The Whistler - Chapter 23
By Karolyn Gray
Audrey couldn't help the smile that came to her face at the familiar sight. Her partner was sitting at his favorite bench looking out over boats entering and leaving the cove, leaned over with one of his arms resting on his knees. While she was still a little annoyed at him for checking himself out of the hospital without letting anyone know before hand she couldn't help but feel things were getting back to normal.
'Well, Haven normal,' she amended to herself.
That didn't mean she was not going to lecture him about his sudden unscheduled early departure from the hospital, especially since he had obviously promptly ignored the doctor's orders to take it easy for another week or so as evidenced by her spending the last two hours looking for him in the usual places: his home, the police station (under the glaring eyes of the Chief), and even the Gull (which had irked Duke).
As she got closer she could see his was deep in thought, blue eyes focused on some point out on the horizon. She had seen the look several times since he woke in the hospital. She had prodded him about it until he had finally admitted he was more than a little bothered by what happened. She didn't blame him, especially after what the investigation at the Mitchum estate had revealed.
Honoria-Marie "Mary" Mitchum, Abe's daughter and only surviving child, had been more than forthcoming about her family's activities. She was also disturbingly more concerned about her impending arranged marriage—she claimed Nathan to be the groom—than she was about helping them discover the location of the known missing children. She had been matter of fact about the kidnappings and murders, claiming all of it were necessary to ensure her family's survival and ability to protect the Troubled.
With the information garnered from the ongoing investigation, the story Nathan related to her in confidence, and some digging into the archives by the Teagues brothers and the town historian they had quickly discovered a series of kidnappings and murders dating back over a century directly to the family.
They still hadn't found Clive Armin or the mysterious girl named Jenny that Kenneth Hamilton had last seen the day before his rescue.
She had been surprised at how quickly an inquest into the death of Selectman Mitchum had wrapped up before Nathan had even been questioned in his role. But by then, it was common knowledge around town of what the Mitchums had done. No one seemed the least bit interested in questioning Nathan's actions or her own. The police were being hailed for breaking the case, Nathan especially so given the number of people who'd approached Audrey requesting she'd pass along their well wishes to her partner as he recovered in the hospital.
Shaking off thoughts of the ongoing investigation, Audrey slipped onto the bench next to her partner. He didn't seem to notice she was there as he continued to silently stare out over the water, a gentle breeze ruffling his short brown hair. She noted he wore his ubiquitous green jacket against the cool weather as she pulled her own jacket tighter around herself before she leaned back and just watched the sun lower in the afternoon sky, not a cloud in sight.
"Missed you at the hospital," she finally said.
"Had to see someone." His reply was soft and considering as he leaned back against the back of the bench. Underneath the jacket the white straps for the sling on his left arm stood out in sharp contrast to the grey t-shirt he wore. When he glanced out of the corner of his eye, she was watching him intently, studying him. "Dr. Lucassi."
"Honoria-Marie is probably going to end up at a facility in Bangor, I'm told," Audrey told him, pushing a loose lock of hair behind her ear.
"Probably best," Nathan noted with as much interest as one would have in talking about the weather on a clear day.
"But that's not why you went to see him," Audrey guessed. His silence was confirmation enough to her supposition. She knew he had been having nightmares about what happened to him—both as a child and recently. He had confided in her that he wasn't sure if his memory of events as a child were real or not.
"It's just going to take time, Nathan," she told him. "What happened back then—what's happened now—it's not your fault."
"I know." His answer was almost a near whisper and as much as she wanted to grab him by the shoulders and make him see the truth it was ultimately something he'd have to deal with on his own. She could at least make sure he knew he could come to her if he needed it.
"You know you can talk to me…if you need to or want to," she said. "Anytime. I'm your friend."
He finally looked at her then, a grateful look in his clear blue eyes even as his face remained impassive. "I know." He cast his eyes down, rubbing his hands together, something she had seen him do several times in the hospital.
"There's…." He hesitated a moment before looking back up at her with a serious expression. "There's just some things I can't talk to you about. You're my friend and…there are some things I just can't burden you with. Maybe someday, but not…yet. Do you understand?"
She considered his words against her own recent growing concerns over who—or what—she was. "Yeah," she finally replied, voice sounding breathy.
He gave her a small smile before looking away once more to the sea. She settled back in beside him and they sat for some time with their own thoughts.
"I wanted to kill him."
Nathan's sudden words had her leaning forward in surprise. She didn't blame her partner for his sentiment given the revelations of what the Mitchums had done to kids like him, especially as Nathan was the sole known survivor of those atrocities.
"That's to be expected," she said. "What Mitchum did was…well, I just can't imagine how horrible it was for you."
"I wasn't talking about the Whistler."
Audrey was puzzled by that statement. She reached out and grasped his chin, turning Nathan's head toward her. She saw that strangely blank look on his face, the one she had come to associate with him not wanting to face something. "Then who did you want to kill?"
She knew she must have blinked in surprise or did something with her face because Nathan suddenly pulled away from her touch and sighed heavily, looking defeated, scared, and somehow…smaller, vulnerable.
"When he and Abe were on the ground, fighting… for a moment, for the barest moment, I…I wanted to kill him—kill both of them." Nathan swallowed hard and looked away. "Something in me, I—it wanted them dead. But I wanted to kill them too. It was only for a moment but…but it was there."
"And you're worried you might…what...be tempted to kill someone?" Audrey asked softly.
"I have before as a cop. I'm not that different from Abe when you look at it objectively." Nathan said.
"You are nothing like Absalom Mitchum," Audrey told him fiercely, actually angry he thought of himself in that way.
"Maybe. Sometimes I think so." He licked his lips nervously and looked down almost as if he was shy. "Before you came to Haven I was withdrawing from the world. A little bit each day, each week, each month. And then you came, and everything was…is…different. I can't help wonder, maybe my…whatever this is…maybe I'm losing my humanity to it."
"I envy you."
That statement earned her a perplexed expression from her partner. She shook her head, looking self-deprecating.
"You think you're numbness separates you from the world but you have this way of connecting to people, Nathan. A way of connecting I've never been able to do," Audrey told him honestly. "I envy it."
"I don't know what to say to that."
"Then just go back to being my monosyllabic, tough guy partner," she suggested with a small laugh.
He joined her quiet laughter with a soft chuckle. "Thanks," he replied gently, understanding her attempt to reassure him.
"You know there's a little welcome back party at the Gull for you tomorrow," she told him. As she expected his face scrunched up in distaste.
"Not really up for a party," Nathan told her.
"Well, just think about it," she replied. "People are grateful you stopped the murders and gave closure to a lot of people."
Nathan's sudden comment and look of surprise had Audrey curious. "What?"
"I don't hear it anymore," Nathan said, his head slightly cocked to the side like he was listening for something.
"Don't hear what?" Audrey asked, mimicking him. She didn't hear anything but the usual sounds of the cove: the waves, the wind, and the occasional noise of the passing boats and their passengers.
"The music," her partner answered with a smile. "I just hear you."
"He hears you, Lucy."
Audrey was certain she shivered at remembering Tybalt Haskil's final words to her, but simply smiled to cover her shock. She felt a stab of guilt as she realized she hadn't checked to see if arrangements had been made for the kindly old man after she had read the coroner's report on his death and vowed to do so tomorrow.
"Well, does that mean you'll listen to me when I say we go get some pancakes and then get you home to that resting you're supposed to be doing?" She asked.
He squinted over at her with a sardonic expression. "Prob'ly."
"Come on; time to get your weekly quota of pancakes."