The Border Part Five

BOOK: The Border Part Five
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Copyright 2015 Amy Cross

All Rights Reserved


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, events, entities and places are either products of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual people, businesses, entities or events is entirely coincidental.


Published by Dark Season Books

Kindle edition

First published: July 2015


“Pile their bodies high


Heading out of town, Jane and Ben face some home truths. Ben is starting to face the truth about his reasons for returning to Bowley, and now he knows that he has to finish the job he started many years ago. Jane, meanwhile, has to accept the fact that her past can’t stay buried forever.


Elsewhere in town, a funeral gives Katie cause to make a new friend, while Jack decides that it’s time to do what the police can’t. For one of Bowley’s residents, however, the pressure is about to become too much, and the stag-headed man is ready to claim yet another victim.


The Border is a horror thriller serial in eight parts, about a family’s search for the truth, and about a town gripped by the possibility that a killer lurks among them. This is the fifth part. Ends on a cliffhanger.

he Border

Part Five



Nine years ago


“Pressure here! Now!”

Grabbing one of the nurses, the doctor pushed her hand onto Joe’s bare abdomen and forced her to used two fingers in a desperate attempt to stem the flow of blood. There were too many knife wounds, however, with blood flowing from all of them at once.

“Doctor,” the nurse stammered, “I need to -”

“Just keep pushing,” he replied, hurrying around the bed and pushing two other nurses out of the way. Looking down at Joe’s face, he forced the boy’s right eye open. “Joe,” he said firmly, “can you hear me? Joseph Baldwin, my name is Doctor Stephen Winchester and I need you to let me know if you can hear what I’m saying to you.” He took hold of Joe’s hand. “Squeeze if you can hear me.”

He waited.


“Joe, can you -”

Suddenly Joe’s body twitched and a mass of blood erupted from his mouth, flowing down his chin.

“Cardiac!” a nurse shouted from nearby, as an alarm sounded on one of the nearby monitors. “He’s going into cardiac arrest!”

“Joe, stay with me,” Doctor Winchester continued as more blood flowed from the boy’s mouth. “Someone get me the kit from the wall, we have to get his heart going again. Move, people!”

As his whole body spasmed and twitched, Joe tilted his head back and let out a low, heavy rasp. His eyes opened, revealing two enlarged pupils. He was completely unaware of the doctors’ frantic efforts to save his life. Instead, in his mind’s eye, he was reliving his encounter with the stag-headed man over and over again.

“Clear!” a voice shouted, before pads were placed on Joe’s chest and the first shock was delivered, sending a jolt of electricity through his body.


“I keep telling myself he’s lucky to be alive,” Doctor Winchester said a short while later, as he and Jane stood in the doorway and watched Joe sleeping in his hospital bed, “but then I find myself wondering if that’s true. I mean, with everything he’s been through…”

“He’ll be okay,” Jane replied, feeling a shiver pass through her chest as she saw the huge number of wires and tubes running into Joe’s body from the monitors next to the bed. “He’s a good kid. He’s strong. He’s a fighter.”

“Do you really believe that?”

She turned to the doctor.

“He had seventeen different penetration wounds on his abdomen, chest and arms,” Winchester continued, keeping his voice down so they wouldn’t be overheard. “He’s lost one kidney and the other is marginal, he’s got a collapsed lung, a damaged spleen, perforations on the liver, it’s a miracle the knife missed his heart… When I first saw Joe Baldwin on the trolley a few hours ago, I swear to God, I assumed he was going to die within the first few minutes. I don’t mind telling you, there are doctors even in this very hospital who would have given up on him much sooner. He’d be dead now.”

“Like I said,” Jane replied, “he’s a fighter.”

“That’s got nothing to do with it. It’s a sheer fluke that we’ve managed to get him this far, but he’s not out of the woods yet. If he lasts the night, we’ll know a lot more in the morning.”

“Can I talk to him now?”

“I’d rather let him rest.”

“But if he might not -” She paused, aware that she was broaching a difficult subject. “I mean, you said he might not last until morning, so I really need to ask him just one or two questions, in case this is my only chance.” She waited for an answer. “Please?”

“Don’t push him too hard,” the doctor replied, turning and heading back to the office. “I’m giving you five minutes and then you have to leave, so stick to the questions that really matter. The only reason I’m cooperating at all is that I can’t promise he’ll be around this time tomorrow and I want you to catch whoever did this to him. The kid’s in bad shape.”

Stepping into the darkened room, Jane approached the bed cautiously. As she made her way closer, she saw to her surprise that Joe’s eyes appeared to be ever-so-slightly open, and that he seemed to be staring at the window. Reaching the side of his bed, she looked at the monitors for a moment, seeing various numbers and displays that she didn’t really understand, but at least everything seemed steady and calm, which she figured was a good sign. Above, fluid bags were hanging from hooks, connected to Joe’s arms and delivering various drugs, while a bag down near the floor was slowly filling with bright orange urine.

