April, 1987 — Ann Arbor, Michigan
At two a.m. Bill Geisler has discovered entire new classes and families of noises that the office can make on a breezy April night, none of which he has ever noticed in the daytime when the place is full of boisterous, amused, angry, sarcastic, complaining, argumentative people.
First there’s the way the old-fashioned radiators start popping when the heat comes on. That startled him the first time, but it only took half a second to figure out where that noise was coming from. Then there’s the repeating squeak that turned out to be a ventilator fan in the men’s room most likely being rotated by the wind blowing over some pipe on the roof up above. But best of all was when one of the big windows, apparently cooled by the late night air, contracted in its frame or some damn thing. The sudden fusillade of snapping and cracking sounds conjured a very interesting image in Bill Geisler’s overworked mind: an image of long fingers with hard talons, tap-tap-tapping around the whole perimeter of the six foot pane of glass.
He was already turned around and half out of his chair before he realized that it was nothing but a window frame contracting. Then, feeling a weight in his hand, he looked down to see that he had drawn his revolver. He re-holstered the weapon carefully, grateful for the first time to be alone in the big room.
After an unguessably long time, he closes the file on a stack of utterly uninteresting reports covering a period from the new year up until about the middle of March, in a small town called North Adams, some miles to the west of Devil’s Lake, over in Hillsdale County.
Good news for the residents of North Adams from detective Bill Geisler of Ann Arbor, Michigan. If there is a serial murderer in a fright-mask loose in Lenawee, the county next door to you, you are safe. He will never visit your town, because nobody will ever visit your town, because you have an impenetrable Boredom Force Field around your town.
But just as Geisler closes the folder there is another sound, this time in the hall outside the big staff room. The sound of his folder closing and the sound from the hallway occur so close together that he isn’t sure for a moment what he heard. Was it a door opening? But after a moment, he clearly hears footsteps on the linoleum out there. It’s three-thirty now, and it’s certainly not obvious who would be coming in at a time like that. On the other hand they do not sound very much like the footsteps of a serial killer in a fright mask.
Geisler presses his right hand down on the top of the desk, because he does not want to suddenly discover that he has drawn his weapon again.
Across the wide room, Patrick Leonard pushes the door open and strolls in.
“I knew I’d find you here, you bastard,” he says. He has pretty obviously been drinking some more, and Geisler wonders about that for a moment. But mostly he’s glad to have the company.
“Well, yeah,” he says. “Where else am I gonna go on a Sunday night?”
Leonard strolls across the room, avoiding desks.
“You’re worrying about the golf course murders, right?” he says.
“Oh, not really,” Bill starts to look away, and instantly wonders does that mean I’m lying, if I look away to the left? They had some training about such things once, but he can’t remember the least bit of it.
“Would you mind saving some time,” Leonard says, “by not trying to bullshit me? You should know better, man.”
Geisler looks up at him and grins. “Yes I suppose I should.”
“Goddamn slow learner is what you are,” Leonard says cheerfully. He pulls a chair away from Bennet’s desk, and clomps it down just where it needs to be so he can lean back in it and put his feet up on the edge of Geisler’s desk, which he proceeds to do. “So,” he says, “you looking at other reports from the area?”
Geisler laughs. “Good guess.”
“What else would you do?” Leonard doesn’t look particularly happy about it, but he also doesn’t complain. “So—you finding anything?”
The harsh spring wind outside picks up again, hard enough to rattle the windows.
“Not a thing,” Geisler admits. “I’ve been looking at whatever we’ve got from the, ah, towns around there.” He prefers not to say around Devil’s Lake. “You know, all these little burgs. Cement City, Onstead, Addison. I even got some Sheriff’s reports. Nothing interesting unless you want to know who gets drunk in February.”
Leonard exhales loudly, and Geisler looks up at him.
“You got something to say?” Geisler asks.
“Yeah.” The older man looks at him. “William, why are you doing this? What are you doing in here at frikking oh-dark-thirty?” He squints his eyes a little, as if to see better. “What do you want here?”
Geisler looks back at him for the space of a breath, then away at one of the dark corners of the big room.
“I just want to know—” he begins.
And the telephone on Bill Geisler’s desk rings, loud in the quiet room.
“God damn it, I knew it,” Leonard says. “Put it on speaker.”
Taking a large breath and blowing it out quietly, Geisler hits the phone’s speaker button and hangs up the handset.
“Ann Arbor Police, Detective Geisler speaking,” he says. “Who is this, please?”
“Hi,” a gruff voice says from the speaker. “It’s, uh. It’s Dick Germond. I tried you at home first, then I figured you’d be at your office.”
Geisler thinks for a moment. “Sheriff Germond?” he says. Leonard silently takes his feet down from the desk and carefully leans his chair forward to settle all four legs firmly on the floor. “What can I do for you, Sheriff?” Geisler asks.
It takes the voice at the other end so long to reply that Geisler is on the verge of repeating his question.
“You fellas were down here last week, asking about the, uh—the problem at the golf course.”
“Sheriff,” Patrick speaks up quickly, “I just want you to understand that we are very well aware that we have no jurisdiction in Lenawee County. We were there on purely personal business, and we talked to a couple people out of personal interest only.”
“Yeah,” the Sheriff exhales audibly. “Look. That’s fine. I’ve got no problem with all that. I just wanted to say that if, uh, you fellas are interested—just personally, like you said. I could sure use—” The line goes silent again, and when the sheriff resumes they can hear the emotion in his voice even through the poor-quality speaker. “Look,” he says. “It’s happened again. And—it ain’t good. If you fellas are interested at all, I could sure use somebody to to talk it over with. This—isn’t good, here. Maybe you’ll see something I’m missing. I can fix it with your boss, if that’s a problem for you.”
Geisler glances at Leonard, then takes a breath and answers.
“We’d be happy to help any way we can, Sheriff,” he says. “The new incident—it happened tonight?”
“Yeah. Yes. Maybe an hour ago. You’ll be coming down on 127, right?”
“Yes sir,” Geisler says. Patrick gets up and walks to the twelve foot wide map of southeast Michigan on the staff room’s wall.
“OK. You turn west on US-12, go three miles to Waldron Road, and then about two miles south, just before you reach Sandhill Road. You’ll see the lights.”
Geisler finishes with the sheriff on the phone then stands up, not bothering to turn his desk lamp off. He walks toward Leonard.
“Well, fabulous,” Leonard grimaces. “This ought to be just terrific. Here’s where we’re going.”
Geisler looks at the spot he’s pointing to on the map. In the room’s half-light Bill can just make out the intersection of Waldron and Sandhill. No doubt those two tiny little dirt roads will be rutted and potted like hell at this time of the year.
“And here’s the neighborhood.”
Leonard points a short distance, about halfway back from that intersection to where they will turn off of US-12. There’s a small lake, no more that an eighth of a mile across like dozens of them that dot that whole area.
“Moon Lake,” Geisler reads. “OK. So?”
“And can you read this one?” Leonard asks with a little smile.
Leonard indicates the even smaller lake to the west of it, right next to the curving line of Waldron Road.
Geisler reads the name and straightens up again to look at his old partner. “Terrific,” he says. “Thanks a lot.”
The smaller body of water, a mile away from their destination, is called Blood Lake.