Part One: The Hunter
Haven, Maine, 2010
Special Agent Audrey Parker, FBI, presently on unofficial assignment with Haven PD, sat on a stone bench on the hill above the harbour. There was a light rain falling, enough to chill the air and turn her hair into damp rat-tails, but she didn’t mind the rain. It rained a lot in Haven and she was used to it. She unscrewed the top of her thermos, balanced the little plastic cup on her knee and poured coffee into it. She gazed out over the harbour as she drank. The sky was thick with cloud, the ocean grey and choppy, tossing the fishing boats as they returned to the harbour with the morning’s catch.
She heard heavy footsteps behind her and turned around to see a man in a green waxed coat approaching her bench. His was a familiar face: she saw him often on Main Street or at the Grey Gull in the evenings, but she didn’t know his name and couldn’t recall ever speaking with him. He was in his late fifties, she estimated: his once-black hair and beard were heavily streaked with grey and there were deep lines around his eyes.
“Can I join you?” he asked, gesturing toward the bench. His voice was deep and gravelly and – the first surprise – his accent was not local. Audrey couldn’t place it from so few words, but he wasn’t from Maine.
She nodded, shifting slightly to make room for him, though it wasn’t necessary. “Sure. Would you like some coffee?”
“If you can spare it, that would be great.” His smile crinkled his green eyes and showed off straight, white teeth.
Audrey finished her coffee, wiped the edge of the cup and refilled it before she handed it to him. “I’m Audrey Parker,” she offered.
“John,” he answered, taking the plastic cup in both hands. He sipped the coffee as if testing it, then took a longer drink. He nodded toward the ocean. “I heard you had some trouble out on Carpenter’s Knot.”
Audrey tensed. Some trouble? One of her best friends died on that island. She had been held captive while something wearing her face turned her friends against each other. “Yeah, there was trouble,” she agreed, conscious that trouble had several meanings in this town.
Who had been talking? Audrey wondered. Certainly not Chief Wuornos or Nathan. Duke, perhaps? Too much gossip over drinks in the bar? It wasn’t like him, and she dismissed the thought quickly. But someone must have talked. Who?
John nodded, as if her silence was confirmation. “Strange breed, ’shifters,” he said conversationally. “Hard to detect, because they have a psychic link with each person they become. They can fool even close family.”
Audrey, having recently experienced exactly that, was listening closely, but she said nothing, unwilling to confirm what could be astute guesswork.
“Did you kill it?” John asked.
That was direct. Audrey debated for a moment before deciding John knew what he was talking about. “I didn’t. It was my partner.”
“Wuornos? He shot it, then?”
Audrey frowned. Why did it matter to him? “I didn’t see it happen,” she answered evasively.
“Hm,” he grunted. He gave the plastic cup back to her. “Good coffee. Thanks.” He started to get up.
“Wait!” Audrey said quickly. “Who are you? What’s your interest in what happened on the island?”
John sat down again. “’Shifters can be dangerous. It takes silver to kill them: regular ammo won’t do it. I doubt Wuornos was packing silver bullets.”
“No, no silver,” she agreed. She’d noticed the word he used this time: ’shifter. The Chief had called it a chameleon.
“Then it’s still out there,” John growled. Audrey caught the edge in his voice: anger and hatred. He seemed angry enough to go out to the island and she didn’t want that.
“He’s dead, John,” she insisted. “I think he was dying anyway. He was very old. Without a new shape…” she broke off, a lump in her throat. The chameleon been so sure she would help him, as Lucy helped him before. But Audrey had no idea how to help him and he couldn’t explain how Lucy did, so she couldn’t even try. Now he was dead. “He’s gone,” she said again. “Believe me.”
John studied her for a moment, then nodded. “Fair enough.”
“What’s your story, John? You know something about the Troubles?”
John turned his eyes away from her, gazing out to sea. “My story?” he repeated.
“You’re not local,” she prompted, “but I can’t seem to place your accent. Where are you from?”
“Kansas, originally. I’ve been in Haven…” he hesitated, as if calculating it, “…nearly three years.”
