Chapter 21: Driving Through The Pieces Of A Puzzle
At the station, Deacon asked me the standard questions, taking my statements of what had transpired at the Dean house. I argued that I had not broken or forced my way in. The front door had been unlocked and I just merely opened the door. Once his deputies arrived from questioning Darnell and Andrea, they confirmed I hadn’t picked the lock or made a forced entry, and so I was just charged with trespassing. “It’s the best I can do,” the sheriff explained. “Maybe we can get Darnell to drop the charges before this goes to court. If you’re right about the ‘setting you up’ thing, it could be he just needs a little time to bask in his success. To know that he got you in trouble.”
“I had a feeling he would rather have killed me than call the police.”
“Well he called the police, so we won’t even consider the other possibilities. Just consider yourself lucky, Cole.”
“So what now? I’m under arrest. Do I need to get up some bail money?”
He got up from his chair. “No, we’ll just go before the magistrate real quick and we’ll get him to set you free on your own recognizance. It’s not like you’ve been in trouble before. And you’re ex PD too, so that’s two good things in your favor.” He grinned.
I grinned back, but I really wasn’t thinking of what he was talking about or what I had done to get in trouble. I was thinking about the last image of Summer’s ghost standing on the bridge looking over the side as we kept on driving. Something wasn’t right. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something about her and that bridge just wouldn’t leave me be. It’s like I should have known what’s wrong with the picture, and yet it was just on the outside of my vision. I was going to have to go back and take a look for myself. There was something there, some other piece to be found. Summer wanted me to know something. But what?
Sheriff Deacon and I were in the car, driving back to the Dean house, where my own vehicle remained parked. I didn’t know if he was driving me back himself as a courtesy or to keep me from confronting Darnell again.
“Did your deputies ask him about the box in his basement?” I finally asked. “It was big enough for a body.”
Deacon sighed. “Let it rest, Cole. He let them search the house. There was a crate in the basement, yes. But there was no evidence a body had ever lain in it.”
“Did they ask him what had been in it?”
“Jesus man, don’t you understand? Darnell hasn’t done anything to break the law. But you have.” He glanced over at me. “You need to start getting your own life in order before worrying about what others might be doing.”
He was right and I knew it. I had let things get out of control. Instead of sorting out my own demons, I was creating other ones where they may not even exist.
“My suggestion, Cole, is that you go home. Go home and remove all of Lacey’s things you may have there. It’s driving you crazy what happened to her. You were doing real well for a while. We thought you were going to make it. But here lately I don’t know. It’s not looking good.”
“You just need to start over. Without her shadow hanging over you. She’s dead, and as much as I wish for you that she wasn’t, she’s gone and she’s not coming back. You have to decide what you’re going to do, Cole. Lay down and join her or get back up into the world of the living.”
We pulled up behind my car parked in front of the Dean house. The lights were no longer on. Darnell and Andrea must have gone on to bed, the night’s intrusion forgotten. Maybe he was getting into her skin, as he liked to call it. I can’t believe I had misread what he meant. What an idiot I can be sometimes.
“Cole, I’m telling you this as a friend would. There is more at stake here than just you. You have a little girl. She’s already lost her mom. Her father snapped once and it’s looking like he’s going to snap again. Do you want her growing up knowing that you just lost it? That you had a choice between the living and the dead, and you chose the dead? Get your life in order, Cole, and then get your daughter back. Believe me you, you don’t want a miss a minute of her life.”
I didn’t know what to say. I felt like I was seeing a part of Deacon I’d never seen before. The father, the family man, the tender side that he shows no one. I thought I saw his eyes begin to tear up, but he turned away from me and looked out the window up at the Dean house.
“The Dean’s role in our lives are over,” he whispered. “Let it go.”
“Okay,” I answered. What else was I to say? We had come to this place by a hard road, and now I was beginning to think I had brought myself here, not ghosts or the dead, just me. If anyone was to blame for my misery it was myself.
I left Deacon in the car and went to my own. I didn’t stick around, though he waited for me to pull away before he too left the scene of the Dean house. He didn’t follow me, and so instead I found myself driving aimlessly, wondering how I could find my own peace. But I knew peace wouldn’t come until all the parts of the puzzle were in their correct place. I had to know about Summer. What happened and why it happened. Why did this young girl in her prime fall from the bridge? I already suspected she was pushed, forced. Murdered. But for what reason? And what did it have to do with me?
I found myself driving past places I had been before in the course of my investigation into her death. And there in those places, missing pieces seemed to wink at me, taunting me, daring me to find the truth and where they fit.
The cemetery offered up one of the strangest pieces, the case of Summer’s missing body. Why was it taken and who took it?
Driving by her parent’s house, I recalled my visit there and how upset they had seemed about their daughter’s friend, Carla. What kind of things had been said in that house about the two of them? How much anger and resentment had been offered up behind those doors?
The ruin of her brother’s house, though mostly hauled away now, was like a ghost in itself. Why burn down this house with us in it? What was I not supposed to find out? What was it her brother could have told me? Did he have some vital piece of information that would have brought me to the truth?
And what of Deacon’s tragic daughter? Did she hang herself from the tree house, or did someone help her long? And was there any significance in the fact it was the same tree house I had built for my beloved Lacey?
Lacey. What did she have to do with all this? Why did she linger around for so long before allowing herself to be chased away by me? Is it possible she had known Summer? She knew Carla from when she was living with Deacon, so had she met Summer then? Maybe she had told Summer about me and that’s why the girl had come to me when she died.
And why had everyone I knew on the force died off? I would be a fool not to admit it seemed strange everyone connected with the Kaleidoscope Killer case was now dead. Everyone except Deacon and I. Was some special kind of vengeance being saved for us?
Would we go out like Jacobs, slowly bleeding to death and helpless to do anything but write a message on a dirty window? What had it been? DEAD END. Some message that was. And the ring. What of Lacey’s wedding ring on the dash? What did it mean? Was it a message? A taunting? If it was buried with her, how did it make its way from her grave to end up in the car of a murdered man connected to her case?
I pulled my car to the side of the road. Closing my eyes, I tried to chase all these mind twisting thoughts from my head. It was just too much to digest. It was like a mystery where there were so many clues and all of them lead in different directions. It’s almost like someone is trying to deliberately send me down all these paths. But are all these paths legitimate clues? Or do some of them lead nowhere? How did I know which clue to follow?
I took a deep breath, and in that moment I thought of where it all began. Summer Dennings. All this came about in an effort to find out how she died.
I’d learned she’d went off the Quarter Mile Bridge, either pushed by someone or by jumping herself. The answers lay with her and that bridge. It was time to go back there, to see if she was still standing by the railing, peering down into the watery depths below. Something tells me the bridge and what happened there holds all the answers.
“Advocate For The Dead ” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.