The story so far:
Jimmy Garcia had not been assigned a new cell mate since Miguel's death, and the solitude was welcome. He needed as much time alone as possible for his work.
Prisoner number G254116, otherwise known as Jimmy "Silent" Garcia, had been in the joint for more than a decade. The details of how this had come to pass he kept to himself. As far as anyone knew he was just another murderer. Yes, he was guilty of murder, this much was true. Jimmy had blood on his hands, lots of it. The secret was that he had never raised a hand in violence to another person in his entire life.
How he had been apprehended and convicted was the result of sentimental foolishness that he attributed to his youth, long since lost in the dark recesses of the his psychotic mind. He had gone to the crime scene after the fact, just to see what it really looked like. Worse, he took a souvenir of blood soaked panties. How could he have been so stupid? That reckless, youthful sense of immortality.
Jimmy Silent had long since forgiven himself. Now he only cared about the work. He lived for the work.
Father Preston had started visiting about three years ago. He had special privileges, to spend time alone with the prisoners and visit them in their cells. He had been very gentle and soft spoken and said a lot of things that Jimmy thought of as corny and a waste of time, but it was a break in the usual routine of daily prison life.
After a while, the priest's words grew more grim, and Jimmy started paying more attention. He spoke of sinners and sin, with vivid descriptions of all sorts of sordid sex acts, prostitutes, junkies, teen sex, women and men sleeping with each other's spouses, crooks, thieves, murderers, all of the sort of people that Jimmy was around every day.
Somehow Father Preston reached him, and Jimmy Garcia took The Savior into his heart. The priest continued to visit, encourage him in the good works. All of the sinners would be taken to Hell as punishment, and the righteous would come to know the Lord's sweet embrace.
Inspired, Jimmy began his work. He found a use for his talent rather than the occasional thrill-kill. He thought he could trust a Holy Man, and confided his accomplishments to Father Preston. At first, the reverend tried to pray with him to stop the sinful delusions, but arrived one afternoon in a heightened state of agitation. His steely gaze was more piercing than usual.
"Jim, you have to stop! I know what you have been doing and it is not right. It's in the papers and on the news. I know it's you, Jimmy. It is a sin, and you must stop immediately! Pray that God will forgive you."
Jimmy looked at the priest with a coldness that was shocking and chilling, then past him to a spot of peeling paint on the wall. Nothing more was said, and the priest left the room.
Thereafter, Father Preston did not ask to see prisoner G254116 any more. Instead, he tried to get to him through Miguel, imploring prayer and repentance for his evil deeds. It got very tiresome. Then Miguel had come to him with a message.
"Silent Jim," Miguel spoke in urgent, low tones. "He said he found your outside man and he's going to put a stop to it."
At that moment, Jimmy "Silent" Garcia knew what he had to do. Extreme intervention was required.
Miguel piped in, "You have some action on the outside?"
He should have known better than to ask questions like that. He hadn't just arrived the day before, after all. Miguel knew too much, anyway.
Preston had been an easy kill. He made himself so vulnerable, preaching to the whores. An easy mark, especially since Jimmy had agents in that part of town. Miguel was another story. It was a new challenge to convince him to turn on himself. Miguel had reasons to live. His girlfriend and two kids had been visiting him regularly for the past three years, with only four more to go before parole.
Well, it was done. So be it. Now he would have to find new agents, just in case Preston had gone to the police or talked to anyone else. One in particular had caught his attention. A real oddball who obsessed about the Ten Commandments, and had already proven to be especially susceptible to Jimmy's influence. A couple of test sessions strangling a couple of inconsequential hookers had gone well. This new agent could be perfect for completing the Work.
Closing his eyes and slipping into a meditative state, Jimmy "Silent" Garcia found his subject, lingering on a sidewalk, propped against a brick wall in the red light district.
Barton had been ordained by mail, but he took his work seriously. Though he was loath to admit that he was aroused by all of the short skirts and trashy women, especially the teen-agers, he balanced his sinful thoughts by witnessing to the johns, drug dealers and junkies, too.
Presently, Barton was deep in thought, unaware of three young girls laughing and talking trash just a few feet away, tinted with the orange of late afternoon. Barton had been having dreams lately, terrible and disturbing. Two nights in a row, the nightmares were similar, but different. First, he had convinced a young hooker to pray with him. He talked her into going somewhere private, a stairway that led just below street level. There, he had coldly and methodically wrapped his bare hands around her throat and squeezed with all of his might. He stood over her limp corpse for a time, aroused by her feminine form. Then last night he had the same dream, only it was a different girl, in an alley this time. The memory was vivid in his horror, so that his heart rate quickened and his breath grew short at the recollection. He could remember the warmth of her throat as he pushed his big thumbs into the soft flash, her eyes moist with fear, betrayal, and then surrender before they rolled upward amidst her purple, swollen cheeks and she ceased movement.
He was re-living the nightmares in vivid detail. Night had fallen, and he was suddenly aware of his surroundings. How had he gotten here? The suburbs. At night? He only came to these parts in the early morning to look for windfall fruit on the sidewalks.
