The Whistler - Chapter 19
By Karolyn Gray
"You need to stop this."
He spun around, startled at the presence of the woman who had snuck up on him. She was young, with inquisitive blue eyes and long brown hair, and wore a simple turtleneck sweater and slacks. When he looked into her eyes, he shivered at what he saw under the worry and sadness. She was ancient. His gift told him that.
Despite knowing she was special, powerful, he tried to cover his surprise at her discovering him watching the children on the playground. He shifted the broom in his grip, drawing her attention to it for a brief moment.
"I'm just sweeping the walk," he told her, languidly gesturing to the damp sidewalk with its assorted puddles and debris from the previous night's storm.
"Garland knows you're watching him. He won't stand for it," the woman replied.
He must have shown surprise at her statement as she titled her head to look at the brown haired gangly boy watching from the sidelines as the other kids played basketball. His eyes briefly flicked over to the boy in time to see a blond haired boy, another special one, approach and shove the object of his attention. A brief shoving match ensued, ending with the blond boy on the ground and another boy with black hair laughing at the thwarted bully.
"I won't hurt him," he said to her.
"You believe me?" He was genuinely surprised at her words. Those that knew of his record in Boston were already conspiring to have him driven from town. He wouldn't let them until his job here was complete. He only needed to find the monster he was searching for.
"I know you were the one who called about the Hagerson murders." He could tell by the look she gave him she was being truthful. She believed him, when no others did. "I also know every kidnapped child in Haven was one you were following."
"I was trying to protect them!" he hissed angrily.
"I know," she replied calmly, "But you also look like a suspect. Someone is using you."
He widened his eyes in shock. "You mean the kidnapper is using me to…to find his victims?"
"That's the way it looks to me." She sighed, shoving her hands into her pockets. "You should leave Haven before another is taken. Or you end up dead."
"I can't. I have to protect them."
Her eyes once more flicked to the brown haired boy, now apparently welcomed into the game by the other kids, in time to see him make a surprisingly smooth pass that allowed the black haired boy to make a basket. She smiled slightly at that even as she spoke. "If anything happens to him, Garland won't be so understanding. You know that."
"I won't let anything happen to him. Or the others," he replied determinedly.
"How many more?" She asked. "How many do you…see?"
He didn't contradict her interpretation of how he knew who one of his special children was, who was in danger. He didn't see them, per se, as she thought. It was more a sense of…feeling them. It was enough though that she seemed to accept and understand his affinity for them was not nefarious or perverted in nature.
"Here? Two for certain," he admitted. "There might be more but they…their gifts are dormant. They're not in danger."
"If you don't stop, if you get too close to the killer, he'll kill you."
He inhaled deeply at her words, considering them for a moment. For him there was no other answer to her warning. He shook his head. "If I stop, he will kill more of them. I can't allow that."
Her eyes seemed to fill with sorrow at his words. He noted for the first time her slouched form, as if she bore the weight of the world on her shoulders alone. Given what he could feel of her, her light in the surrounding darkness, he suspected she carried if not the weight of the world, then the heavy, ancient burden that is Haven.
"Good luck to you," she finally said. "I hope you have better luck than I did."
She turned to go as he puzzled over the harsh finality of her words. He knew her time here was almost done.
"Wait, miss, I don't even know you're name."
She paused, considering his request for a long moment. He could clearly see she was lost, hesitant and unsure for a moment before she set her jaw in stubborn determination. He could feel her power flare with whatever renewed certitude she had discovered within herself. It left him breathless as she answered.
"My name is Lucy Ripley."
"Do you hear that?"
Duke froze at Audrey's question, the first words either of them had spoken in twenty minutes. He listened to the forest around them, hearing nothing out of place. Bird song, the rustle of the branches and leaves in the wind, and a pair squirrels chattering noisily somewhere nearby. After listening for another moment he turned back to her. "What?"
"Sh." Audrey waved her hand at him indicating for him to be silent. He gave the detective an annoyed look that she chose to ignore but did as she asked. Given his obvious edginess about searching the Mitchum land, Audrey considered his silence a victory. Audrey tilted her head to the side carefully listening. After a moment she heard it: a soft sound. A familiar tune.
"There," she whispered.
Duke listened carefully before he finally caught the broken strains the cop heard. "It sounds like…humming?"
Audrey wordlessly nodded, slipping her pistol from its holster. She held a finger to her lips to indicate the need for silence, to which Duke nodded. By the way he adjusted the battered blue ball cap he wore and flexed his fingers she could tell he wished he had brought one of his guns from the assortment of weaponry she was certain he had stashed on the Cape Rogue and at the Gull. Truth be told, she wished he had brought them along as well.
Following the tune, they soon came upon a man in a stained brown coat and gray pants slowly crawling on the forest floor with a thick track of blood that trailed off back into the dense woods. Audrey instantly recognized the silvery haired man. "Tybalt!"
She rushed over and helped the old man turn over. She paled at the three gun shot wound tightly clustered in the old man's chest, his once crisp blue dress shirt now stained with a combination of near black mud and the old man' blood from the chest wounds, rusty brown streaks staining his arms and pants. "He's been shot," she called over to Duke, who had hung back warily.
Tybalt's dulled expression sharpened as he focused on her face, grasping her with surprising strength even as he wheezed out his words. "Audrey…help…"
"Sh. Don't worry we'll get some help," Audrey assured him, trying with little success to get Tybalt to lay down so she could try to stop the flow of blood from his wounds with her hand. She glanced up as Duke knelt down beside them, pushing his now folded up flannel shirt into the wounds. "Can you tell me who shot you?"
"Nathan…," Tybalt groaned at the pain of Duke's actions, eyes closing and the man's already pale face went ashen.
"Nathan shot you?" Audrey asked in confusion, brow furrowed in complete puzzlement.
"…help…Nathan," Tybalt whispered.
"Nathan? You've seen Nathan?" Duke asked as he shared a concerned look with Audrey.
"Mitchum…Wytchebough…," Tybalt coughed. He desperately grabbed Audrey's arm with such strength she actually winced at the pressure she could feel even through the heavy fabric of her tan jacket. He looked desperately at Audrey, his face pleading with her. "Nathan…the key…he'll kill…everyone."
Tybalt's eyes started to wander aimlessly, the old man gasping as he started to convulse. "Mr. Haskil! Tybalt! Stay with me."
Audrey tried to hold the old man's shaking form down. She shrieked when Tybalt suddenly rose up, flinging Duke onto his back before the old man engulfed her in a tight, near bone-crushing clinch.
"He hears you, Lucy."
Audrey froze at that, Tybalt's limbs going slack as he fell backwards. Only Duke's quick recovery prevented the old man's limp form from collapsing back into ground.
Tybalt's breaths wheezed from him, a curious look coming to his face, eyes wide in wonder as he stared at the clouds through the forest canopy above them. "Do you…hear…?"
"Tybalt?" Audrey asked, earning a sad shake of the head from the smuggler after he checked the man's pulse.
Audrey sat back on her heels, Tybalt's words running through her head over and over confused at what it all could mean. All she knew for certain was Tybalt believed Nathan was nearby. If true, that meant the Mitchums were somehow all tied to what was happening with the missing children, their murders, and her partner's recent strange behavior. She felt her guts twist at the implication that the man who had become her best friend was somehow involved.
"So what do we do now?" Duke asked. Audrey was grateful for the interruption breaking her free of the sinister direction her thoughts took her.
The staccato sounds of gunshots interrupted her. Both instinctually hunkered down even further in their kneeled positions.
"Nathan," they said together.