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Authors: Jeff Carson

Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Suspense, #Serial Killer, #Crime, #Police Procedural

Cold Lake (6 page)

BOOK: Cold Lake
11.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Van Wyke checked his watch and smiled with renewed hope that he might live through the week. “That means ten and a half the way I drive. That puts us there before sundown tonight. You ready for a road trip to Colorado?”

Darnell pulled his seatbelt across his chest. “Do I have a choice?”

“No.” Van Wyke reversed out of the spot and in front of a Jaguar F-Type sports car. He smiled when he saw in his rearview that it was Phillip Chatham stewing behind the wheel.

Van Wyke stopped, reached over and checked the glove box. The Kimber Ultra Carry II .45 caliber sat where he knew it would, the clip fully loaded, and he had a box of rounds in the spare wheel compartment. He pushed the glove box closed and looked at Darnell.

“You packing?”

Darnell blew air between his lips and gazed out his window. Of course he was. You couldn’t take the projects of Chicago out of Darnell.

With a push of the accelerator, they screeched out of the lot and were on their way to the Rocky Mountains.

Chapter 9

“Whoa.” Rachette leaned forward in the passenger seat and spat into an empty Coke can. “Now that’s a shithole.”

Wolf turned off the SUV’s engine in front of Wendy Pollard’s residence, silently agreeing with Rachette’s assessment of the property. He got out.

The sky was stone gray and the air damp cold, clouds having rolled in overnight. In the distance, a horizontal sliver of white cloud hung motionless against the pine-covered mountains, the tops of which were obscured by cloud. A light, almost invisible mist swirled in the air, moistening Wolf’s face.

“Let me do the talking if it comes up about the press.”

Rachette spit into the weeds. “You got it.”

Mrs. Pollard’s husband had left her three decades ago, leaving his wife and two boys to grow up in a singlewide trailer in a rental park next to the river. Of course, Nick had been missing for years, and according to Deputy Wilson, who knew the Pollards’ history as if it were common sense knowledge, Mrs. Pollard’s oldest son, Ken, left well before Nick went missing. Ken had not gone far, though, moving into a small rental apartment in downtown Rocky Points and taking a job at one of the two garages in town as a mechanic.

The off-white paint of the place was cracked and flaking off everywhere, what was left of it clinging like tissue paper, the exposed surface underneath brown and running streaks down the sides. The small yard in front was knee-high grass, weeds, and wildflowers that looked to have never been cut by a mower. Wolf could only imagine what the inside looked like. Unfortunately, the weather was conniving to make sure they would see first-hand.

Wolf and Rachette stepped to the metal door and knocked.

A rustle inside, and then the door opened and closed, then opened again.

Wendy Pollard poked her head out, followed by the scent of vodka. She squinted as if it were sunny, her hair was messy and matted on one side, and she was tightly wrapped in a torn lime green robe.

“Mrs. Pollard?” Wolf asked.

“Yes. Hi, Sheriff Wolf.”

“This is Deputy Rachette. May we come in to speak with you?”

“Yes. Please, come in. I’m sorry for the mess.” She opened the door wider. “My son, Ken, is coming over. I called him after you guys called. He should have been here by now.” She shook her head and bit a fingernail.

Wolf stepped up the stair and Rachette followed him in. Inside was black shag carpet, crusted with dried mud at the entrance and littered with tiny particles of trash throughout. In the kitchen, which was a counter, sink, and cabinets on the far wall, was a pile of dirty dishes that looked about to crash to the floor if they stepped too hard, and there was a line of vodka bottles on the floor against the near wall.

“Please, take a seat if you like.” Wendy sniffed and wiped the corner of a reddened eye.

She gestured to a brown loveseat that sagged in the middle.

“No thanks,” Wolf said.

“I saw the news. Did you find him up there?” She stood looking up at Wolf with desperately wide eyes.

Wolf nodded. “I’m afraid so. We’ve confirmed dental records with Dr. Unruh in town.”

“Can I see him?”

Wolf looked down at his hands. “Ma’am, I’m not sure that’s a good idea. We really don’t need identification from you. It’s been a long—”

“Because his head was … I saw the news. I saw. I …” Wendy’s eyes dripped, and then she opened her mouth in a silent scream and buried her clenched fists in her eyes.

The first sound was a long moan. Body-wrenching sobs followed.

Wolf wanted to kill the person who had leaked the story, voiding any attempt to tactfully contact surviving family and friends. Instead, Mrs. Pollard’s 22-year nightmare emerged from hibernation and struck without warning on a television screen. Was one of the mutilated bodies her baby, Nick? Had she been so near him all these years? Unanswered questions and unresolved emotions undoubtedly choked her.

