The Priest's Graveyard (10 page)

BOOK: The Priest's Graveyard
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Danny knew he meant it.

I could tell
you how I ended up in such a terrifying predicament, handcuffed to a chair in the basement of the Long Beach Hilton, but
the journey had taken every second of three months, and dozens of missteps before this final, monstrous misstep, and all those
details would fill a whole book.

The very short version is this:

I started my new life with one pair of pajama bottoms stuffed with roughly three hundred thousand dollars, the matching pajama
top, a pair of pink-and-white underwear, an oversize pair of dirty blue overalls, and a spirit so crushed that I spent the
first three days wondering if I had died and become a ghost trapped in the world.

The money saved me.

From that warehouse district, I walked for an hour on bare feet that started to bleed before I found any motels. You have
to remember, I’d spent a year in slippers, protected from the elements in every way. My skin was lily white, my fingers were
as soft as tissues, and my feet were like delicate creampuffs.

With each step in those wee morning hours, my bitterness grew, and I used it to push away the pain. I arrived with puffy,
cried-out eyes and raw feet at a dirty motel called the Rendezvous. Although the night manager had undoubtedly seen his share
of strange people, the sight of me made him blink.

I’d had the presence of mind to shove my stuffed pajama bottoms into a garbage bin outside the front door. When he said it
would be twenty dollars an hour or fifty for the night, I handed over one of the bills I’d stuck in the pocket of the overalls.

That was how I spent the first hundred of Lamont’s dollars.

If I hadn’t been so exhausted I would have taken one look at the room’s dirty orange carpet and smudged bedspread and fled.
Lamont’s obsession with cleanliness had rubbed off on me. I tried halfheartedly to clean the bathroom, but the stains in the
toilet and sink were stubborn, and the linoleum squares on the floor were starting to peel away from the crusted concrete.

I finally gave up, turned the water as hot at it would go, and scrubbed every inch of my body under a steaming shower. But
it didn’t really get me clean, not really, really clean. No amount of hot water could wash away what had happened to me.

I sat down in the tub and wept while the water washed over me. Having lost Lamont, I was prone to crying those first few weeks.

My most embarrassing moment might have been my first trip down the street to the Walmart. I needed clothes. I couldn’t very
well go around in pajamas or dirty blue overalls the rest of my life. And I had to get some shoes. Even so, it took me two
days to work up the courage to leave my room.

I washed out my pink-and-white pajamas with hand soap and let them dry over the air conditioner. When they went stiff, I pulled
them on. With some imagination, I reasoned, the pajamas might look like they were meant to be worn in public.

I carefully hid the money under the mattress, put two of the bills in my waistband, and headed out into the bright day.

How I got to the Walmart in such a state of terror I can’t say, but I was soon inside. I had rehearsed a list of items to
buy, but when I stood beside the cash registers, my mind went blank and all I could think of was shoes, jeans, and soap.

I don’t know if it was the pajamas, the stark terror on my face, or my frantic darting around the Walmart, but everyone was
staring at me. I wasn’t blending in as well as I had dared hope.

In my rush not to be noticed, I spent my second hundred dollars poorly. Upon racing back to my dirty motel room, I found that
I had purchased one pair of green slippers size 11 for men, a pair of Wrangler jeans that swallowed me, two boxes of Clorox
bleach, a quart-size bottle of shampoo, and a tin of Altoids that I’d picked up at the checkout stand because Lamont liked
the smell of mint.

Still, it was a start.

Emboldened by my limited success, I returned to the Walmart late that same night dressed in my new oversize jeans, my pajama
top, and the monstrous slippers. This time I arrived armed with a thousand dollars. I bought a large rolling duffel bag and
enough clothes and supplies to fill it half full. I had to leave room for the money.

I returned to the motel, stacked all of Lamont’s cash on the pillows, and laid my new clothes on the bed. This was now the
sum of my earthly possessions: two pairs of Quiksilver slim-cut jeans that fit me well, three T-shirts, four tops, six pairs
of underwear, three bras, five socks, a cute leather belt, a pair of black boots, tan slippers that fit me, a pair of Nikes,
some lip gloss—Lamont hated makeup but thought gloss was okay—and a black purse.

