Stargazer

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Chapter 21 The Beginning of the EndThursday 6th of July

So far McEvoy knew he had most likely woken up. His dreams were so vivid last night, he was 90% certain he wasn’t dreaming now, but he still thought there was an outside chance he was. He awoke fully and realized this, and also that he was thirsty.

He had been sitting on the wall, drinking a beer outside his apartment, watching the traffic go by. An 18 wheeler went by, and when the dust settled from its passing, she appeared on the roadside. Even from the distance he was at, well over 600 yards, he knew it was her. The way she carried herself, her essence, it was unmistakably her. But what was she doing on the highway, hitching a ride? A feeling of overwhelming dread McEvoy had never felt before, suddenly washed over him like a tsunami, leaving a trail of utter carnage and devastation. Hadn’t he told her? Hadn’t he said it time and time again this was a dangerous place. He gets up from the wall, walking towards her, when the pickup pulls over beside her. One of them, now only a reddish blur to him grabs her and forces her into the pickup. He’s running now but it’s not fast enough. The pickup pulls away.
He opens his eyes. The fan goes round and round, whirring and whirring. Is this it ? Now I’m awake? McEvoy pinched himself to make sure.

The Stargazer. He had been there.

If he had been spotted by Stargazer, he was in mortal danger. Everything about what McEvoy had studied and written, studied and condensed, and summarized, was in the notebook. And it suggested if he was seen, the killer would not just give up.

And it all now pointed at one man.

A man who’s methodical approach to humanities weakest entities was in equal parts cunning and savage. A man who valued much but was beholden to none. A man who took care, a man who was cautious. Someone once told him a very dangerous man is a man who has total self belief, no doubts at all about himself. He cannot grasp the concept of perspective, given there is only one position, his. He will shed any dispositions about nicety and justice as he ages, and he will still value what is of his world but he will still be beholden to none. He will allow some part of himself construct a fantasy, but really what drove him was a murderous raging hunger. And he wouldn’t be caged. He wouldn’t allow it. But now someone knew of him. Really knew him. So that person must be destroyed.

McEvoy knew he was going to be stalked by him now. McEvoy thought for the first time in his life that retreat might be the better option.

And there was Lewis. He couldn’t ring Lewis.

Could he?

Lewis had rung the diner and left some message about calling down late this evening around 8 with some update on Stargazer. But that was most likely another trap. He knew Lewis didn’t believe him when they met recently. Lewis had laid a trap for him and he had fallen in. There must have been more CCTV that he had purposefully not mentioned. McEvoy smiled to himself and sat up on the mattress, shaking his head slowly. He’d seen Lewis pull that shit a thousand times with suspects, and now the game was up. He’d have to disappear.

They were probably watching him now, so he’d have to continue his usual routine for at least another work shift. Then he’d have to go. Go back to the apartment at 7pm after his shift finished, it was pay day, he’d get $150 anyway, and he needed every dollar.

Pick up some essentials and drive south through San Diego. He knew the land and it’s lie down there. He knew he could deal with his own needs there. From there he’d cross into Texas and from there into Mexico and then he was gone forever. But he was carrying the .38 at all times now, didn’t care if anyone noticed at work. He’d dump it when the danger passed.

Because besides the cops, he was out there watching him too.

And that could mean anything at any time.

.....-----------

David had to get his own van and some other things now. He’d been home and back from Trenton already, this time with the van, and he’d brought a ladder. He had until maybe 5 pm to do the preparation he could get done before the ex cop came back. The CCTV he would leave until last.

He had his tazer and his only gun, a Smith & Wesson.45 with a suppressor. The first shot was often the loudest, but it was still not recognizable as a gunshot to the average ear. At short range it left no doubt at center mass or head. Nothing could remain so he had brought his spare gas can to torch the place. He had found an ideal spot to look on for the next 5-6 hours. He put on his general overalls which were a generic off white. The roof of what was the original Motel office was accessible by a small ladder, and it led out onto the main buildings air conditioning unit. By appearing to work on it, he had a perfect view of who came in and out of the only entrance to the parking lot, whilst himself being relatively hidden behind the unit. As well as the parking lot, the position also gave him a view of the wider section of the lay to of the adjacent highway in case his target was already spooked and wouldn’t park his car as usual outside.

