got up and walked over to where Byrd and the deputy were talking. Bearclaw sat down in her seat.
"Agent Byrd says that he is dragging you to Kansas City to help with a case they have going on there," said the Sheriff.
"One of my old cases has developed a copy cat," said Teller. "They think I will be able to pick out one man in a town of a few thousand."
"What happens if they're wrong?," asked Bearclaw.
"I get a free trip to Kansas and back," said Teller.
"You already have an idea who you're copy cat is?," said Bearclaw.
"Not really," said Teller. "This guy is making every cut like the original. Sooner, or later, he is going to move to cutting up still living victims. If I can stop him before he starts doing that, it will be worth it."
"You going to kill him too?," said Bearclaw.
"Only if I get within touching distance," said Teller.
"Maybe you should go home, Ellis," said Bearclaw. "I don't think this is good for you."
"It isn't," said Teller. "I only have to get through a few days. As soon as the killer knows I am there, he will start calling and showing off. It will make finding him easier. And that will make coming back here faster."
"He might want to take things out on you, Ellis," said Bearclaw. "You're going to be bait for this sideshow."
"I know," said Teller. "Don't worry. I will be back at my trailer in no time."
"Don't lose, Ellis," said Bearclaw.
He stood. He put the pad in his pocket. He looked around the airport.
"You're free to go," said the sheriff. "I expect you to do better in the future."
"It was justice," said Teller. He stood too.
"The word is justified," said Bearclaw. "And we both know better. So remember this in future. I don't want to see a pattern."
"Get out of here," said Bearclaw. "We'll talk when you get back."
Teller hoisted his bag and waved Byrd over so they could talk. It turned out they still had time before they flew out of the small airport to the big airport.
"I think we should get some coffee and donuts before we catch our flight," said Teller.
"That's sounds better than let's kill a random stranger in the airport," said Byrd.
"I can't help a man falling on my fist," said Teller.
Ellis Teller looked at Juneville from the passenger seat of a rental car driven by Agent Bobby Byrd. That morning's prediction had not been heartening. He burned it up in the airport bathroom, and flushed the ashes.
A discovery will be made not far from a familiar watchpost.
The call at the trailer had been a notification of a recent death. Teller didn't think that was what the prediction was talking about. The voices talked among themselves as they looked out from his head through his eyes.
He noted with some amusement that the angriest voice was asking about the donut shop they were passing.
Apparently even expressions of inner anger could be calmed by chocolate and sprinkles.
Byrd followed the signs into Downtown Juneville which wasn't that much bigger than Teller remembered from before his breakdown. He pulled into a lot dedicated to the local Sheriff's Office.
"We'll go in and talk to everybody," said Byrd. "Then I'll take you to the local hotel."
"That's fine," said Teller. He rubbed his temple. His notes weren't always swift, or on the mark. He might not learn the reason for that day's until some time in the future.
The voices got together and laughed at him. The note would be borne out before the sun went down.
He shifted in his seat and wondered if he was doing the right thing after all. Maybe he should go home before he made things worse. The voices split on that, but the one with the scales and sword declared a flat no above everyone else's voice.
Teller got out of the car. He looked around, seeing the past on the present like decorated glass blocking a view of the same scene. He noted some of the stores had changed, and there were more people on the street than he remembered.
Maybe Juneville had turned into a small city while he had been away.
Byrd got the evidence box from the trunk of the car and waved at him to follow. He walked along quietly, examining everything in case he needed it later. His mental condition was not happy with the inside of the building.
He smiled when he spotted a familiar face sipping coffee behind the counter. The other man didn't quite recognize him, but then he did.
"Ellis Teller?," said the deputy. "You look okay for a carved up turkey."
"I still look better than you, Deputy Brubaker," said Teller.
"Sheriff Brubaker," said Brubaker. "How's things, Ellis?"
"I'm retired, Danny," said Teller. "Got a medical discharge. I live in Arizona now."
"Did Agent Byrd bring you up to speed?," asked Brubaker.
"A copy cat for Norvell," said Teller. "How's the town taking it?"
"The county commissioners think we got the wrong guy," said Brubaker.
"The county commissioners weren't there," said Teller. "They don't know what we saw."
"You talk to Scotty?," asked Brubaker.
"No," said Teller. "I haven't seen him since they put me in the hospital."
"The Feds said they couldn't talk to him," said Brubaker. "Do you think he's still busted?"
"I don't know, Danny," said Teller. "It took me a few years just to get to where I could live on my own with my pitiable pension. He might not have recovered."
Brubaker nodded. He glanced at Agent Byrd standing with the evidence box in his hands. He almost smiled.
"You might want to get the big picture, Ellis," said Brubaker. "If you need me, I'll be in my office. Who knew paperwork was the be-all for sheriffs?"
"I did," said Teller. "I'll let you know if things go south, Danny."
Teller waved at Byrd to proceed. The other man had questions, but the retiree didn't feel like talking as they approached the operations room. People would be sorting any piece of information about this case. There would be maps and charts and requests for things the police had found, or denial notices for warrants that were too big.
He felt he would do all right if he didn't have to look at any crime scenes photos. He didn't want to get into the head of the killer. That had been what Scotty was good at doing. He was better at linking facts from interviews and evidence discovered at the scene.
Byrd opened the door for the room they had set aside for the operation. A small group worked phones, chasing information. He went to a file cabinet and put the evidence box on top of it.
"Ellis Teller?," said one of the older agents. "Ronald Bluth. I'm running the investigation."
"Pleasure to meet you," said Teller. The look on his face said it wasn't really a pleasure. "This takes me back. It looks like you didn't have to send Agent Byrd out to get me after all. I'm sure you'll run the guy down with all this."
Teller paused when he saw a map of Juneville with pins in it. Red ones marked Norvell's sites. Blue ones marked the recent killings. The dump scenes were within blocks of each other.
Something tugged at his memory. He inspected one of the red pins standing alone. His mind fell back to the original case, his voices howling at him. He touched the pin and concentrated. A date and time appeared in his mind.
"You didn't find a murder around this pin?," said Teller.
"No," said Bluth. "Why?"
"This is the first murder we discovered," said Teller. "Norvell left Norma Maxwell in her house."
"Are you sure?," asked Bluth.
Teller shrugged. He thought about the prediction. It wouldn't hurt to look around and make sure.
He looked around. There was no point in pulling these people away from their jobs.
"I'm going to get some lunch," said Teller. "You guys will get him."
He walked out of the room. He walked through the office, waving at Brubaker as he passed.
Teller stepped out on the sidewalk in front of the Sheriff's Office. He paused to get his bearings. He needed to get his bag from the rental. He wasn't going to leave his predictions anywhere he couldn't reach. He walked around to the car and pulled his bag from the back seat.
He pulled the bag on his back and started walking. He wondered how long it would take to search the neighborhood. The other bodies had turned up almost instantly. What was the point of hiding the first victim?
Teller should have taken notes of the map. That might have told him something there.
He walked through the blocks until he reached the original crime scene. Norma Maxwell had been found when her neighbor had gotten curious about the front door being left open.
He walked on the front yard of the house. He turned around in a circle. Nothing looked out of place in the immediate area. He decided to head north until he saw something.
The voices gave suggestions as he looked around. He liked their enthusiasm but kicking in random doors would not do. He needed something specific.
A voice he called Fluffy pointed its canine nose at a house to the left. The door was cracked open.
He walked up on the porch. The front rooms extended on either side of the enclosed space. The lights weren't on beyond the door. Did he want to go in?
He decided to press the door bell first. It gave a cheery blast of music. He grimaced at that. At least it was loud.
Nothing happened. He knocked on the door. He decided that even if the residents wouldn't react to a bell ringing, they would answer the door.
Nothing happened. Fluffy barked in his mind. It wanted to go in and look things over. Marking its territory seemed to be another thing it wanted to indulge.
Teller put his bag down by the door. He entered the house. He looked around as he stood in the small foyer area opening from the door. He didn't see anything out of place.
Should he explore, or lock the house up and leave?
Fluffy jumped in his head so much, he knew the voice would never settle down until he looked around. He studied the area in front of him before he stepped out of the foyer.
Which way should he go?
He decided that he should start by making sure no one was home before someone called Danny Brubaker.
He walked through the bottom floor. Everything seemed untouched. There were several closed doors he didn't open. He wanted a better understanding of the house. As long as no one jumped out from behind those doors, he was content to just look around.
He went upstairs. The pristineness of house was in doubt. A trail of drops led into the bathroom on that floor. He rubbed the side of his head. Should he advance?
He decided that he had to make sure. He didn't like it. He didn't see that he had a choice now that he had come that far.
He pushed the bathroom door open with his fingers. He took in the scene before stepping back, and pulling the door closed.
He needed to call Danny.
He went into the bedroom. He spotted a purse and phone on the bed. He realized the phone would be locked. He would have to borrow someone else's.
Teller retraced his footsteps back to the front door. He closed the door behind him and picked up his bag. He looked around the neighborhood. He decided on the house next to the crime scene.
He walked across the grassy yard. Some future owner would be mowing that. He vaulted a group of hedges and walked up to the neighbor's door. He rang the doorbell, pressing the button multiple times.
The sound of the jazz tune playing in response felt soothing to him.
Fluffy howled among the talking voices. A lot of angry declaratives flew through his mind space. He asked for some quiet as he heard someone big approaching the door.
"What?," asked the giant filling up the doorway.
"Could I borrow your phone?," said Teller. He put on a smile to conceal the anger threatening to pour out. "I have to call the sheriff's department."
"What?," said the giant. "What happened?"
"Your neighbor's dead, and I have to report it," said Teller. "Do you mind?"
"Wait here," said the giant. He retreated from the door. He came back with a smart phone. "Cecilia's dead?"
"I think so," said Teller. He held his hand out for the phone. He studied the front for a second before typing in the office number for the Sheriff's Department. It had been a long time, but he had remembered that.
"Sheriff's Office," said the voice of the desk man Teller had seen earlier.
"Is Danny Brubaker still there?," asked Teller.
"No, sir," said the desk man. He perked up at the mention of the sheriff's name.
"Call him and tell him he has another Norvell victim," said Teller. He gave the address. "I'll be waiting for him."
He cut the call, handed back the phone.
"Do you have some water?," Teller asked. "Calling the law is thirsty business."
The night came with Teller standing with Cecilia's neighbor watching the sheriff's department, FBI techs, and others go in and out of her house. Neither talked as they sipped their waters and waited.
"She was okay," said the giant. "She had a bad breakup a few years ago, but she got the house and he got the shaft. She helped the wives in the neighborhood with the kids and chores."
"I doubt the husband had anything to do with this," said Teller. "But Danny will cross him off the suspect list as a matter of course."
"How do you know the sheriff?," said the giant.
"He saved my life when he was a rookie deputy that didn't even know how to carry a gun," said Teller. He smiled slightly. "Thanks for the water. They're going to want to talk to me in a second. It's probably going to involve a lot of bad words and all."
He handed the empty water bottle to the neighbor. He picked up his bag. He walked around the hedge to the crime scene tape. He waved at Byrd.
The junior agent hustled over. He looked at Bluth and Brubaker talking as they watched the evidence sweep.
"How did you know?," Byrd asked.
"Didn't," said Teller. "I'm taking off and bedding down for the night. I'll see you around."
"Oh no," said Byrd. "You're not allowed to roam around after this. The chief wants you under guard until this is over."
"Tell your boss he only has two more dump sites and then this guy will switch up his M.O.," said Teller. "I'll see you around."
"How do you know that?," asked Byrd.
"Use your head, Byrd," said Teller. "He dumped all of his victims within sight of the original murder sites. There are only two left. The third is where Scotty and I did for Norvell. That's how long you have before he switches to another set of dump sites, or moves out of town."
Teller smiled and started around the crime scene tape. He wondered if the old park was still there. He could sleep in the gazebo there, do his morning exercises when he woke up, and try to get out of town after that.
It had been a mistake coming to Juneville. His voices were giving him a migraine with their ranting and raving. He would rather be alone so he could push them away without having to worry about people being around.
Fluffy sat in front of the rest of the voices. It banged its tail against any of the other presences that pushed close to it.
"Good dog, Fluffy," said Teller. "Good boy."
Fluffy barked at that. That silenced the other voices momentarily. Teller smiled as he walked. He had to get out of town. The copy cat would not like his presence. He might escalate once he knew Teller was on the scene.
Was he picking his victims the same way? Teller turned that over in his head. Would Bluth consider the copy cat using the same method to lure his targets as Norvell had?
He shouldn't have found the body. The task force would look at him like Sherlock Holmes. They would be disappointed in his obtuseness.
He should have walked away before they got to the house.
