The Whistler - Chapter 18
By Karolyn Gray
Audrey turned from her brief perusal of the quaint looking cabin and nearby barn-like structure to find Selectman Mitchum coming around the side of the bungalow and walk up onto the porch two steps at a time. He wore a red checked flannel shirt rolled up at the arms, well worn blue jeans, and heavy boots. She wasn't sure why, but she thought it odd to see the sixty plus year old man dressed this way after her previous encounters with him. Then again, the Selectman certainly looked far younger than his years and all she had ever seen him in were dress shirts and slacks to base her opinion on.
"Excuse me, Mr. Mitchum?" Audrey called out. She ignored the sound Duke made, assuming it was the smuggler subtly voicing his disagreement with her direct approach. She knew Duke preferred a more stealthy method.
The older man looked curious as he approached the pair. "Yes."
Audrey flashed her badge. "Officer Parker, Haven PD. We met the other day."
"Oh yes, yes, yes. I remember. Please call me Abe." The older man smiled, nodding in recognition. A frown came to his face. "Terrible news about those children. And to think it's so near here. Have you made any progress?"
"Some," Audrey dodged the question, glancing at the cabin and what she presumed was the workshop the Teagues had mentioned. "Have you seen Detective Wuornos around here or one Tybalt Haskil?"
Abe seemed genuinely surprised at her question. "Nathan? Uh, no. Why would he be here?"
"Someone thought they saw him headed in this direction," Audrey explained aware of how Abe looked at Duke with undue curiosity. She could see a hint of disdain in Abe's eyes at the presence of the smuggler. Duke returned the older man's gaze with a neutral expression as he causally reset the ratty looking blue ball cap he'd insisted on getting from his truck before she drove them out here.
"Oh, well, I'll be sure to keep an eye out for him then," Abe replied.
"And Haskil?" Audrey prompted.
Abe thought about it for a moment, running a hand through his hair. "Sorry, I don't recall anyone by the name of Haskil."
The Selectman's gesture strangely drew Audrey's attention a carved wood sign above the cabin's front door. It was rough hewn, stained, and the lettering virtually indecipherable from her vantage point. She squinted her eyes, trying to get a better look.
"Something wrong, Officer?" Abe asked.
"What's that say?" She gestured to the sign.
The Selectman didn't even so much as glance behind him to see what the detective was pointing at. A strange little smile came to his face, no warmth reaching his dark eyes. "Wytchebough. It's an old place name for this patch of land."
"Does it mean anything specific?" Audrey asked curiously.
"To my family—yes, but I don't see that it's any of your business," Abe replied his smile becoming as cool as his eyes as his expression became closed off and aloof.
"Doing some work out here?" Duke interrupted suddenly gesturing to the workshop. Audrey, puzzled by the older man's reaction to her question, gave Duke an annoyed look that he either ignored or didn't see. Given his sudden interest in being charming with the Selectman, Audrey suspected it was the former rather than the latter. The question, though, did bring back some warmth to the man's face as he glanced at the old structure with its faded green paint and white trim.
"Yeah, I know I should just hire someone to take care of this old place, but I like to work with my hands," Abe replied with a satisfied look, vigorously rubbing his palms together. "Keeps me young."
"Guess that explains the large workshop," Duke commented.
"Serves as a garage sometimes too," Abe agreed.
Audrey didn't see what Duke thought he was getting out of the conversation and decided to end it. "Do you mind if we have a look around your property?"
"Go ahead, Officer Parker. Garland told me about Nathan's request. I already gave my approval. Turns to state land about a mile that way and two miles that way." Abe gestured into the directions he mentioned—north and west.
Audrey found herself curious at that, remembering that while there were other private cabins in the area, all were on small parcels of land—one or two acres—compared to the huge expanse the Mitchum's apparently owned. "That's a pretty good size plot of land."
The older man shrugged at her comment. "Been in the family for generations. Used to have more before the government seized some of it. Least they didn't chop it down, though, right?"
"Yeah, sure." Audrey said. Giving Abe a polite nod she turned away. "Thank you for your time, sir."
