“Whose blood was on the box?” Robine asked sharply.
“Both Mrs. Kale and Danny were type O. So is Mr. Kale. That makes it a little more difficult for us to—”
“The blood on the box of detergent?” Robine interrupted.
“Then it could have been my client’s own blood! He could have gotten it on the box on a previous occasion, maybe after he cut himself gardening last week.”
Bryce shook his head. “As you know, Bob, what with DNA analysis, this whole business is getting highly sophisticated these days. Why, they can break down a sample into so many signatures that a person’s blood is almost as unique as his fingerprints. So they could tell us unequivocally that the blood on the box of Cheer—the blood on Mr. Kale’s hand when he made those two prints—was little Danny Kale’s blood.”
Fletcher Kale’s gray eyes remained flat and unexpressive, but he turned quite pale. “I can explain,” he said.
“Hold it!” Robine said. “Explain it to me first—in private.” The attorney led his client to the farthest corner of the room.
Bryce slouched in his chair. He felt gray. Washed out. He’d been that way since Thursday, since seeing Danny Kale’s pathetic, crumpled body.
He had expected to take considerable pleasure in watching Kale squirm. But there was no pleasure in it.
Robine and Kale returned. “Sheriff, I’m afraid my client did a stupid thing.”
Kale tried to look properly abashed.
“He did something that could be misinterpreted—just as you
misinterpreted it. Mr. Kale was frightened, confused, and grief-stricken. He wasn’t thinking clearly. I’m sure any jury would sympathize with him. You see, when he found the body of his little boy, he picked it up—”
“He told us he never touched it.”
Kale met Bryce’s gaze forthrightly and said, “When I first saw Danny lying on the floor. . . I couldn’t
believe that he was . . . dead. I picked him up . . . thinking I should rush him to the hospital . . . Later, after I’d shot Joanna, I looked down and saw that I was covered with . . . with Danny’s blood. I
shot my wife, but suddenly I realized it might look as if I’d killed my own son, too.”
“There was still the meat cleaver in your wife’s hand,” Bryce said. “And Danny’s blood was all over
too. And you could’ve figured the coroner would find PCP in her bloodstream.”
“I realize that now,” Kale said, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket and wiping his eyes. “But at the time, I was afraid I’d be accused of something I’d never done.”
The word “psychopath” wasn’t exactly right for Fletcher Kale, Bryce decided. He wasn’t crazy. Nor was he a sociopath, exactly. There wasn’t a word that described him properly. However, a good cop would recognize the type and see the potential for criminal activity and, perhaps, the talent for brute violence, as well. There is a certain kind of man who has a lot of vitality and likes plenty of action, a man who has more than his share of shallow charm, whose clothes are more expensive than he can afford, who owns not a single book (as Kale did not), who seems to have no well-thought-out opinions about politics or art or economics or any issue of real substance, who is not religious except when misfortune befalls him or when he wishes to impress someone with his piety (as Kale, member of no church, now read the Bible in his cell for at least four hours every day), who has an athletic build but who seems to loathe any pursuit as healthy as physical exercise, who spends his leisure time in bars and cocktail lounges, who cheats on his wife as a matter of habit (as did Kale, by all reports), who is impulsive, who is unreliable and always late for appointments (as was Kale), whose goals are either vague or unrealistic (“Fletcher Kale? He’s a dreamer.”), who frequently overdraws his checking account and lies about money, who is quick to borrow and slow to pay back, who exaggerates, who
he’s going to be rich one day but who has no specific plan for acquiring that wealth, who never doubts or thinks about next year, who worries only about himself and only when it’s too late. There was such a man, such a type, and Fletcher Kale was a prime example of the animal in question.
Bryce had seen others like him. Their eyes were always flat; you couldn’t see into their eyes at all. Their faces expressed whatever emotion seemed required, although every expression was a shade too
When they expressed concern for anyone but themselves, you could detect a bell-clear ring of insincerity. They were not burdened by remorse, morality, love, or empathy. Often, they led lives of acceptable destruction, ruining and embittering those who loved them, shattering the lives of friends who believed them and relied on them, betraying trusts, but never quite crossing the line into outright criminal behavior. Now and then, however, such a man went too far. And because he was the type who never did things by halves, he always went much,
Danny Kale’s small, torn, bloody body lying in a heap.