A car rolled up beside him. Byrd was behind the wheel. He looked put upon.
"The boss wants to talk to you," said Byrd.
"I don't want to talk to him," said Teller. "He thinks he has a shark in a pond that he can just pick off at his leisure. What he has is a monkey in the jungle who can do whatever he wants. There's no way he can catch that monkey, bar him off, or trap him. I'm thinking it was a bad idea to get involved in this."
"A monkey?," said Byrd.
"A smarter, meaner monkey that flings his feces," said Teller. "I think I should walk away from this before it crashes and burns."
"We have two women out there that needs us," said Byrd. "Can you walk away from that? We both know you won't. You just killed an abusive husband yesterday. You wouldn't want this guy to get away with what he's doing."
"The husband fell," said Teller. "All right, I'll talk to Bluth. If he gives me any crap, he might fall into my fist too."
"Just don't kill him," said Byrd.
"I can't promise that," said Teller. He placed his bag in the back seat and walked around to the passenger side of the car. He got in and settled into the seat.
Byrd turned the car around and headed back to the crime scene. He parked close to where he had parked earlier. He supposed if things went bad enough he could get another trip to Arizona to deposit their unofficial consultant back at his trailer.
Byrd got out of the car and looked around. He winced when he saw Bluth and Brubaker standing in the same spot they had been when he left. They didn't look happy.
Teller got out of the car on his side. He put his hands in his pockets to prevent accidents.
The causes of a man falling into a man's fists were many and varied. He didn't even need an excuse for an accident happening.
"How did you know?," Bluth asked.
"Know what?," responded Teller.
"How did you know there was a dead woman at this address?," asked Bluth.
"I didn't," said Teller. "This was the first house in sight of the Maxwell house that had a door open."
He pointed down the street.
"The flag is the Maxwell house," he said.
Bluth turned in the direction indicated. Old Glory floated in the light of a small spotlight planted in the ground.
"You said you think he will change up when he's done with the last two spots," said Bluth. He frowned at his consultant.
"Scotty was the profiler," said Teller. "A case like this with a string of murders centered on the locations, there are three options of what to expect. The first is he surrenders because he beat you. The second is he kills himself. The third is he moves on to another chain either here, or in another city."
"What do you think he will do?," asked Bluth.
"He'll start another pattern either here, or in another town," said Teller. "It's not like you guys stopped him."
"All right," said Bluth. "We'll put up a zone around the other two crime scenes and hope we get him."
"A five block circle is the farthest you should need to go out," said Teller. "Set up so they can see the houses."
"That's going to take a lot of manpower," said Brubaker.
"I'm hoping he calls and we can use that to track him down like the television detectives do," said Teller. "We don't know what he looks like. That's a great advantage for him."
"I'm going to want a statement in the morning," said Bluth. "Anything else we should think about before Agent Byrd takes you to the hotel?"
"Better use the buddy system when you set up your stakeouts," said Teller. "We don't know what he will do to anyone not in his target preference. You don't want another guy like me."
Bluth blanched at that. He didn't want another agent who had been worked over so bad he looked like the survivor of a car crash off the side of a mountain.
"Good point," said Bluth. "We'll work things out tomorrow."
"I'll leave you to that then," said Teller. "Good hunting."
"We're going to want to start over," said Bluth.
"That's fine," said Teller. "Come on, Byrd. I need something to eat."
"How did you know?," asked Byrd in a whisper.
"I didn't," said Teller. "I looked for a house that might match what I wanted. The body was a bonus."
"Do you think he'll try to plant bodies around the other two sites?," asked Byrd.
"He probably already has," said Teller. He got in the passenger side of the car. "After all, as soon as you guys made the connection, it made his work harder. He'll look for a screen before dropping the bodies if he hasn't already planted them."
"Are you going to suggest that to Bluth?," asked Byrd.
"No," said Teller. "He'll figure it out eventually. I'm more worried the killer will start making things personal with Bluth. Some of your female coworkers could get hurt."
"Upping the stakes?," asked Byrd. "Would the killer do that?"
"I don't know," said Teller. "Scotty knew a lot more about this kind of stuff than I did. Take me over to Junie's. I'd like to get a burger and a milkshake."
"Junie's?," asked Byrd.
"It's place on the edge of the town," said Teller. "Go down this street until you see the signs for the interstate, then drive toward the interstate. Junie's will be right before the onramp."
"All right," said Byrd. "I'm a fully trained agent. Why am I driving you around?"
"Because I don't have a license," said Teller. "And I am not allowed to drive according to my identification."
"Not allowed to drive?," said Byrd. He saw the signs for the interstate and turned to follow them.
"The docs think I might have an episode on the road," said Teller. "They don't want to chance an accident because I spaced out while I was driving."
"Does that happen often?," asked Byrd.
"Not since I moved out to my place," said Teller. The meditation he did seemed to help with that. It channeled his voices until they mostly pulled in one direction. It wasn't a neat solution, but it allowed him to look after himself without depending on a nursemaid.
Byrd paused at a stop sign and thought this was the brightest business sign in the world when he looked down the street at the Junie's neon and fluorescent marker. He rubbed the glare out of one eye as he started through the intersection.
A white and blue brick building stood under the sign in the middle of a parking lot. People ate at picnic tables set up for them beside the brick building. Waitresses came out with trays of food to dispense.
"This is fancier than I thought," said Byrd.
"A lot of people come here from the surrounding towns," said Teller. "Pull into a slot so we can order. They'll bring us our food so we don't have to get out of the car."
"How is the food here?," asked Byrd.
"Excellent," said Teller.
A waitress approached and looked at the odd pair. Byrd had his FBI jacket on, shades in a shirt pocket. Teller looked like plenty of homeless that stood out in the sun with brown weathered skin on rail thin frames. His mismatched eyes and scruff of hair on his head marked him out more.
"What can I do for you, gentlemen?," the waitress asked after her assessment.
"I would like a Junie special with everything," said Teller. "A milk shake, and a large Coke."
"All right," said the waitress. She wrote down the order. "What about you, sir?"
Byrd looked around and spotted a menu board hanging down at the edge of the parking slot. He scanned the items quickly.
"Could you get me a chicken club combo with Dr. Pepper?," he asked.
"Any condiments?," asked the waitress, as she wrote down Byrd's order.
"I don't think so," said Teller.
"Could I have some ketchup to put on my fries?," asked Byrd.
"No problem," said the waitress. "Let me get your drinks. It'll take a bit for the food."
"Take your time," said Teller. "Is the award still up?"
"Yep," said the waitress. "The manager will probably want to serve you himself."
"That's about what I expected," said Teller. "Tell him to get that $50 ready to hand over."
"I'll let him know," said the waitress. She walked away.
The tone in her voice was not one of belief.
"What's the Junie special?," asked Byrd.
"It's a challenge plate," said Teller. "Junie's is famous for it. It's twenty pounds of meat on buns, a pound of fries, and ten hot dogs. All the way is a bunch of lettuce, slaw, mustard, chili, and some other stuff."
"And you got a milk shake with that?," asked Byrd.
"They like to put some peppers on the stuff," said Teller. "You need a way to cool things down."
"That sounds like a recipe for messing up your G. I. tract," said Byrd.
"If you can eat all of it, you get fifty dollars," said Teller.
"Really?," said Byrd.
"And your picture on the wall," said Teller.
The waitress brought out Byrd's food on a paper plate. She hooked the tray to his door. He looked at the meal and smiled.
"Thanks," he said.
"No problem," said the waitress. "Your special is coming, sir. It's taking a bit to cook."
"We have nothing but time," said Teller.
"This is good food," said Byrd. He munched on his chicken sandwich.
"I found about this place the last time I was here," said Teller. "I came here almost everyday before we figured out how to track down Norvell. Afterwards, I didn't have the means to get back out here. Thanks for that."
Byrd shrugged. He chomped down on rectangular fries.
"Here you go," said the waitress.
It took two people to bring the food to Teller's side of the car. They hooked the tray in. The second person made sure the drink and the milkshake didn't fall over.
"Thanks," said Teller. He grabbed a hot dog and chomped down.
The voices were aghast at what he was doing, except for Fluffy. The mental dog danced around with a feed me more barking going.
Byrd finished his meal and wiped his face and hands with provided napkins. He looked over. Teller had worked through the hot dogs and fries in the time it had taken him to finish his own fries. He leaned his back against his door so he could watch the proceedings.
Teller went through the hamburger like a buzzsaw through butter. His voices groaned except for Fluffy. Happy barks and jumping in place overshadowed the complaints.
He finished the milkshake as he chewed on the last of the burger. He wiped his face, and made sure none of the food had fallen on him as he had ate. Fluffy sighed and settled into comatose happiness.
Teller smiled. At least he had made one of his inner children happy for the moment.
"All right," said the manager, the second person who had helped bring out the tray. "You did it. Good job."
"I just want my money, Kermit," said Teller.
"It's you," said the manager. He smiled. Then he frowned. "I thought you were dead."
"I had some problems, Kermit," said Teller. "How's things going?"
"I make a mint off suckers trying the Junie Special," said Kermit. "I make more than I give out."
"I believe it," said Teller. "It was good seeing you again, Kermit. Say hello to the wife and kid for me."
"I will, Ellis," said Kermit. He leaned in to take the tray off the door. "Are you doing okay? I didn't recognize you."
"I had some hard times, but I'm mending," said Teller. "Give the money to charity, Kermit. Other people need it more than I do."
"All right, Ellis," said the manager. He nodded. "Come by anytime."
"Thanks, Kermit," said Teller.
The waitress took the tray off Byrd's door. He straightened and said thank you before she could turn away. She nodded.
Teller elbowed him in the arm. He looked over. Then he went oh inside. He pulled out a ten and handed it over to the waitress. She smiled.
"Sorry," Byrd said.
Teller did his morning exercises and meditation in relative silence. The feast he had indulged in the night before had put most of the voices in food comas. The only one he could see actually still taking an active notice was the holder of the scales and sword.
He looked at his colleagues and whispered justice just loud enough for Teller to hear him.
Teller opened up his case and pulled out a fresh piece of paper. He wrote his prediction for a day three hundred days away, sealed it in an envelope, and put it at the bottom of the pile. He pulled out the top one and sealed the case up. He read the note and burned it in the bathroom, flushing it when he was done.
An old friend will show himself with a false flag and another man's name.
Teller thought about what that could mean as he pulled on a fresh set of clothes to face the day. He didn't have that many friends. The ones that stood out in the situation he was in was Scotty, Danny, and Red Flanders.
Danny was still using his own name, Scotty was locked up, and he didn't know where Flanders was.
Maybe he should ask Byrd his opinion. The agent had to know something about this he could use.
Teller thought the guy had already picked his victims. He could attack at will while they had to look for the path he was walking. They had to do something to throw the guy off before he could complete his pattern.
The words of his prediction bothered him. He needed to make sure Flanders was okay.
He also needed to make sure Flanders hadn't taken up the killer's handiwork and decided to ruin people's days.
Taking over for the original killer could be construed as taking on another person's name.
He thought there was more to it than that, but he couldn't see the connection. Scotty would have seen the joining instantly. He knew that. The man could read people.
He stepped out of his room, pulling on his bag. He grimaced, but he couldn't bring himself to leave his belongings anywhere he wasn't capable of reaching in a few seconds. He credited it to paranoia at some level.
The predictions had changed his existence. He couldn't leave them behind for someone else to open and read. He needed to be the one to do that as long as he could keep going.
He walked down to the lobby. He didn't see Byrd anywhere. Maybe the agent had gone to the sheriff's office without him.
He needed breakfast and a decision on what he should do.
The voices groaned in mass at the thought of breakfast, but he just smiled.
Byrd arrived as he stepped outside. The agent was a little more cheery. Maybe the killer had finally left a clue at the latest scene.
"Has anyone talked to Red Flanders about this?," asked Teller.
"We sent a couple of guys from the Miami field office to talk to him," said Byrd. "He's in a nursing home down there, with dementia creeping in on him."
"So Scotty, Flanders, and I all ended up in homes," said Teller.
"But only you and Flanders are still alive," said Byrd. "Agent Wainwright died in a prisoner escape from his sanitarium."
"Excuse me?," said Teller.
"Scott Wainwright was killed a couple of years ago," said Byrd. "Another prisoner mauled him and then escaped from the hospital."
Teller remembered Byrd saying he hadn't been able to talk to Scotty. He had thought it was because Scotty was still living in his own brain. The fact that he was dead put a new cast on things.
He wondered if this was what his prediction was talking about that morning.
"I need you to do me a couple of favors, Byrd," said Teller. "Call down and make sure Flanders is still in place in Florida, then get me Scotty's autopsy if there was one."
"I guess I can do that," said Byrd. "What's the problem?"
