The rhythmic hum and vibration of the car engine was threatening to lull SMS to sleep as he leaned back against the headrest and slowly tapped his fingers along the spine of Innis’s notebook. It was past midnight now, and beyond the reach of the headlights the world was as black as the void. The moon and stars were hidden behind clouds, and the massive trees that loomed over the highway on either side gave the impression of driving through a forested tunnel.
“Are we getting close?” asked Esther from the back seat.
“A couple more hours,” said SMS. It had been another big surprise when he’d learned who she was. Esther Merton, sister of the insane Caleb Merton who he’d gone to see this morning in the prison. What were the odds?
“Is there any chance we might find a 24-hour gas station or something that would carry some salve? Kevin’s back is getting really inflamed.”
“I’ll keep my eyes open,” promised SMS, “but don’t get your hopes up. We’re way out in the backwoods here.”
Beside Esther in the back seat, Kevin moaned.
“You know,” said SMS, “I still haven’t figured out what happened to him. If that damage on his back came from Bailey shooting him, why isn’t he dead? She was standing six feet away!”
“Um,” said Esther. “Well… I’m a special.”
“Uh huh,” said SMS. “I figured as much. That shot partially hit you, too, didn’t it? But you don’t seem to have any injuries to show for it. So you’re pretty much invulnerable, is that it?”
“No, I’m just tough,” said Esther. “It still hurt. I have bruises. One of my ribs is really sore.”
SMS resisted the urge to make a sarcastic barb. “Still, that doesn’t tell me why he isn’t dead.”
“I think it’s because…” Esther hesitated. “Sometimes my toughness gets extended to those near me.”
“Oh? Under what circumstances?”
“When I…” Esther paused. “When I love them.”
SMS whistled softly. He twisted his head back around his seat to see Kevin’s reaction, but he couldn’t see the Baconmancer’s face because Esther had leaned down and was gently kissing it. “Attaboy, Bacon man,” said SMS quietly to himself. He saw that Andy Button, who was driving the car, had noticed, too. Andy took one hand off the wheel and reached over to give SMS a fist bump.
“How’s Rosy doing for gas?” asked SMS.
“I dunno,” said Andy. “Gauge is broken. I filled a couple jerry cans and stuck ’em in the trunk, though, so we should be good.”
“Let me know if you want me to take a shift driving,” said SMS.
“I’m fine for now.”
Everything was quiet for a minute or two. Then a flash of red and blue in the rearview mirror caught SMS’s eye. An RCMP squad car, doing 150 kilometres an hour, flickered its lights again, and Andy slowed down and hugged the shoulder to let it pass. The police car went speeding by.
SMS didn’t relax until it was completely out of sight.
Andy glanced at him, noticing the tension. “I still don’t see why—”
“Pavelec was a cop,” snapped SMS.
“I don’t even know who that is,” protested Andy.
“Innis has moles all over VicPD and the RCMP, and he’ll be expecting me to go to the police with his notebook. It isn’t safe.” He clutched the notebook in his lap and repeated, “It isn’t safe…”
Andy sighed. “If you say so. I mean, I’ve got no real love for the cops; they’ve got a few too many reasons to be interested in me. But…” He trailed off. SMS had clearly stopped paying attention.
It was too dark to read, but SMS flipped Innis’s notebook open again, paging through to the bookmark he’d placed, knowing that nothing would have changed but looking anyways. He saw the outlines of the scribbled words, the information Innis had written down about seemingly every special he’d ever met. Names, abilities, personal notes… And the entry for his mother, an innocuous paragraph nestled at the bottom of a random page, the collection of words that had ripped his heart right out of his chest.
Name: Melanie Scott
Abilities: Extraordinary beauty, charm, and industry.
Notes: I loved her, but she wouldn’t have me. Deceased June 23, 1998. Mechanic who installed brakes punished for his carelessness on March 17, 1999.
SMS bowed his head, closed his eyes, and sighed. It had been such a long day, and he was tired, so very, very tired.
Curious what else SMS found in Innis’s notebook? Take a look at the Innis’s List page.
THE END of WHO KILLED WALTER CARTON?
Stay tuned for the continuation of the story, TBD.