It wasn’t tall corn she heard in his voice, but that originally suggested he knew that. He was being very cagey. “What brought you here?” she asked.
Surprising her, John gave a short bark of laughter. “You’d never believe me.”
“I’ve believed a lot of unlikely things since I arrived here.”
John met her eyes, then, flashing a swift smile. “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” he drawled. He stood up and stepped away from the bench. “Thanks again for the coffee, Agent Parker.” He placed a slight stress on agent, as if scoring a point.
“You’re welcome,” she answered, unfazed. It was no secret in town that she was with the FBI.
Audrey watched him walk away from her: the heavy coat concealed the shape of his body but gave the impression he was quite heavyset and average height. Yet he hadn’t seemed so when sitting beside her. His walk was slow, his shoulders slightly hunched, which suggested some stiffness in the joints. It would be natural in a man his age, but again that seemed to Audrey to be a false impression, perhaps even a deliberate affectation. The man was an enigma. He was an outsider in Haven – three years wasn’t long enough for the folk of this insular town to consider him a local – yet he seemed to know the town’s peculiar history. Audrey’s own experiences had taught her how reluctant the locals were to share the real Haven with outsiders, and wondered how John could have learned so much.
What’s your story, John? she wondered again.
Even in Haven, people do die of natural causes sometimes, Audrey reminded herself as she sipped her dirty martini. It wasn’t necessary to look for some outlandish cause for every death. She seemed to do that automatically now, her mind inventing wilder and wilder theories instead of settling for the evidence in front of her. She would be ruined as an investigator outside Haven. There was no logical reason to think the death she and Nathan had been called to that morning was anything other than natural: Peggy Ashworth was in her eighties and died in her comfy chair looking out over the bay with her knitting in her lap. But still, it nagged at her, as if there were some detail she’d noticed unconsciously but couldn’t bring into conscious focus.
With an effort, she pushed the thoughts aside and glanced around the Grey Gull, noticing familiar faces. She could put names to most of them now, but to them she remained the outsider. Not one of them. She saw John approaching the bar and remembered their odd conversation that morning. What had he really wanted from her? He hadn’t approached her for coffee, she was sure.
“Do you know him?” she asked Duke quietly.
Duke’s eyes narrowed as if he didn’t like the question, but he glanced toward the bar to see who she meant. When he saw John there, he seemed to relax again. “Sure. John. He comes in a few nights a week.”
“Is he a local?” she asked, hoping to prompt a little more information.
Duke shook his head. “He showed up a couple of summers back looking for work and never left. He’s a good handyman. Did some work for me when I rebuilt this place.” Duke’s eyes followed the older man as he carried his beer to a table. “What’s your interest?”
Audrey tried to keep her tone casual. “Just the usual. He came to talk to me this morning but I’m not sure what he wanted. He just made small talk for a while, then left.”
Her half-truths seemed to satisfy Duke. “John keeps to himself mostly. He lives in Belle Gillespie’s basement and finds work where he can. Folks go to him for the kind of jobs no one else wants.”
“Such as?” Audrey asked, speaking a little more sharply than she intended.
“Oh, nothing crooked,” Duke grinned. “I mean nasty jobs, like…you remember the problem with the food from the farmers’ market a while back?”
Audrey nodded, wrinkling her nose at the memory of the stench.
“John did the worst of the cleanup after that. Most people couldn’t stomach it, but he didn’t seem to notice.”
So, John had either an exceptionally strong stomach or no sense of smell, Audrey concluded. And he didn’t get involved in criminal activity, if she’d caught Duke’s hint correctly. “Does he have a last name?” she asked.
“Sure,” Duke answered and then frowned. “That’s weird. I know I know his name, but I can’t remember. It’s, um, Williams. Or Winston. Something like that.”