"I just want to rule them out," said Teller. "Do you know what happened to Sheriff Oates?"
"He died," said Byrd. "Some guy shot him during a robbery of the Fast Gas out of town. He walked into it without realizing what was going on."
"Did they get the guy?," asked Teller. He suspected the robber didn't live to stand trial.
"He tried to run a roadblock, and they turned him into Swiss cheese," said Byrd.
"They probably didn't want to take chances," said Teller. The other reason was straight revenge. That would be hard to prove since the guy had shot the sheriff first. Any deputy could claim to be scared of the guy.
The claim would be backed by the death of the sheriff and the apparent dangerousness of the suspect in question. Most prosecutors wouldn't even try.
"Do you need anything else?," asked Byrd.
"As soon as you have those two things done, we're going to have to plan our next steps without Bluth, or Danny, knowing what we're doing," said Teller. "This guy will anticipate what they are doing with the information he gave them. I want to use the information he didn't show us."
"Why this interest in the old guys?," asked Byrd.
"The voices in my head said to watch out," said Teller. "So I am."
"All right," said Byrd.
Teller smiled at his confusion. He walked out to the car. The first stop was the Sheriff's Office. Once he had the information he wanted, he would have an idea on what to do next.
"Do you really have voices?," asked Byrd. He got behind the wheel.
"I manage them," said Teller.
Byrd pulled out of the lot. His expression said he didn't like the thought he was dealing with a crazy man.
Teller smiled. His voices were enough of a problem that it didn't matter what other people thought.
He watched the street as they drove to the office. The killer could be hiding anywhere along the strip. He could be watching the activity and judging what he needed to do to accomplish his goal.
Did he have a goal other than killing? Why the extreme cutting on the victims? Was it an imitation of what Norvell had been doing, or something more? How did he know what Norvell had done?
Teller had the suspicion that he knew what the cutting looked like because he had seen it and studied it. There were a lot of suspects for something like that. How many had gone mad and started their own pattern?
Were there more killers out there because of Norvell?
Teller felt his voices waking up. They talked idly about the situation. The thought that Flanders might be involved rendered most of them silently watchful.
Byrd pulled into his slot. They got out of the car. The agent led the way to the door.
"We'll check on Flanders first," said Byrd. "It'll take a while for the Miami office to get someone over to look in on him."
"That's okay," said Teller. "How do we get Scotty's paperwork?"
"I'll call over to the place and ask for it," said Byrd.
"They won't let you have it," said Teller. "It'd be a violation of HIPPA."
"I suppose I could send someone over to get it with a warrant," said Byrd. "That'll take some time."
"Call about Flanders," Teller said. "I'll talk to Danny. Maybe he can help us out."
Byrd nodded. He picked up the nearest landline to call out.
Teller found Sheriff Brubaker talking to two men in suits. None of the trio looked happy. They turned to look at him. He looked back.
"How can I help you, Ellis?," asked Brubaker. He didn't stand behind his desk. He barely glanced at the two visitors.
"We need you to call over to Scotty's sanitarium and ask for his death report," said Teller.
"How did he die?," asked Brubaker.
"Byrd said another prisoner killed him during an escape," said Teller. "I don't know where Scotty was sent."
"Let me call around, Ellis," said Brubaker. "Why do you want to know this?"
"Byrd has a theory and we're trying to prove it," said Teller.
"What kind of theory?," asked one of the suits.
"We're checking to see if someone stole Scotty's identity," said Teller.
"For?," asked the suit.
"In case that someone is impersonating Scotty," said Teller.
"Why would they do that?," asked the suit. He seemed to be holding himself in so he didn't say anything rash.
"So he can kill people under a fake license," said Teller.
"Tell Byrd that Wainwright was in Holcomb Sanitarium for the Criminally Insane," said Brubaker. "His autopsy would have been done by the local legal entity, which would be either Kansas City, or the county. He should be able to get a look at the records with a call. He might have to go up there and look at it in person."
"How do you know that?," asked Teller.
"It's a new thing called Google," said Brubaker. "Now get out of here while I finish my meeting."
"Right," said Teller. "Thanks, Danny."
Teller walked back to the conference room. Byrd was still on the phone. He looked exasperated.
"We just need you to look in on him and make sure he hasn't gone anywhere," said Byrd. "We want to rule him out."
Teller wanted to grab the phone and say some choice words. His voices urged it. No one should get in his way when he was doing what they wanted him to do.
"Thanks," said Byrd. "Call me back as soon as you know. Let me give you my personal phone."
He read his personal number out to the other end of the call.
"Thanks," said Byrd.
He hung up after considering whether he should slam the phone down as hard as he could, or not. He decided on not.
"Let's go," said Teller. "Danny found the file for Scotty. It's up in Kansas City."
"Road trip?," said Byrd. He looked around the room.
"It's the only way we can look at the file," said Teller. "Danny thinks the local authority will have the file, and not the hospital."
"Do you really think Wainwright is still alive?," asked Byrd. He stood up and pulled on his jacket.
"I don't know," said Teller. He shrugged. "It's something to do until we have a real lead. It makes it look like we know what we're doing."
"All right," said Byrd.
They headed for the office door. Bluth paused coming in as they were leaving. He frowned at the pair.
"We're checking something out," said Teller. "When we know one way, or the other, we'll report in."
"The mapping?," said Bluth.
"We're hoping to get you a picture to go with it," said Teller. "Please put people out there, check all the doors, knock on every one of them, make sure you talk to any single women you find. Walking the properties might be important. When we get back, we'll know if we're right. If we are, then we'll have someone for you to look for during the coverage."
"All right," said Bluth. "Who's the suspect?"
"A dead man," said Teller. "We'll let you know everything when we get back. Also we're waiting on a call back on Red Flanders. We want to make sure he's still in Florida."
"Got it," said Bluth.
"Thanks, Bluth," said Teller. "I don't know if the heavy patrol will stop this guy, but it's better than doing nothing."
"Get me something I can use," said Bluth. He walked into the building to start his day.
"I think you're rubbing off on him," said Byrd. "He didn't miss a step when you said we're checking on a dead man."
"I know," said Teller. "I hope he hasn't broken."
"Let's get going," said Byrd. "The faster we do this, the faster we can help search for Norvell Two."
"Norvell Two?," said Teller. He paused in mid-step.
"I'm not calling him the Ripper," said Byrd. He got in the car. "Norvell Two is my personal name for him until we get him."
"I can see that," said Teller. He took his spot. "We're going to have to go to the Coroner to get the files."
"I've dealt with dead bodies before," said Byrd.
"Okay," said Teller. He settled in his seat and closed his eyes. How many others would have nightmares after this was over?
How many were having nightmares while it was going on?
The ride into Kansas City was uneventful as far Teller was concerned. He spotted places he used to frequent professionally and personally. They didn't mean that much to him now.
He put that down to the voices in his head wanting him to go home and not liking the people moving all around him.
Fluffy barked at a woman with a baby carriage. He wanted to get out there to take care of the business of showing that baby who was boss. Teller refused to let him that far off the leash.
Teller had only used the local cutter when he couldn't get a Bureau guy to do the job better. He wasn't impressed with how they did business. He hoped they hadn't screwed up Scotty too much.
He heard his voices kick in. They circled around the fact that the body had been misidentified. That would be a new low for the Coroner.
"I think it's the next right," said Byrd. "What are we doing here?"
"We want to make sure they did the right thing as far as Scotty is concerned," said Teller. "Failing that, we won't to make sure they identified the right man."
"And if they did misidentify the body?," asked Byrd.
"Then we have to think of a way to track down Scotty," said Teller.
"He might not be the killer," said Byrd. "He might just be hiding out. A lot of people with mental problems are not dangerous."
"If Scotty killed someone to escape the sanitarium, then there is a good chance that he is Norvell Two," said Teller. "We have to make sure."
"Why would he start killing people?," asked Byrd.
"I don't know," said Teller. "Maybe he broke chasing Norvell. He lost his eye that night. Norvell stabbed him before we threw him off the building."
"Let's say all of this is true," said Byrd. "We'll have to track him down in Juneville."
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," said Teller. "If it is Scotty, and he is still a little rational, he will be profiling us while we're trying to profile him. And he was a good profiler."
"Okay," said Byrd. "What do we need as proof?"
"We need pictures of the right arm," said Teller. "Scotty had a tattoo on it. No tattoo, no Scotty."
"Sounds easy enough," said Byrd. "Unless he took the arm with him when he escaped."
"I suppose he could have done that to prevent identification," said Teller. He didn't like that possibility at all.
It suggested a lot of planning from a guy who was supposed to be recovering from a mental break.
Teller knew he couldn't even feed himself before he started meditating. He simply sat in his room and looked out the window while the voices howled. They wanted so much, but they paralyzed him when he needed to move.
He had separated them out into individual voices with a lot of practice. Every now and then, he felt overwhelmed but he had gained enough of a handle to live by himself and have discussions without punching someone in the throat.
He mentally shrugged. Some people needed to be punched in the throat. He didn't need the voice with the scales and sword declaring it justice to do it.
He supposed there were exceptions. He admitted at this point only Bearclaw and Brubaker had proven themselves enough not to get punched in the throat when things were said and done.
He might throw in Byrd if the kid survived all this.
He watched the building for the Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office approach. He hoped Scotty was dead. He didn't like thinking he was behind these new killings.
Scotty had gone through the Academy with him, worked various offices with him, had helped out when his sister got married. The fact that he may have become a monster didn't sit right.
The possibility had to be checked. If it could be ruled out, Scotty could rest in peace. It would be a setback for the investigation, but it would allow Teller to look for someone else waving a false flag.
If Flanders was in Florida, and Scotty was dead, the only viable suspect would be Brubaker.
That could be just as bad as if Scotty was still alive and killing women.
One problem at a time, Teller told himself. You still haven't ruled Scotty out.
Byrd pulled into a slot in front of the government building. He got out, looking around. Going to autopsies had been part of the training but he didn't like them.
The smell had been enough to get him to go over the victim's injuries as fast as possible and get out of there.
Teller got out of the car. He turned in a circle to take in the surroundings before he followed Byrd to the glass front door. The voices growled at the lobby as he stepped inside and looked around.
A receptionist with hair up and glasses looked at them. She had the look of someone not wanting to answer questions from strangers.
"How can I help you, gentlemen?," said the lady. She adjusted her glasses.
"We would like to talk to the doctor who handled the Scott Wainwright autopsy," said Byrd.
"I'll have to look that up," said the receptionist. "Is there a reason for your visit?"
"We want to make sure he's dead," said Teller.
"If he came here, I assure you he was dead," said the receptionist. She glanced at her computer screen. "A Scott Wainwright was processed through months ago. The examiner was Dr. Lucas. He's off today. You're going to have to come back tomorrow."
"This is a Federal matter, lady," said Byrd. "We're not coming back here tomorrow unless it's to shut this place down and set up a review of procedures. Is there anyone here who can open that file for us?"
"We have an M.E. on duty," said the receptionist. "I'll call him."
"Thank you," said Byrd.
Byrd stepped back from the desk as the lady picked up the phone and called some other part of the building. He turned his attention to the front door so he didn't have to glare at her.
Teller didn't mind glaring but his mismatched eyes refused to make him look angry.
A thin woman in light green scrubs and hair net arrived. She looked at the two men with irritation at being bothered.
"What can I help you with, gentlemen?," she asked. Her name tag was on backwards so they couldn't read the name.
"We need to see the Scott Wainwright file," said Byrd. "We need confirmation he was the man killed."
"The Sanitarium confirmed that the victim was Wainwright," said the doctor. "One of the administrators identified the body."
"There's a chance he made a mistake," said Teller. "We need to see the report to make sure. We might have to get DNA to test."
"I can let you look at the report," said the doctor. "It can't leave the building."
"That's fine," said Byrd.
"Come with me," she said. "I have to get back to a cutting I'm doing, so the sooner we get this done, the better."
"That's fine," said Byrd.
She took them to a filing room. She used a key from a desk to open the filing cabinet. She pulled out the Wainwright file and handed it to Byrd.
He opened it up and winced at the damage in the photos. He had been working the Norvell Two case for a month at least. This was the same sort of damage he expected in that case.
The victim had something driven into his eye. Then his face had been gone over with something hard until it resembled tenderized meat. All of the teeth had been knocked out and most of the skull had been broken.
"It's not Scotty," said Teller.
"How can you tell?," said Byrd. He gestured at the picture of the mutilated face.
"Scotty had a tattoo on his arm. It was like the FBI seal," said Teller. He pointed at the physical markings report in the file. "This guy doesn't have that."
"He has a barbed wire marking with a happy face on it," said Byrd.
