They gave me a week before I had to come in and speak to the chief. By that point, I was able to eat more solid foods without wanting to rip my own throat out.
I’d also slipped into a surly mood.
“You’re a ray of sunshine today, Lonnie.”
I suppressed my innate ‘fuck you’ and just offered a thin smile. The chief steepled his fingers and shook his head as I slouched down further into my chair.
“Happy as a clown.” My voice was still a raspy mess, but it hurt less to talk.
“Uh huh.” He shook his head and sat forward. “Look, I have you in today because we need to talk about what happened.”
I closed my eyes, caught out with how raw my emotions were. “I made a mistake. A big mistake.”
“A mistake? Lonnie, this whole thing was a monumental fuck up. I could take your badge for this.”
That made me swallow hard. “I know. I know. He got under my skin and I made bad decisions because of it, but he wanted to frame me. I didn’t have anything to do with that body.”
“He got more than just under your skin.” He grimaced at that, a look of regret flitted across his face. “You’re the best detective I have and I’m worried you’re not going to be able to handle another killer who has the ability to get to you.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose, blowing out a hard breath. “It was just him and it won’t happen again. I’m in total control, boss.”
He made a noise that sounded somewhere between a scoff and a laugh. I held his eyes, hoping I conveyed my sincerity because I was being sincere. No one else had messed with my head like he had and no one would be able to do it again if I could help it.
“I’m putting you on leave, Lonnie.” I opened my mouth to protest, but he held up his hand. “Just for a couple of weeks so you can sort yourself out. My suggestion is therapy and maybe some knitting.”
I rolled my eyes at that ridiculous suggestion.
“May I keep my gun or do I have to leave it?”
“Department issue stays, but you can keep your personal firearm.”
That told me I was two steps from being truly fired. Yeah, I really fucked up on this one.
This was a warning.
I made to leave, but he stopped me. Concern wrinkled his already weathered face. “Really, Lonnie, take a break and get your head right. He could’ve killed you and there’s no coming back from that.”
Some of my irritation smoothed out at his worry. “I know. I will, boss. This won’t happen ever again.”
“Make sure it doesn’t.” Another warning.
Eyes followed me as I walked to my desk. I’m sure most of the story had gotten out by now. I ignored many of the looks, not caring to read the judgment in them.
“How’d it go?”
Mick was sitting in my chair, arms crossed.
“Well, he didn’t fire me so that’s good. I’ll be out for a little while though.”
“Guess I’ll have to share my coffee with Roger while you’re gone.”
“Your donuts, too.”
He looked incredulous. “Not fucking likely.”
My laughter was cut short as my eyes lit on my desk. An envelope sat on one of my cold case files, my name printed in beautiful scroll.
“Where’d that come from?” I asked with a jerk of my chin toward the letter.
“No idea. Think it’s been there since right before… you know.”
Before I landed myself in jail.
I picked it up. The scent of the perfume I used and the subtle scent of him reached my nose. A host of butterflies exploded in my stomach as I knew without a doubt it was from him.
“You going to open it?”
I couldn’t tell him no, that I wanted to read it in private because I knew it was from my killer. I slid a finger beneath the flap, my breath stopped in my chest.
Strands of hair and a scrap of what looked like the black panties I wore the first time he fucked me fall out of the letter.
“Dear Detective. I hope this letter finds you well. I believe we’ve finally reached the end, haven’t we? Part of me is sorry for how things will turn out, but I’ve always thought the best of us would prevail. Hopefully I’ll see you very soon. One more time before it’s all over.”
My breath caught.
“PS: don’t believe for a second I’m where I am because you put me there. If you catch me, it’s because I want to be caught. How else can I be near my beautiful girl?”
“What’s it say?”
I barely hear Mick over the thud of my heart in my ears. This was always a game to him. One he was determined to win at the risk of my sanity. My cunt gave a spasm as it recognized his power of me as well.
“What?” I glanced up.
He gave me a strange look. “What’s it say?”
I folded the letter and slid it back into the envelope.
“They sent him away to a super max a few states away, Lonnie. You know he can’t get you anymore, right?”
I could only nod and smile. I’d say Mick’s words were the truth, but I knew this would never be over with him.
“I know, Mick. I know.”
Even as I said it, even as I left Mick with some assurance I’d get help, I knew I was lying to him. My killer would never be gone from my head because he was still alive.
He’d take up permanent residence in my head, and deep down I didn’t want him to leave.