The supplies included duct tape, some string, and a screwdriver, none of which I had any immediate use for, though they had
impressed me at the store. I also had one white plate, a set of flatware, and a glass so that I could eat and drink properly.

I began to hope. If I could buy stuff and rent a motel room on my own, I could surely track down and kill Bourque.

What was I thinking? I’ll tell you: With every fiber of my being I was thinking that however naive I was or far I had to go,
I would not stop until either he or I was dead.

Staring at my new possessions and the pile of money on the pillows, it occurred to me that I did have some options. For example,
there was no need for me to spend another night in that dirty motel room. I could afford a better place. And I could certainly
afford a taxi to take me to a better place.

The only question was where? The obvious answer came to me immediately: closer to the man who was responsible for destroying
us.

The law was in my hands, and according to the law of Lamont, any man as evil as Jonathan Bourque could only deserve one verdict
and one sentence. Lamont had told me as much in his own words. I was sure that the only reason I’d found his money was to
use it to hand down justice.

Even though Lamont wasn’t around, I was still his. So was the money. I would use everything in my power to honor him, or to
give my life trying. I had no other purpose.

It wasn’t revenge; it was justice.

The problem was, I had no idea how to go about finding much less killing a man like Bourque. I wasn’t even sure how to live
on my own anymore. If not for the money I would have ended up back where Lamont had first found me, in some alley, a heartbeat
away from death.

That night I lay awake late and started to string together a semblance of a plan.

The next morning I returned to the store, bought hair bleach, and spent an hour becoming a blonde. My hair was short, because
that’s how Lamont liked it. With the blond I thought I looked quite different from the way I had a year ago. Not even Cyrus
Kauffman would recognize me immediately.

According to the phone book, the Rendezvous motel I had stumbled upon was in Cypress, east of Long Beach. The headquarters
for the Bourque Foundation, I learned, were located in Long Beach. Problem was, Cyrus was also in Long Beach.

I packed up all my belongings, called a cab, and asked the driver to recommend a cheap hotel with kitchens close to but not
in downtown Long Beach.

Half an hour later we rolled up to the Staybridge Suites at East Anaheim Street near Cherry Avenue, where I rented a suite
for eight hundred dollars a week. I felt guilty spending so much—Lamont would probably object—but I didn’t want to be anywhere
near Cyrus’s operation on the west side. Then again, the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that Lamont
would approve of me renting a place with a kitchen so I could prepare my own food. Anything that could be ordered for delivery
would undoubtedly poison me. Processed food was full of chemicals. Lamont had helped me learn how to eat only the finest whole
foods—mostly raw, fresh, and local, without trans fats, preservatives, or sugars.

It took me two days and both boxes of Clorox to clean my new home. Then I spent the better part of a week settling in, though
I never grew comfortable with the brown couch or the carpet, both of which looked clean but were dirty to the touch. There
was no way to clean them properly, and when I asked the manager if he would replace the carpet and exchange the couch for
a leather one, my request was denied.

I did exchange the flowered comforter that came with the room for a pink one I found at Walmart.

I didn’t have a driver’s license and wasn’t eager to go out and get one, not yet anyway. I didn’t have my birth certificate,
or any ID for that matter. The whole idea of legitimizing myself with papers and bank accounts and all the things required
to function normally in society made me ill with nervousness. I didn’t have time to fill out forms and take tests that I would
fail.

Instead, I began to plot my journey to Jonathan Bourque’s doorstep with a boldness that surprised even me. It all started
with a few simple questions that I began to obsess over.

Basic questions, like: How do you kill someone?

Even more basic: How do you
find
somebody? And, having found him, how do you
reach
him?

I was surprised by how much thought these simple questions required. You would think anyone with a gun could just walk up
to someone and shoot. While that may be true, other factors complicate even this simple action.

Getting a gun, for example.