Wolf placed a hand on her shoulder as he made silent promises of retribution to God, the universe, and himself.

A car roared into the yard, and the driver braked hard. A car door slammed and hurried footfalls approached and the front door flew open. An overweight man in his forties with long hair and a beard barged inside.

“Mom,” he said.

“Ken Pollard?” Rachette asked.

Ken Pollard ignored Wolf and Rachette and walked to his mother, wrapping his arms around her. Wendy pulled her hands away from her face and wrapped them around her oldest son.

Rachette looked up at Wolf and Wolf gave him a nod. They both stepped back to a respectable distance and waited.

Wolf watched Ken cry just as hard as his mother, and he felt a wash of emotion pass through him. These people had been waiting for this moment for twenty-two years, and now it was here.

Ken glared at Wolf, and then at Rachette. What the hell kind of operation you guys running Dave? When were you going to tell us? It’s all over the news. I haven’t checked the mail. Maybe you sent us a postcard? Shit.”

Rachette sniffed. “Mr. Pollard, we—”

Wolf put a hand on Rachette’s shoulder. “I apologize to you Ken, and to you, too Mrs. Pollard. We wanted to confirm facts first and notify you second. The Medical Examiner made the positive ID late last night. It was my call to wait until this morning to notify you.”

Ken shook his head and gave his mother a quick embrace, and then stomped to the door and flung it open. “Get out. Please.”

“Ken, in order to find out who did this I need to speak to you guys. Ask you a few—”

“Your dad already did that a long time ago! Why don’t you go read his interview notes or whatever.” He shook his head. “My mom was horrified to hear about this on the news. So was I. Do you know how long last night was for us?”

Wolf wrung his ball cap in his hands and looked over at Rachette. “Let’s go.”



“Sheriff, it’s been twenty five minutes.” Rachette looked at his watch and then shoved his hand back in his jacket pocket and shivered. “Should we maybe, possibly, go review your father’s report? In the warmth of the station?”

Wolf stared at the front door of the Pollard’s trailer, the drizzle beading and dripping off the front of his ball cap. He ignored Rachette for the fifth time.

Rachette exhaled and hunkered under his coat collar. “Okay. Okay.”

The aluminum knob rattled and the door squeaked open. Ken Pollard stood with a resigned look, an unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth. He opened an umbrella and gave it to his mother, who materialized in the doorway next to him with her own cigarette.

Silently they stepped down to the front lawn.

“I thought he left us at first.” Ken Pollard flicked open a well-used Zippo lighter and lit his mother’s cigarette and then his own. He snapped it closed and took a deep drag. “Like, ran away. When they couldn’t find his truck, it was like he’d just ditched out on us.” Ken looked into the distance. His lip sneered upward and then he shook his head, returning to the present moment. “At least I was hopin’ that’s what happened. I was hopin’ this whole time he was sittin’ pretty in California somewhere. I was hopin’ that blood on the payphone was a red herring, or whatever you call it.”

Wendy Pollard exhaled her own drag and chewed her thumbnail in silence.

The light drizzle swept past them.

“Can you describe exactly what happened that last night you saw Nick, Mrs. Pollard?” Wolf asked.

She looked up and nodded with resignation. “It’s just like I told your father, it was Parker Grey, that girl’s father. He did it. The crazy asshole.” She took a drag with a shaking hand.

“What did Nick say he was going to do that night?” Wolf asked.

Mrs. Pollard looked at Wolf with a blank stare. “He said he was going up to Cold Lake … he was going to meet Kimber. He’d been talking about Kimber all week, Kimber this, Kimber that. I told him to bring her over, said I wanted to meet her. He said he was going to and to get off his back.” She fought off another wave of emotion with a drag of cigarette. “Then he got all dolled up, put on some cologne, took his truck and left. Never came back.”

“You said he was going to
her?” Rachette asked. “So, he was meeting her in town? And then they were going to go up to the lake?”

She frowned. “No … I don’t know. I don’t remember. I think he was just going up to her place. Her house. To watch the fireworks they have up at the marina every year. He said they had a boat they were going to go on.”

“What about his friends?” Wolf asked. “Did he say he was going to be with them?”

Ken grunted. “His friends. Remember those pieces of work? I went and talked to them when they couldn’t find him. They said they weren’t with Nick, and they all heard the same thing from him—that he was going up to Cold Lake to see Kimber Grey.”

“Who were his friends you talked to?” Wolf asked.

“Luke Hannigan. Brad Skelty. Called him Skelter back then. Real pieces of shit. Druggies. I checked in on their stories. Made sure they didn’t just sell off my bro’s truck and buy drugs with the money or something.”