He was standing in the shade of a tree near the edge of someone’s lawn. An attractive woman was moving about in the yellow light of a living room. He fought with his Christian vows and finally conquered an urge to see if he could catch her undressing, and walked away. Two houses down, a dog began barking. He hated that about the suburbs, too damn many dogs, and they didn’t miss much.
Adara’s day had been long. Willfully conjuring visions turned out to be very draining, as was playing hostess to police. They had finally left a couple of hours ago, presumably to return to their families.
Franco was in the shower. She craved a shower and sleep, but Franco always used all of the hot water, and she didn’t know if she would ever sleep again. The captain had urged her to stay home and get some rest, let them do their job, and talk to them tomorrow. She tidied up, gathering water glasses and coffee cups, straitening the doilies on the arms of the couch and easy chair. How could she rest with her darling Paige out there somewhere, in the hands of a killer?
The dog next door started barking, clearly agitated. She looked out the window, but didn’t see anything suspicious. What had set that mutt off this time? She was so on edge every disturbance or movement in the neighborhood made her heart thump.
She heard the bathroom door open down the hall, and Franco’s bare feet as he approached. She turned and there he was, arms outstretched, allowing the towel to drop from his waste. Taking her into an embrace, he rubbed against her and whispered “Honey, let’s try to get some sleep. Come to bed.”
“I don’t think sleep is at the top of your list”. She said flatly.
She backed free of him, punching him on he chest with the edge of her fist.
“Franco, damn you! What about Paige?”
“You’re right, of coarse.” Hanging his head then again meeting her gaze, “I’m sorry.”
“How can I sleep? What should we do?”
“I don’t know, Adara, I just don’t know.” The sincerity was genuine, of this Adar had no doubt. What would she do without him? Count your blessings, she reminded herself.
“Let’s go to the bedroom anyway” Franco tugged on her hand, “I’ll give you a back massage to write home about.”
She warmed, and felt some of the tension leave her body in anticipation. “That’s a pretty good offer, but I don’t think I’ll tell my mother.”
Jimmy “Silent” Garcia took over again to guide Barton back to his beloved street walkers. He did not want his subject knowing exactly where he had been or how to get there. Besides, Barton would need his van to carry out the night’s work. The view from his subjects was generally pretty fuzzy and distorted, but through Barton’s eyes he could see quite clearly. Now he knew he could effectively control the actions of his new agent completely and for any duration.
A few blocks from the strip, Barton had a small studio apartment, and his van was parked along the sidewalk. At Jimmy’s “suggestion”, he entered his apartment only long enough to gather a few changes of clothes, his meager cash left over from last month’s disability check, and a loaf of bread. Jimmy would never allow Brandon to return.
Across town, a dusty white van was parked behind a meat packing plant that had gone out of business over a year ago. A ruddy-faced man with a shock of red hair was prying loose a sheet of plywood from a window, and disappeared inside, propping the wood up behind him. He groped for a flashlight that Jimmy had his previous agent leave on the floor just inside. The jiggling pool of yellow light helped Brandon find his way to the heart of the facility, to the large, heavy door of a walk-in freezer. He opened the door, and heard a muffled whimper in the dark. Shining the light, Jimmy was comforted to see that the girl had not been disturbed and was in good health, satisfied by the terror in her eyes and the gag still in place. He had Brandon switch on the electric camp lantern and turn off the flashlight.
Tonight he would take Paige to the desert. There was less chance of anyone finding her in the cave, and that was where the final rituals would be carried out. Soon he would have Adara and Methra there as well, and all would be right for completing the Holy Work.
Miraculously, sleep had claimed Adara sooner than she would have imagined, but it was not restful and wouldn’t last long. In her dream, she recognized the dark, blood-soaked dirt and wooden crosses stacked against the stone, surreal in the dancing light of a small fire. A red haired man was roasting a hot dog on a stick, a loaf of white bread open beside him. He looked up. “If you promise not to scream you can have one. I bet you’re hungry.”
In Adara’s dream, the man walked over to her and leaned down to remove the gag. He seemed familiar. Where had she seen that face? “Why are you doing this?” The voice in her head was filled with panic and hoarse from crying, but Adara knew it as well as her own. Paige!
“You’ll be with your mother again soon.” The man said. “Now shut up and eat.”
“Paige!” Adara sat bolt upright. “Franco, it’s her! I was there! I saw him!”
Franco stirred and rose to comfort her, instantly fully awake.
This had always been her favorite feature of the desert. Sunrise. Red light on red rock, the cool air contrasting with the first warmth of the sun. She was not here to enjoy the wonders of nature, however. The white van had been there when she arrived, but she didn’t know where the driver was. Perhaps it was just abandoned or belonged to hikers, but she had a feeling about it, and she had long since learned to trust “The Feeling.”
She knew in her gut she was close to finding Paige, and if she played this right, whoever this psycho was would finally get caught. She waited patiently for the owner of the van to return, knowing she had several hours to make it to work by ten. She would see where he had come from, and after he leaved she would retrace his steps. There she would find the cave, and Paige, and when she freed the poor girl and took her home, this would certainly enrage the killer. An enraged killer would be likely to act desperately, which could be dangerous, but desperation goes hand in hand with recklessness, which could lead to the sort of mistake that might be his undoing.
As a large hand clapped over her mouth and a heavy arm wrapped around her from behind, Methra knew she should not have come alone.