"Not Scotty," said Teller. "Unless he got that at the sanitarium."
"So he killed the guy we thought had escaped and goes back to Juneville to be Norvell Two," said Byrd. "Is that what we're looking at here?"
"It's looking more likely every day," said Teller. "Thank you, Doctor. Do you want us to call the sanitarium, or do you want to do it?"
"What do I tell them?," said the doctor. She crossed her arms.
"Scotty Wainwright is alive, and their escapee is dead," said Teller. "The FBI confirmed the identity on the corpse and it is up to them if they want to notify the family, or if they want the police to do that."
"I'll let the police do that," said the doctor. "Who did we have on the slab?"
"A guy the sanitarium thought had escaped," said Byrd. "It looks like they switched the identities by mistake."
"All right," said the doctor. "I call over there and let them know. I'll have to let the police know too."
"That's okay," said Byrd. "If you need us for anything, call."
He gave her a card with his contact information on it.
"All right," said the doctor. "I'll call you when I have this end straightened out."
"Thanks," said Byrd. He led the way out of the office.
"Take us through the target areas," said Teller. He studied the street as Byrd drove through Juneville. "Then you can take me back to the hotel."
"Do you think Wainwright is watching the task force?," asked Byrd. He watched the street as he drove through town.
"Probably," said Teller. "Scotty was always good at guessing at what people will do. Even if he isn't watching, he had enough insight to guess what people would do to try to stop him. I don't know if he still has that, but if he does, he'll be tough to catch."
Teller heard the baying of the voices in his head. Most of them agreed that Scotty knew he was involved somehow.
All he had to do was wait until Scotty tried to take him out.
He didn't like their assessment of the danger he could be in.
On the other hand, Scotty seemed to have taken a liking to knives. A pistol at close range, or a rifle at long range, might be off the table.
Byrd drove through the target areas around the last two victim houses fast enough to be going somewhere, but slow enough to take a look at the yards and driveways around the houses.
He noted the police presence patrolling the same area. He hoped they scared Wainwright off his last two targets. He doubted they would.
The man had shown them the pattern. He would have accounted for more police and adjusted his plan according to what he could see on the street. He might already be in one of the houses facing the street.
He might have moved into one of the close-by houses so he could work without worrying about who was going to see him cutting up his victims.
That suggested a line of attack if he could get manpower to help out.
How many houses in Juneville were empty and waiting on someone to take them over and use them for nefarious purposes? If he knew that, he could use it for a suspect list. Wainwright had to eat and sleep somewhere.
A house to house might turn up something useful.
The problem was they couldn't just send one man to look things over. Wainwright would add a deputy to the list if he got the drop on the LEO. The job he had done on his fellow patient had been thorough.
Destroying a man's face and leaving him as a body double was a lot more thoughtful than the usual problems Byrd had to deal with for the Bureau.
"Pull up at the next corner," said Teller. "I want to get out and look around for a second."
Byrd did as he was asked. He pulled up to a stop sign under a street light.
Teller got out of the car and looked in all four directions. He raised his hands to frame particular views as he turned. He frowned at what he saw.
He got back in the car and closed his door.
"See anything useful?," Byrd asked.
"Not really," said Teller. "There were some dark spaces but unless we want to wake everyone up, there was nothing to show Scotty visited. Can you take me over to the Horst factory?"
"Where you guys tried to arrest Norvell?," asked Byrd. "Sure."
"Norvell messed both of us up," said Teller. "We should have waited for more help but he was trying to leave town."
Byrd nodded. He had read the case file when he had been assigned to help Bluth.
"The Sheriff was there?," asked Byrd.
"He was covering the front for us," said Teller. "Scotty went in the front, and I went in the back. We never saw Norvell coming."
"So the Sheriff called for help when he saw things going down?," said Byrd.
"But it was too late for any backup," said Teller. "The only reason we didn't die with Norvell was because Danny knew enough first aid to keep us alive."
Byrd drove across town. He pulled to the curb outside a fence with a gatehouse to let people in and out at shift change. The cracked wooden arm was down. Windows had succumbed to weather or vandals in the years since Norvell had been killed. A large mark that could have been the remains of flames marked one spot on the parking lot near the building.
Teller got out of the car and walked under the gate. He crossed the parking lot, eyes on the busted windows near the top of the building. He paused at the front door. He examined the locks and stepped back.
Byrd joined him a minute later. He looked up at the front of the building.
"What's up?," Byrd asked.
"Someone has been using this door recently," said Teller. "Do you mind calling Danny and getting some of his boys down here. It might be nothing, but if it is Scotty, we might have problems with just the two of us."
"Yeah," said Byrd. He pulled his phone and made the call. The last thing he wanted to do was tussle with an escaped mental patient who may have killed one of his roommates and might be carrying on the spree of the last serial killer he had been tracking down.
That was just asking for trouble in his opinion.
Members of the task force arrived minutes later. Bluth didn't look too happy to be dragged out on what could be a wild goose chase. The sheriff looked around the abandoned lot. He told four of his men to go around back and make sure nothing came out of the building. He also told them to keep an eye out. They might be ripped to pieces if the suspect went to town on them because they were thinking about what was on their phone and not what might coming after them in the dark.
Byrd was glad he was surrounded by eight other armed professionals that he hoped could keep him from running into an axe to the face.
Teller stood back as he let the law enforcement people work on the door and head inside with flashlights and guns pointing at things in the darkness.
Byrd waited at his side. He didn't think one more gun would make a difference inside the old place.
"Ellis," called the sheriff. "I think you need to come in here."
Teller and Byrd walked into the wide open space. Above them was a set of offices and catwalks. Old blood was still on the floor. The machinery had been left to rust. Trash was everywhere.
The sheriff waved the two over to what could have been an office tucked away at the other side of the building. He and Bluth stood around an envelope the agent held with a latex glove.
Teller looked at the envelope. He frowned when he saw his name on it. Did he want to take it from Bluth's hand?
"Let's see what Scotty left us," he said. He took the envelope and spilled the contents out on the dirty table.
He spread the page with the help of the glove. He scanned the writing quietly before handing the letter to Bluth.
"What's it say?," Byrd asked when Teller joined him.
"Scotty said he was changing the rules now that he knew I was in town," said Teller. "He was going to copy someone else for a bit."
"Did he say who?," asked Byrd.
"No," said Teller. "Can you give me a lift back to the sheriff's office? I need to look at some things."
"What about this?," Byrd asked. He waved at the scene.
"Techs will go over it and tell us what they can," said Teller. "They won't know a lot before the morning. The things I need to see won't be that important to this."
"This isn't what you expected, is it?," asked Byrd. He led the way to the car.
"No," said Teller. "I admit that it looked bad that Scotty had switched places with another inmate, but there were some reasonable explanations. This is basically a confession saying he's going to kill until he's stopped."
"How do we stop him?," asked Byrd. He got behind the wheel.
"I have no idea," said Teller.
Teller settled in his seat. He closed his mismatched eyes. Maybe he should have stayed in the desert.
"How bad is this?," said Byrd. He pulled out into the street and headed for the sheriff's office.
"It depends on how much Scotty wants to play," said Teller.
Byrd didn't like the implications that meant. If they couldn't keep up, Wainwright could go somewhere else and kill people until he got tired and moved on. He might do that for years before someone caught him.
Teller led the way into the office. He went to the room they were using for operations. He sat down and stared at the map. He rubbed his face as he considered the lines and pictures.
Where would Scotty go to elude the authorities?
Teller stared at the map and hoped for some kind of inspiration. He shook his head as nothing appeared. His voices hummed among themselves but they offered no guidance.
There were not enough clues for him to fashion a response.
Where would he go to ground if he were Scotty? He shook his head because he didn't have an answer. He decided to come at things fresh in the morning. No matter what happened, he couldn't save anybody because he didn't know anything useful.
The most he could hope for was Scotty called and gave him clues so they could play whatever game Scotty wanted to play.
"I can't believe he had a note ready for if you showed up," said Byrd. He had settled at his desk.
"Scotty was always a good predictor of what other people would do," Teller said.
"So he'll probably predict that we'll take his word that he's changing the game," said Byrd.
"Yep," said Teller. "I guess I need to get some sleep. I'm headed to the hotel for the night."
"I'll take you over," Byrd said. "This is going take a bit to explain in the daily case report."
"What can you say?," said Teller. "You followed a hunch and identified a suspect to Norvell Two after examining a faked corpse."
"When you put it that way, it does sound outlandish," said Byrd.
Teller sat in front of the window of his hotel room. His meditation allowed him to talk to the voices in his head. None of them were happy with the development that Scotty could be Norvell Two. He wasn't happy himself about the development.
What did they do about it?
None of them had an answer for that question. He petted Fluffy on the head as he withdrew to the real world. He blinked his eyes as he took in the details of the hotel room.
He wrote his prediction out and put it in its envelope before pulling out the one on top of the stack. He opened the envelope and read the shaky writing. It didn't make sense at the moment. He burned and flushed the paper in the bathroom before dressing and getting ready to face the day.
Your enemy waits beyond the sea of terror that the children know didn't strike him as much of a clue, but maybe Byrd would know something.
Juneville might have added things since he was here last. He hadn't taken much of a tour the last time he visited, and only the driving by Byrd had allowed him to scope things out while he tried to figure out what was going on.
Scotty would have had plenty of time to look things over since his escape. Hiding out in the old factory had shown he had figured no one would connect it to him until late in the game.
But he had realized someone would connect it to him at some point. Why else leave the letter for his ex-partner to find? Had he thought that the new task force would try to reach the old task force over Norvell sightings? He must have considered it at some point.
What would he have done if Teller had decided to stay in the desert?
So if the prediction was right, all he had to do was find the sea of terror in a landlocked Kansas town.
Byrd would know.
"Got a meeting," said Byrd as Teller stepped out of the hotel room with his bag hanging from his shoulder. "Bluth wants to know what we know."
"That'll be the shortest operational meeting I have ever been in since we don't know any more than what we did last night," said Teller. "I guess Forensics from the warehouse should have some something, but I have no idea what they could have turned up in that mess."
"I think with Wainwright as a suspect, the pressure is going to come down that he was the original Norvell," said Byrd.
"I hope they can crack his alibi then," said Teller. "You know anything about a sea of terror here in town?"
"No," said Byrd. "What do you mean about an alibi?"
"We traveled a lot in those days," said Teller. "When Norvell started, we were in Idaho, then Oklahoma, and then Kansas City, and then here. The last case before Norvell was a guy roaming Kay Cee, attacking anyone who had the wrong color hair."
"You're kidding," said Byrd.
"Fastest arrest we had ever done," said Teller. "There were squads of us patrolling for this guy. Scotty and I rode with the locals and other agencies the whole time we were assigned."
"So to prove he was Norvell then, they would have to claim a task force similar to this one covered for him until he framed the honest man who died," said Byrd.
"A ton of agents and police would vigorously protest that," said Teller. "I need some breakfast before we talk with Bluth. Then we need to figure out what the new method of operation will be. That will make it easier for use to track Scotty down."
"How easy do you think that will be?," said Byrd.
"Piece of cake," said Teller. The voices disagreed with his assessment.
Teller followed Byrd out to the car. They debated where to go, but decided on a diner a few blocks down from the Sheriff's Office. Byrd parked the car at the office and they walked back to the place.
Teller took a menu and sat by a window so he could watch the street. Was Scotty watching the road from a different direction? How much time did they have before he started killing his new selection of targets?
They needed fuel for the hunt, and once they had that, they could try to make sense of what they did have.
Teller turned the prediction over in his mind as he looked at the menu. He didn't really fell hungry. He supposed it was because of the Junie special still rattling around in his system.
Byrd placed his order, using a finger to pick out what he wanted on the menu. The waitress nodded as she wrote everything down on a pad. Teller just said to double it up with water instead of coffee. She nodded and took the menus back to their stand before going into the kitchen to put the order on the cook's rack.
"Bluth is going to want to keep you sidelined," said Byrd. "You're turning up all the clues, the subject is giving off a resentment vibe in his letter, and you might be a target."
"I doubt Scotty will come after me," said Teller. He checked his bag in the seat next to his. "I think it's more likely that he will send gloating letters with clues in them to lead the investigation wherever he wants."
"And that won't be in your direction?," said Byrd.
"He's far more likely to go after Danny," said Teller. "The man's the authority here, he saved our lives and put us in homes, and the Sheriff's Office might not have a clue if he were taken out."
"Good point," said Byrd. "Maybe research will turn up something. I wonder if Juneville had more killers than Norvell working here."
"If they did, they covered their tracks well," said Teller. "I didn't see anything to show anything but a bunch of mob guys getting shot back in the fifties."
"Mob guys?," said Byrd. "Why would the mob come here?"