The weather was cooling now, the dead heat of the afternoon receding a little, there had been mention of thunderstorms on the radio but the sky was gloriously clear. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon when he saw them first. A woman and a man. He had seen them before, it just wasn’t coming to him where. They parked the grey steel sedan off the highway near the eastern end of the parking lot which was slightly elevated and held a view of the entrance to the parking lot. The spot they chose was hidden from traffic going east to west in the highway because it was just over the brim of a rise so you’d never see it until you’d passed it if you were doing highway speeds. Typically only cops parked like this. Anyone else was just inviting some idiot to hit them on the hard shoulder so they parked where everyone could see them.

At first he’d assumed they were uniformed in an unmarked car just looking for tickets. But even without binoculars he noticed they were in civilian clothes and didn’t appear to have a speed gun radar. They were both armed, the man held his on a holster on his right hip, hers was maybe clipped near to the car’s steering column, he couldn’t be sure. She was obese, he imagined she’d struggle to put it concealed anywhere on her person except on a calf holster. He had no idea why they were there but he wasn’t a believer in coincidences and was going to assume they would have to be dealt with it. At five pm, the male had confirmed his fate when he walked up and appeared to knock on the door of the ex cops place. David reckoned it was good 3 minutes walk from their car to the door of the ex cop. He had to watch them watch his target now. If the male went again on his own to check the door, 3 minutes was enough if David was positioned from the same side of the parking lot, by approaching from to the north and east of the cars position to take the woman out first. He would retreat quickly and hide in some scrub and large garbage disposal units or proceed directly to the apartment if he wasn’t noticed.

If they left together to the ex cops, he’d have to observe them entering the small apartment before he could deal with them or else force them in. This was getting to a level of messy that made David nervous. The ex cop was probably armed too, better to assume this. And any situation where 4 people convened on the same small piece of real estate, all armed, laid open the chance of unforeseen potential scenarios playing out. This was not how he liked it. This was not how he had planned it.

......
Lewis got back into the car. It looked like McEvoy was working until 7pm. They had parked in the lay by of the highway on a slightly elevated position just over a small hill on the road looking down on the entrance to the parking lot of the old motel. McEvoy would be approaching over the brim of the hill and from behind them so he was unlikely to see them tucked in to his left as he went by.

The sun was beginning to turn more into the west as it began its descent in the evening sky, that barely perceptible moment in a summers day when the shadows lengthen and the sun is painting the world less now with a harsh yellow, instead now a more warm amber glow. Lewis knew Marcella wasn’t happy. She started in again.

“Tom, I’ve known you the best part of eight years. You are a fountain of common sense usually, this isn’t like you. Think about this. If he doesn’t make us going by, he’ll just go straight in to his apartment. He won’t be looking out the window, you’re being paranoid about his paranoia.” She paused and looked out the window briefly before continuing.

“And if he did spot me, and ran, where could he run to? There’s only one door outta there. My fear is he won’t run and I know you think that too. You know he has a gun in there and you freely admit you think he has used it before multiple times. Why won’t you let me go arrest him with you. What part of you isn’t screaming we need back up in all this? Why are we not calling in local PD on this once we make contact?” She was ranting now, exasperated at his brush offs.

It had been like this most of the way down once he’d laid out his plan. He had counter argued that if McEvoy wasn’t on edge and waiting for trouble, when Lewis knocked and was casual in addressing McEvoy, he’d be relaxed and open the door, whereupon Lewis would already have his weapon drawn. He had pointed out that McEvoy was an ex cop, and things like how many footsteps he heard outside and how many shadows he saw cast would still be automatically being fed into his brain, almost reflexively. And then any element of surprise was gone. So if McEvoy had the potential she kept saying, he would have his weapon ready to hand. And so it went on, over and over.

Of course he knew she was right. The obvious thing to do was to call back up, now that they had secured the suspects location, particularly if they held a belief the suspect was armed and potentially dangerous. This was rookie stuff, learnt on hour one of a patrolman’s first day.

