That night I went to the bar and just as I expected, Nick was in his usual place. Again, I sat one stool away and again, he all but ignored me. I ordered a beer and after a few seconds of silence while pretending to drink it, Nick turned and said “well, Josh. Did you find what you were looking for?”
For a split second, although I have never believed in the supernatural or any kind of extra sensory perception, I wondered if Nick was a mind reader. Snapping back into reality, I realized that he was just attuned to exactly what I was. A reporter. Reporters are notoriously nosey and perennially hungry for an exclusive story.
I told him that he could call me Scoop. He gave me disdainful glance, turned back to his beer and said “I don’t like nicknames.” When he said that, I realized that it was not the appropriate time to ask about his own nickname…”The Promise Keeper.”
I asked him if I could buy him a beer. Without even a glance toward me, he said “I don’t know if it’s escaped your attention but I already have one.”
I remembered Karen saying that he was a dick. Apparently he hadn’t changed but his attitude didn’t intimidate me.
I was after his story and the only thing that was going to get me to leave was if he refused or physically removed me, which I didn’t see happening. I was no novice and I could play hardball with the best of them. Besides, I was perfectly capable of reaching into my bag of tricks and pulling out my own dick card.
“I guess you want to hear my story,” he said. “Yes.” I answered. Without looking at me he asked “why? Are you curious or is it just a slow news day? Or maybe you think if you pretend to have some compassion or genuine interest, I’ll open up and we’ll act like we’re best friends. Or maybe you’ve heard that I’m an asshole and therefore, feel suddenly challenged.” He turned and looked at me with those dead, weathered eyes and said “which one is it?”
I said “none of them. All of them.”
He turned back around and said “I’ll take that beer now.” I ordered both of us another round and whipped out my tape recorder. I asked if he minded if I recorded our conversations and before I even sat it down, he abruptly said “yes I do. If you can’t remember a conversation, you need to find another occupation.” I asked if he minded if I took notes. He looked at me and said “if that’s the only way you can remember anything, then go ahead.”
I was a little short when I said “I don’t have a photograph memory, you know.” He mumbled “believe me. It’s a curse if you do.” That comment led me to suspect that he remembered every single detail about every single little girl and every single murder. I didn’t need to feign compassion at that point. I could hear the soul-killing anguish in his voice.
Before we began, he reminded me that the use of the victims names’ was strictly prohibited. “What about your name?” I asked. He said “use it. Don’t use it. It really doesn’t matter to me. What’s left of my reputation can stand a few more bullets, I guess.” Then he said “you know that you can find out everything you want to know in the City Hall archives, don’t you?”
I said “yes, I do know that but so much of the information has been redacted and…I can’t find your story there.” Nick gave a slight “uh-huh” nod with his head, lit another cigarette and began.
With pen in hand, I began to jot down notes as he talked.
“The first girl was 17 years old,” he said. “Her name was Alma Stewart. Her father, Sturgeon, worked at the local Jiffy Lube. Her mother, Kalinda, cleaned houses for extra cash. She was at home most afternoons and nights but on her one day off, a regular customer called in a panic. Unexpected company was coming into town and they needed her to come in and do a quick tidy-up.”
“Kalinda agreed and told Alma that she was only going because they could used the extra money. She kissed Alma on the forehead and told her that she would be back in a ‘jiffy’. That was a joke among them. Kalinda would laugh and say ‘all kinds of things can be done in a jiffy. Not just oil changes’.”
“That was the day Alma was murdered. She was found in the kitchen, with Kalinda’s apron draped over her head. It looked as if she had been trying to prepare dinner to surprise her mother when she came home.”
Nick’s words were heavy-laden with what to me seemed like a combination of anger, grief, regret and hopelessness, but he continued. “A cross was carved so deeply into her chest, it almost skewered her. It was what we call ‘overkill’.”
“Psychologists say ‘it’s personal’. I say that half of them are full of shit and have no idea what they’re talking about. I guess it’s easy to be an arm-chair quarterback and call the plays while you’re sitting in your plush office but when you’re out in the world and witness this kind of carnage, there is no definitive reason for this evil. It’s just plain evil.”
Downing his beer, his voice trailed off as he continued. “Kalinda never forgave herself. The guilt she felt for leaving was overwhelming, as you can imagine. Over time, fingers were pointed, accusations were made and the marriage eventually failed.”
Nick looked at his beer and said “the children murdered by the Crucifix 8 Killer weren’t the only fatalities.”
Nick took a long drag off of his cigarette and said “I’ll have another beer.”
One thing became clear to me. The more beer I bought, the more Nick talked.
To be continued_______________