John Williams-or-Winston noticed Audrey watching him and raised his glass to her. He didn’t smile, but she saw a glint of amusement in his eyes. She returned the salute with her martini glass and resolutely turned her eyes back to Duke. “So, you were telling me about this poker game…”
The ambient noise level in the Grey Gull was too loud for John to hear Agent Parker’s conversation with Crocker, but he guessed from the look in her eyes that he was the subject. She was interested in him, which had been his primary purpose in speaking to her that morning: the shape-shifter merely provided him with an excuse. He was glad to hear it was dead, but there was little he could have done about it if it wasn’t. Carpenters Knot was too far from Haven and the island was accessible only by boat. There was no way for John to get out there and even if he could it would raise too many questions, especially after the murder. John needed to live below the radar in Haven, because this town would be extremely uncomfortable if he got himself noticed by the locals.
Agent Parker, on the other hand, wasn’t a local. John didn’t know how long she planned to stay in Haven, or even what she was really doing in town: word on the street was vague about her purpose. But sooner or later, she would be leaving town, and when she did John hoped she could help him. Before he could get to that, though, he needed her to want to help him.
He usually drank alone in the Grey Gull. Three evenings a week, if he had enough money, he would drink two or three beers and order a simple meal. John never got drunk and he never caused trouble. On some evenings, someone he knew might wander in and join him, and then two beers might stretch into four or five. But mostly he drank alone.
John’s funds wouldn’t stretch to a third beer that night, so he left the Grey Gull early. Agent Parker left before he did and John considered heading out at the same time, maybe exchanging a few casual words, but he decided against it. He wanted her interested, willing to talk to him, not suspicious of him. So he stayed a while longer, until he was sure she’d be gone from the street outside. Then he left the Grey Gull.
It was raining again. John walked slowly up the street, heading for Belle’s home and his tiny, basement apartment. His shoulders were hunched against the wind blowing in from the ocean. The wind brought with it the smells of the harbour: diesel fuel from the boats, rotten seaweed and wood, and the sour, salty tang unique to the Atlantic. John glanced toward the harbour as he passed, saw the swaying lights of the occupied boats and heard the faint splish-splosh of the waves. It was all very familiar to him, white noise, barely noticed. But there was something else, too. Something less familiar.
In the darkness about halfway between John and the harbour, a figure moved swiftly away from him. It was a human-like shape, but seemed too small to be a human adult and too stout to be a kid. In the darkness it was difficult to judge; perhaps it looked small because it was further away than John thought. He turned and walked toward the harbour and that strange shape.
By the time he reached the place it had been, there was no sign of it. John took a flashlight from his pocket and swept the area. He found nothing out of place, no sign of who or what had been there. He didn’t like to lose his quarry, but he really wasn’t sure what he’d seen. Maybe it was only some kid. He would come back in daylight and check again, though with this rain it was unlikely he would find anything.
John pocketed his flashlight and trudged back up the street toward home.
When he reached the house, he saw the lights were still on in Belle’s living room. His basement apartment was self-contained, with its own door, but he had a key to the house above, too. It was John’s habit to enter through the house to check on Belle. He unlocked the front door, turning the key as slowly as he could in case Belle was sleeping. But there was nothing wrong with Belle’s hearing.
“John? Is that you?”she called as he swung the door open.
“It’s me,” he confirmed, moving toward the sound of her voice. He smiled as he stopped in the doorway of her living room. “You waitin’ up for me?”
Belle sat in her usual place on the sagging couch, a crochet blanket across her knees. She was an elderly woman with long, white hair which she usually wore coiled into a bun at the back of her head. Tonight her hair was loose around her face: she had been brushing it while she waited for him. “Did you have a nice evening?” she asked politely.
“Passable,” John answered, wishing she would get to the point. He knew she wanted something from him.
Thankfully, she didn’t try to make more small talk. “I hope you don’t mind, John. There’s a broken window in the pantry. Can you do something?”
“Of course. I’ll put a board over it right now and I can see Henry about replacement glass in the morning. Just let me get my tools.”
He was happy enough to do these little jobs for her. It was an informal part of his agreement with Belle: he helped her with the tasks she was too frail to do for herself in exchange for a generously low rent on the basement apartment. Belle felt safer with a man nearby and she didn’t ask him for much more than changing light bulbs she couldn’t reach and chopping wood for her stove.
