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Chapter Thirty Five

Colt made the underground trip from the Stadium to the Nano Research Center in three minutes. As he walked through the tunnel, he wondered whether the albino would be locked inside his office and how he would get him to open the door. He couldn’t just shove the door and break the lock, like he had done at the apartment.

He opened the steel fire door and entered the lower level hallway of the Center. It didn’t take long to find office LL2/3—the door was wide open. Colt stuck his head inside the dark space and called out, “Hello?” There was no answer. He listened carefully, heard nothing and turned on the lights. It was hard to imagine anyone working in the tiny, confined, windowless spot. The office contained a half-dozen desks with computer equipment, a chair and a wastebasket for each.

On the top of the first desk, Colt saw a plastic bag and knew immediately what was inside. He opened four bags, one inside another, and the last one contained Darci Tierney’s right foot. Colt felt a moment of sadness when he looked at it. Once again, he remembered the image of her lying on the blacktop, bleeding out. It was Thursday night, only five days had passed, yet Colt felt like he had been searching for her foot for weeks. He touched it with his finger. It was still hard and cold, but it was beginning to defrost. He had to get it into a freezer or under an ice pack immediately.

Colt looked around again and wondered if the albino had gone out to pee. He went down to the far end of the hall to check the men’s room. When he opened the door, the automatic lights went on. It appeared deserted. Colt got down on his hands and knees and looked under the stalls, just to make sure the albino wasn’t playing games. He checked the ladies room as well, and walked back to the empty office. The albino could be anywhere in the building and Colt wasn’t about to search for him. He had what he came for—the foot. He felt vindicated. The weird little creep had picked it up at the Surfrider. Colt was certain he would have a chance to confront the albino again, some other time; it didn’t have to be tonight. He could always visit him, now that he knew where he lived. Right now, the most important thing to do was get out of the building and put some ice over Darci’s foot.

When Colt again emerged from the tunnel at the STADIUM exit, he realized he should have also asked the Indian for directions back to the Student Housing building. He had no idea how to get to his truck and figured it was probably on the other side of the campus, half a mile away.

He shined his light on the thicket of oleander where he had thrown the crumpled map. After several minutes, he saw where it had caught near the top of some branches. He waded into the thicket, began shaking the bush and finally dislodged it. When he smoothed out the map and located the stadium, he saw that Student Housing was a few streets away, no more than a ten-minute walk.

On Santa Monica Boulevard, he stopped at a convenience store, purchased an insulated Igloo container and filled it with a sack of ice. Back in his truck, Colt placed the Igloo on his passenger seat and shoved the bag containing Darci’s foot down into the ice. Colt felt a small sense of fulfillment. During a single week, he had lost two patients, but at least he had rescued a foot. His mission, his crusade, was just about over. In the morning, he could stop by to pay his respects to Darci’s parents and then drop the foot off with Nate Petruno. Colt decided if Darci’s parents said anything about the missing foot, he would be vague about where it was found.

Colt was certain he would have a good night’s sleep with no nightmares, if only the ringing in his ears would stop.

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