"They used the town to hide out when the heat cranked up in Kay Cee," said Teller. "Before that, bank robbers roamed around until the Bureau put them down when Hoover was a young tyrant."
"But nothing like Norvell?," asked Byrd.
Teller shook his head.
"So if he was the first killer here, who could be Wainwright's model?," asked Byrd.
"Scotty might decide to use any of the various captured killers we've documented," said Teller. "And we have tracked down three of them as part of a task force. Those three might be the ones that Scotty talked about copying."
"Who were those guys?," asked Byrd.
"Chandler, Boyle, and Hemmings," said Teller. "Chandler set people on fire, Boyle drowned them, and Hemmings went after kids."
"So a bunch of monsters," said Byrd.
"Boyle," said Teller. "I wonder if he's the one we should be concentrating on."
"Why him in particular?," asked Byrd.
"Because his victims only started showing up weeks after he had started killing people," said Teller. "It was just luck that we tied everything together."
"So Wainwright would know how he worked, and how to copy it," said Byrd.
"And he would know how to hide the bodies until he wanted them found," said Teller.
"We need to dig up the records," said Byrd. "Maybe we can have someone e-mail the file to us."
The waitress arrived with their drinks. Teller nodded at her. He thought he recognized her, but he didn't know from where. It would come to him.
"You do what you got to do," said Teller. He thought about the prediction. Where was the Sea of Terror?
"Let's say you're right about Boyle," said Byrd. "What was the victim profile?"
"College aged men," said Teller. "He liked to drown them in a pool under the guise of having sex with them."
"I doubt Wainwright will be able to do the same thing," said Byrd. "Not with his face being all messed up."
"He doesn't have to," said Teller. "He just has to put himself in a position where he can grab his target and then take them somewhere to be killed. That's even assuming that he will copy the victimology that much. He might pick up women to use Boyle's method on and we won't know until we get a missing person spike and a floater somewhere."
The waitress returned while Byrd was mulling over the points made. Wainwright didn't have to do anything they expected. They were defending the turf, and he was the attacker. They had to force a turnover so they could go on the offensive.
How did they do that?
"Miss?," said Teller. "Didn't there used to be some kind of water park around here?"
"There's the old Dragon Causeway," said the waitress. "It's been abandoned since the Garvey boy drowned. Something was in the water, and the county shut it down. The company could never reopen it after that. They moved out of the county."
"But it's still there?," asked Teller.
"Yep," said the waitress. "That old dragon sits next to the highway and waits for people who aren't coming back to it."
"The Garvey boy drowned?," asked Teller.
"Someone had dumped poison in the water," said the waitress. "It gave him a seizure and he drowned. The park tried to blame it on him, saying he couldn't swim, but he was a minor medalist for the high school. Then when they did the autopsy, they found the stuff all in him. Then they tested the water, and that was all she wrote."
"I remember that," said Teller. "There was something about causing cancer. The local chemical factory got blamed."
"That's right," said the waitress. "Did you grow up around here? I don't remember your face from school, and we look about the same age."
"I was here after that on a job," said Teller. "I remembered that it took a while to trace the dumping."
"That's right," said the waitress. "I have to get back to work."
Teller made a gesture at Byrd. The agent made a face. He pulled out his wallet, and handed over a ten to the woman.
"Thank you," said the waitress. She walked away to handle another table in her section of the room.
"You want to tell me what that was about?," asked Byrd.
"It's an idea that I am mulling over," said Teller. He dug into his plate of eggs, bacon and pancakes. "It's not ready for sharing yet."
"This has to tie in to Boyle somehow," said Byrd. "I'm going with you thinking that Scotty knows what we just discovered and is hiding out at the water park."
"That's pretty reasonable," said Teller. He smiled.
"So we're going out there to look around," said Byrd.
"I haven't got that far in the thinking process yet," said Teller. "I don't think it will be safe if I'm right. And Scotty will have ways to get clear if he thinks we're closing in on him."
"So what are we going to do?," said Byrd. "One of us is going to have to tell Bluth."
"I don't know yet," Teller said. He mowed through his food.
Teller and Byrd arrived at the meeting as the rest of the task force was settling in. It left them at the back of the room, but that was how Teller liked it. No one but Byrd and whomever was speaking could see him without an effort. As long as he was quiet, it was almost like he was invisible.
The voices growled at the crowded room as they demanded to be taken to solitude.
Teller reassured them everything would be all right. They had to quiet down so he could listen so he could speed up their return home. He had a few denunciations of lying, a bark of happiness, and one when will we have justice? as the crowd in his head started picking apart the other men and women present.
Agent Bluth took up a position up front. He surveyed his audience before he spoke. He went to a monitor set up to display what he wanted to show the members of the task force.
"Let's get started," said Bluth. "We don't know how much time we have before things start boiling again."
"This is Norvell, the original Ripper." A picture of a man with not enough hair and a round face jumped on the screen. "He was killed while resisting arrest almost a decade ago."
"This is Scott Wainwright." Two pictures jumped on the screen side by side. One was an okay looking guy in a suit with his hair combed back from his face. The other had one eye, scars across his face, and hair that was longer and grayer than the other picture. "We think he's the new Ripper."
"Why do you think that?," asked one of the deputies.
"Wainwright worked the original case with the task force," said Bluth. "We thought he had been killed in an escape from his sanitarium by another inmate. It turns out that Wainwright killed the other inmate and stole his identity. So far we think he has imprinted on Norvell enough to copy him, but he left us a letter saying he is going to start copying other killers which means we will have to examine every new body like it's one of his."
"How do we stop him?," asked one of the state police people. He had a buzzcut and chewing gum. Glasses glittered under the lights.
Teller elbowed Byrd in the arm. The younger man stepped away from the contact with a Really? which attracted everyone's attention. He glared at the consultant as the room looked at him.
"We were talking about this over breakfast," said Byrd. "Mr. Teller thinks Wainwright will copy one of the three serials that they tracked down before Norvell. If he's right, it will give us limited hunting areas depending on what Wainwright will do, and how he thinks we're going to act."
"Do you have copies of the files?," said Bluth.
"Not yet," said Byrd. "We just came up with the theory before we walked in the door. We don't think Wainwright will imitate any of the famous serials that he didn't have a hand in, but will copy the ones that he did capture because he had already copied how they thought to capture them. We could be wrong, so I was going to look up the files and see if we could put any of it on the map of the town before we suggested it."
"Which three, Mr. Teller?," asked Bluth.
"Richard Chandler, Michael Boyle, and Arthur Hemmings," said Teller. "An arsonist, a serial drowner of men, and a child killer."
"Would he switch targets?," asked Bluth.
Teller shrugged. There was no telling if Scotty would go after men or children to ape the other killers. He had only copied eighty percent of Norvell's kills.
"Do you expect any more letters?," asked Bluth.
"I don't know," said Teller. "He didn't leave any before I got here. He might want to gloat some, maybe call into the office here and talk to me, or Danny."
"We'll put tracing equipment on to try to track him down," said Bluth. "Anything else?"
"I don't see him changing his choice of victims," said Teller. "He might copy those other killers, but he won't move from the young white female model he has been pursuing. I don't think kids will trust that face of his, and I don't think he can subdue young men. And I seriously doubt he will have the patience to watch someone burn in their homes."
"So we should remind women not to travel alone, and be careful," said Bluth. He shaded his eyes for a second before dropping his hand. "Anything else?"
"We don't how dangerous Scotty is," said Teller. "Don't take any chances. If he has a pistol, he was a dead shot in the day. If he took any training to get back in practice, I think he would rather go down shooting than going back to the sanitarium he was in. If you think you're dealing with him on your own, there's no shame in calling for backup. At the end of the day, you guys should be as careful as you can, and don't take your eyes off him if you run into him."
"We're going to keep searching house to house until we get another viable lead," said Bluth. "Come up and get your assignments, call in anything strange, don't go in on your own."
The meeting broke up with the search parties grabbing up their assignments from the front desk and moving out. Teller watched them go. When the last one was gone, he walked to the map and started looking for the old water park.
He doubted that Scotty was there, but it might give him some idea on what to look for in a lair.
He wondered how many water parks were in that part of the state. How many were closed? How many weren't proof against Scotty's lockpicks?
How was he going to get out there without Byrd driving?
He looked around at the empty room. Maybe he could get a taxi. There should be some around now that Juneville had grown up some.
A look around the place should be okay. He doubted that Scotty had set up in such a headquarters to imitate Boyle. It just had to be crossed off the list of possible places.
He ran his finger over the map, checking the route. He could walk out there if he had to do that. He covered miles in the desert. Walking in a lesser temperature should be okay.
He nodded at the estimated miles. He might have to get some water to carry with him.
He looked around. Bluth and Byrd were on phones. He nodded. They were probably trying to get the relevant files sent to the task force office.
He walked out of the room, and then the office. He turned and headed down the street toward the water park.
Teller doubted he would be missed for a while. He could call in from the water park if it was empty. Then he could walk back to the office.
He doubted Scotty would be so obvious about where he had set up. On the other hand, it was deserted and anyone could climb a fence to squat on the property.
Where would he get his victims? How would he get them to the park? Could he drive?
Teller wondered if Scotty had stolen a car and was using that to get around. It would explain how he moved around town without being seen by the police or residents.
He walked down to a drug store and bought a six pack of water bottles. He stepped out and headed for the Dragon Causeway. How much time did he have before Byrd missed him and started trying to track him down?
He expected the junior agent would pick him up on the way to the park. He would be exasperated and a little touchy about being ditched. But maybe he would drive down to the park so they could look around.
He wanted to make sure that his prediction was not talking about that, and was talking about some other sea of terror.
He cut through the neighborhoods, slicing through some wooded areas to reach his goal. He saw the highway approaching on his right. He checked the direction of the signs and headed along the highway, walking off the road where he could.
He should relearn how to drive if he was going to keep this up. How hard could it be?
The voices in his head disapproved of that notion as soon as it popped in his head. They didn't mind riding along while someone else drove, but they didn't want to be silent the whole time he was driving so he could reach his destination.
He supposed he would have to work things out with them sometime.
A loud refusal chorused through his mind.
He sat down on the ground. He sipped his water. He concentrated on the inner recesses of his mind. His unruly children glared back at him. Only Fluffy seemed contrite.
"Anybody want to tell me what is wrong about being able to drive?," Teller asked his voices.
The voices broke out with their reasons in loud tones. Even Fluffy danced and barked.
"Hold on," said Teller. "You. In the back. Blindfold and sword. What is wrong with being able to drive?"
"They're afraid that you won't listen to them," said the harsh voice. "They're afraid you will forget them even for a moment. They're lost ghosts who don't want to be lost any more."
The voices disagreed with the assessment, but Teller could see the voice had spoken the truth. He realized that voice wouldn't lie to him. It wouldn't be justice.
"So you guys think I'll stop talking to you," said Teller. "How am I going to do that? I can't do anything without you."
The voices looked at him with various looks of unbelief, disgust, and anger.
"I need to be able to move faster than walking in this situation," said Teller. "Scotty could be killing someone right now. So I'm going to need you to give me a dispensation and let me do what I got to do without too much interference. Can we have an agreement about this? I don't want to fight all of you, but I will and if I have to do that, we're done. I'll go back on my medicine and get rid of you any way I can."
Fluffy whined. He settled with his head on his paws.
"Every single one of you," said Teller. "I'll give up everything so I don't have to listen to you any more."
"That won't be justice," said the voice, holding up her scale. "That will be revenge."
"And I will carry that out," said Teller.
The voices spoke up to defend their existences. He looked at them. He liked most of them, even Angry Mo. He wasn't giving up basic rights to them.
"So do we have a deal?," asked Teller. "I'm cool with you living in my head, but you're not in charge."
Teller took a swig of his water. He climbed to his feet. He looked down the highway.
"Let's go," he said. "The sooner we look at this water park, the better I'll like it."
Ellis thanked the man who had picked him up on the side of the highway. He closed the door, shouldered his bag, and walked down the long driveway to the parking lot of the park. The fake dragon glared at the highway as he approached.
Where was the sea of terror? Once he found that, he could look around for Scotty, and then get out. He didn't plan to confront his former partner at all.
The voices in his head agreed with his assessment. Scotty had gone back into training, broke out of his hospital, and then started killing his victims. Teller had basically pulled himself together and retreated from the world.
He doubted the forms he practiced would stand up to the fury that Scotty invoked to do what he had to do.
Teller paused at the main gate of the park. A lock and chain had been used to secure it from anyone getting in and vandalizing the park. The metal looked scratched. Maybe Scotty picked the lock to let himself in and out of the place.
He looked around. He didn't see a car on the lot. He doubted Scotty walked to his killing zones. Where was the car?