The pantry window had been broken from the outside. John gathered up the shards of glass he could find, collecting them on a sheet of newspaper to make sure he had them all. Then he cut a piece of hardboard to size and secured it with a few tacks. It would be sufficient to keep the weather out. He put his tools away and lifted up the glass-covered newspaper. He set it on the kitchen table and tried to fit the shards together, hoping to figure out what broke the window. He hadn’t found any sign of a stone or ball or other missile. John frowned down at the arrangement of glass on the table. There were two pieces missing.
The old man sat in a wicker chair, near the window. A copy of the previous day’s Haven Herald lay on the rug beside him, as if it had fallen from his hands when he fell asleep reading it. Except he wasn’t asleep. He was quite dead, and looked like he had been so for a long time: his skin grey, his open eyes clouded.
Audrey watched Julia Carr replace the dead man’s hand on the arm of the chair. “What do you think?” she asked.
Julia straightened. “At a rough estimate, he’s been dead about eighteen hours, but I don’t see anything to suggest it isn’t natural causes. Of course, it would take an autopsy to be sure. Do you have a reason to be suspicious?”
Audrey considered it. She had no evidence at all, only a gut feeling. Requesting an autopsy would only further distress his family. The daughter who found his body was still crying on the front steps. Audrey’s ‘evidence’ amounted to just two things: this was the second death in two days, both elderly people who died alone, at home, near a window…and this was Haven.
Nathan caught her eye and shook his head slightly, but Audrey hadn’t needed the silent warning. She moved to the other side of the picture window, away from the body. “No, I don’t see anything suspicious,” she agreed.
Julia gave her an odd look, and Audrey knew she hadn’t been able to conceal her suspicions. But she shrugged it off and turned toward the window to avoid further questions.
She noticed the curtain move a little and felt a chill breeze. She pulled the curtain to one side and saw the cause at once. The window pane was broken and what appeared to be a single shard, about the size of her palm, was missing. It added to her disquiet, but it wasn’t enough to call this a suspicious death.
Audrey nodded to Nathan. “I think we’re done here.”
As they left the house, Audrey let Nathan walk ahead and sat on the step beside the daughter, struggling to remember her name. “It’s…Michelle, isn’t it?” she hazarded.
The daughter nodded. She was in her late forties, her hair streaked with grey.
“I’m very sorry for your loss,” Audrey offered. “It doesn’t seem suspicious at all. I hope that helps a little.”
Michelle swallowed and swiped at her red-rimmed eyes with one hand. “Yesterday he was fine,” she said.
“I know it’s hard. Sometimes these things…” Audrey shrugged, aware that anything she said would sound awful to a grieving woman. She waited for a moment, then added as casually as she could, “I noticed the window was broken up there…?”
Michelle sniffed. “Dad told me a few days ago. I don’t know how it happened. Is it important?”
“No. I was just curious.” Audrey patted Michelle’s arm awkwardly. “Once again, I’m sorry for your loss.”
She joined Nathan in the SUV; he already had the engine idling. “No case here,” he said as he turned the SUV onto the road.
“I hope not,” Audrey answered uncertainly. “I don’t like the coincidence.”
He gave her a sly grin. “I think you’re just bored.”
“Oh, because no one has died in some bizarre way since my birthday? That’s not boring, it’s…relaxing.”
“You’re bored,” he repeated, as if her words confirmed it.
Audrey gave in. “Fine. I’m bored. Let’s stop for coffee and pastries. That usually helps.”
She had a box of pastries balanced on one hand and a large cup of caramel latte in the other, so Nathan opened the door of the big red-brick building for her. They walked through the familiar offices of Haven PD, heading for the office they shared. Audrey glanced toward the Chief’s office – it had become an automatic thing for her to check whether or not he was there, because it affected Nathan’s moods so much – and saw the door standing open, revealing a man talking with the Chief. Audrey didn’t pay much attention: the coffee was calling to her.
