Took me three years to track down John Delaney. Snot dribbled from his nose. But those soulless blue eyes still sparkled with defiance.
I’d jacked him head-long over a battered wooden table—and splayed him spread-eagle. Like a cop shoves a hapless perp against the hood of a car. Yeah, I cuffed his hands, cinched them tight behind his back. But I’d also shackled his ankles to the blood-stained concrete floor. Then looped a noose around his neck: lashing that demented meathead smack against the tabletop so he could only look left.
I hadn’t bothered with a gag. No one could possibly hear him. Besides. I wanted him to talk. I felt my composure slipping … and imagined this derelict house didn’t look much different than the noxious shithole had three ancient years ago. Though the cops proved too damn lazy to discover Delaney’s lair.
Bile clogged my throat as I snagged his matted hair, squatting on my knees so I could easily glare at him—crazed eyes to crazy eyes.
“I want every detail. Now. You will hold back nothing.”
No surprise the asshole spit at me. Despite the lug wrench in my hand. Though he cringed and closed his eyes: expecting the arcing metal to meet and dent his head.
Instead, I dropped the wrench. This rattled both our ears while clattering the concrete instead of his worthy skull.
I reached inside my trench coat; fished out a pack of photos. Then like a stack of preschool flash cards, I held each one before his face … before slowly oh-so-slowly … moving to the next.
“She was sweet, so sweet,” he crooned, blue eyes suddenly glassy: a jagged guttural moan swelling from his chest.
“Tell me something I don’t know, Delaney.”
“I fucked her,” he said, his face now radiant—merry thoughts meandering down his twisted memory lane.
“Fucked her how?”
He giggled. “Every which way. In her mouth. In her ears. In the cunt. Up the ass.
“She called me Daddy the entire time. Every day and night of that blessed week.”
All the filth Delaney spewed matched ghoulishly tit-for-tat with the scorched images in my head—the charred lines cut deep—like they’d long been etched with acid. Though I continued to let him babble till finally he proved spent.
I tucked the photos in my coat. Staggered to the fireplace … and that gray round mound of ash. But the fires Delaney burned couldn’t claim everything. I spied a strip of shattered lathing, barely clinging to the wall frame, and used the splintered wood to gently spread the pile. Shrouded within that dust … three blackened buckles—one from a belt—and two the only remnants of her patent leather shoes. While bits of teeth and bone screamed at me from the ash.
I tugged a bandana from my trench coat. Collected the twisted buckles, as well as the tiny fragments of teeth and shattered bone. Laid them on the cotton cloth. Heaped a handful of ashes on top. Then securely tied the bundle. Acid clawed my innards. Vomit threatened to surge.
I turned and walked away. My boot heels echoing off the steps.
No need to take the fucker’s life. Starvation would duly claim him. And I’d snatched his greatest treasure—
A golden braided knot of my beloved daughter’s hair.