Teller decided that if he found a car on the grounds, then maybe Scotty was there like the prediction indicated. And if he was there, a phone call might be enough to get people out there to start searching for him.
If Scotty knew he was looking for him, and was in the park, there might be some problems making the phone call.
He needed to get in and see if his hunch was right. If he was right, then a phone call could get the task force up there. If he was wrong, he could start looking for other places to fit the prediction.
He decided to leave his bag by the gate. If Byrd found it, he would know to come in and look around.
Teller stowed the bag behind a bush next to the gate. He looked around and spotted cameras. He shrugged. That depended on Scotty having turned the power on so he could use the cameras in the first place.
How did he get through the gate to get started?
He decided he could brace himself against the frame and use the gate as a handhold to pull himself to the top of the wall. Then he could drop down inside.
It took him a few tries but he finally was able to use the gate to get to the top of the wall on one side of the metal rails. He dropped down inside the park. Nothing moved.
He decided that the central pool area would be the place to start looking around. It was marked below the haunted house ride on the park map standing to one side. He wondered if Scotty had decided to be funny and used the place for his base of operations.
He might have been based out of this place the whole time, and left the letter to show he knew what was going on with the police.
It would be like Scotty to bug the Sheriff's Office to keep track of the people tracking him. He must have laughed like a hyena when he heard them planning to drag his old partner out of the mothballs.
Teller felt his voices were on the lookout with him. They were silent and tense. They knew the danger, and didn't want to do anything to get them all killed.
"Car," said Silent Jones. He pointed Teller's eyes at the old Buick parked by the concession stand.
Teller paused. He turned in a circle, scanning the area. Fluffy and Silent pointed at various things as he did so. It looked like he was right about one thing.
Did he do a search, or get out before there was trouble?
He decided that he should get out of there and call for a cover on the park. There were too many exits for Scotty to use if he wanted to escape.
And if he didn't want to escape, Teller didn't know if he could take his once friend when the rubber hit the road. The face of the dead man from the sanitarium didn't fill him with confidence.
He decided to head back to the gate. The car could mean anything. It was indicative of someone living in a closed facility. And since he didn't want to brace employees without a badge, he could look for the supposed employee with the help of a lot of men with firearms.
That suited him down to the core. His voices agreed with his assessment, but some wanted him to go against his better judgement and look around now that he knew Scotty was on the scene.
He decided to ignore them as best he could until he let Danny Brubaker know what was going on.
Scotty couldn't be allowed to keep killing people because he wanted to. And chasing him around a closed park was not the way to stop him. It was a lot better to have a bunch of people show up and do the job for him.
He turned as he walked to the gate. Fluffy was on alert. He wasn't alone on the midway. Someone was down there with him.
He looked around. He didn't see anyone. Maybe his imagination was giving him too much information. He didn't like the fear that was creeping up his spine.
He decided that he should get to the gate and get out of the park while he could. He doubted that Scotty was going to let him go if he found him loose in his wonderland.
The thought of a smashed face flashed through his mind again. This was a really bad idea now that he was in the middle of withdrawing from it. He should have at least told Byrd what he was doing.
He decided he could regret his decisions later. He could even think about it over another Junie special.
Teller reached the gate. He looked around. Scotty was not in sight. That was good as far as he was concerned.
He got some running room and charged the gate at an angle. He ran up the wall adjacent to the gate and grabbed the top of the gate. He swung over and dropped down to the other side.
He smiled that worked better than he thought. He felt a tremor through his leg. He waited for it to pass before grabbing his bag. He headed across the parking lot.
He had to get away from the place and hope that Scotty hadn't seen him.
He might have gotten someone killed by looking at the place close up instead of talking to Byrd about it.
He walked across the lot toward the exit road to the highway. He needed to get to a phone. He hoped that Scotty wouldn't leave a mocking letter about how much of a coward he was for running from the shadows instead of throwing a light out.
Fluffy started barking in his head. It was high alert barking. It was the kind of barking he did when he saw a stranger for the first time.
Teller looked over his shoulder. The Buick was at the gate. He didn't like that at all. The driver got out and unlocked the padlock and pushed the gate out of the way. A left handed white man with sunglasses said Silent Jones with dour satisfaction.
"Of course it would be," said Teller. He aimed for the side of the road. He couldn't stay where the car could run him down.
He had to head for the woods.
He jumped the curb and headed into the trees. He had to head for the highway and hope that someone would stop and pick him up so he could report the park. He just had to avoid Scotty the whole time he was looking for help.
He started into the trees as he heard the car roaring up the little road. He realized the car was the perfect size for hauling bodies around in the trunk, and he didn't want to be one of them.
He wished he had driven to the park now. He cursed his voices and their fear as he ran among the trees. The park wall was on his right, and the sound of the highway was on his left. He needed to veer toward the rushing cars.
He thought he heard the snapping of twigs and undergrowth behind him. As long as Scotty didn't have a gun, he only had to worry about being stabbed. He felt he could take a stabbing if he was careful enough.
He found the trees dropping away to his left. He frowned as he realized the Department of Transportation had put up a wall of sound dampening panels. There was no way he could get through that if he wanted to get away from Scotty.
Did he turn back and hope the wall ended before he ran into Scotty, or did he keep running straight ahead? What about dropping into the park?
He decided that entering the park was the last thing he wanted to do. It gave Scotty too many places to hide while he would be back to ducking and dodging and trying to find a phone.
The last thing he wanted was to play hide and seek with a guy who wanted to slice him up into pieces on the guy's home ground.
He had been part of a building clearing operation once. He had wound up chasing some guy through the halls and up and down stairs until the guy jumped out of a window to a roof next door. Until that happened, every moment felt like the guy was waiting for him behind every closed door and blind corner.
This was starting to feel the same way instead he was the one being chased.
He cleared the trees and found himself at the edge of a drop into a small river heading south. He looked around. It looked like he was heading into the park.
"Hello, Ellis," said Scotty. "Long time, no see."
"Hello, Scotty," said Teller. "You're looking pretty bad."
"Tell me about it," said Scotty. "What are you doing here?"
"The task force asked me come out here and look into things," said Teller. "You could have just checked out of the sanitarium. You didn't have to kill the guy to leave."
"I kind of did," said Scotty. "He was up in my face from day one when he saw they kept me locked down and drugged up. He thought I would let that pass. He didn't know who he was messing with, so I stopped taking the pills, got out of my jacket and fixed him up."
"Then you escaped after messing up his face," said Teller. The voices looked for a way out, but Wainwright blocked the path back to the park's parking lot. He had a knife in hand, so just asking to pass wasn't going to work.
"That's right," said Scotty. "You should have stayed in whatever hospital you were in, Ellis."
"I wasn't in a hospital," said Teller. "They cut me loose."
"What?," said Scotty.
Teller jumped into the water below.
The water made Teller think he had made the wrong move. Maybe he should have taken his chances with Scotty. He gritted his teeth against the cold and started swimming toward a shore, trying to ride the current.
He saw an estuary ahead. The water seemed to pool together in the calm spot. He pulled himself into the low area and climbed out on the bank. At least he had been right about Scotty not shooting.
What did he do now? It was a long walk back to town. He could maybe walk down to the next exit and call Byrd for a pick up. He would get chewed out for cluing Scotty in that he had guessed which killer he was going to use for his template.
Out of all of his options, what was the least bad thing to do?
The voices in his head expressed their opinions in some short tones and foul language. Fluffy barked at him for being so stupid. The blindfold and sword pointed back the way he had came, back toward the entrance to the park.
"So the plan is to go back in the park and let Scotty know we survived jumping into the runoff from the place and swam out of his reach," said Teller. "Am I missing something?"
"Now we know he isn't using a gun, we can take him with our hands," said one of the voices. "We just need to make sure he can't use the car on us."
"So the consensus is we should go in there and try to find him and try to take him out, instead of calling the Feds and letting them do their job?," said Teller. "Is that what I am hearing?"
"He won't wait around for long," said the voice. "He's going to figure you told someone where you'd be. He can't take the chance that you didn't. He's probably packing up to move to his next base."
"If he has a next base," said Silent Jones. "My read is he had been settled in a long time before we arrived. He might have thought no one would track him back to the park. We shook him with our appearance."
"And he might run scared," said the other voice, the planning voice. "And if he's running scared, we can do something to him before he knows we're there."
"All right," said Teller. "Let's see what we can do. Maybe you guys are right. Maybe this is our only chance of doing what we have to do."
One of the voices held up a map to show him where he was, where the park was, and the fact he would have to climb back up to where he jumped, and then maneuver to the outer wall of the place to get back in.
"Got it," said Teller. "Let's see what we can do before I change my mind and head out for the high lonesome."
Teller started working his way along the bank. He paused every few feet to take in the sounds flowing around him. If Scotty set off the local animals, that would be great as a warning, but a deep character flaw.
The outer wall of the park became visible as he walked along. He checked the trail before heading toward the thing. He could probably climb it and start looking for his former partner.
He thought that he was making a bad decision, spurred on by imaginary voices. He should walk away and get help instead of listening to his chorus.
Did Scotty think he was dead? Would he be on watch? Would he believe his former partner had arrived alone?
He would move his base anyway. What one man had uncovered, another man could uncover. It was better to set up somewhere else where he didn't think he would be unmasked again.
Then he could go back on the hunt.
Teller looked at the wall. There was a gap between it and the hill leading down to the estuary. He looked up and thought maybe it was taller here than at the main gate. He looked around and frowned that the trees had been cut to clear an open space between ground and barrier.
The park wanted to keep people from jumping the wall and entering without paying. He considered options. Could he go up the trail and find a better place to try to go over? He decided he would try that before he thought about jumping the wall from where he stood.
Who wanted to fall down into a cleft and not have a way back out. That would just lead to more trouble than it was worth.
In twenty years, Byrd would find him still stuck in place and shake his head at the stupidity.
Teller paused when he thought he had found a place he could get across. The wall was just as high, but there wasn't a natural moat. Some of the trees had grown up beside it to allow him to use them as natural ladders. All he had to do was climb up and drop over on the other side.
He grabbed the lowest branch he could reach and tried to pull himself up. It cracked under his weight and dropped him back to the ground. He ignored the laughter in the back of his head. He stepped back. He took a short run and used the trunk of the tree to climb to a branch that looked like it could support his weight. He pulled himself up and sat next to the trunk.
Teller shifted around until he could see over the top of the wall. He jumped down past the bricks and hit the ground in a roll. He waited for the feeling to come back in his legs before he tried to stand.
Now he had to find Scotty and do what he could to fix the mess he was in.
He looked around until he saw another map of the park. He scurried over to read it. The sea of terror was to his left. He wondered if Scotty was around the haunted house, or in one of the other buildings.
He supposed the prediction had pointed him to the right place after all.
He decided that he had enough cover to sneak along. He doubted the place still had power after being shut down. Scotty would have to bring his own power supply. So the cameras might be off.
He checked for them before he moved from his spot to a place where the trees and bushes had taken over in a small plot of grass. He looked for other spots he could cross to without being seen by the cameras he did see. He scurried from one hiding place to the next.
He nodded when he spotted the Buick next to the haunted house instead of in its original parking spot.
What should he do now? He had to make sure Scotty couldn't move to a new place. Or he had to ride along and hope to take his former partner by surprise. He had to get close to the haunted house in either case.
If he could stow away, he could ride along to Scotty's next place, and then call the cops on him. There was so much that could go wrong with that plan, he felt it was better to just try to punch his former friend in the face when he came out of the haunted house.
Could he take Scotty in a fight? That was something he had never asked himself before that moment. He didn't think he could.
Scotty had breezed past all the physical requirements at Quantico. He had excelled at unarmed combat, as well as firearms.
Teller had not.
He crept to the side of the building. He listened. There were sounds, but they weren't indicative of someone knowing he was there and planning to get rid of him.
He worked his way down to the front corner of the fake house. He spotted the open door. Scotty was taking off from the look of things.
He could wait right here and take Scotty by surprise. His voices gave him a mixed vote on that, but Fluffy whined. Something had to be done. Fluffy whined when trouble threatened.
Had Scotty grabbed someone already? What had he planned to do? The park's water supply was gone. How had he planned to drown his victim?
Teller went to the door. Sounds of a struggle reached his ears. He went in as quietly as he could. He didn't want Scotty to concentrate on his area instead of his victim.
He skulked through the house until he found a central room with a pool in the middle of the floor. Water filled the concrete depression. Scotty and a woman struggled, but he was winning since he almost had her face in the water.
Teller looked down at his fist. He could do this. He just needed some speed to cross the room and start punching before Scotty drowned his victim. He could do it.
He could do it.
