Teasers & Deleted Scenes
Tyler County, TX, May 31, 2008
Outside there's bustle, voices, the Japanese monster-movie hiss of water through fire hoses as the firefighters borrow time for the techs to process the scene. But they're finished in here. The living and the dead have been removed, and now forensics is photographing the floodlit yard. All that bustle is outside in another world, not the world where Chaz spent the last seven days chained to a staple in the floor.
So Stephen Reyes walks alone through a house that might as well be silent, every light glaring.
It's a violation of scene protocol to touch the switches, even with gloved hands, but nobody's going to file an action for excessive force against Chaz. It doesn't matter. The perp is dead. The victim lived.
This will never see the inside of a courtroom, except the one in Reyes' head. And it's not Chaz on trial. Anymore.
On his third pass through the house, Reyes shuts off the lights. One by one, starting from the entryway. Enough illumination filters in from outside to get by on and he knows where the blood is. He darkens the great room, the dining room, the hallway. He passes into the kitchen, and brings the light down there as well.
And then he stands in the darkness, hands cupped to his ears, and listens. Not to the voices in the yard, the engines, and the encroaching flames. But to the wind in the leaves, the whirr of insects, the beat of his own heart. He breathes deep, and smells smoke, roses, stale metallic water, stale metallic blood. Sweat, starvation. Sugar. No, honey. Cinnamon.
And what was it like, to lie here in the darkness on the cement pad and listen to the beat of your heart, the hiss of your breath through your nostrils, the rattle of your chains? What was it like to stand in this kitchen, to hear the chained man breathing in the next room, and think on how to wear him down?
He thinks, Get the hospital to check all gift deliveries with me. No candy, no flowers. Especially no roses.
Reyes reaches out blindly and finds the light. His hand falls to his side. Slowly, he turns in the kitchen. It's clean, worn, scrubbed. There's no blood here. Food wrappers in the trash: an apple core, an empty jar of peanut butter--the plastic sides swiped clean by fingers rather than a butter knife--and foil from a brand of granola bars he knows Chaz liked. Another granola bar on the counter, lying on the opened wrapper, broken into fragments. One knife from the knife rack is missing.
The clean empty bucket, and the one half-full of water. Reyes kneels beside it, bends down, sniffs. Stale, but drinkable. If he weren't wearing gloves, if he trusted the water, he'd dip his hands and taste.
He rises and turns and walks away, through the dining room, great room, entryway, leaving each light blazing in turn, as he found them. He means to leave the door unlocked and open behind him as he walks away, but it's hung crooked. He jumps when it slams of its own accord.
Lau moves toward him, brisk steps, chin high, hair swinging. He stops and waits, head turned in expectation but his body angled away. Mixed messages, Stephen?
She swallows. Her eyes glisten. He waits.
"Chaz made it to the hospital," she says. "Falkner just called. They're flying him to Johns Hopkins. She says--" A snagged breath, but she gets control, and eases the next words past. "She says his odds aren't bad."