18131 Chapters
Medium 9781912573318

Forty

Ogden, Thomas Karnac ePub

The officer at the desk of the police station asked Erin and Catherine to have a seat while he called another officer to take their statement. The building was of modern institutional design, with cinder-block walls painted pale green, shiny beige linoleum floors, bulbous skylights, and a row of orange plastic chairs bolted to the floor opposite the police desk.

It was only about ten minutes before a uniformed man in his forties introduced himself as Officer Matthew Higgins and asked Catherine and Erin to follow him through two swinging doors into a hallway identical to the one they'd just left, except for a series of doors on the left. Higgins unlocked one of the doors, and motioned Catherine and Erin to enter as he held it open.

It was an interview room with a metal table, four metal chairs, and a two-way mirror, just as they'd seen on television police programs.

“I read here that you've come about your husband, Damien McCardle.”

“Yes,” Catherine said in a voice stronger than she'd expected. “We've been frightened by someone who has left a bag of feces at our front door and a letter that said, in effect, ‘We know where you live.’ We have no idea who it is or why they're doing this. Damien has been undone by it and has arranged for an elaborate security system to be installed, which they're doing now. But he's become so frightened that he told my brother here, Erin, that he bought a rifle ‘just as a precaution.’ He left the house in the middle of the night last night, and left this note for me.” Catherine fumbled through her handbag and handed the note to the officer.

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Thirty-Seven

Ogden, Thomas Karnac ePub

Despite efforts to minimize the impact of the envelope and the newspaper clipping, everyone in the family understood that the attack they had been dreading had now begun in earnest. Waiting for the second assault was as emotionally draining as the explosive effect that the first had had. The person who had sent the letter seemed to be deliberately using silence and invisibility and time for the purpose of creating an escalating state of fear. Waiting for the next attack opened a space in which the members of the family could not prevent themselves from imagining tortures far worse than what realistically was likely to happen. Alice imagined her parents and Erin being killed, and her being left alone, knowing no one, trusting no one; Catherine dreamt of being confined or tied down as she watched Alice being sexually molested; Erin feared that Damien, Catherine, and Alice would go into hiding, and that their security would require that they cut off all contact with him; and Damien imagined a military-style attack on the house in which the aim was to kill the whole family, while he futilely fought to stop them.

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Thirty-Eight

Ogden, Thomas Karnac ePub

Damien lay in bed thinking most of the night. He hardly moved for hours, so fixed was his concentration. Catherine was sleeping restlessly, thrashing as if being suffocated under a pile of blankets. He hated the fact that Catherine had been alone when the second assault was made. What he was doing in his office was of no importance to anyone, even to him. That would never happen again. It's too much for one person to handle, he thought. Damien felt a sharp ache at the pit of his stomach that was familiar to him. He'd felt it periodically for as long as he could remember. It was always connected with a feeling of being lost, as if he were in an unfamiliar place, not knowing which direction he was headed and, worst of all, not knowing where he wanted to go. He could not allow that feeling to interfere with what had to be done in the real world now.

Before leaving for home after Catherine called to tell him about the bag of excrement, Damien had called the emergency line of a security company, the insignia of which he'd noticed in stores and on metal posts in front of expensive homes. He'd arranged a meeting at his house the next morning. It was important to him to talk with the company representative alone, without Catherine, so that he could make decisions with a clear head.

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Thirty-Nine

Ogden, Thomas Karnac ePub

Damien and Erin stood on the sidewalk, watching the security company's crew working on ladders leaning against the roof of the front of the house. Erin had arrived only a few minutes earlier.

“Catherine didn't tell me you were coming out here to help,” Damien said, his eyes on the men in white jumpsuits, “but I need all the help I can get. There are things I've had to keep from Catherine because they'd frighten her, and there's no point in scaring her, but I can tell you.”

Erin, stunned by the impersonal, almost mechanical way in which Damien was speaking, said, “Let me put my things inside, and we'll find a private place to talk.”

“Yes, yes, you're right—we can't talk out here.”

As they entered the house, Damien said, “Let's wait to tell Catherine and Alice you're here until we've talked. Let's go talk in the study.”

They both took seats in the blue wicker armchairs that Damien and Jim had used when talking that morning. Because of the way Damien was speaking, the room felt more like a bunker than a study.

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Thirty-Five

Ogden, Thomas Karnac ePub

As Damien closed the front door of his house behind him about an hour before sunrise, the feel of the air outside the house was precisely the temperature inside. The night had failed to cool the air. There was an explosive quality to the July morning. Damien could feel that by noon the temperature would approach a hundred for the third day in a row, and the humidity would wrap the air around his body like a warm, wet blanket and draw perspiration from every pore.

Damien walked down the brick path to the gate of the white picket fence that surrounded the house. On both sides of the path were stretches of soft, Kentucky bluegrass, glistening with the drops of water from the sunken sprinkler heads that pop up silently at two in the morning and begin their work with a stuttering hiss before creating, for forty-five minutes, a semi-transparent circle of mist that overlaps identical circles on all sides. Like a woman who is almost, but not quite, beautiful, the circles of mist were almost pleasing to Damien, except for the fact that they were a requirement of the bylaws of the neighborhood association to which every homeowner agreed in writing when buying a house in this development. Damien was a renter, not a homeowner. He and Catherine and Alice had been living in this, their third house in as many years, since the previous September. He felt like Io wandering the earth as the gadfly inflicts its pain, as much through the ever-present reminder that the gadfly is inescapable as through the sting of its bite.

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