The problem was that if he went down that route, the likelihood of his biggest fear would play out. Surrounded and with no way out, McEvoy might either kill Marcella, himself, or get killed trying to escape. And McEvoy dying in this could only happen at his hands. If McEvoy died and the ballistics didn’t match, if he got all this wrong, then only he should be to blame for McEvoy’s death. This was his what if scenario. Then only he should take the hit. Not some rookie uniformed responding to a back up call. Not Marcella and he could foresee it playing out like that.

What a moment to have a crisis of confidence in your professional judgement. Lewis the murder cop only good for nailing suspects in the interview room, took a gamble on a psychological profile he garnered himself, and it all goes horribly wrong. No way would he let it play out like that.

He had barely slept at all last night. He kept playing over and over in his mind the “what if” scenario to the point where he had lost sight of the tiny chance that it might actually happen. It had come to a point in his thought process that it was the only thing that could happen. A moment in time soon would be visited upon them, him and McEvoy where he had to make a split second judgement as to whether they were both leaving that apartment room alive or only one of them was leaving alive. And so, here he was going around and around with Marcella on it.

But he had one last trick up his sleeve, the climb down and consolation that was nothing of the sort. “Look Marcie, we’re getting nowhere here”. He sighed and looked out the window and took out his nitrate spray and squeezed the dispenser. It was probably over kill making her feel she was bringing on his angina. But he was desperate to do this his way now. He sighed again. “Ok, look. 5 minutes after I leave, call it in and make your way to me. That’s my final offer on this”. He looked over at her and smiled. She did her best to frown but couldn’t pull it off. “Alright Tom. Five minutes and I’m going in. Not a minute more”

............

“We’re up”. Marcella elbowed him in his side. He had been lost in his own thoughts. Thinking about Stargazer for some reason. The moniker was too kind really, an almost romantic name. When people thought of star gazing, they thought of clear dark skies, of the wonders of the heavens, of far away constellations, maybe even unexplored worlds. They didn’t think of murder. They didn’t think of a predator. They didn’t think of the lost innocence of youth. He felt for some reason he could not explain, that maybe for the first time in all of this that they were closing in, an infinitesimally small piece closer to him.

“C’mon, the clock is ticking” Marcella’s tone was both urgent and wary.

The dark green Explorer turned into the parking lot and the trail of dust finally settled at the end row by McEvoy’s unit. Lewis grabbed the warrant and stuffed it into his back pocket and got out of the car. It was about a two or three minute brisk walk to McEvoy’s from the car. Half way there he realized he’d left his nitrate spray; no time to turn back now. By the time he got to the door, he had unholstered his weapon, and put a round in the chamber. He knocked softly.

.....

Marcella followed him intently until he was just out of sight. It was only by the time the hobo had reached the rear wheel arch on her side that she’d actually noticed him. Or whatever he was- he seemed to be actually a road maintenance guy from the look of the overalls. She reached into her bag to get her badge whilst rolling the window down. This was not the time to be asked to move along.

She turned to face him and a split second later realized something was terribly wrong. The tazer gun in his hand discharged into her and she became instantly a prisoner to her own arching clenched body. He reached into his overalls and removed a weapon. Her last thoughts were her own. He discharged one round point blank center mass, it made a loud snapping noise. The second round was quieter but still loud enough you’d jump if you were in the same room as it. David looked around. No cars had passed and no pedestrians were nearby. He replaced the two rounds and placed the gun back inside his overalls in its custom holster He was uncomfortably hot in them all day but the heat was finally subsiding. He continued down to the parking lot. The gas can was hidden by the large trash disposal unit next to the apartment. He’d have to clear the room first and then destroy everything.

......

Lewis knew McEvoy had heard the door knock because he’d stopped doing whatever it was he was doing, the noise of some one rummaging around had stopped. He had his attention, he’d make his pitch now.

“Jim, it’s Tom. Tom Lewis. Stopped by at the diner but they said I’d just missed you. Have some news on Stargazer” Lewis left the bait till last. He heard the door being unlocked from the inside, McEvoy must be on edge so, he must have been expecting unwanted company.

