While Moody listened to Cooper Dahlsing explain why he had come to see her, she let her mind wander to earlier in the day when she’d visited her father in the hospital.
The hospital had smelled of antiseptic and fear. It had reeked of pain and death.
Morris was in intensive care. He had not seemed to be in pain. One baleful eye remained open and stared at Moody. Moody had stared back.
The official diagnosis was a stroke. The prognosis was, unfortunately, somewhat encouraging. The doctors agreed her father would recover to some degree, but only time would tell how much mobility he would regain. Time would also tell how much the stroke has damaged his mind.
“Why didn’t you just die?” she had asked her father.
The opened eye blinked and a shadowy grimace crossed the mobile side of his face.
Moody repeated the question. The eye blinked again. Interesting.
Pulling her chair closer to her father, she asked another question.
“Why didn’t you have a heart attack?”
No response. No eye blinking and no change in facial expression.
“Why did you have pictures of corpses in your safe?”
Again, no response.
“Why don’t you die?”
The eye blinked once and he grimaced.
Moody shifted position in the chair and studied the man who had fathered her. His open good eye followed her as she leaned back. There was still something sentient inside Morris.
“Why did you kill Riley?”
No response. Well, it had been worth a shot. Moody did not think her father was a child killer, but one never knew the inside of dark hearts.
Staring at her father, Moody had wondered why the universe was allowing her father, who condoned all manner of violence and death, why the universe allowed him to live. He’d be happier in the hell of his nightmare writings.
“Do you know who killed Riley?”
Blink. With another grimace, Morris raised his good hand and pointed over the top of Moody’s head. Fatigued by the effort, he dropped the hand back on top of the covers.
What did Morris know? Like a town gossip, Morris had his fingers on the pulse of every form of evil around him. He had always had an inner radar attuned to his fellow monsters’ dark dealings.
She should have been surprised, but she wasn’t. This was Morris Sinclair, after all.
Moody repeated the question.
“Who killed Riley?”
Blink, grimace, point. Her father’s pantomimed answers didn’t establish anything more than he knew or thought he knew the killer. Pointing toward the west where Rubicon Ranch was located did nothing either except confirm his sense of direction.
The air in the sterile room suddenly felt heavy and malevolent. Moody knew it was her own mind making her feel an evil presence in the room besides her father’s. Looking at her watch, Moody stood up and leaned toward her father’s face.
As if to kiss his check, Moody leaned further in but bypassed her father’s hard face and whispered in his ear instead.
“Bye, Dad. If you’re still alive when I come back . . . well, let’s hope not, right?”
Her father’s baleful eye followed her as she backed out of the room. A little tiny part of Moody felt empathy for the man lying helpless in the hospital bed. The little tiny part was overshadowed by the knowledge that the world would be a better place without Morris.
Word had gotten out, apparently. Moody had no trouble spotting some of her father’s minions in the county hospital’s lobby. Their Goth gloom was apparent, even those dressed like regular folks. Something in their demeanor always gave them away. Their darkness appeared to shine like a light bulb.
When she saw the growing group, Moody turned on her heel and slipped through a service door. Although she’d been occasionally recognized throughout the years as the daughter of Morris Sinclair, most of the time she was able to blend with any crowd. Today was a different day.
The groupies would have been on the lookout for anyone resembling Morris. Moody was not in the mood to be mobbed with questions about a man she cared less for than she did a stranger on the street.
No, that wasn’t entirely true. She cared very much about his eventual departure from life.
Not that she would do anything to hasten it. Well, not directly. She was a marked woman and the questions hanging over her head from the last time she’d been involved in a death would mark her even more should something happen to her father.
Damn. What a situation, Moody thought as she walked to her car. Sitting at the stop sign in front of the hospital, she was almost sideswiped by a van full of post-adolescent Morris junkies. She had long learned to spot them from miles away.
Moody remembered the lightning bolt that had hit her mind as she thought about the strange circumstances of Riley’s death. The body had been stuffed in a television but the message wasn’t about television or broadcasts or anything like that. The message was about communication.
Moody pulled the car to the side of the road as she puzzled over her latest thought. She wasn’t familiar with existential experiences on a personal level, but she knew she had just had one.
Communication was what? Communication was inter-action and interaction was always one on one, even if one of the ones was the group.
Shakily, Moody had put the car in drive and pulled back out into traffic. As a police car passed her in the opposite lane, she had felt the officer’s eyes boring into her. She felt guilty, then, she felt guilty for feeling guilty.
Seth made her feel that way. She was able to hide it better with him than the others because she knew some of his secrets.
Snapping back to the present, Moody shook her head as she tried to clear her own confused reasoning. Cooper was still talking and Moody heard herself automatically answer him, but her own mind was twice removed from Cooper’s problems.
Too much had happened to her in such a short time and she was starting to become concerned about her ability to separate fact from fantasy. She was afraid she would lose herself to her own psychoses.
One accidental death of a child followed by a close association to another child who had been killed. Really, anyone with half a brain would put Moody on the short list of suspects. Especially if they knew the other things Moody kept hidden under lock and key.
Moody looked at the disturbed man slumped in the chair opposite her. Cooper, Cooper, Cooper, she thought, what secrets are locked away in the wide-awake, yet, sleeping part of your mind? Are you Riley’s killer? Do you know if Morris is? Or, more importantly, am I?