Home > The Good Lie(2)

The Good Lie(2)
Author: A. R. Torre

No, I corrected myself. Not a knife. Not with Brooke. It would be something else. Something less hands-on. Poison. That had been his recent fantasy of choice.

I checked the clock on the microwave. Over two hours since he had called me. Anything could have happened in two hours. That’s what I got for sleeping in. The Ambien, which had seemed like a great idea at 3:00 a.m., had cost me this missed call.

One more call, I told myself. I’d wait a little bit, then try him once more and then move on with my day. Obsession, as I frequently told my clients, never affected outside situations. They only made your internal struggles—and resulting personal actions and decisions—worse.

I fixed a piece of toast and ate it, chewing slowly and deliberately as I sat at my dining room table and watched an episode of Seinfeld on my cell phone. After I’d wiped down the counters, rebagged the bread, and washed my hands at the sink, I tried him again.

And just like the first two times, he ignored my call.

 

At nine forty-five, as I headed to the office for my first appointment, John Abbott failed to show up for his shift at Breyer’s Pharmacy.

There was immediate concern. The man was a tyrant about punctuality, so much so that two junior pharmacists had quit in tears after being subjected to his long and almost violent rants on time accountability. After his tardiness stretched to ten thirty, then eleven o’clock, and repeated calls to his cell phone went unanswered, the three staff members convened at the back of the medical racks over what to do. The line of customers, which had never extended past the adult-diapers section of the aisle, now stretched all the way into herbal remedies. At the front, a man with a bushy white mustache and cowboy hat cleared his throat.

A decision was made to find John’s wife on Facebook and send her a message. With that task complete, they waited another fifteen minutes, then dispatched the most junior and expendable member of the team to drive to his home.

Joel Blanker was twenty-one years old and a pharmacy intern from Little Rock, Arkansas. He liked Dungeons and Dragons, Latin women, and chicken tenders with extra ketchup. As I listened to Phil Ankerly mull over a documentary he’d watched on Ted Bundy, Joel parked on the street and texted the assistant pharmacist to let him know that John’s car was there, parked in the drive behind a white sedan. The instructions Joel received were simple: Ring the doorbell. Ask John if he’s coming to work. Duck and cover if he starts to yell.

Joel began at the one-story home’s front door, his armpits damp from the Los Angeles heat as he listened to the chime echo through the house. After a second ring, and with no sounds from inside the home, he moved around to the carport. Knocking gently on the side door, he waited, then hesitantly cupped his hands to the glass and peered in.

At the sight of the blood and the body, he stumbled back, his dress shoe catching on the carport’s curb. His cell phone skittered across the ground and came to a stop against a support pillar. He crawled across the cleanly swept surface and picked up the phone. Ignoring the fresh spiderweb of cracks across its display, he unlocked the device and jabbed the digits for 9-1-1.

 

After my second morning appointment, I swung by the Forty-Fifth Avenue gym. My concerns over John Abbott’s voice mail faded as I changed into gym clothes and climbed onto a treadmill. I dialed up the speed and scanned the row of television screens, zeroing in on one that showed a newscaster’s face, the words BH KILLER in bold font under her chin. Settling into a comfortable jog, I kept my eyes on the press conference’s closed-captioning thread, trying to understand what the update was covering. The camera view switched to show a handsome teenager in a button-up shirt and khakis standing beside his mother, a bashful grin on his face as she gripped him around his waist.

“. . . grateful to have him home. Please give us privacy as we spend this time with our son . . .”

I jabbed the “Stop Session” button on the treadmill and grabbed my phone. Despite the halt in pace, my heartbeat increased. Had the latest Bloody Heart victim escaped? Along with most Angelenos, I’d spent the last three years glued to the coverage, following each tragic case from disappearance to death. An escaped victim, especially one in healthy condition, seemed impossible. This was the time frame when a victim’s dead body was typically found, his penis crudely removed, his nude corpse given the same amount of care as a discarded cigarette.

This killer was unique and precise, his expertise proven through six victims. I was stunned that he would be careless enough to allow for an escape. Could this be a copycat killer? A hoax? Or a weak moment in strategy and execution? I unlocked my phone and searched for the latest news article, then glanced back up at the muted television.

“. . . escaped from the BH Killer and ran for miles until he found his way home . . .”

There it was. Confirmation in black and white. How had Scott Harden escaped? I stepped off the machine, hurried through the busy cardio area, and hit the stairs, jogging down the wide steps toward the gym’s lower level. As I reached the bottom step, the phone’s display changed and my ringtone sounded through the headphones. The call was from my office, and I put my second earbud in place and answered it. “Hello?”

“Dr. Moore?” Jacob spoke in a hushed tone. I pictured him at our reception desk, his wire-frame glasses slipping down his nose, a bead of sweat already halfway down one side of his acne-scarred forehead.

“Hi, Jacob.” I pushed open the door to the ladies’ locker room and grabbed a fluffy monogrammed towel off the top of the stack.

“There’s a detective here to see you. Ted Saxe. He said it’s urgent.”

I squeezed past a cluster of neon-clad yoga enthusiasts and found my locker. “Did he say what it’s about?”

“He won’t tell me, and he’s refusing to leave.”

Shit. It had been almost six hours since my voice mail from John Abbott, and I’d heard nothing but silence. Had something happened? Or was this visit about one of my other clients? “I’ll head back now.” I balanced the cell phone against my shoulder as I worked my running shorts past my hips. “Oh, and Jacob?”

“Yes?”

“Don’t let him go in my office. And don’t give him any information. I don’t care what he asks for.”

Our part-time receptionist, who tuned pianos and ate shark-shaped gummy snacks for lunch, didn’t miss a beat. “Done and done.”

“Thanks.” I ended the call and paused, my shorts around my ankles, my red-cotton thong in full display of anyone in the area. Scrolling down to John’s voice mail, I quickly deleted the file, then went into my deleted voice mails and cleared out the backup record of it.

The act was instinctual. My psychiatry training would blame it on a childhood history of covering my tracks and hiding anything that would spur my alcoholic mother into rage. But here there wasn’t a risk of a belligerent housewife slapping me across the face. The ramifications of John Abbott harming his wife—if that’s what this was about—would be much worse. A potential investigation into my practice. A review by the medical board. Media attention on me and my clients—clients who demanded complete confidentiality.

After all, I didn’t treat workaholics with insecurity issues. I specialized in killers. Depraved, volatile killers.

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