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Chapter 17

Drew is a sobering sight today. Gone are the Ralph Lauren khakis and Charles Tyrwhitt button-down he wore to work yesterday morning. Now he wears the orange-striped prison garb I usually see on inmates picking up trash around the city. His handsome face is shadowed by thirty hours growth of beard, but its his eyes that unsettle me most. Theyre no longer the eyes of an accomplished physician in command of his surroundings; theyre the haunted eyes of a man who realizes that the world he once bestrode with confidence may soon contract to an eight-by-ten-foot cell.

Tell me you have some good news, he says.

I do. But its not all good. Youd better put your game-face on.

He blinks slowly. Give me the bad first.

The police found Kates cell phone in the woods not far from her house. I lower my voice to a whisper. Also not far from where you told me you found her body.

He watches me without speaking for a while. Whats so bad about that? Had she tried to call me or something?

I dont know. But she had some pictures stored in her phone. Explicit pictures.

Another slow blink. Pictures of what?

You. Unclothed.

Drew closes his eyes but says nothing.

I saw them. One looks like your penis, another looks like your ass. What I remember from the high school dressing room, anyway.

Do any show my face?

Yes. In one youre sleeping naked.

Goddamn it. I told her to erase that stuff. He grits his teeth and shakes his head, but its hard to be angry at a dead girl. Is that all the bad news?

No. Someone saw you park your car in that vacant lot near the creek after all. Honestly, thats the most damning piece of evidence they have, because unlike the rest, which only prove an affair, that puts you close to what they may eventually prove was the crime scene.

Drew lays his elbows on the narrow ledge on his side of the visiting window. What about the good news?

Were not done with the bad yet.

Shit.

The semen that the serology tests say is yours wasnt swabbed from Kates vagina. It came from her rectum.

Drew looks at me like a man offended by a personal question. What are you asking me, Penn?

Is your DNA going to match that semen when the big test comes back?

He looks away, then back at me. Kate liked to finish that way sometimes, okay? I dont know why, but she got a lot of pleasure from that. I did, too, obviously. We probably did thatone out of every four times.

I dont speak for a while. Im trying to judge his honesty about a subject on which Drew is the only living authority.

Why? he asks. Did somebody make a big deal of that?

Kate was in high school, Drew. Everybodys going to make a big deal out of that. Its going to make you look a lot more guilty of rape to a lot of people.

Thats crazy. It was her idea. Ellen and I never had anal sex.

Because you never asked, or because Ellen refused?

He stares at me with wide eyes, then hangs his head. I see what you mean.

The autopsy report says Kate had both vaginal and anal trauma indicative of rape. Would you have traumatized her back there?

No way. She relaxed totally during that act. If she was traumatized back there, whoever raped her did it.

I think about this for a while. Did Kate ever ask you to choke her during sex?

His head pops up. No. Why?

I lower my voice to a whisper. Did you know Kate kept a journal?

Drew glances at the door behind him, then turns back to me and nods.

Kates mother brought that to me, with some of her other personal things. She didnt want the police to find them.

Thats good. I told you Jenny understood.

Kate wrote in her journal about wanting you to choke her. Apparently Steve Sayers used to do that to her, and at her request.

Bewilderment. She never told me that. And she never asked me to do it.

Im almost afraid to ask the next question. Did you two ever bring anyone else into your bed?

Did she write that we did?

Im tempted to lie and try to trap him, but I dont. She wrote about wanting to do it.

Drew looks like he might be about to ask me what she wrote about that subject. But then he says, She did want to. We might have done it in the future, butno, we never did.

Kate had three miniature flash drives in the box with her journal. The USB type. Lexar.

Did you open them?

I couldnt. Theyre password-protected.

He looks intrigued but offers nothing.

Do you know the passwords to those disks?

No.

Theyre high-capacity drives-five hundred twelve meg. Im thinking they have digital photos on them. If it turned out that she had some pictures of other men-even one other man-that might really help you.

Drew is no longer looking at me. I dont know her password, he says. Not even for her e-mail account. She was private about stuff like that.

Okay. Lets try a little good news-although on a personal level, you may see it as bad. Have you seen the morning paper?

No.

Have you ever heard the name Cyrus White?

Drew looks blank. No. Who is he?

A black drug dealer.

No reaction.

Kate had some contact with this guy, I go on. Regular contact. She visited Cyrus every month or so at the Brightside Manor Apartments.

Brightside Manor? Shock now. What the hell was she doing there?

Nobody knows. I got this from Sonny Cross, the narcotics agent. Keep that to yourself, by the way. Sonny says its unlikely that Kate went there to buy drugs, because girls like Kate dont need to buy drugs. Guys will give them whatever they want. Did you ever see Kate get high?

Hell no, Drew says distractedly. Hes obviously preoccupied with this new information about his mistress. Kate hated drugs. I think she tried grass when she was fifteen, but she didnt like what it did to her head. He scratches his shoulder as though to kill a bug under his clothes. But why else would she go to a place like that?