He charged across the open space. Scotty heard him and looked up. The killer pushed the woman into the water as he stood to meet his former friend.
Teller slipped into the first form. He moved through his positions as smoothly as he could. His hands worked on their own as he tried to force Scotty into a position where he could apply a hold and end the contest.
Scotty didn't have the smoothness of his training. He swung wildly, trying to knock down the hands and arms reaching for him. He landed a combination in the middle of his fury that knocked his enemy back.
He flung himself forward at the perceived weakness. Once Teller was dead, he could go back to doing what he pleased. He heard the barking of a dog, and a voice screaming for Justin. He felt an impact on his neck and dropped to the floor. He couldn't breathe all of a sudden.
"I'm going to tell them you fell," said Teller. "And it was justice."
Agent Bobby Byrd looked the scene over. He scratched the back of his head. He frowned at his consultant, and the woman his consultant had saved. Both of them looked miserable.
Deputies, forensic people, some people from a funeral home, FBI agents, and state troopers did what they did best. There was nothing he could do about any of that at the moment. The report generated would put everything on Scott Wainwright cracking and becoming Norvell Two. He was sure of that since their one witness identified the one eyed man as the man who had kidnaped her and tried to drown her when things hadn't gone his way.
Statements had been taken by others. Bluth had not been happy with the ten sentences he had pried out of Teller.
The words amounted to I came down to look around on a hunch, and punched my former friend in the throat to save some stranger didn't quite explain everything to the SAC's satisfaction.
Byrd didn't quite know what to make of it himself as he walked over to them.
"You two going to the hospital?," he asked quietly.
"Agent Byrd, this is Amelia," said Teller. "Amelia, this is Agent Byrd."
"Pleased to meet you," said Byrd. "How are you doing?"
"I'm okay, a little relieved to tell you the truth," said Amelia. "Mr. Teller saved my life."
"Mr. Teller was not supposed to run around on his own," said Byrd. "But he found you. That counts a lot against ditching me."
"Don't think of it as ditching," said Teller. "Think of it as taking a walk."
"The only reason I haven't shot you is things worked out," said Byrd. "But you did ditch me when you said you wouldn't, you came out here and almost got killed, and you didn't call for help when you knew you needed it."
"You evil ditcher, you," said Amelia. She smiled.
"Don't encourage this behavior," said Byrd. "It'll only make him do the same thing in the future to somebody who might not be a psycho."
"I'm going back to retirement, Byrd," said Teller. "It's time for the Bureau to take all the credit for my guesswork."
"I guess we can do that," said Byrd. "Amelia, what did the medics say?"
"I'm fine," said Amelia. "I need to take it easy and let the shock wear off, and then try to ease back into my life."
"Would you like a lift back into town?," said Byrd. "There will probably be questions later, but I think you can go home right now."
"That would be great," said Amelia. She brushed her curly hair back with a hand. "Mr. Teller says he has beaten the Junie challenge twice."
"Maybe," said Byrd.
"I need a lift to the airport," said Teller. "It's time for me to head back into the desert."
"You might be stuck here for a while," said Byrd. "Bluth is going to want to go over your statement with a fine tooth comb."
"I don't see where I have anything to add to the statement," said Teller.
"The guy fell and choked to death?," said Byrd. "Sounds familiar somehow."
"The familiarity has nothing to do with me," said Teller.
"It's almost deja vu," said Byrd. "Isn't that what happened at the airport?"
"I don't see the connection," said Teller.
"Really?," said Byrd. "You don't? You don't see the problem?"
"I have to say this was justice," said Teller. "And self-defense on top of that. And now it's over."
Byrd frowned at the thinner man. There was something rolling around in the man's head. He could see it in the mismatched eyes.
"A phone call would have been good, Ellis," said Byrd. "I would have come up here with you, and we could have arrested the guy without killing him."
"Or he would have done to you what Norvell did to me," said Teller. "Being a person with issues is not really great, Byrd. And there are some things that people shouldn't have to know, much less deal with on a daily basis. I would like to go home, and so would this charming lady. Could we get a lift, please?"
"I guess so," said Byrd. "Come on before they put the both of you in the hospital for psych evaluations."
"Thanks," said Amelia. "It will be great to get home and lock myself in for a while."
"The reporters will want your story," said Byrd. "You might want to make sure to cut your phone off until this blows over."
"I don't know if I still have a job," said Amelia. "I was trapped in my cage for a long time."
"We will talk to your employer," said Byrd. "I don't know how much good that will do."
"Don't worry, Amelia," said Teller. "Things will work out in the end."
Byrd led them to his rental. He helped the woman into the back seat. He frowned as he gestured at Teller to ride up front.
"I need to call my sister when I get a chance," said Amelia. She wrapped the blanket around her. "I think I need someone to sit with me."
"I can ask the sheriff to have a deputy sit with you for a while," said Byrd. He got behind the wheel.
Teller rearranged his bag across his lap in the passenger seat.
"I think that would be okay for a bit," said Amelia. "I feel cold all of a sudden."
"Let's take you to the hospital," said Byrd. "I think you should have professionals looking after you for the time being."
"All right," said Amelia. "I don't feel so good all of a sudden."
"Just keep talking to us," said Teller. "As long as you're talking, you're doing okay."
Byrd didn't think that was how things worked, but he didn't say anything. Instead he pushed the gas pedal all the way down and sped along the highway toward the nearest hospital. He concentrated on the road as he whipped by other motorists like they were standing still.
Blue lights came on behind them, but Byrd didn't slow down. He saw the sign for the hospital and the miles. He could deal with a speeding ticket when he had Amelia in the ER.
"We're not stopping," said Byrd. "I'm going to have to get off at the next exit and then head right, I think. I'm going to need you to look around for the signs since I will be too busy worrying about the other people on the road."
"It's the next left," said Teller. He looked around. "Head up the ramp, turn left and head straight. We'll be able to get to the driveway to the Emergency Room in five minutes the way you're driving."
Byrd said nothing. He watched the traffic around him as he sped along. The rental held at a hundred miles an hour with no problem. It wouldn't do that for long, but he just needed to drive five miles.
"Ramp, Byrd," said Teller. "Looks like a state guy who didn't get the call down to the water park."
"How fast are we going?," asked Amelia. "I get carsick."
"About thirty," said Teller. "Ramp, Byrd."
"Got it," said Byrd. He pulled off the highway, whipping by cars trying to figure which way they were supposed to be turning. He spun into the intersection, going around a delivery truck and then he was on the straightaway.
"He's still hanging on back there," said Teller. "He paused at the light, but he's coming on strong."
"Which way from here?," said Byrd.
"Keep straight," said Teller. "All right, two more roads, and turn right. There will be a big sign for the hospital."
"Got it," said Byrd. He slowed as he watched for the second road, then sped up again as soon as he made the turn. He nodded when he saw the sign for the hospital and directional signs to push him across the parking lot to the ER.
"All right," said Byrd. "I'm going to have to explain everything to the Statie. Get her checked in and get the doctors working on her."
"All right," said Teller. "How hard could that be?"
"She's our only witness," said Byrd. "Do whatever you have to up to punching people in the throat."
Byrd rolled across the parking lot, and pulled up in front of the sliding Emergency Room doors. Security tried to wave him to move his car. The agent showed his identification and told him to get out of the way.
Teller lifted the woman out of the back seat of the car. He didn't like the sweat rolling down her brow. What had Scotty done?
He carried her into the hospital and placed her in a wheelchair. A nurse tried to divert him from rolling Amelia back to the treatment area. He calmly told the RN that the government was involved and if anything happened to their witness, people were going to get examined until the government was happy.
And the government was never going to be happy.
That was enough to get the ball rolling. They asked Teller to step out while they did their examination. He remained in a chair in the hall so he could be close by.
Byrd walked into the hall minutes later. He shook his head as he talked on the phone. He was asking the techs to check the water in the park for anything poisonous. Amelia might have been given bad water since she was going to die anyway.
"How is she?," Byrd asked as he put his phone away.
"Don't know yet," said Teller. "That was some nice driving."
"The Statie still tried to write me a ticket," said Byrd. "I had to threaten to take his uniform from him."
"You don't have the authority to do that," said Teller.
"If Amelia dies, watch me try," said Byrd.
Teller nodded and closed his eyes. He still had to get out of town at his earliest convenience. That meant avoiding Bluth, and getting on an airplane to anywhere else. Then he could get another airplane back to Arizona, and then back to his town. His trailer would be a cab ride away at that point.
The voices milled around, lost in their own little worlds. He nodded again. As long as nothing happened, they would remain calm for a bit. When he went to sleep, they would start walking in his dreams.
He could live with that at the moment.
Teller woke up in an easy chair. It took him a moment to realize where he sat. He looked around slowly.
They had moved Amelia to a room upstairs after the scare she had given them the day before. Teller had stayed, while sending Byrd home. The agent still had to file a report on what had happened, but the hospital didn't know what to make of her strange symptoms.
Teller eased out of his chair. He grabbed his bag and headed into the bathroom. He frowned at the lack of locks on the door. He decided that didn't matter as long as the nurses left him alone for the time he needed to do his morning routine.
He practiced his forms slowly. He needed to do better than he had against Scotty. He had poured everything in a desperation move when things weren't going his way. It had worked, but he wouldn't want to rely on it.
When he was done, he sat on the floor and closed his mind. The voices fell silent as he tried to focus on his mind and what he wanted it to do. They were all of his emotions and capabilities, but they were also a crowded room with their own wants. This brief moment he felt connected to all of them and didn't have to treat them as separate beings.
He came out of his trance. He pulled his writing things out of his bag. That had come through the ride down the river in perfect condition. The desert didn't get much rain, but when it did, it soaked everything. Keeping everything in a waterproof bag had been the perfect solution for that.
He wrote out the prediction and placed it in its envelope. He took out the one for the day. He opened it and read the words.
Beware of stories designed to make you believe in the stranger's misfortunes.
What did that mean?
Teller tore the prediction up and flushed it down the toilet.
He didn't like what it implied. He clutched the sink. He had to make sure.
His predictions weren't always right, but when they were, they saved him a lot of trouble.
And this had the makings of a lot of trouble in his book.
He pulled on his bag and opened the bathroom door. Amelia seemed to be sleeping according to her heart monitor. He crept out of the room. He didn't want to go far in case he was right.
He didn't like this at all.
He went to the desk and asked to use the phone. The nurse on duty showed him how to dial out. She asked about the phone in the room, but he explained the patient was still sleeping and he didn't want to wake her. He dialed the Sheriff's Office.
"Sheriff's Office," said the voice on the other end.
"Is Brubaker in?," asked Teller.
"No," said the desk man. "What's this about?"
"Is Byrd in?," said Teller. "I need to talk to him, or Bluth, if they are there."
"Hold on," said the desk man. "I'll see if they are in the conference room."
The line started playing an elevator version of Shakedown in Teller's ear. That was the last song he wanted to hear at the moment. He drummed the counter with his fingers as he waited.
"Byrd," said the agent. Teller held in the sigh of relief.
"This is Teller," said Teller. His voices laughed at him for identifying himself. "I need you to run Amelia's prints. Can you do it?"
"I need them to do that," said Byrd. "Wait."
The line started playing a mellow version of the S.W.A.T. theme song.
"We have her prints," said Byrd after the song had switched to I Shot the Sheriff. "We took them to exclude them from the others we found at the haunted house. There were some more bodies up there. They found them after we left."
"I'm not surprised," said Teller. "After you run the prints, call back to the desk and have the nurse get me. Don't call the room."
"You want to tell me what's going on?," Byrd asked.
"I sat down and meditated and then I read the prediction for the day," said Teller. "It was not good."
"So you don't want to tell me what's going on," said Byrd.
"Run the prints, then run them for crimes," said Teller. "I'll be here at the hospital unless Amelia checks herself out. Then I'll be wherever she is."
"Got it," said Byrd. "I hope you're wrong about things. I hate to think I shouted a state trooper down over something wrong."
"Don't worry, they're used to it," said Teller. "I have to go."
He hung up the phone. He thanked the nurse and went back to the room. He hoped Byrd found something to justify his suspicion. He might have killed the wrong person.
He crept into the room and sat back down in the easy chair. He shifted so he could watch Amelia to make sure that he was ready for when she woke up. The doctors had her hooked to a saline bag and antibiotics but they hadn't narrowed things down on what had happened to her yesterday.
She was supposed to have some bed rest, and then be released in a few days. By that time, the task force will have cleared the haunted house.
The prediction had turned things upside down, and he didn't like what it implied. If he could get through the day, he could hand things over to Byrd with a clear conscience and head home.
He settled in to wait. That was all he could do at the moment.
