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Authors: Keith Ablow

Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Psychological Thrillers, #Suspense, #Thrillers, #Psychological

Psychopath

BOOK: Psychopath
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Psychopath

 

 

Clevenger 04

 

 

by

Keith  Ablow

 

Contents

 

Part One

one

two

three

four

five

six

seven

eight

 

Part Two

one

two

three

four

five

six

seven

eight

nine

ten

eleven

twelve

 

Part Three

one

two

three

four

five

six

Part One

 

o n e

 

January 23, 2003

Route 90 East, 37 Miles outside Rome, New York

 

Mahler’s Tenth Symphony played on the BMW X5’s stereo, but even that serene music did nothing to calm Jonah.  His skin was hot with anger.  The palms of his hands burned against the steering wheel.  His heart pounded, squeezing more and more blood with each beat, flooding his aorta, engorging his carotid arteries, making his head throb inside the skull, somewhere within the temporal lobes of his brain.  At last count his breathing had risen to eighteen respirations per minute.  He could feel a dizzying undertow of oxygen sucking him inside himself. 

His hunger to kill always began this way, and he always believed he could control it, ride it into submission down a long highway, the way his grandfather had broken sinewy colts on the plains of the Arizona ranch where Jonah had spent his teenage years.  So cunning was his psychopathology that it fooled him into thinking he was greater than it was, that the goodness in him could overpower the evil.  He believed this even now, with seventeen bodies strewn along the highways behind him.

"Just keep driving," he said through gritted teeth.

His vision began to blur, partly from surging blood pressure, partly from hyperventilating, partly from the milligram of Haldol he had swallowed an hour earlier.  Sometimes the antipsychotic medication put the beast to sleep.  Sometimes not.

Squinting into the night, he saw the distant glow of red taillights.  He pressed down on the accelerator, desperate to close the distance between himself and a fellow traveler, as if the momentum of another — of a normal and decent man — might carry him through the darkness.

He glanced at the orange neon clock on the dash, saw that it was 3:02
A.M.
, and remembered a line from Fitzgerald: 

 


In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning
.’ 

 

The line was from a short story called "
The Crackup
," a title apropos what was happening to him — fine fissures in his psychological defenses giving way, splitting into bigger clefts, then into each other, becoming a gaping black hole that swallowed him, then rebirthed him as a monster.

Jonah had read everything F. Scott Fitzgerald had written, because the words were beautiful, and the places beautiful, and the people beautiful, even with their flaws.  And he wanted to think of himself in exactly that way, to believe he was an imperfect creation of a perfect God, that he was worthy of redemption.

He was, at thirty-nine, physically flawless.  His face suggested both trustworthiness and self-confidence — high cheekbones, a prominent brow, a strong chin with a subtle cleft.  His eyes, clear and pale blue, perfectly complemented his wavy, silver-gray hair, worn just off the shoulders, pleasantly tousled.  He stood six-foot-one and was broadly built, with long, muscled arms and a V-shaped torso tapering to a 31-inch waist.  He had the rock-hard thighs and calves of a mountain climber.

Yet, of all his features, women commented first on his hands.  The skin was tan and soft, covering tendons that fanned perfectly from knuckles to wrist.  The veins were visible enough to hint at physical strength, without being so visible as to suggest destructiveness.  The fingers were long and graceful, tapering to smooth, translucent nails he buffed to a shine each morning.  A pianist’s fingers, some women said.  A surgeon’s, others told him.

"You have the hands of an angel," one lover had gasped, sliding his finger into her mouth.

The hands of an angel
.  Jonah looked at them, white-knuckled, clutching the steering wheel.  He was within fifty yards of the car in front of him, but felt himself losing ground in his race against evil.  His upper lip had begun to twitch.  Sweat covered his neck and shoulders.

He opened his eyes wide and summoned the face of his last victim in that young man’s last moments, hoping the image would sober him, in the way the memory of nausea and vomiting can sober an alcoholic, making repugnant the bottle that beckons so seductively, promising relief and release.

Nearly two months had passed, but Jonah could still see Scott Carmady’s jaw drop open, utter disbelief filling his eyes.  For how can a weary traveler, feeling lucky to get help with a broken-down Chevy at the side of a desolate stretch of Kentucky highway, believe the raw pain of his cut throat or the warm blood soaking his shirt?  How can he make sense of the fact that his life, with all the momentum of a twenty-something’s hopes and dreams, is screeching to a halt?  How can he fathom the fact that the well-dressed man who has mortally wounded him is the same man who has spent the time not only to jump-start his car battery, but to wait fifteen minutes with him to be certain it will not die again?

And what minutes!  Carmady had revealed things he had spoken of to no one — the helplessness sparked in him by his sadistic boss, the rage he felt clinging to his cheating wife.  Opening up made him feel better than he had in a long, long time.  Unburdened.

Jonah remembered how a plea had taken the place of the disbelief he had seen in the dying man’s eyes.  It was not a plea for the answer to some grand, existential
why?
  Not some cliché last scene from a movie.  No.  The plea was purely for help.  So that when Carmady reached for Jonah it was neither to attack him, nor to defend himself, but simply to keep from collapsing.