Wolf jotted the names on his notepad. He vaguely remembered the two kids as boys, but knew them well enough now that they were men. They hadn’t cleaned up at all since. Brad Skelty had two DUIs, and when the pot laws of Colorado took effect, Hannigan was one of the first to get a grow license in town, and his sudden, instant, and large, supply was a point of contention with the Sheriff’s Department, but they had no usable evidence to move on him yet.

“And you believed they were telling you the truth?” Wolf asked Ken.

Ken smiled mirthlessly. “Yeah after I did my own investigation, and then roughed em’ up pretty good.” He raised an eyebrow and stared at Wolf. His fists balled up, and then he shook his head. “They were telling the truth.”

“You roughed em’ up pretty good, huh?” Rachette said.

Ken stared at Rachette, his nostrils flared. “Yeah! That’s right, I did.”

“And why do you think it was Kimber’s father, Mrs. Pollard?” Wolf asked.

“Because it was,” She scoffed. “Your father figured out the guy was crazy. Schizo. Took meds and everything. Parker Grey did it. He was up at the marina that night with his family, and then he left that night, went and killed my boy, and then went back. Left his family right there at the marina and took off. To go kill my son. And
he disappears the day after your dad goes to talk to him? Up and walks away from his family?
the mother disappears on top of that?” She took a drag, locking eyes with Wolf. “Oh, it was him. And now the way you found Nick? And where? That’s just off shore from the Grey’s cabin, for Chrissakes.”

Wolf asked, “Ken, did you talk to the Greys?”

Ken peeled his eyes from Rachette and looked at Wolf. “Yeah. I talked to them. Your dad had his dick in his hand, so I had—”

“Hey, why don’t you watch your mouth and have a little respect there, Ken?” Rachette puffed his chest and took a step forward.

Wolf held up his hands. “Both of you calm down.”

Rachette sneered and shook his head.

“Ken,” Wolf softened his voice, “We’re trying to figure all this out once and for all.”

“They said he never showed up that night. Kimber said she never even had a date with him lined up. They were all lying. Every one of em’.”

Mrs. Pollard shook her head. “Sheriff Wolf? You gonna find my baby’s killer?”

Wolf took a breath filled with second hand smoke and looked up at the clouds gliding past, so pregnant and low it looked like he could reach up and touch them.

Rachette cleared his throat. “Of course we’ll find him, ma’am.”

Wolf blinked at looked at Rachette, then back to Mrs. Pollard. “I’m sorry for your loss, ma’am. If you can think of anything else, please give us a call.”

She bit her thumbnail and turned away.

Ken shook his head and turned his back on them, too.


Chapter 10

Wolf pulled the dusty CD rom case out of the cardboard box. It read:

Katherine Grey Interview (Wolf, Burton)

Kimber Grey Interview (Wolf, Burton)

With a small jolt he paused and stared at the black ink. It was his father’s handwriting. He stopped himself short of touching the ink and handed the case to Patterson.

She inserted the CD into her computer tower and they waited while it clicked and whirred.

“Coffee.” Rachette got up and walked to the back hallway. “Anyone else?” He emerged with the pot, filling his chipped blue and orange Denver Broncos mug.

“Yep.” Patterson said.

“Sure.” Wolf said.

Rachette filled Wolf’s mug. “Black.”


Rachette leaned over and poured coffee into Patterson’s mug. “And a double non-fat skinny mocha frap, with two pumps of vanilla and heated to one hundred twenty seven degrees.”

“Good one.” Patterson grabbed the mouse. “Saying frap implies it’s frozen…and yet you heated it to one hundred twenty seven degrees.” She brought up a media player window showing Katherine Grey sitting at a wooden table.

Rachette stood straight, unfazed. “You’re welcome.”

As Patterson maximized the video and pressed play, Wolf recognized the gouge in the side of the table on screen, and knew the interview took place in interrogation room B. The realization hit him—he was using all the same desks, tables, chairs, walking on the same carpet, that his father had all those many years ago. For an instant, he felt like he was with his father, but the warm feeling vanished as quickly as it had come.

Rachette returned and sat down.

The video was a less-than-HD recording; Katherine Grey, the mother of Kimber Grey and wife of supposed crazy-man Parker Grey, shifted uncomfortably in her chair, her image blurring and then sharpening as she moved.

Katherine was an attractive woman in her mid-thirties, her brown eyes wide and attentive, slightly upturned at the edges. Her skin was pale, or perhaps it was the harsh light of the overhead lamp, and she had a small mole on her cheek, like a beauty mark, a matching genetic anomaly that her daughter, Kimber, had as well.