The grayness enveloping Bryce’s mind grew thicker, until it seemed like a cold, oily smoke. To Kale, he said, “You’ve told us that your wife was a heavy marijuana smoker for two and a half years.”
“At my direction, the coroner looked for a few things that wouldn’t ordinarily have interested him. Like the condition of Joanna’s lungs. She wasn’t a smoker at all, let alone a pothead. Lungs were clean.”
“I said she smoked pot, not tobacco,” Kale said.
“Marijuana smoke and ordinary tobacco smoke both damage the lungs,” Bryce said. “In Joanna’s case, there was no damage whatsoever.”
“Quiet,” Bob Robine advised his client. He pointed a long, slim finger at Bryce, waggled it, and said, “The important thing is—was there PCP in her blood or wasn’t there?”
“There was,” Bryce said. “It was in her blood, but she didn’t
it. Joanna took the PCP orally. There was still a lot of it in her stomach.”
Robine blinked in surprise but recovered quickly. “There you go,” he said. “She took it. Who cares how?”
“In fact,” Bryce said, “there was more of it in her stomach than in her bloodstream.”
Kale tried to look curious, concerned, and innocent—all at the same time; even his elastic features were strained by that expression.
Scowling, Bob Robine said, “So there was more in her stomach than in her bloodstream. So what?”
“Angel dust is highly absorbable. Taken orally, it doesn’t remain in the stomach for very long. Now, while Joanna had swallowed enough dope to freak out, there hadn’t been time for it to affect her. You see, she took the PCP with ice cream. Which coated her stomach and retarded the absorption of the drug. During the autopsy, the coroner found partially digested chocolate fudge ice cream. So there hadn’t been time for the PCP to cause hallucinations or to send her into a berserk rage.” Bryce paused, took a deep breath. “There was chocolate fudge ice cream in Danny’s stomach, too, but no PCP. When Mr. Kale told us he came home from work early on Thursday, he didn’t mention bringing an afternoon treat for the family. A half-gallon of chocolate fudge ice cream.”
Fletcher Kale’s face had gone blank. At last, he seemed to have used up his collection of human expressions.
Bryce said, “We found a partly empty container of ice cream in Kale’s freezer. Chocolate fudge. What I think happened, Mr. Kale, is that you dished out some ice cream for everyone. I think you secretly laced your wife’s serving with PCP, so you could later claim she was in a drug-induced frenzy. You didn’t figure the coroner would catch you out.”
“Wait just one goddamned minute!” Robine shouted.
“Then, while you washed your bloody clothes,” Bryce said to Kale, “you cleaned up the ice-cream-smeared dishes and put them away because your story was that you had come home from work to find little Danny already dead and his mother already freaked out on PCP.”
Robine said, “That’s only supposition. Have you forgotten motive? Why in God’s name would my client do such a hideous thing?”
Watching Kale’s eyes, Bryce said, “High Country Investments.”
Kale’s face remained impassive, but his eyes flickered.
“High Country Investments?” Robine asked. “What’s that?”
Bryce stared at Kale. “Did you buy ice cream before you went home last Thursday?”
“No,” Kale said flatly.
“The manager of the 7-Eleven store over on Calder Street says you did.”
The muscles in Kale’s jaws bulged as he clenched his teeth in anger.
“What about High Country Investments?” Robine asked.
Bryce fired another question at Kale. “Do you know a man named Gene Terr?”
Kale only stared.
“People sometimes just call him ‛Jeeter.’ ”
Robine said, “Who is he?”
“Leader of the Demon Chrome,” Bryce said, watching Kale. “It’s a motorcycle gang. Jeeter deals drugs. Actually, we’ve never been able to catch him at it himself; we’ve only been able to jail some of his people. We leaned on Jeeter about this, and he steered us to someone who admitted supplying Mr. Kale with grass on a regular basis. Not Mrs. Kale. She never bought.”
“Who says?” Robine demanded. “This motorcycle creep? This social reject? This drug pusher? He’s not a reliable witness!”
“According to our source, Mr. Kale didn’t just buy grass last Tuesday. Mr. Kale bought angel dust, too. The man who sold the drugs will testify in return for immunity.”
