After Nick left The Bar, I sat back down and ordered what was going to be my last beer for the night. I felt like I had been hit with a sledgehammer but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. The lack of information about #8 was most likely was for her protection.
I wondered if she had moved away or God forbid, was in a coma. You can survive trauma but that doesn’t mean you’re alive. It just means you’re still breathing.
I knew nothing about her and I knew absolutely nothing about Nick, other than he was a detective and his father was also a “promise keeper.” I didn’t know if he had a family now or ever had one. Maybe his family was the same as his friends…beer and cigarettes.
Although never verbalized, it was clear that Nick was unable to keep his promise. He never got close to catching the Crucifix 8 killer or ever even had a suspect.
All I knew was that Nick’s torment draped him like a sheer robe and laid visible the scars of defeat.
He wasn’t at The Bar the next night, nor was he there the night after. The third night as I sat on “his stool,” pondering if it really was the end of the story, Nick walked in. He looked at me and gruffly said “you’re in my seat.” I got up and moved to what had become “my seat,” and asked him if he would tell me more about #8.
He ordered a beer, lit a cigarette and sighed. “Her name was Angel,” he said. “She opened the door, just like all the others, because she knew him. As he tried to suffocate her, she fought and begged for her life. During the struggle, he threw her on the floor and ripped open her blouse. When he did, he saw that she had a tiny gold cross around her neck. When he saw it, he paused.”
“She pleaded with him to let her live and promised that if he would, she would never tell anybody who he was.” She said “please. My name is Angel. I’m only 14 years old. I’m someone’s child. I’ve never been loved.” He looked at her, put the knife down and said “I’ve never been loved either.”
“He asked her if she would keep that promise and she told him that she would. Why he believed her, nobody knows.”
He said “we,” then gritted his teeth and said “I…tried everything to get her to talk. I threatened her with interfering with an investigation. I tried shaming her by saying…you know that if you don’t tell me, the next little girl’s blood will be on your hands, right?”
“I tried intimidating her with forceful words and further threats of never seeing her parents again unless she told me who the killer was. I even told her that I would have her tried as an adult which would mean considerable time in prison. I hated every word I had to say and I hated myself even more for saying them.”
“Although there were certainly legal grounds to charge her, I knew that no judge was going to compel her to testify and no jury was going to convict her if she didn’t. I was at checkmate and my king had no moves.”
“All she ever said was ‘I promised’. I told her that I, too, had made a promise. I promised all the parents of the other little girls who had been killed that I would find the killer, bring him to justice and she needed to help me keep that promise.”
I said “that’s how you got the nickname The Promise Keeper, wasn’t it?”
“It was,” he said. “But you see, young Josh. It turns out that I wasn’t the Promise Keeper. She was.”