Jonah had not stepped away from his victim, but closer.  He embraced him.  And as Carmady’s life drained out of him, Jonah felt the rage drain out of his own body, a magnificent calm taking its place, a feeling of oneness with himself and the universe.  And he whispered his own plea in the man’s ear:  “Please forgive me.”

Jonah’s eyes filled with tears.  The road undulated before him.  If only Carmady had been willing to reveal more, to peel back the last layers of his emotional defenses, to give Jonah the reasons
why
he could be victimized by his boss and his wife, what trauma had weakened him, then he might still be alive.  But Carmady had refused to talk about his childhood, refused utterly, like a man keeping a locker full of meats all to himself — keeping them from Jonah, who was starving.

Starving, like now.

His strategy was backfiring.  He had truly believed that summoning memories of his last kill would keep the monster inside him at bay, but the opposite was true.  The monster had tricked him.  The memory of the calm he had felt holding death in his arms and another man’s life story in his heart made him crave that calm with every cell of his white-hot brain.

He glimpsed a sign for a rest area, half a mile away.  He straightened up, telling himself he could go there, swallow another milligram or two of Haldol, and put himself to sleep.  Like a vampire, he almost always fed by night; first light was just three hours away.

He veered off Route 90, into the rest area.  One other car was parked there — an older-model, metallic blue Saab, with its interior light on.  Jonah parked three spaces away.  Why not ten? he chastised himself.  Why tempt the beast?  He gripped the wheel even more tightly, his fingernails digging into the heels of his hands, nearly breaking the skin.  His fever spawned chills that ran up his neck and over his scalp.  His ribcage strained painfully against his bulging lungs.

Half against his will, he turned his head and saw a woman in the driver’s seat of the Saab, a large map unfolded against the steering wheel.  She looked about forty-five years old.  In silhouette, her face just missed beauty — her nose a bit large, her chin a bit weak.  Crow’s-feet suggested she was a worrier.  Her brown hair was cut short and neat.  She wore a black leather jacket.  A cell phone lay on the dashboard in front of her.

Just looking at her made Jonah hungry.  Ravenous.  Here was a living, breathing woman, not twenty feet away, with a unique past and future.  No other person had had precisely the same experiences or had thought precisely the same thoughts.  Invisible bonds connected her to parents and grandparents, perhaps siblings, perhaps a husband or lovers, or both.  Perhaps children.  Friends.  Her brain held data she had gathered, picking and choosing what to read and look at and listen to out of interests and abilities that were mystical and immeasurable parts of her.  Of
her
, a being like no other.  She harbored likes and dislikes, fears and dreams, and (this, more than anything) traumas that were hers and hers alone — unless she could be coaxed to share them.

Bolts of pain exploded into Jonah’s eyes.  He looked away, staring at the highway for most of a minute, hoping another car would slow to enter the rest area.  None did.

Why did it always seem so easy?  Almost prearranged.  Even preordained.  He never stalked his victims; he came upon them.  Was the universe organizing to feed him the life force of others?  Did the people who crossed his path come in search of him?  Did they unconsciously need to die as much as he needed to kill?  Did God want them in heaven?  Was he some kind of angel?  An angel of death?  His saliva started to run thicker in his mouth.  The throbbing in his head surged beyond anything like a headache, beyond any migraine.  He felt as though a dozen drill bits inside his skull were powering their way out, through his forehead, his temples, his ears, down through the roof of his mouth, his lips.

He thought of killing himself, an impulse that had visited him before each murder.  The straight razor in his pocket could end his suffering once and for all.  But he had made only meager attempts on his own life.  Shallow lacerations to his wrists.  Five or ten pills, instead of fifty or a hundred.  A drunken leap from a second-story window that fractured his right fibula.  These were suicidal
gestures
, nothing more.  Deep down Jonah wanted to live.  He still believed he could make amends in this life.  Beneath all his self-loathing, at the core of his being, he still loved himself in the unconditional way he prayed the Lord did.

He flicked on the BMW’s cabin light and sounded a short blast of his horn, nauseated at secreting the first sticky strand of his poisonous web.  The woman startled, then looked over at him.  He leaned toward her and held up a finger, almost shyly, then lowered his passenger window not quite halfway, as if
he
wasn’t sure whether to trust
her
.

The woman hesitated, then lowered her own window.

"Excuse me," Jonah said.  His voice was velvety and deep, and he knew it had a nearly hypnotic effect.  People never seemed to tire of listening to him.  They rarely interrupted him.

The woman smiled, but tightly, and said nothing.

"I know this would be, uh... asking a lot... but, uh..."  He stuttered intentionally, to sound unsure of himself.  "My, uh... phone..." he said, with a shrug and a smile, "kind of died."  He held up his cell phone.  It was silver and looked pricey.  He extended his arm and turned his wrist, checking the time on his shiny Cartier chronograph, a cabochon sapphire at the crown.  He knew most people trusted others with money, either because they believed the rich didn’t need to steal from them, or because they assumed the rich valued society’s rules too much to break them.  "I’m a doctor," Jonah went on.  He shook his head.  "Left the hospital about four minutes ago, and they’re paging me already.  Any chance I could, uh... borrow your phone?"

BOOK: Psychopath
10.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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