Hours later when the train finally came to a stop in Samish, the sky was already light and the sun had just broken over the horizon. Sam had lain in the black powder, which had proven soft enough to cushion the constant vibration. She had not slept, but there had been times when she drifted at sleep’s periphery.
Doing her best to ignore the various aches and pains that pervaded her body, Sam left the train and weighed her options.
Though she was wearing her “homeless” clothes, she did have her wallet and phone on her. She didn’t want to call Kathy to pick her up and try to explain why she was dressed the way she was, stuck in Samish without transportation. Hell, her mom still didn’t know she was suspended. So, getting a ride from mom was out. It would be far too expensive to take a cab back to Blackrock but… she could afford a bus ticket.
The first bus didn’t leave until ten A.M. Sam boarded it, ignoring the stares of other passengers and trying to doze. It was almost eleven when her phone rang.
It was Kathy.
“Hi Mom,” she answered hoarsely.
“Hey, did you go this morning, to the funeral?”
“What? What funeral?” Sam asked.
“The mechanic. I was getting my hair done at Jolene’s and just happened to hear that they were burying him at—”
“Damnit!” Sam blurted.
There was silence on the other end. Sam took a deep breath and let it out. “Sorry but… I should have known. Someone should have told me, but they didn’t.” Last Sam knew, they were performing an autopsy on Elias.
“Oh. Oh yeah, sorry,” Kathy said. “I heard there wasn’t anyone there except Pastor Dante, who said a few words. Where are you? Are you working?”
“No, I… I wasn’t feeling great.” Sam lied.
“Oh no! Why don’t you come over tonight? I’ll fix dinner.”
Sam couldn’t keep the secret of her suspension for very long. Actually she was surprised the word hadn’t reached her mom already. Maybe dinner would provide a good opportunity to tell her. “Yeah that sounds good. Let’s say six o’clock.”
“Six it is. Love you Sweetie.”
“Love you too Mom.”
A few hours later Sam was back in Blackrock. She took a cab the rest of the way home, spent a good twenty minutes in the shower, then put on a clean set of clothes, fed Mister Perkins and then fed herself. The afternoon was half over when Sam finally drove out and found the tiny headstone—the cheapest one possible—in Blackrock Cemetery that read “Elias Poole,” with an oblong mound of fresh soil before it. Elias deserved better; better than some crappy headstone and a service that no one attended.
“I’m sorry,” Sam said aloud. She had picked some wild daisies and placed them now on the stone. “I feel like we had just started getting to learn about each other. Of course you know enough about me to know that I’m not a big believer in God. Even though you are. Were. I don’t know, I hope… I hope you’re right. I hope you’re in a better place now. Me I’m still here…”
Sam stood, reached into her pocket and removed her keys. She ran her thumb over one in particular; it was a key Elias had given her, to the garage and the apartment above. “What Kronin did to you… I’m going to pay it back. All of it. Even if it means I have to die myself. If I do, then hey… I guess we’ll find out which one of us is right.”
Just then the phone in Sam’s other pocket buzzed. She removed it to see a text from Barnes: “Meet me at Harris Street church. 5 o’clock.” Sam frowned. What did Barnes want now? Did he find some new evidence? And why would he want to meet at the church? Had he found out something about Kronin? Sam considered not going… but running away wasn’t the answer. If Barnes knew something or had discovered something, she had to find out what it was. Besides, she could stop by the church and still get to her Mom’s by six.
Being there, outside the church where it all began set Sam’s nerves on edge. She sat in her Mustang, on Harris street just past the roundabout, the upper portion of the structure visible above the fence that bounded its lot.
Once again she considered simply not going forward.
You could just drive away…
She had called Barnes twice on her way over but there had been no answer. Now the curiosity was too much. What could he possibly want to show her here? She had to know.
The air grew colder, her breath fogging as she stepped out and walked to the fence. When she passed through the same hole that she had used almost two months ago (had it been that long already?) flashes of that night flickered through her mind: running with the flashlight, chasing Kronin, following him into the decrepit ruins…
Clammy sweat broke out on her skin as she made her way through the south entrance, then into the administrative area with its thick, stale air and crumbling walls and scattered debris. Finally she stepped into the sanctuary.
She couldn’t see anyone or anything at first. Then, looking over to the stage, the blood in her veins flash-froze. She was still as a statue, staring… incapable of moving or making a sound as her mind tried to process what she was seeing.
It was Barnes, stripped down to his underwear, hanging upside down on thick wooden beams that formed an inverted cross.
For a long moment Sam stood in shock and disgust and disbelief. Time had slowed to a crawl. The only sound she was aware of was the beating of her own heart. Then, her training finally kicked in.
Is he alive?
Forcing herself to take action, she removed the Desert Eagle from behind her back and rushed through the open, detritus-littered space, searching to ensure that whoever did this was not in the chapel, then returning and stopping just before the stage; trying to make sense of the grotesque display before her. The wooden posts were hung from cables that attached to various anchor points—in the walls and what remained of the church’s roof beams. Barnes’ hands and his crossed feet had been nailed to the posts with railroad spikes. Barbed wire had been wrapped around the top of his head like a crown of thorns, and a piece of steel rebar had been driven through his side and into his chest. Blood formed a wide stripe down his ribs, pooling in his armpit, running over his shoulder, down his head and dripping into the gaping hole where the tarp had been before, when Sam had come across the first murder scene.
That, that had been something unbelievable but this… this was a macabre mockery; a sacrilegious inversion of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Barnes’ eyes stared wide, but unseeing.
Sam leaned over, reached out and felt his neck for a pulse, confirming what she already knew. She leaned back as the reality hit her: he was gone. The rebar must have pierced his heart, Sam surmised, as she didn’t see any other obvious signs of death.
Why kill Barnes? What kind of message was Kronin trying to send? And how would this affect the department’s suspicion of her? The investigation wouldn’t cease just because Barnes was gone; if anything it would intensify now that a detective was dead.
And here she was, standing right in the middle of the crime scene. Though it was already too late, she had to do some kind of damage control. Call the station. Report the murder.
Sam reached into her jacket pocket and removed her phone. As she did so, it rang. Sam held it up and looked at the screen.
The call was coming from Barnes’ cell.