The nurse came in and did a check of vitals, wrote it down, and left. She didn't engage in any small talk. Teller was grateful for that. He didn't have a lot to say.
Amelia woke up in time for breakfast. They split the food since she said she didn't have the strength to eat it all. Teller was not one to turn down scrambled eggs and toast.
They talked about what they were going to do when everything was settled. Teller held to the conviction that he was going back to Arizona and he was going to go back to his routine. Traveling was for the birds.
Amelia wanted to get back to her job and put everything behind her.
He didn't blame her for that. He was glad that his pension meant he didn't have to work at all.
Danny Brubaker poked his head into the room about noon. He pulled off his hat, and smiled.
"Ellis, could you step out here in the hall for a minute," said the sheriff. "There are some questions about your self-defense claim. I need to talk to you about that."
"Sure," said Teller. He pulled himself out of the chair. "What do you want to know?"
"Just some things that came up," said Danny. "We'll have to talk to you when you feel better, ma'am. Just standard procedure."
"All right," said Amelia. She smiled.
Teller stepped out in the hall. He was not surprised to see Bluth and Byrd. They seemed a little disturbed.
Brubaker waved them down the hall. One of his deputies took up a spot at the door.
"How did you know?," asked Bluth.
"Know what?," asked Teller. The fingerprints must have triggered something.
"Her fingerprints are all over the crime scenes," said Byrd. "All of them."
"You're kidding me," said Teller.
"No," said Byrd. "She was up at the sanitarium with Wainwright. She got out a few months before he made his escape."
Teller blinked. He rubbed his face, trying to massage out the sudden pain in his lighter colored eye.
"Let me," said Brubaker. "The exclusionary prints you asked us to run matches to Edith Sone. She was up at Holcomb for pyromania. She supposedly responded to treatment and was released, but put on outpatient status. She was supposed to call in every week. She immediately skipped her appointments.
"When Wainwright killed the other guy and escaped, Edith's prints were in the room. Nobody thought anything about it since she was a patient.
"And they were present at several of the murder houses," said Brubaker. "We have a lot of questions for her."
"She'll deny everything," said Teller. "Who's the real Amelia?"
"She's one of the bodies we found up at the park after you two brought her down to the hospital," said Bluth. "We found her I.D. in another spot."
"Pull the deputy off the door," said Teller. "Danny, tell her we had to go down to the station and we'll be back when we have things sorted out. If she runs, we can pull her out of the hospital and take her in. Then you guys can try to crack her."
"We can just arrest her," said Byrd.
"You have a suspicion that a good defense lawyer can spin that she was there with Scotty and afraid to disobey him after seeing what he did to his victims," said Teller. "She'll walk. But if we can prove she's lying about being helplessly sick, we can prove that she's lying about everything else."
"And we have to drag in Kansas City to show that she helped Wainwright escape from the sanitarium," said Bluth. "The only thing we have is she is using someone else's name, and testimony that Wainwright was trying to kill her. That goes with the bruises around her neck."
"So we wait," said Brubaker.
"We'll have to cover the exits first," said Teller. "Preferably with people who don't look like police."
"Got it," said Brubaker. "Let's see what we can do with this."
The sheriff went to the room door and leaned inside. He told Amelia that they were talking to Ellis down at the office. He would be back as soon as they were done.
Byrd and Teller descended to the ground floor. They took up a position to watch a spot that no one but morgue attendants used.
"How did you know?," asked Byrd.
"I told you," said Teller. "I have mental issues. Why do you think I live in the desert with no one else around?"
"I hadn't thought of it that way," said Byrd.
"Norvell cracked Scotty and me," said Teller. "Danny seems to have turned out all right."
They paused as the door to the outside opened. Teller sighed, while Byrd reached for his pistol.
"Edith Sone, you're under arrest for murder," said Byrd. "Put your hands up and turn around."
Ellis Teller looked out at the desert. It called to him. The morning prediction stated that a rock would be added to his garden. He wondered where he would find one of sufficient quality.
He decided he could do his patrol to show the lizards he was back on the job. Maybe something would present itself.
He spotted a cloud of dust coming toward his trailer as he pulled on his hat and undid the top to a bottle of water. He shielded his eyes with a hand and wondered who could be visiting him.
The cloud of dust turned into a rental car. Bobby Byrd sat behind the wheel. His boyish face seemed less stressed this visit.
Teller frowned. The case was closed. Edith Sone's arrest had led to a lot of things that had been taken to court and she had been confined to a state prison from what he had read. The defense had wanted her confined to Holcomb to be treated, but she couldn't deny she knew right from wrong.
The task force had broken up and Teller had returned home long before the thing went to trial. Byrd had no reason to visit him except for help with another case. He didn't want that.
Living in the desert is what allowed him to keep his voices in check. Moving in the real world again had forced him to deal with them in ways that were unpleasant on both sides.
And he didn't have explanations for his predictions and how they worked. That was something he viewed as helping him with the voices and the mental disorder they caused.
What did you tell someone who knew that you had been released from a mental institute and you still had some of your problems? You didn't tell that you are using predictions of the future to get things done.
"What brings you by?," said Teller. Please don't be another case. I don't want to leave my home again.
"I have a couple of things for you," said Byrd. He got out of the car and went to the trunk.
"You didn't bring another case file?," said Teller. "I don't think I can investigate anything anymore."
"No, I brought you something better than a case," said Byrd. He pulled out a box and an envelope from the trunk.
"What are those?," said Teller. He pointed at the objects.
"They're yours," said Byrd. "The envelope is from Juneville. The box is from us at the office."
"I don't want to be mean, but I was never struck by any of the task force people being gift giving types," said Teller.
"Mostly this is from Sheriff Brubaker," said Byrd. He hefted the box in one hand.
"Danny sent something?," said Teller. "What is in the box, Byrd?"
"I think you should open the envelope first," said Byrd.
Teller took the paper. He split the top and pulled out a check. He frowned at the amount on the front of the thing.
"What's this for?," said Teller. He waved the check at the messenger.
"For service above and beyond," said Byrd.
"Seriously?," said Teller. "Try again."
"It's the reward money from capturing Norvell Two," said Byrd.
"You're kidding," said Teller. "Wait. I was acting as a consultant for the Bureau. I can't get any reward money."
"Wrong," said Byrd. "Apparently you were acting as my consultant which is different than acting as an agent for the Bureau. It means I don't get the money, which I so richly deserve for hiring you to help out."
"The town stiffed you," said Teller.
"Like a bum in a diner," said Byrd. "But they weren't going to give me the reward. I was on duty. We both know that."
"I will bury this check somewhere that no one else will know about," said Teller.
"Better put it in the bank because it's only good for thirty days," said Byrd. "After that, the town keeps the money."
"I wouldn't want them to do that," said Teller. "They've already ate up the rest of my career. What's in the box?"
"A gift," said Byrd. "I was telling Sheriff Brubaker about your rustic accommodations. He said he had seen the perfect thing to give you. Since he knew I had to come out here to deliver your check, he asked me to bring the gift too."
"You didn't have to deliver the check," said Teller. He folded the piece of paper and put it in his pocket.
"You don't have a mail box," said Byrd. "What was I supposed to do? Mail it to Bearclaw and wish it the best of luck getting out here?"
"Alright," said Teller. "I'll think about getting a mail box."
"How do you get mail if you don't have a mail box?," asked Byrd.
"I go into town and pick it up at the Post Office," said Teller. "I return the ones I don't want, and go through the ones I need to right there. It saves me from having to carry the mail back here to look at later."
"Sounds good," said Byrd. "If I had known that, I would have just mailed the stuff to the post office and saved myself a trip."
"I doubt it," said Teller. "So what's in the box?"
"It's something for your garden," said Byrd. "Brubaker said it was perfect for what you had."
"I'll be the judge of that," said Teller. "Let's see this marvelous piece of art."
Byrd opened the box and poured a small piece of rock in his hand. He held it up in the light and it glittered as light passed through its pink body. He smiled at the look on Teller's face.
"You guys got me a rock bunny," said Teller. "I can't believe you got me a rock bunny. Where did you find this? I have been looking for one of these through the Internet forever."
"Brubaker said his wife bought it and he wanted to get rid of it," said Byrd. "Since I was in town, he asked me to bring it out here to you."
"That is so cool but you flew from Kansas to Arizona to give me this," said Teller. "You could have just left a message with Craig, and I would have come into town to get it."
"I know, but the look on your face was worth it," said Byrd. "You looked like you seen a ghost."
"It's just what I have been looking for is all," said Teller. "It's like finding the last piece of cheese for your sandwich after thinking it's been used up."
Byrd handed over the piece of rock. The thing did look like a bunny sitting up and looking around.
Teller took the rock and held it up. The light passing through it revealed facets where it had been carved into shape. He took it to his rock garden and held it over the other rocks. He would have to rearrange things to get it looking just right again.
The bunny was the biggest rock he had. He could set the others around it like a king at court.
He spent a few minutes examining the angles. He adjusted each rock inch by inch. He stood back. It wasn't quite right, but it was okay enough for him to leave it for his patrol.
"What do you think?," asked Byrd. He had stood back and watched the rearrangement with some amusement.
"I can't quite seem to make everything gel in place," said Teller.
"Maybe you need another rock," said Byrd.
Teller stepped back from the garden. He closed his eyes. He opened them. He made a tiny adjustment to the rocks. He grimaced. Byrd was right. He needed another rock to place.
"I am going to have to look around for another stone," said Teller. "It's still not quite right."
"Does that mean walking in the desert?," said Byrd.
"Yes," said Teller.
"You are on your own," said Byrd.
"Thanks for bringing the rabbit and the check," said Teller. "Let's go into town. I can put the money in the bank and we can get dinner."
"All right," said Byrd. "What are you going to do with the money?"
"I'm going to set up an orphanage out here in the desert so children can enjoy the plain as much as I do," said Teller.
"I'm sure they will," said Byrd. He got behind the wheel of his rental. "It will probably be a nice place."
"Children love to experience the outdoors," said Teller. He got in the car.
"I'm sure they do," said Byrd. "How many children have you actually met?"
"A few," said Teller. "I have nieces and nephews, and I see a lady walking her baby all the time at the grocery store."
"I'm sure that will be really helpful running a school for orphans," said Byrd.
"I'm not going to run it," said Teller. "I'm just going to build it to make the town look bad."
"That sounds like you," said Byrd. He turned the car around and headed into Irly.
"Maybe," said Teller. Questions about orphans and their uses filled his head as his inner speakers tried to come to grips with the suggestion of children. Only the blindfolded figure with the sword was silent.
Children weren't justice.
Teller watched the train go by as they rode along the main road into town. Grocery day would have him catch it just ahead, and then get off at the main station in town. He would ride the one going the other way when he was done. A lot of the locals had cars so the train was for people who lived in the boonies and couldn't drive like him.
He had passed many an hour with poor families from the reservation, migrants, and revoked license holders while waiting for the train. He had met commuters coming into Irly to catch planes to their jobs, and then coming back and riding the train home at the end of the week.
"Drop me off at the bank," said Teller. "We can eat over at the diner. Get us a seat. I'll walk over when I'm done."
"Sounds like a plan," said Byrd. He pulled to a stop in front of the cube of bricks and glass known as the First Irly Bank and Trust. He waited for his passenger to get out before he pulled into a slot in front of Donna's Diner. He went inside, holding up two fingers to show he was eating with someone.
Teller opened a savings account and deposited the money. He didn't need it for his day to day, but having it collect interest while he went about his business appealed to him. He walked over to Donna's and joined Byrd at a table near the window.
"I haven't seen you in a coon's age, Ellis," said Donna Winnamacher, gray of hair, false teeth, and so many wrinkles on her skinny, short frame that she resembled a cloth doll that had been beat too much.
"You're still lovely as ever," said Ellis. "What do you have on special today?"
Donna went down the list, pointing out the pros and cons of the food, how it was prepared, ingredients, and a few tangents.
Teller asked for two of the cheapest things she had on the menu and smiled as she harrumphed away.
"Mr. Teller?," said Dorothy Gibbs as she came into the diner. "How are you doing?"
"Sit down with us," said Teller. "Donna, we need three specials on the government."
"I'll get on it," said Donna from the other side of the restaurant.
Byrd's phone rang. He frowned when he checked the number before he answered it. He engaged in a short conversation with the person on the other end. He hung up.
"I have to go," said Byrd. "Bluth just got assigned a case, and he wants me to go down and look at it."
"Don't leave without eating," said Teller. "Donna's food is awesome. Besides you'll have to drive fast to get to the airport before it closes."
"Duty calls," said Byrd. "It was a pleasure seeing you again, Mrs. Gibbs. Have a good time."
Byrd walked from the diner. He drove away into the sunset.