In the office she sat down, leaned back in her chair and sipped the hot, sweet coffee. “Just answer this,” she said, opening the pastry box. “Two dead bodies in two days. Both of them in a chair near to a broken window. No signs of violence. You don’t think that’s a bit too much to be random coincidence?”
Nathan’s look was an odd mix of exasperated and indulgent. He shrugged. “It’s weird. But I don’t see anything we can investigate.”
“Well, do you know of anyone with a reason – ” Audrey broke off as she saw the man in the Chief’s office leaving: it was John. Another coincidence.
“Excuse me,” she said to Nathan and followed John as he headed for the exit. “Hey!” she called after him.
John turned. For a moment, he looked extremely weary. Then he smiled, but it was forced: a mask to hide his true feelings. “Agent Parker. Good to see you again.”
“Is something wrong?” What Audrey really wanted to ask was why she was suddenly seeing him everywhere, but that sounded too paranoid.
“No,” he answered. “Not with me.”
“I don’t…what does that mean?”
“I filed a report with the Chief,” John said gruffly.
It sounded like a dismissal, but Audrey persisted, “That sounds like something’s troubling you.”
John shrugged. “Someone broke my landlady’s window last night. I figured I should report it. It’s only minor vandalism but if someone’s getting their kicks tormenting old women – ”
“How old is your landlady?” Audrey asked sharply.
“I’m not sure. Over seventy. Look, I’ve already been through this with the Chief.”
She’s the next victim. Audrey felt it with a sudden, absolute certainty. Victim of what? She had no idea, but now she had a clear goal: to keep this unknown woman from dying.
“Of course,” she answered distractedly. “I’ll get the details from him.” She began to move away, intending to do just that.
John grabbed her arm. “Why are you so interested in a broken window? Is Belle in danger?”
“I don’t know.”
John’s eyes met hers with an intensity that stole her breath. “Tell me!” he ordered. Audrey recognised that tone: this was a man accustomed to instant obedience. His grip tightened on her arm.
Audrey hesitated, then gave him the facts. “Two elderly people died in the past two days. Natural causes as far as we can tell; we were called because they both died alone. But at today’s scene I noticed a broken window. It doesn’t mean there’s any connection here.”
John released her. “Thank you.”
Though she was cautious in her answer to John Winchester, Audrey now felt certain that the recent deaths were connected. She wasn’t yet ready to declare them murders, but she was convinced they were not natural deaths. Someone was responsible.
Unfortunately, because they had initially treated the deaths as natural, neither Audrey nor Nathan had done much investigation. She had a lot of catching up to do.
“The Church,” Nathan suggested when Audrey asked about places the elderly might gather in Haven. “That’s the only place in winter.”
She didn’t relish the thought of another reunion with the Rev, and she knew Nathan wouldn’t want to accompany her. “I’ll talk to the Rev,” she offered reluctantly. “I think one of us should keep an eye on Mrs Gillespe, too.”
Nathan nodded. “It won’t do any harm. Do you want me to come with you to the church?” It was a generous offer, considering how the Rev treated him.
“I’ll go alone.”
Nathan reached for a doughnut. “So, what’s your theory?”
Audrey leaned back in her chair, sipping coffee. “Right now, I’m not even sure this is part of the Troubles. I just think the two deaths are linked somehow. If there is someone doing this…” She was thinking it through as she spoke. “My instinct is it’s not malicious. Maybe a side-effect of something else, like Bill spoiling the food at Second Chance.”
Nathan considered that for a moment, then leaned across the table, looking into her eyes. “What if you’re wrong?” he asked seriously.
“Then we’ve got a Troubled serial killer out there,” Audrey answered. There was no point in sugar-coating it. Those were the facts.
“Keep that in mind, would you?” Nathan said.
He was worried. She understood. Audrey finished her coffee – too quickly – grabbed a donut and stood up. “Guess I’ll go talk to the Rev,” she announced.
John reached the hardware store early and was waiting outside when Henry arrived to open the store. He asked Henry about replacement glass for Belle’s window.