With animal cunning and suddenness, Kale bolted up, seized the empty chair beside him, threw it across the table at Bryce Hammond, and ran for the door of the interrogation room.
By the time the chair had left Kale’s hands and was in the air, Bryce was already up and moving, and it sailed harmlessly past his head. He was around the table when the chair crashed to the floor behind him.
Kale pulled open the door and plunged into the corridor.
Bryce was four steps behind him.
Tal Whitman had come off the window ledge as if he’d been blown off by an explosive charge, and he was one step behind Bryce, shouting.
Reaching the corridor, Bryce saw Fletcher Kale heading for a yellow exit door about twenty feet away. He went after the son of a bitch.
Kale hit the crashbar and flung the metal door open.
Bryce reached him a fraction of a second later, as Kale was setting foot onto the parking lot.
Sensing Bryce close behind him, Kale turned with catlike fluidity and swung one huge fist.
Bryce ducked the blow, threw a punch of his own, connecting with Kale’s hard, flat belly. Then he swung again, hitting him in the neck.
Kale stumbled back, putting his hands to his throat, gagging and choking.
Bryce moved in.
But Kale wasn’t as badly stunned as he pretended to be. He leaped forward as Bryce approached and grabbed him in a bear hug.
“Bastard,” Kale said, spraying spittle.
His gray eyes were wide. His lips were skinned back from his teeth in a fierce snarl. He looked lupine.
Bryce’s arms were pinned, and although he was a strong man himself, he couldn’t break Kale’s iron hold on him. They staggered a few steps backwards, stumbled, and went down, with Kale on top. Bryce’s head thumped hard against the pavement, and he thought he was going to black out.
Kale punched him once, ineffectively, then rolled off him and crawled away fast.
Warding off the darkness that rose behind his eyes, surprised that Kale had surrendered the advantage, Bryce pushed up onto his hands and knees. He shook his head—and then saw what the other man had gone after.
It lay on the blacktop, a few yards away, gleaming darkly in the glow of the yellowish sodium-vapor lights.
Bryce felt his holster. Empty. The revolver on the ground was his own. Apparently, it had slipped out of his holster and had spun across the pavement when he’d fallen.
The killer’s hand closed on the weapon.
Tal Whitman stepped in and swung a nightstick, striking Kale across the back of the neck. The big man collapsed on top of the gun, unconscious.
Crouching, Tal rolled Kale over and checked his pulse.
Holding the back of his own throbbing skull, Bryce hobbled over to them. “Is he all right, Tal?”
“Yeah. He’ll be coming around in a few minutes.” He picked up Bryce’s gun and got to his feet.
Accepting the revolver, Bryce said, “I owe you one.’
“Not at all. How’s your head?”
“I should be so lucky to own an aspirin company.”
“I didn’t expect him to run.”
“Neither did I,” Bryce said. “When things get worse and worse for a man like that, he usually just gets calmer, cooler, more careful.”
“Well, I guess this one saw the walls closing in.”
Bob Robine was standing in the open doorway, staring out at them, shaking his head in consternation.
A few minutes later, as Bryce Hammond sat at his desk, filling out the forms charging Fletcher Kale with two homicides, Bob Robine rapped on the open door.
Bryce looked up. “Well, counselor, how’s your client?”
“He’s okay. But he’s not my client any more.”
“Oh? His decision or yours?”
“Mine. I can’t handle a client who lies to me about
being made a fool of.”
“So does he want to call another attorney tonight?”
“No. When he’s arraigned, he’s going to ask the judge for a public defender.”
“That’ll be the first thing in the morning.”
“Not wasting any time, huh?”
“Not with this one,” Bryce said.
Robine nodded. “Good. He’s a
bad apple, Bryce. You know, I’ve been a lapsed Catholic for fifteen years,” Robine said softly. “I made up my mind long ago that there weren’t such things as angels, demons, miracles. I thought I was too well educated to believe that Evil—with a capital E—stalks the world on cloven hooves. But back there in the cell, Kale suddenly whirled on me and said, ‘They won’t get me. They won’t destroy me. Nobody can. I’ll walk away from this.’ When I warned him against excessive optimism, he said, ‘I’m not afraid of your kind. Besides, I didn’t commit murder; I just disposed of some garbage that was stinking up my life.’ ”