Chapter 80


    Lucy walked up Sansom Street in a fog, stepping from shadow to shadow. Everyone who passed her was a danger. They all knew what she had done. She could see it in their eyes. There was traffic, conversations, street sounds all around her, but she didn't hear the sounds. All she heard was the white noise in her head, raised to an insane volume, the static of her impending madness.

    What had she done?

    All she remembered was the bell. It had rung twice.

    What did it mean?

    She kept walking. Block after block passed. Walk. Don't Walk. Red light. Green light. There were people all around her, but they were ghosts. The only person who lived in her world right now was a dead man. A man lying under the sheets, soaked in blood.

    All that blood.

    At 22nd Street her legs felt as if she could not take another step, but she forced herself, she knew she had to keep moving.

    When she reached the corner of Sansom and 23rd something jolted her out of her dark reverie. There were police cars all up and down the streets, their lights flashing on the walls of the buildings. Groups of people were gathered on the corners, chatting with each other, pointing at the church. Lucy had walked this way many times.

    She was pretty sure that there was a small cemetery next to the church. What was going on?

    It didn't matter. It had nothing to do with her. She knew what she had to do. She knew who she had to call. She crossed 23rd Street. There was a policeman standing in the middle of the street, directing traffic away from the church. Lucy pulled up the collar on her coat, angled her head away from him. As she passed, she chanced a glance. He was looking right at her. She quickened her pace, made it across the street. When she had gone half a block she stepped back into the shadows, glanced back. The cop was still looking in her direction.

    Lucy ran. She tried to get her bearings. The river was just a few blocks to her left. Ahead was Chestnut, Market, Arch, Cherry.


    There was only one place for her to go.


    Lucy stood in front of Apartment 106, her breath coming in hot, painful waves. She had run nearly six blocks and her sides ached. She tried to calm herself, to catch her breath. She could hear the sound of a television coming from one of the other apartments on this floor. Somewhere a dog was barking. She knocked softly, but there was no response. She tried again. Nothing.

    She tried the doorknob. It turned in her hand. She pushed open the door, and stepped into Mr. Costa's apartment.


    The flat was completely empty. This time, even the Dreamweaver booth was gone. The floor had been swept, the walls were bare. She could smell the cleaning products - Spic 'N Span, Lemon Pledge, Windex, Scrubbing Bubbles.

    Lucy moved slowly through the living room, glanced into the tiny kitchen. The old appliances remained, but that was it. There was no dinette table, no chairs, no dishes in the sink, no strainer. She turned back to the living room. On the right was a door that she figured led to a bedroom. She stepped lightly, but the old wooden floor still creaked under her weight. She stopped, waiting for the light to go on, for Mr. Costa to appear suddenly as he was likely to do. But it didn't happen. Lucy inched open the door to the bedroom. It too was empty. No furniture, no clothing, no personal items of any kind. There was a single window overlooking the street. That was it.

    But it wasn't.

    There was something on the wall. A small picture in a frame. Lucy reached over, flipped the light switch, but it didn't work. She crossed the bedroom, pushed the curtain to the side. A wedge of illumination from the street lights across the road spilled into the room. She took the small picture from the wall, angled it toward the borrowed light. The photograph was old, kind of blurry. It was a picture of a little girl, no more than two years old. She sat on a beach. In front of her was a bright red plastic bucket. In her hand was a small shovel. She squinted at the sunlight. She wore a floppy flowered sun hat. Chubby cheeks, chubby knees.

    Lucy knew the face, the eyes. The last time she had seen those eyes they had been red with crying.

    It was Peggy van Tassel.

    Lucy's hands began to shake. She tried to plug it into everything that had happened in the past few days and she could not. Then she tried to put the picture in the pocket of her coat but it wouldn't fit.

    She knew what she had to do. She would get to the nearest phone and call Detective Byrne. The longer she waited, the worse it was going to get for her.

    Before she could take a single step, she heard the floorboards creak, felt the warm breath on her neck. Someone stood right behind her.

    'Police,' the man said. 'Get down on the floor and put your hands behind your back. Do it now.'

    Lucy felt her legs go soft. The photograph slipped from her grasp. It crashed to the floor.

    'Now,' he repeated.

    Lucy got down on the floor, next to the shattered glass, put her hands behind her back. She felt the man take her arms by the wrists, then slip a plastic band around them, tighten it.

    He left her there like that for a full minute. She dared not turn to look at him. She heard him pace around the room. Then he spoke.

    'Can you hear them?' he asked softly.

    Lucy didn't know what he was talking about. She tried to listen hard, to figure out what he meant, but there was only the roar of terror in her head.

    'The dead are all over the city,' the man continued. 'Tonight it belongs to them. It always has.'

    A few moments later the man shone a flashlight on the broken photograph on the floor, spotlighting the little girl's face. He held it there for a long time.

    'You could have saved her,' the man said. 'You could have saved her and you did nothing.'

    Lucy's mind began to spin. This man was not the police.

    She was pulled roughly to her feet. She felt the man's breath right near her ear.

    'You're as guilty as George Archer.'

The Echo Man
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