"No problem, Officer," Abe called out behind her. "If you need me I'll be in the shop."
She glanced over to see Duke shooting looks over his shoulder. He looked puzzled and slightly suspicious.
"What's wrong, Duke?"
"I think that crazy old man maybe right. Something's off with that guy. Can't you take him in for questioning or something?" Duke said, sounding unusually concerned. "He's odd."
"For being odd? That describes half of Haven." Audrey snorted and shook her head. "Besides, weren't you the one just suddenly so chatty with him."
"It's called being civil, as in having a civil conversation," Duke retorted.
"And now you're suddenly suspicious of him again?" Audrey asked.
Duke stopped and frowned at her, obviously considering her words. With a confused look he glanced back at the cabin. "Yeah. I mean…well it couldn't hurt to talk to him, right?"
Audrey rolled her eyes. "You were talking about his barn."
"Work shop," Duke corrected her.
"Whatever." She shook her head in bemusement. "Look, just tell me what's bothering you about him now."
Duke sighed. He pulled her to a stop and nodded back towards the cabin. "I'm good at reading people. Have to be in my line of work. Something is not right about this guy. He's hiding something. Trust me on this."
"I know he's hiding something. I wish I could just search Mitchum's cabin and workshop, Duke," Audrey replied. "I wish it was that easy. No, we'll wait for the Chief to come through with the warrant."
"It's going to be so wonderful, Nathan. You'll see," Tricia said sweetly, with a dreamy look on her face.
"Abe and Saul are killing innocent people, Tricia. You killed your family for them," Nathan pointed out.
The woman's face contorted with anger and hate. "They deserved it. No one else cared what they did to me. No one!"
Nathan was shocked when she slipped off the sleeves of the sundress, lowering it to uncover her chest and torso. Nathan couldn't help the gasp of surprise at what he saw. The woman's stomach was covered in scars of all sizes and shapes, some disappearing under her bra. The scars were silvery with age but no doubt had been inflicted with great precision so as to be hidden from view.
"This is what my parents did to me!" Tricia snarled. "And that was just the outside."
Nathan felt his insides twist in revulsion at what Tricia was implying. Her own parents…. He shook his head, empathizing with the woman's suffering. "And I'm sorry about that, but what about your baby brother?"
"I saved him, saved him from them," Tricia insisted. "They were already starting to hurt him and he wasn't even three years old!"
Tricia's eyes suddenly became sharp, calculating. She ran her tongue seductively over her lips, as she slid her body in close to Nathan. She trailed a finger along his one side of his jaw as she brushed her cheek on the other side until her face nearly buried in his neck. "Do you want to know what they did to me? I could tell you every…little…detail," she whispered.
"God no!" Nathan tried to jerk away from her as best he could.
Tricia smiled sadly, all traces of being a seductress gone. She chastely kissed Nathan's cheek. "See, you understand. You're not like them. You understand that they were evil and needed to be destroyed."
"I didn't know," Nathan whispered.
The woman brushed her hands over his chest, smoothing out the wrinkles of his shirt, seemingly oblivious to her own partial nudity. "You couldn't have done anything. No one would have listened to you anyway. Just like me 'cause they thought we were cursed." Tricia glided away from him, smiling contentedly, as she shifted the dress back into place, briefly revealing more scars that crisscrossed her back before she was clothed properly again. "Abe's going to change that now. When he's done, we'll be the ones in charge."
"And we can protect the Troubled," Nathan said gently.
His emotions were in turmoil as he better understood how Abe had been able to twist Tricia. She had been tortured and broken long before the Whistler got to her. And that knowledge fed into the darkness and anger roiling within him. But he wouldn't let it control him, not like it had Tricia.
"Yes! You do understand. You're just used to seeing the world through their eyes, that you're worthless, a thing to be used or locked away or ridiculed," Tricia said. "You're not Nathan. You're…"
"Special. We are special," he told her softly. For a moment he remembered Jess' words, still grateful of the different perspective she had given him despite the pain of her abrupt departure from Haven and his wounded heart. Her revelation had been simple, but profound: It didn't matter what others thought of him, it only mattered what he thought of himself. It didn't change how others treated him, but it did change how he reacted to that treatment. "Maybe we're even a bit magical."