Getting access to the individual without being tackled, for example.

Getting away with it, for example.

Each question led to other, more important questions. Did I want to get away with it? What did
getting away with it
mean? Did I want to simply survive or was it important to escape a prison sentence as well?

On an even more fundamental level, I had to answer the question of guilt. Was Jonathan Bourque truly guilty of the evil Lamont
had pinned on him? More to the point, had he killed my companion, my lover, my rock, my husband, as I assumed he had?

These questions sickened me! How could I even doubt Lamont’s word? And yet they wouldn’t leave me alone.

How much evidence did I need to remove my doubt? How would I go about finding that evidence?

These were only a few of the questions that welled up in my mind as I gradually shifted my focus from functioning alone to
the monumental task ahead of me.

My two greatest assets were time and money. The Bourque Foundation was housed in a fifteen-story Wells Fargo bank building
on Ocean Boulevard, across the street from the Long Beach Public Library.

I purchased binoculars with the intent of watching the building to see when Bourque came and went, but the notion quickly
proved absurd. For starters, I didn’t know what my target looked like. Also, within an hour of perching myself across the
street with my glasses trained on the towering building, it occurred to me that the stares I was getting from passersby likely
had everything to do with the fact that the building was a bank.

I doubted that a bleached-blond ghost of a girl fit the typical bank robber’s profile, but I got far too much attention for
my liking.

The Long Beach Public Library—more specifically, the computers at the library—quickly replaced my binoculars as the better
reconnaissance tool. I became a regular, although I couldn’t check anything out without a library card, which required identification.

It occurred to me that the kinds of subjects I was looking up weren’t exactly the kind I wanted people seeing over my shoulder.
Searches for
kidnapping
and
poison
and
guns
done on the same computer as searches for
Jonathan Bourque
might lead to an undesirable outcome if discovered.

Two weeks after my return to Long Beach, I bought my own computer and hooked it up to the wireless Internet service at the
Staybridge hotel. This saved me both time and cab fare.

One of the first things I learned was that the manner of foul play I was contemplating was best done by people who were physically
fit. I might need to run away, or hit someone, or quickly grab a gun from them.

I had put on a couple of pounds since recovering from my addiction, but Lamont had been careful to make sure I was healthy,
which meant I should stay thin. Although I was strong enough to clean the house and cook, I certainly didn’t have the muscle
required to swing a bat around or break someone’s neck.

I decided that I had to start exercising. Not that I expected to enter any karate competitions, but as I looked at myself
naked in the mirror, I began to see that I was fragile as a feather. Bourque might blow me away with a heavy sigh.

On the computer, I researched the kinds of exercises I could do without going to a gym or lifting weights, because I was far
too shy to join a throng of half-naked, sweaty bodies, and I wasn’t interested in lugging dumbbells through the hotel lobby.
So I installed a clamp-on pull-up bar in the bathroom door frame, downloaded a file on calisthenics, and started a basic regimen
of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and jumping jacks.

I’m sure I looked like an animated scarecrow doing the jumping jacks, but I could handle them well enough. The sit-ups were
more of a challenge, but with some grunting I managed to string together ten. The push-ups were okay as long as I stayed on
my knees.

But the pull-ups were evil. After tugging with all my strength and failing to lift myself more than an inch, I walked away
from the bar and didn’t return to it for another month.

Most of my emotional energy those first two months went into normalizing myself. Fitting in. Adopting the psyche of a woman
bent on bringing justice to her corner of the world. Embracing righteous anger so I could extract justice no matter what the
cost.

You know, normalizing.

By nature I wasn’t the vengeful type. I wasn’t easily angered or quick to judge. But I had nothing in my mind except the complete
ruin Bourque had brought to us.

I set my mind on his evil nature, and with each passing day and week my resolve grew. Time didn’t settle me but only made
me more anxious. Maybe I held out hope that Lamont would one day knock on the front door and sweep me off my feet, and maybe
the growing realization that he was gone forever played into my bitterness. I don’t know.

BOOK: The Priest's Graveyard
5.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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