She wore a tank top blouse and had thin, wiry arms, the muscles rippling beneath her skin with the slightest of movements. Her jawline was razor-sharp. Zero fat on her body—the physique of someone who lived ruggedly in the mountains. Someone who lived on the remote shore of Cold Lake, Colorado—off the grid and off the land.

“Can you please state your name?” It was the voice of the late Sheriff Daniel Wolf, Wolf’s father.

“Oh, he sounds just like you,” Patterson whispered in awe.

Wolf heard the smack of Rachette back-handing her shoulder.

“…Grey,” Katherine Grey said.

“And can you tell me where you live?”

“I live up on the western shore of Cold Lake, in Cold Lake, Colorado.”

“And your address?”

Wolf could see that Katherine Grey’s hands were motionless in her lap as she spoke.

“…tell me what you were doing on the night of the fourth of July?” Wolf’s father asked.

“My husband, daughter, and I went over to the marina for the Fourth of July party, and the fireworks display.”

“And”—a pause, a shuffling of paper—“what time was that at?”

“They had a barbecue cook out … let’s see, we left at seven, got there like seven-fifteen.”

“Can you tell me when the fireworks were?”

“They were supposed to start at 9:30 pm. Whether or not they started on time, I couldn’t say. I didn’t keep track of time.”

“And your husband, Parker Grey, he was with you?”


“And did he ever leave that night?”


“Can you please explain?”

“He … got a phone call. Maureen McKenzie came out and told us, told him, that he had a phone call. He left, and then came back—”

“He left where?”

“Oh, sorry. He left to the bar,
The Tackle Box
, right there on the marina.”

“So someone called the bar for your father?”


A pause. “Who called?”

“I don’t know.”

Another pause. “Was this during the fireworks display?”


“Can you estimate how long after the beginning of the fireworks show that Maureen came out and told him he had a call?”

“Uh … I don’t know, ten minutes?”

“Okay. Please continue.”

“So he left for the phone call, and then he came back, probably just a couple minutes later. He was upset, clearly upset about something. I … asked him what was wrong, and he kind of just avoided the question and—”

“Avoided the question?”

“Well, he just said,
Nothing. Nothing’s wrong.
But I could see something was wrong, and then he said he was leaving, and he’d be back. I was confused, because I figured we’d be leaving with him, since we all came together and it was so late. But he just said he’d be back, and if he wasn’t back by midnight to get a ride back over with someone else. Then he got in the boat and drove away.”

“Did you ask who called him?”

“Yes. He wouldn’t’ say.”

There was the sound of a door opening and closing, and then a cough. “Would you like a cup of coffee, ma’am?”

It was Burton, with a lot less gravel in his voice than he had now.

She nodded, and a remarkably thin arm of Burton’s reached in and placed a cup of coffee in front of her.

After a brief pause, Wolf’s father cleared his throat. “And then what happened?”

“Well,” she took a sip of coffee with steady hands, “we watched the fireworks, and then hung out for another couple hours. By that time it was past midnight, and people were already pretty much streamed out of the place. I went into the bar and called our house. My daughter and I were just about to try and hitch a ride, when my husband came back.”

“In the boat?”

“Yes. In the boat.”

A pause. “Please continue.”

She looked up at the ceiling and shook her head. “It was just so weird when he finally showed up. He was wearing a different outfit. Different shirt, different jeans. I asked him about it, and he just ignored me. He was upset, so I dropped the line of questioning. He was so… serious the whole ride back. Never looked at Kimber or me.”

“And then what happened? When you got home?”

Katherine’s lip quivered. “We got home, and he went crazy. He was yelling at Kimber, and I was scared for her. I was so scared.” She exhaled and closed her eyes, and a tear slid down her cheek.

She looked up at Wolf’s father with sudden horror.

“I went outside to have a cigarette. To get out of the house. I couldn’t take listening to it. And … that’s when I saw a plastic bag on the ground next to the house. It was strange, because we never put trash alongside the house. You know you can’t do that with the wildlife up here. So I approached it and … then I saw it.”

“Saw what?”

“The blood. The bloody clothes.”

Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and steeled herself.

“What bloody clothes?” Burton asked a little too forcefully.

She opened her eyes. “The clothes he was wearing before, earlier in the night, were in the bag. I opened it and looked inside. They were … caked in blood. It was so much. I freaked out, and ran back inside. I thought he might be killing my daughter.”

A scraping noise on the video pulled Katherine Grey’s gaze upward.