I try to choose my words carefully, but theres no way to sugarcoat this. Sonny suggested that she might have gone there solely to see Cyrus.

Drew pales. Youre out of your mind. Or Cross is. What does that redneck know about Kate anyway? Hes never spoken to her in his life.

He apparently knows more than you do about at least one part of her life, as hard as that may be for you to swallow. We dont have time for hurt feelings, Drew. We need to figure out what the hell Kate was doing at Brightside.

Drew shakes his head again, but whether from anger or puzzlement, I cant tell.

This isnt some twenty-year-old punk were talking about, I explain. Cyrus is a thirty-four-year-old veteran of Desert Storm. He runs the serious drug trade for the whole city. He has ties to Asian gangs on the Gulf Coast, and he ruthlessly wiped out his competition here when he went into business.

Drew turns up his palms. I dont know what to say, okay? This is totally out of the blue for me. Is there anything else you can tell me?

According to Sonny, Cyrus has a taste for white girls.

I see fury building in Drews face, and a new tension gathering in his heavily muscled shoulders.

Stay calm, buddy, I say quietly. In the journal Kate kept a list of guys shed hooked up with. Guys and girls.

Drew looks more interested than surprised. Tell me.

She listed people shed made out with, people shed rejected, and people who had rejected her. Under the heading of guys shed rejected was the name Cyrus. Beside this name-in parentheses-she wrote: shit, close one! In another part of the journal she wrote that Cyrus had come on to her pretty strong during one visit. He backed her into a corner and fondled her breast.

A steely calm emanates from Drews eyes. Get me out of here, Penn.

I cant do it. Youre going to be charged with murder this morning. And at my request.

His mouth drops open.

It was that or let Sheriff Byrd arrest you. For some reason I dont yet understand, Billys acting as a monkeys paw for Shad Johnson. So it was basically a choice of jails. The other ones nicer, but this ones safer-for our purposes anyway.

This is bullshit, Drew says. You get me out of here now. Ill find out what this Cyrus was doing with Kate.

Thats not going to happen. With Shad pushing this thing, bail will be denied.

Wheres Cyrus now? Have the police talked to him? Have they taken a blood sample from him? Thats got to be who raped Kate at the creek.

Possibly, I concede. I hope it was.

Son of a bitch! Drew explodes, slapping the ledge. Do you realize where Brightside Manor is?

About forty yards from St. Catherines Creek.

Exactly! And the creek was in flood. He could have killed her there and dumped her body in the creek!

I thought of that last night. Only it seems unlikely that Kates body would wash up within a couple of hundred yards from her house.

Not really, says Drew, shaking his head. Thats a dogleg bend with a lot of obstacles that trap floating objects. Kate wasnt far from a fallen tree, now that I think about it. His eyes bore into mine. You didnt answer my question. Wheres Cyrus now?

Nobody knows.

Drew stares at me like a madman. Youre shitting me.

No. And until the police find him, question him, and take blood from him, youre going to sit right where you are now. So settle down and get ready to tough it out.

Tell me youre not serious.

I am. And dont even think about doing anything crazy, Drew. I know inmates escape from the outdoor area of this jail with embarrassing regularity. I also know that if you got out of here and tracked down Cyrus White before the police, hed be dead. But that would be the worst thing you could do. We need a confession from Cyrus. Failing that, we need a DNA match to the other semen sample taken from Kates body.

The coldness in Drews eyes could freeze desert sand. They can match DNA to a corpse as easily as they can to a live body.

Promise me you wont try it. Or Ill tell Chief Logan to put you in lockdown around the clock. Hell do it if I ask him.

Drews hands are shaking.

Promise me, I repeat. Or this is the last time youll see me in here.

After some time, he nods. I stand and reach for the door behind me. One more thing.

He looks up with burning eyes.

You need a real lawyer now. A top-notch criminal defense attorney, preferably black and female.

Drew says nothing.

Thats nonnegotiable, I tell him. Understood?

He waves his hand in a gesture of dismissal. He could care less about lawyers at this point. His mind and will are totally focused on one thing.

Cyrus White.

Im sitting in Chief Logans office when Sonny Cross calls my cell phone and delivers the next bombshell. Penn, do you know Jim Pinella?

The oil man?

Thats him. Hes got a son at the Catholic school. A junior. Michael. Mike, they call him.

Ive met Mike, I reply, vaguely recalling a tall, thin boy who acted in a play at the Little Theater.

Well, the kid was just beaten within an inch of his life.

A surreal feeling envelops me in a bubble, blurring Chief Logan and everything else in the office. Who did it?

Some black guys. It happened outside the Brightside Manor Apartments.

Brightside Manor? What the hell was a white kid doing over there? Buying dope? Or was this another mystery visit like Kate Townsends?

Mike wasnt buying dope, Sonny says curtly. Where are you now?

The police station.

Im on Liberty Road. Can you meet me in the parking lot of First Baptist Church?

Does this concern Drew?

Im not sure, but it damn sure concerns St. Stephens.

Ill be there in five minutes.


Chapter 16 | Turning Angel | Chapter 18