“I can order it for you, no problem,” Henry agreed. “It’ll take two or three days.”
“That’s fine.” John gave him the measurements.
Henry scratched his balding head. “You know, you could get this a lot faster if you drive to the wholesaler in Derry. Cheaper, too.”
John nodded, acknowledging the truth of that. “Advice like that is bad for business.”
“Just trying to help.”
“Well, it’ll be a day or two before I have time to drive to Derry and I don’t mind paying a fair markup.” The excuse sounded weak to John, but it was the best he could do. “I think it’ll save time if you place the order for me.”
“Consider it done, then.” Henry wrote the details in his ledger. John wondered if he knew what a computer was. “Anything else I can do for you today?” Henry offered.
John considered. His job for the day was repairs to the ceiling of the Good Shepherd Church Hall. He ran through what he needed in his mind. “No, I think I’m set for this job,” he decided. “Do you need a down-payment for that glass?”
“No, John. I know you’re good for it.”
“Thanks. I’ll be back in three days, then.” John headed out.
“Have a nice day!” Henry called after him.
The ceiling of the church hall was old. The beams were rotten, but there was no money to replace them. John had agreed to do what he could to repair and reinforce the beams, but warned Reverend Driscoll sternly that nothing he did could be more than a temporary repair.
He spent the morning up on a ladder carefully planing away the rotten wood from the beams. He had to work around the activity in the hall: it was Food Bank day and there were people there setting up tables when John arrived to start work. They wouldn’t appreciate the rain of sawdust and wood-shavings John’s work was going to create, but he marked out a space beneath his ladder and they were willing enough to avoid the area.
While he worked, John listened to the conversations going on beneath him. He knew most of the Food Bank volunteers by name and he knew that, eventually, the gossip would get around to the subject he was interested in.
It was the flowers that triggered the conversation John hoped to hear. The florist’s van was delivering wreaths to the church next door, but she found it still locked and came into the church hall to ask for the key and she stopped to chat. The wreaths were for the two funerals scheduled for the following days. Naturally, conversation among the volunteers turned to the people who had died.
Dan Harlow’s death seemed to surprise no one. A few people expressed sadness, but others said it was a blessing. Mr Harlow had been in pain for a long time. He was housebound, his only family a daughter who was busy caring for her own children and could not spend much time with her father.
That was not how they spoke of the Peggy Ashworth’s death. Though some admitted she had been in decline, Peggy was remembered as an active person for her age, always full of energy and with many activities outside the home. This got John’s attention. Maybe he wouldn’t have noticed it if he wasn’t looking for a red flag. After all, there was nothing strange about a woman in her eighties becoming suddenly ill. At that age, a fast decline ending in death was common. But the description, scant as it was, sounded familiar.
John worked until around 1:30, then he packed up his tools, swept the floor clean and extracted his lunch – a sandwich wrapped in brown paper – from his toolbox. He headed for the door, wanting quiet while he ate.
Letty Crane, the leader of the Food Bank volunteers since Driscoll’s daughter left town, stopped him. “Would you like a cup of coffee, John? You’ve been working so hard. Or maybe some soup?”
“If it’s no trouble, coffee would be good,” John answered. As long as she didn’t expect his company while he drank it. John had nothing against Letty’s company, but he had been listening to women’s gossip all morning. He wanted a few moments of solitude.
“No trouble at all,” Letty assured him and disappeared into the kitchen. She returned a moment later with coffee in a paper cup. “Black, no sugar, is that right?”
“You have a good memory,” John commented, taking the cup. “Thank you.” He made his escape quickly.
At the side of the church hall was a fire door with a few steps leading up to it, partly covered by a wooden wheelchair ramp. John sat there, on the steps. It was cold, but the position gave him a good view of Green Street: the big brass sculpture outside the church, the well-tended lawns and the cars parked on the road. Mulling over what he overheard, John’s thoughts returned to Belle’s broken window. Belle wasn’t very active: she suffered from arthritis and going out was painful for her. In winter, she was afraid to go out in case she fell, though John was always willing to accompany her. She did play bingo at the church hall every Wednesday; in poor weather there was a car pool and John had been her driver on occasion. If Belle felt too ill for her bingo night, John would know there was something wrong. But he didn’t want to wait until Wednesday for confirmation of his suspicions. Wednesday could be too late.
