Chapter 19

Eight o'clock that evening I sit in the living room of Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins, in the very house Eric longed to return to until his throat was cut. Eric's parents are younger than I would have guessed. Mr. Hawkins can be no more than forty-two and I doubt his wife has reached forty. They must have married young and had Eric when they were barely out of their teens. He is stern faced, but it is a practiced expression, one he wears for his patients. But I see his intelligence and natural curiosity beneath it. She is plump and kindly, fussing with her hands as she constantly thinks of her son. She wears her heart on her face, her eyes are red from constant crying. Their address was in the phone book.

I just knocked at their door and told them I have information concerning their missing son. They in?vited me in because I am young and pretty and look as if I could harm no one. They sit across from me and wait for me to speak. There is no easy way to say it.

"Your son is dead," I say. "He was murdered last night. I thought you would want to know rather than to be left wondering. Before I leave here, I'll give you the address where his body can be found. He's in a house not far from here." I pause. "I'm truly sorry to have to bring you this information. It must be a great shock to both of you."

Mrs. Hawkins bursts into gasping sobs and buries her face in her hands. Mr. Hawkins's nostrils flare with anger. "How do you know this?" he demands.

"As you look at me you must see that I match the description of the young woman who picked up Eric in the park. I am, in fact, that person. But I am not the one who killed your son. On the contrary, I fought hard to save him. I'm very sorry I failed. Eric was a sweet boy. I liked him quite a lot."

They are in turmoil, which is inevitable. "This can't be true," Mr. Hawkins stammers.

"It is true. You will verify that for yourself when you go to the house. But I would rather you sent the police ahead of you. Eric died from a serious throat wound." I add reluctantly, "Just before I came here I tried to clean up, but there is still a lot of blood."

Mrs. Hawkins continues to sob. Mr. Hawkins leans forward in his chair, his skin flushed with blood, his face quivering with fury. "Who are you?" he asks.

"My name is not important. It's true I kidnapped your son but I meant him no harm. I do understand that you won't believe me. That you must hate me. If the situation were reversed I would probably hate you. But I can give you nothing to identify me with, and after I leave here, you will never see me again. The police will never find me."

Mr. Hawkins snorts. "You're not leaving this house, young lady. I'm calling the police as soon as I'm through with you."

"You should call the police. I've written down the address you need on a piece of paper." I take the scrap and hand it to him. He frowns as he glances at the slip. I continue, "I can give you directions to the house, but I must warn you two police officers who were there yesterday were also killed. Or rather, I must assume they were killed because they went off with the same person who killed your son and they didn't come back."

I add this last remark because I'm puzzled that no one has been to the house searching for them. When I stopped by half an hour earlier, looking for Kalika and Seymour, I could find no sign that the place had been examined by the authorities. Especially since Eric was still lying on the couch in all his gore. It was not pleasant trying to clean him up. He looked as if he had died in agony, which, of course, he had.

"You are talking a bunch of trash," Mr. Hawkins snaps.

"I am telling you the truth," I reply simply.

Mrs. Hawkins finally comes up for air. "Why did this person kill my boy?"

"To try to force me to reveal the whereabouts of a newborn baby. The person who murdered your son is obsessed with this child. She would do anything to get to him. But I refused to give her the information she needed, so Eric was killed." I pause. "None of these facts are important to you. None of them will make any sense to you. But I do want you to know that when I leave this house, I am going to meet with this young woman, and I am going to do everything in my power to stop her. I know you'll want revenge for what has happened to your son, or at the very least justice. I will try to give you both tonight, and keep this person from murdering again." I stand suddenly. "Now I have to go."

"You're not going anywhere!" Mr. Hawkins shouts as he tries to rise. But before his bottom can leave the chair, I effortlessly hold him down with one hand. My strength startles him.

"Please," I say gently. "You can't keep me here. It's not possible. And you won't be able to follow me. Just know that your son was brave and that forces beyond our control conspired to end his life before it should have ended. Try to understand his death as an act of God's will. I try to see it that way."

I leave them then quickly. They hardly have a chance to react, and later they will both wonder if my visit was a dream. But I know they will go straight to the house after they call the police. I know they will see their dead son before anyone else does. They loved him, and they should be the ones to close his eyes.

My car is around the block. Soon I am in it and driving for the ocean. There is an appointment I have with destiny and my daughter. I don't know which I trust less.

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