“Maybe it’s at his house. Or…um, in a safety deposit box. Maybe he gave it to someone. Maybe he gave it to Crow.”
Another pause. “Shit,” Vic said at last, “that sounds about right. Damn it.”
“What do you want me to do?” He took a risk, guessing what Vic would say. “You want me to creep his place?”
“No. Not at the moment. Just go back to watching the hospital and I’ll get back to you.”
Vic hung up and Polk sagged against the wall. His armpits were soaked and he felt sick to his stomach. With Vic it was never easy to tell whether he believed something or not. Not until Vic brought it up face-to-face. Polk fumbled a bottle of aspirin out of his pocket and dry-swallowed three of them before pulling the door open.
“That’s funny,” Weinstock said as he reached for the doorknob, “this should be locked.”
The door was open just a crack, showing a vertical line of shadows inside the morgue. Crow saw it and immediately pushed Weinstock’s hand away. “No! Don’t.”
“You don’t think—”
“I don’t like this one bit, Saul. So let’s just back away,” Crow said softly as he pulled his friend away from the door. Together they moved to the far side of the hallway and Crow looked up and down the corridor, seeing things he hadn’t seen when they’d first come off the elevator. The concrete was scuffed with dirt and mud that had been tracked in from the access door to the outside. There was a beer can on the ground and a couple of cigarette butts. He squatted down to examine them. No, not cigarette butts—they were the roach ends of a couple of joints. “What the hell?” He glanced at the door as he straightened. “Saul, call security. Get some guards down here.”
Weinstock gave a curt nod and hurried back up the corridor to where a white plastic phone was inset into the cinderblock wall. He lifted the handset and punched in a three-digit code.
“Security,” a crisp female voice answered. “Molly Sims.”
“Molly, this is Dr. Weinstock. I’m outside the morgue. It looks like there’s been a break-in.”
“Another one?” Her voice rose three octaves.
“Get somebody down here right now!” He slammed down the phone and crept back to join Crow, who was peering at the mud. Mixed in with ordinary dirt there was a darker, more viscous substance that was a dark red fading to chocolate brown.
“I think some of this is blood,” Crow said softly. “Christ, are we looking at just another break-in, or is did something break out?”
Weinstock paled. “I really wish you wouldn’t say things like that.” He shifted to try and peer through the narrow crack, but the room beyond was completely dark. “You thinking Boyd?”
“Yeah,” Crow said. Or Mark, he thought, but didn’t say it. “Wait here.” He hurried back to the elevator-end of the hall to where a heavy fire ax was mounted on clips behind a glass door. He smashed the glass and took the ax.
Weinstock nodded approval. “Should do the trick if anything comes out of there, but I sure hope you’re not thinking of going in.”
Crow smiled faintly. “Dude, in the movies the hero always walks into some dark place all alone, and you know something fangy and hairy is going to jump out. Doesn’t work for me—I’m not a total idiot and I’m comfortably chicken shit, so I’ll wait for the cavalry to arrive. This,” he hefted the ax again, “is to make me feel better while we wait.”
They waited. Every other second one of them would shoot a look over at the elevator, waiting for the little white light above the door to go bing! Long seconds passed.
“Your security team kinda blows with the whole rapid-response thing.”
Weinstock was scowling at the elevator. “Ever since we got down here my balls have been slowly climbing up into my pelvis. If my nuts make it all the way to my chest cavity by the time those guards get here, heads will roll.” He nodded at the ax. “And I don’t mean layoffs.”
The elevator pinged and the doors slid open as five people burst out into the hall—three hospital security officers and two cops. Polk was one of the cops. Everyone had their guns drawn and they raced down the hall, pistol barrels pointed up to the ceiling, eyes shifting back and forth, moving just like each of them had seen real cops do on TV.
“We’re saved,” Crow said dryly.
Weinstock sighed. “Whoopee.”
Though Crow didn’t like Polk, he had to admire the smooth efficiency with which the officer led his men into the room, fanned out and covering every corner. It was very workmanlike.
“Clear!” Polk called. As he holstered his pistol he gestured for Weinstock and Crow to come in. “Nobody’s home, but it looks like there was one hell of a party.”
The place had been trashed. Tables overturned, class shattered, closets torn off the walls and contents dumped. The walls were covered with crude graffiti—naked women with huge breasts, men with gigantic penises, and slogans like “Pine Deep Scarecrows Rule!” and “Blow Me!” On the floor someone had used a pint of whole blood to create splash art, and there were footprints patterned all the way through it.
“That explains the blood in the hallway,” Weinstock said, but he sounded more hopeful than certain. Crow merely grunted.
“I’ll call for a crime scene team down here,” Polk said and went out into the hall.