At first, John paid no attention to the car pulling into a space nearby. It was Reverend Driscoll’s car: a common sight outside the church. Driscoll got out of the car, locked it and started up the path toward the church. He was glancing around himself as he walked, his eyes darting from side to side as if he expected something to leap out at him. His eyes fixed on John for a moment and instead of continuing to the church he veered off the path toward John.
John finished his coffee and waved a greeting.
Driscoll didn’t return his wave. “Hey, John. I’ve missed you the last few Sundays.”
John grimaced at the predictable rebuke. He liked Reverend Driscoll, but the man’s hellfire-and-brimstone brand of religion didn’t appeal to him in the slightest. John had been to Hell, and didn’t need reminding of the experience. But he deserved the criticism. He had skipped church a bit too often lately. John was never much of a churchgoer but the odd circumstances of his arrival in Haven forced John to rely on the generosity of locals for support and the church was the best place to find charity in a small town. John established himself as a churchgoer in Haven more in order to get to know the local people than out of any religious inclination. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe; he just considered his faith between him and God. But he knew he should keep up appearances and he had been letting it slide lately.
So he nodded, with what he hoped was a show of contrition. “I’ve been…distracted,” he answered truthfully. “You’ll see me this Sunday.”
“Good, good.” Driscoll’s tone was smooth and practiced. “How is the work going?” He nodded toward the hall.
“I’ve removed the rotten wood. This afternoon I’ll treat what’s left and shore it up. It should hold for a while, Reverend, but sooner or later you’ll have to raise the funds to get those beams replaced. Sooner would be better.”
“Is that a job you can do?”
“No. Sorry, Reverend. You know I’ll always help out where I can, but for this you need a builder and a proper crew. It’s not a one-man job.”
“Well, I’ll see what can be done,” Driscoll agreed unenthusiastically.
“The flowers arrived for Mrs Ashworth’s funeral,” John mentioned.
Dricsoll nodded an acknowledgement but said nothing.
“She died very suddenly, I heard,” John said carefully. He knew from Agent Parker’s report that the death appeared to be natural causes, but perhaps Driscoll would know more.
He saw at once that it was a mistake. Driscoll’s head jerked up and he fixed on John, a fanatic light gleaming in his eyes as if John’s casual question confirmed for him that the woman was murdered. John, knowing Driscoll’s hatred of the Troubles, had been damned careful not to let Driscoll suspect how much he knew about the supernatural, but he realised now that Driscoll was shrewder than he’d suspected. John must have let something slip.
“She was a godly woman,” Driscoll’s frown deepened. “This ungodly death is a tragedy. Tragedy. One the police will do nothing about.”
“Cops rarely understand these things,” John agreed. “Even in Haven.”
“Especially in Haven,” Driscoll corrected. “The Wuornos boy is one of them and the Chief will always side with his ungodly son.”
John shook his head. There wasn’t much he wouldn’t do to protect his own sons, either. “That’s not fair to the Chief,” he argued, hoping to avoid the father-son part of the topic. “He’s a good man and he’s taken action against the Troubled when – ”
“Never!” Driscoll declared, raising his voice sharply.
Whatever you say. John nodded, not in agreement so much as to end the conversation. He stood, crushing the paper that had wrapped his sandwich in his hand. “I should get back to work,” he said shortly, and headed back inside.
Driscoll had the instincts of a hunter. He could spot the supernatural and he hated it, but unlike a hunter Driscoll lacked the will to follow through. He would never investigate these things as John did. He simply jumped to conclusions and railed against “the ungodly” in impotent rage. But the Reverend knew more about Haven’s Troubles than John could ever learn on his own. He was a useful source of information…sometimes.