He crossed his hands together and covered his weapon with the warrant. McEvoy pulled the door open and Lewis stepped in, immediately noticing the bags half packed on the bed and that McEvoy was apparently unarmed.

“Hey Tom” McEvoy said warily as he backed into the room a little to allow Lewis in.

Lewis had ruminated over and over in his head what he would say at this moment. A simple apology? Questions as to why? Monologue like in some cheesy afternoon detective show like Columbo? Instead he just raised his weapon at McEvoy and began to read him his rights. “Jim McEvoy, I’m serving a search warrant on these premises and asking you to formally accompany us to Columbus PD for further questioning in the murders of ...”

McEvoy had started to back slowly into the room and between the bed and the back wall of the room.

“Tom, what the fuck Tom. Listen. LISTEN TO ME” McEvoy shouted the last bit.

Lewis ignored him, but noticed he was edging ever so slowly to the bedside locker which was partially open but which he could not see into from the doorway. It was the same one, the one he had seen the .38 in originally.

“Tom, it’s all in there, I know who Stargazer is, it’s over. It was the pool connection that we missed” McEvoy’s tone was almost pleading now.

He pointed to the bedside locker, a notepad lay beside the lamp. McEvoy continued to edge towards it

“DON’T MOVE ANY CLOSER JIM” Lewis shouted. A vague tightness now had settled on his chest. McEvoy turned to the locker as if to get something from it and Lewis realized that moment he had foreseen coming had arrived.

This could only end with them both walking out calmly or one of them never walking out. Lewis didn’t hesitate. He squeezed the trigger twice, the first round hitting McEvoy just below his right armpit and traveling through his upper body. The second hit him in the right upper part of his abdomen as the first had spun him round to face Lewis again.

McEvoy dropped to a sitting position, smearing blood across down the wall, his face one of utter shock and disbelief. Lewis knew he had to secure the gun in the bedside locker and stepped another step into the room. He glanced again at the partially open drawer of the bedside locker and had just enough time to register that it was oddly empty looking before the first pain like a scraping bee sting exploded on his neck, followed by another like a sharp intense punch just between his right shoulder and chest. Lewis looked to see McEvoy had the .38 in his right hand, weakened from blood loss and barely able to hold it steady, smoke still exiting the barrel.

Lewis fired one more round, this time to the head killing him instantly. He could feel warm streams of blood running down his neck now. And he could feel a dull pain around his right shoulder. But the worst of all now was the crushing pain in his chest. He gasped and fell forward on to his knees, the world now blurring as he felt that horrible nausea you get just before you faint. He dropped to his knees and keeled over onto his chest. The chest pain was intense now, his vision was blurred now by a mixture of blood and sweat as he felt exhausted and weak suddenly. The world greyed out and greyed back in.

He heard him first, the sound of heavy boots on the wooden decking outside. He couldn’t hear any sirens, any Marcella, just someone behind him. The steps seemed to go away only to return minutes later. Then he smelt it, kerosene as whoever it was behind in the doorway threw it around. The empty can clattered to the ground, and he stepped over Lewis and around to McEvoy. Lewis could see that whoever it was favored their left leg, there was an almost unnoticeable but definite limp. The man came into view partially as Lewis lay there, he appeared to be wearing white overalls and almost albino looking except for tight curly off-red hair. From the floor he looked impossibly big, The man walked over to McEvoy before throwing a lit match on the bed . It was him. Lewis knew immediately, he couldn’t rationalize why, he just knew. The pain in his chest soared and he closed his eyes, drained now, so weak he couldn’t even keep them open.

———

David looked down at the dead policeman who seemed almost grey already, lying prostrate in front of him, blood pooling under his neck and face. The ex cop was presumably by the wall , although he was largely unrecognizable now having taken a round to the face. He threw the lit notepad down on the bed and stepped over the dead cop. The bed was already in flames, thick smoke billowing from it. The fire alarm like the a/c, hadn’t worked in a decade as a layer of smoke clung to the ceiling, swirling viciously. Time was pushing on. Someone would have heard the exchange of gunfire between the two dead men. Time to leave. After all, he had work to do.

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