Crow and Weinstock barely registered the comment. They were both staring at the rows of stainless-steel doors behind which bodies were stored on sliding metal trays. All the doors stood open. Mark Guthrie lay on one of them; Connie was two drawers down. Tyrone Gibbs was in the one at the far end, and an old lady who had died of a coronary was in the drawer next to him.
“Saul…tell me, please, that Boyd’s body was stored somewhere else.”
Weinstock scrambled around, kicking through the debris until he found a clipboard. He rifled through the pages and then just stood there, his face going dead.
Crow closed his eyes. “Oh…shit.”
Boyd’s body was gone.
He drifted through the forest on silent feet while above and around him the air was filled with the scream of crows. The ragged black birds carted and wheeled above the Bone Man’s head, sometimes landing in rows along the arthritic arms of trees, sometimes gathering in gossiping clusters on the ground. Several hundred more of the night birds lined a twisted path, standing like diners at a buffet to peck at the rotting remains of ten thousand squashed roaches—the debris from the hysterical flight of Crow and Newton the day before.
The Bone Man smiled at the birds. He liked them, they were his friends in this. His eyes, sometimes, his ears. Why these ragged carrion birds could see him when no one else could was something even he didn’t know. Maybe they were doomed, too. Henry Guthrie had seen him that night because Henry was knocking on Heaven’s door, but then a lot of people had seen him that first night. Henry’s little girl, Val. Li’l Miss Bosslady he used to call her. She’d seen him out there in the corn when Ruger was hunting for her. The boy, the dhampyr, had seen him on the road that night, but that was when the Bone Man was being a fool and using up the little power he’d brought from the grave, being stupid and wasteful, trying to be symbolic when straightforward would have worked better—showing himself as a white stag instead of just speaking to the kid. The Bone Man shook his head as he walked, torn by the opportunities missed.
Well it’s not like you gave me a goddamn handbook on this shit! he yelled at God.
He kept walking, heading deeper into the forest, thinking about the other times the boy saw him. He was sure the kid had seen him over and over again, but it was during those weird fugues that were changing Mike from what he was to what he was going to be and who the hell knows what the kid was aware of during those moments? The Bone Man guessed, but he didn’t know. Anymore than Griswold knew—or so he hoped.
And on that topic , he shouted in his soundless voice, where the hell are you—you cowardly piece of shit?
Griswold—his personality, his presence, whatever the hell you call it…the Bone Man hadn’t sensed him since late last night. Not since Val Guthrie had shot the living hell out of that son of a bitch Boyd. Griswold—the “Man” my ass, the Bone Man thought—had gotten his mouth slapped with that one, sure enough. He may have taken down Mark Guthrie, who was always a weak sister, but not Val.
The Bone Man was grinning about that when he reached the edge of the swamp. He stopped there and the crows flocked around him, settling in the trees, fluttering their oily wings, clicking their beaks in expectation. Despite the chill of mid-October, the swamp was always warm and wet. Flies as big as bees flew low and heavy across the rippled surface, sometimes getting caught in the pop of a bubble of sulfur or methane. There were snakes in the brown grass and worms as thick a child’s finger wriggling in the tangles of rotting vegetation that choked the edges of the slough. Even to a dead man the place was unnatural and vile, and the Bone Man winced at the stink of it.
He moved slowly to the edge of the mire and looked at it. Thirty years ago he and Griswold had fought here. Right here, down deep in the shadows of Dark Hollow, while beyond the mountains the moon was clawing its way into the sky. The Bone Man had gone hunting for the man, knowing—if no one else in town did—that Griswold was the murdering bastard behind the killings that had torn the heart out of Pine Deep. The Bone Man had stabbed him with the broken neck of his guitar and then dragged his body into that mud and pushed it down with a stick until Ubel Griswold had vanished forever beneath the sludge. After thirty years in that kind of muck there would be nothing left but some fragments of bones. The mud of that swamp was filled with worms and every other kind of thing that eats. Griswold was worm food long ago.
So where was he now? Why was there no sense of him around?
The Bone Man stood there, smiling darkly down at the swamp. “Maybe you’re off sulking, you cowardly piece of shit,” he shouted. The birds squawked their support like Baptists in a revival tent. “Val Guthrie handed your boy Boyd his ass. How d’you like that? You wanted her dead—something new for your collection. You already got Billy and you got Mandy. You probably got Terry Wolfe, ’cause he’s sinking low and maybe that’s where you are…down in the dark waiting for Terry to let go and stop fighting so you can take him. You tried to get Val and you tried to get Crow, but you ain’t got shit!” The Bone Man tried to summon up moisture so he could spit on the swampy grave, but there was just dust in his throat. He’d have loved to piss on the mud, but he couldn’t do that, either. He could laugh, though, and there was no bluesman who ever lived who didn’t know how to laugh at the craziness of life.