"Yes." Tricia nodded enthusiastically. "I knew you understood. You just needed to remember."
Nathan tried as best he could to stand up straighter given how he was bound and attempted to look more confident. "Yeah, yeah, I get it now. I want to help people like us, help the Troubled. Let me start by helping Abe."
Tricia narrowed her eyes, scrutinizing him for any sign of falsehood. He wasn't lying to her. He really did want to help her, to help Abe, and to help the Troubled in Haven. Just not in the manner she thought.
"How?" she finally asked.
"Release me and I'll take care of our young friend here," he replied nodding to Kenny. "Better yet, we can do it together. Show Abe…Father we are committed to him."
"I don't know," Tricia sounded hesitant. "Father seems to think he is special. That we'll need him if he passes the tests."
"He's weak, pathetic," Nathan sneered. "Look at him. Did you cower when Father came for you?"
Tricia wrinkled her nose in distaste, looking positively disgusted at the very idea. "No."
"Me neither." Nathan nodded to the cowering Kenny. "Let's rid ourselves of him."
Tricia seemed delighted with the idea. "Alright."
Nathan had expected Tricia to come over and unlock him. He did not expect to see her smile and then hear metal cracking before he landed on his knees. He stared at his free hands in surprise before looking up to see the metal bindings had been cleanly slice away.
Clear. Perfect. Precise.
Tricia had done exactly what Abe had said she was capable of. She had cut his bonds with a thought.
He rose to his feet to find Tricia smiling at him knowingly. Nodding back he gave a grim look before he turned to Kenneth Hamilton. The boy watched them with fear in his eyes. Nathan took a step towards the boy.
"Please, Officer Wuornos…," Kenny whined.
"Shut up, brat," Tricia snapped, her lunge at the boy made him cry out and bury his head in his arms. Satisfied by his reaction, Tricia turned back to Nathan with a malevolent look in her eyes. "How're you going to kill him, Nate?"
Nathan looked around the small room, noting there were no real weapons available to him. Shrugging her held out his hands, wiggling his fingers experimentally. "I have my hands…"
"Let me cut him first!" The woman demanded, sounding nearly childlike in her dark glee. Nathan smiled and gestured for to proceed. She turned to face the boy, Kenny screaming when she touched his head.
Clear intent. Perfect form. Precise control.
Nathan grasped the woman around the neck and slammed her head into the concrete wall as hard as he could, three sharp forceful strikes, each hit accompanied by a loud sickening crunching noise. Tricia slid to the floor, blood streaking the wall as she slumped down to a limp pile. Nathan stared at her for a moment, unable to tell if she was still alive or not, a nauseous feeling rising in him even as part of him felt triumphant at stopping the deranged woman.
A whimper brought Nathan's attention back to Kenny. He crouched down next to the boy. Seeing he was only bound at the ankles with thick rope, he quickly untied him. Mike slowly came out of the shadowy corner he had retreated to as Nathan calmed Kenny down.
"Sorry I had to do that, Kenny," Nathan told him "Didn't mean to scare you. You okay?"
Kenny looked warily at Tricia's form, a slow frown coming to his features at the bloody mess of the woman's face. Nathan grabbed his chin and made him look away. Kenny glanced once more at the woman with a peculiar expression on his face before looking Nathan in the eye, appearing suddenly resolute and determined. "Y-yeah. Can we go home now?"
Nathan patted him on the shoulder, casting a look at Mike, who nodded with an uncertain smile. "That's that plan."
Nathan finished untying the boy's feet from the lose rope binding and helping him stand. They both flinched as the trap door to their prison opened with a loud thump, followed by heavy footfalls coming down the steps. Nathan turned in time to find Saul staring in disbelief at Tricia's bloody and crumpled form. The other man's eyes quickly narrowed as he shot Nathan a hate filled look.
"I told Father you couldn't be trusted!" Saul snarled, brandishing the hand axe he had carried down with him.
