Sitting on a bench in the park, the two detectives tried to enjoy the warm sunlight and cool breeze. Gemma’s report is still sinking in as Max watches a group of children run around a nearby playground. He pulls out a picture of his kids, both of them too old to join in the lawless game of tag that is resulting in a collection of skinned knees and elbows. A flock of pigeons wanders around the walkway where they snap up fallen food and wait for the quiet pair to throw pieces of bread. It takes several minutes for the birds to realize that they will have to look elsewhere and they leave in unison. The sound of flapping wings and cheering children fail to puncture the gloom that has come over the detectives.
“Seems Ms. Addison has a thing for cannibalism,” Max finally says while chewing on his empty pipe. Tucking the picture into his jacket pocket, the man leans back and stares at the sky through the branches. “Then again, I’ve no idea what we’re even dealing with. The idea that she’s drugging people to act insane is farfetched, but there’s no alternative. Possibly a gas being pumped through the hotel, which gets triggered by stress? That could explain Mr. Anders, the Langs, and what you’re seeing.”
“It doesn’t cover anything we just saw,” Gemma states, rubbing her thumb against her badge. She finds herself unable to take a lot of comfort from it or her firearm being returned for the rest of the investigation. “So the chief said I’m not on leave, but I’m to stay at the hotel to figure out what’s going on. Get the feeling that this is going to be the case that kills either my career, my sanity, or both. Still no idea why anybody would do this.”
“Because they’re a mentally disturbed psycho,” her partner declares with a laugh. Drawing the attention of a jogger, he nods his head to the young woman and lowers his voice. “I don’t like throwing this idea around. The idea of dealing with a person who simply enjoys killing doesn’t sit well with my ulcer. Give me a motive beyond bloodlust because that’s something a jury can wrap their heads around.”
“Do you really think this will end with her on trial?”
“Don’t go there, Cook. You might not come back.”
“It’d be worth it to stop her.”
“And if the murders continue anyway?”
Cursing under her breath, Gemma gets off the bench and jams her hands into her pockets before walking toward a pond. She kicks rocks out of her way while Max remains a few steps behind. Several times, the young woman’s hand swings down to graze her firearm, but never does more than a subtle tap. The last thing she wants is for somebody to think she is about to draw the weapon and cause a scene. Gemma considers handing the gun over to her partner and getting rid of the temptation, but she is sure it will be needed at some point. For a brief moment, she wonders if a bullet would even stop Dawn. Shaking her head clear of the ridiculous thought, she stops near the edge of the water and looks across at the loud traffic.
“I need to know more about her,” Gemma admits while unwrapping a stick of gum. She holds the minty snack between her lips before using her tongue to roll it into her mouth. “There is nothing that makes sense about her. She is always doing something different at that hotel, but it’s never what you would expect the boss to be doing. Did she get a degree in business? What about chemistry? How did she get the money to open Heaven’s Nest? Now I’m the one rattling off questions.”
“Well, Dawn Addison is practically a ghost because she never did anything beyond existing until now,” Max answers, flipping through a notebook. Running his finger along the barely readable scrawling, he gives a helpless shrug. “She was born and raised out in Suffolk County where her mother still lives. Homeschooled until she went to a public high school and not on social media, so there are no friends to talk to. One year at a community college with no major before dropping out. Random jobs, traveling around the country, and many stays in psych wards covers everything until she ended up at Raven’s Hold. Her fortune came about after that and I still have no idea how. I thought it was mob ties at first then I found evidence of her inheriting it from the doctor who ran the asylum. A grainy video shows her as a lottery winner in Oregon too. International trading is another possibility, but damned if I know what she was trading.”
Thinking her partner is making a joke, Gemma carefully takes his notebook and reads through his notes. “Can’t believe I know how to read your chicken scratch. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of what you’re finding are lies created by Dawn to throw people off. She wants to be entertained and have fun, so this would be a maze with a lot of dead ends. We really need to focus on her childhood since the rest is straightforward. You said her mom still leaves out on Long Island. What about her father?”
“Louis Addison died when she was two,” Max answers while handing Gemma a folded article. He taps at the picture of a house, the entire right side having collapsed into rubble. “I don’t know anything about the man other than he worked and barely saw his family outside of the weekend. Neighbors said he was a loving husband and father, which is the usual responses. Nobody could explain the freak accident. One night, he was in the kitchen while Ms. Addison and her mother were upstairs in a bedroom. Whole side of the house caved in and crushed Louis, who was found with a beer still in his hand. The whole thing is considered a cold case that I’m sure the local precinct has forgotten.”
Reading over the article, Gemma pulls it closer when she sees the image of a dark-haired man in one of the house’s surviving windows. A blink causes the figure to be replaced by partially open curtains and cracks in the glass. Two ravens are flying in the distance and seem to gently flap their wings without moving forward. Peeking from around the corner of the house, the detective can see a small girl with a single pigtail and chocolate smeared across her face. It takes the detective a second to realize how clear the old photo appears to her, which becomes blurry when she coughs. Cautiously handing the article back to her partner, Gemma takes a shuddering breath and rubs her eyes to stave off a headache.
“You need to get some sleep,” Max mentions while offering an anxiety pill. Taking one himself, he watches two ducks chase each other around the pond. “I’m going to head out tomorrow to talk to the mother. Her name is Kate Addison and she works at the local library, which means a quiet setting. Just hope she’s nothing like her daughter. Charge your phone and keep it on because I want to be able to contact you quickly. I’ll do the same if you need me to get you out of there.”
“I’m sure it won’t come down to that, but thanks,” Gemma replies as she stares at the pill. With a tired sigh, she hands it back and tucks her hands into her pockets. “Probably should head back and see what Dawn has in store for me. After last night, I’m sure she has a new challenge ready and I can’t bring anyone else into this. Though I do want to put a plan of my own into action.”
“Thanks for making me the sole passenger on your trip to hell.”
“You would have come along anyway.”