Burton’s crotch came into view as he leaned against the wall behind her. “You told us yesterday that your family, husband and all, stayed at the fireworks show all night. You never mentioned anyone leaving. You never mentioned that phone call your husband got.”

“I know. I know. I … we were scared. I saw the blood, and you have no clue how—”

“We have no clue? Okay. So why don’t you clue us in, sweetheart.” Burton said.

Katherine Grey turned toward him, and turned back with the remnants of a glower.

“Damn,” Rachette chimed in, “Look at Burton go.”

“Shut up and listen,” Patterson said quickly.

Rachette made a face at Wolf and Wolf shrugged, keeping his eyes on the screen.

“Mrs. Grey, may I call you Katherine?” Wolf’s father asked.

Katherine looked at Wolf’s father and nodded.

“Katherine, what time did you guys get home from the boat ride back? From the fireworks show?”

“It was twelve-thirty, no probably one a.m. by that time.”

Burton bent down and got in her face. His mustache was the same minus the grey and his face was bone thin. “Which one was it? Twelve-thirty or one?”

“I don’t know.” Katherine narrowed her eyes at him. Her face was turning red and her lips were shaking. “I didn’t have a watch on. I just remember, yes, it was twelve-thirty when he came back and picked us up.”

“Because you were in the bar and you looked at the clock.” Burton sneered.

She looked at him and nodded.

“Words.” He walked out of view of the video shot. “We need words for the recording.”

“Yes.” She glared at him in defiance.

“Sergeant Burton,” Wolf’s father said, “could you go get us another cup of coffee? Maybe a bottle of water for Katherine?”

There was a long pause. “Yeah, sure thing.”

The door squeaked open and clicked shut.

“Please, Katherine. When you went back inside, after seeing the clothing. What happened?”

“I went inside and he was … going crazy again. He took Kimber and locked her in the room, and then started yelling at me. Telling me I’m raising a slut, and how she’s going to turn out being a hooker, and… he just lost it.”

“You say,
the room
. Can you please tell me what you mean by that?” Wolf’s father asked.

Katherine took a sip of coffee again.

A tell,
Wolf thought. What exactly it was telling about her, he didn’t know yet.

She set it back down and smoothed her shirt. “For the last few years, my husband started exhibiting … symptoms.”


“Yeah. First he was hearing things. He’d come up to me and ask, ‘Did you hear that?’ and I’d have no clue what he was talking about. Then after a while I finally realized he was hearing voices. He never told me it was voices he was hearing, but one day I listened to him when he was in an empty room, answering questions that nobody asked. I put two and two together.

“Then I could tell he was seeing things. Horrific things, I think, because he would go rigid. Sometimes he would sit there frozen and stare at the wall as if he was looking at a tarantula or something. Only nothing would be there.”

Katherine took another sip of coffee, then exhaled and closed her eyes.

“What is it?” Wolf’s father asked.

She opened her eyes. “We have rodent traps around the house. Have to for the garden we plant every year. One day I saw a dead squirrel out in back of our house. But it was,” she brushed her hair behind her ear, “decapitated. The body was sitting next to the head, and it was slit from top to bottom, on the underside.”

Katherine took another sip of coffee.

“I knew that Parker had done it. And then later I saw his fishing knife, down in the shed by the lake. It was covered in blood, but not fish blood. There was fur on it.”

Another sip.

“Did you speak to your husband about it?” Wolf’s father asked.

She nodded. “I did.”

“And what did he say?”

“First he said he was cleaning it for meat, and forgot about it. But I just got a bad feeling about it. After a while I pressed him and he admitted that’s not what happened. Turns out he had just killed it, and did what he did to it, because he had to. He said that. He

“Then he told me everything, about the voices, the hallucinations, the way he was becoming paranoid, afraid of social situations. He said it had been going on for years and years. And I started thinking about our situation, and of course it all made sense to me at that point. We moved from Tennessee to the lake, from a commune with over two thousand people up to a lake in the middle of nowhere, Colorado. The new life had always been his idea. It was my husband’s idea to homeschool Kimber. And when I disagreed, he insisted. It was his idea to live this life. He was secluding us, cutting us off from society, because he desperately needed to. It was his sickness.”

Her voice trailed off and she stared into nothing.

“What happened after he killed the squirrel?”

She nodded. “When he killed the squirrel, I’d never been so scared in my life. I’d never felt something like that before. The fear was so paralyzing. So I put the twenty-two pistol we have in my pants and went and talked to him. Told him how scared I was. Told him that I wanted him to get help. He was,” she exhaled, “good about it. He went to a doctor, and got some medicine, and started taking it.”

BOOK: Cold Lake
11.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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