Nathan quickly moved between Saul and the boys as the other man growled in fury and swung at Nathan in a wide arc. Nathan easily caught the man's arm but found Saul's superior strength too great in trying to pry the axe away from him. Saul spun the cop into the wall with all his might and pinned his there with his body. Nathan tasted blood, but was otherwise unaffected as he tossed his head backwards.
He knew he must have connected with Saul's head as the other man's grasp around Nathan loosened. Using the opportunity, Nathan slipped free and swept Saul legs out from under him. The other man grunted heavily as he hit the ground. Nathan was on him momentarily but Saul used his greater strength to throw Nathan off.
Nathan staggered to his feet, noticing the gash on his left forearm. He quickly returned his eyes to Saul who was grinning triumphantly as he waggled the axe, its blade edge slick with Nathan's blood.
"So much for Father's new heir," Saul sneered.
Nathan wanted to try and reason with Saul but never got the chance as the larger man was suddenly on him, flailing away with the axe. A particularly close flurry gave Nathan the opening he needed to get a hold of the axe. He got a partial hold of the hand axe, but somehow the two struggling men's legs became tangled and they fell. Nathan grunted heavily as Saul's weight knocked the air out him, leaving him breathless and desperate to get the larger man off of him.
It took Nathan a moment to realize Saul was no longer fighting. It took two tries before Nathan was finally able to roll the heavier man off of him. Saul's eyes were wide in shock, his mouth moving wordlessly as he gasped and coughed up flecks of blood onto his lips. Nathan's eyes slid down to where Saul's hand weakly pulling at the axe now buried into his chest. In seconds his movements stopped. Solomon Mitchell was dead.
Nathan stared in shock, stunned at the sudden turn of events.
"Officer Wuornos, are you okay?"
Kenny's small, scared voice brought Nathan out of his haze. He found the boy gaping at him in horror. Glancing down at himself he could see why. Most of his shirt was covered in blood as was his arms and hands. Getting to his knees, he wiped his hands as best he could on his ruined shirt.
"I'm okay, Kenny," he assured the boy, giving what he hoped was a confident smile. Given the watery one he received in return he guessed it worked. He stared at Saul's body for a moment, before he leaned over and grasped the handle of the axe.
"Look away," he told the boys, glad the pair dutifully did as they were told.
Nathan quickly dislodged the axe from Saul's chest ignoring the wet sucking sound and the scraping feeling as the blade grated bone. He quickly headed to the stairs, peering up carefully and listening closely to determine if anyone else was in the cabin. After a minute he was satisfied and he gestured to the boys who were now watching him expectantly.
"Come on, you two."
Nathan quickly led them up the stairs and in to the modest looking cabin. He had a vague sense of deja vu at seeing the simple décor and furnishings but pushed the feeling aside as he opened the single heavy door to the cabin and stepped cautiously out onto the wide boards of the porch. He paused to carefully taking in the workshop and the nearby woods in the afternoon gloom. He could smell rain in the clouds overhead.
To the right he could see a newer model four-by-four truck but he was more surprised to see Audrey's now familiar silver car. Gesturing the boys to stay behind him he started across the clearing to the vehicles when he heard a gun shot. Something spun him to ground as Ken shrieked.
He scrambled to his feet and stumbled back towards the cabin, unsurprised to see a splash of blood running down his arm from his left shoulder. At the moment he didn't care about his wounded shoulder, more concerned about the boys and his partner. He didn't know where Audrey was or if she was safe. And he certainly couldn't stay here with the boys.
That left only one place. He knew where they had to go, where they could end this.
"Run! Go, go go." He shouted at the boys, waving them to the forest behind the cabin. The pair were off and Nathan was quickly scrambling to catch up to the kids, two more gunshots cracking the air. A bullet sending out a spray of splinters from the cabin's frame as Nathan hopped down from the porch and ran past the small tree that splintered next to him as he dodged behind it at and ran down the small wash. Ahead he could see the boys running, Kenny looking back once looking relieved as he saw Nathan following them.
Another shot was heard, and Nathan hurried his pace to catch up to the boys and lead them deeper into the woods.
He would lead them to Wytchebough.