“Hey,” she said with a smile, turning to him. “Joe? Can you hear me?”

No reply. She looked at the heart monitor, half expecting to see a blip, but the readings seemed unaffected.

“I don’t know if you remember me,” she continued, turning back to him, “but we said hi a few times over the years. My name is Jane Freeman, I’m a police officer and I need to ask you a few questions about what happened to you tonight. Specifically, I need to know what you and Caitlin were doing out there and whether you saw the man who attacked you. I’m sure you can imagine that time is of the essence and we really have to get moving on this one.”

She waited.


“Why don’t we start with the easy stuff?” she asked, taking a notebook and pen from her pocket. “What were you doing out there with Caitlin so late? Were you… I mean, were you and her…” She paused again. “I guess what I’m trying to ask is whether the pair of you were engaged in a romantic relationship of any kind. Or if not romantic, then maybe just physical?”

Again, she waited.


“We need to act fast on this one,” she told him. “We believe that -”

“Is she dead?” he asked suddenly, his voice sounding tired and frail. He didn’t turn to her, didn’t even blink. Instead, he simply stared at the dark window.

“Joe -”

“I know she is,” he continued. “I saw her. I know what he did to her. I just need to ask and hear someone say it. Is Caitlin dead?”

Jane paused. “Well… Um, yes, Joe, I’m sorry but yes, Caitlin was pronounced dead at the scene.”

He closed his eyes, but a moment later tears began to run down his cheeks and his bottom lip began to tremble.

“I’m sorry,” Jane said, even though she knew her words wouldn’t help. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now, and how it must feel to have lost her, but I have to ask you these questions. Joe, did you see the person who attacked you? Even if you didn’t get a proper view of him, the smallest detail might be the key to unlocking this whole thing. It might be something you heard or something you saw, maybe even a smell. We need to move fast on this, and while we wait for the results of the autopsy, we -”

“They’re cutting her open?” he whispered, finally turning to her.

“An autopsy has to be performed.”


“To find out exactly what happened.”

“He killed her,” he replied, “that’s what happened.”

“He? Are you sure it was a man?”

“He wore a crown like a stag,” Joe whispered, “and he knew exactly how to kill her. He’d done it before, I could tell.”

“A crown like a stag?” She made some notes. “What does that mean, exactly?”

“I only saw him for a fraction of a second,” Joe continued, staring past her now, as if he could see something on the far wall. “Just as he lunged at me, I saw the shape of his head in the moonlight. He had a crown like a stag, parts of it were broken but parts of it weren’t, it was…” He paused. “It was beautiful.”

“Like a stag?” she continued. “So… like, antlers?”

“I saw the two most beautiful things in my life,” he replied. “First, I saw what he’d done to Caitlin, and then I saw him coming for me.”

She frowned. “Joe, can you be a little more -”

“Why didn’t he kill me?” he asked. “Why didn’t he put me up there with her?”

“We don’t know exactly what his motivation was,” she replied, “but so far we’re working on the assumption that Caitlin was the one he was more focused on. It’s quite possible that he only attacked you because you were a witness.”

“Have you taken her down yet?” he asked.

“I’m sorry?”

“Have you taken Caitlin out of the tree, or is she still there?”

“She’s been taken for examination.”

“Why?” he asked. “She looked so beautiful in the tree.”

“Joe -”

Before she could finish, he let out a gasp and arched his back, just as one of the monitors began to beep. A moment later, hearing an alarm sounding out in the corridor, Jane turned to call for help. Before she could get a word out, however, Doctor Winchester rushed through with two nurses just a few steps behind, and they reached the bed just as Jane stepped back and as Joe’s body began to twitch and convulse.

“What did you say to him?” the doctor asked, clearly annoyed as he checked the monitors and then pulled a vial of liquid from one of the drawers.

“Nothing,” Jane stammered, “I was just -”

“Get out of here,” he continued, taking a fresh syringe from one of the nurses. “Go before I call security and have you hauled out of here!”

Taking a few steps back, Jane watched as they frantically worked on Joe, whose body was continuing to shake with such violent force that the entire bed was starting to shake now. Shocked by what she was seeing, she lingered for a moment longer before turning and hurrying out into the corridor. She took her phone from her pocket, brought up a number and then put the phone to her ear, waiting for someone to pick up on the other end.

“It’s me,” she said as soon as she was connected. “Something’s happened and I need to know whether you’re involved.”





Standing naked in the bathroom, bathed in the harsh light from the shaving mirror, Joe looked at his reflection and slowly ran his hands down across his chest and belly, feeling the rippled scars. He knew them intimately, of course, but there was something strangely comforting about examining them again, like looking at a map of a land one already knew well. Finally he closed his eyes, heightening the sense of touch.

After a moment, he was able to convince himself that it was
hands caressing his abdomen.

“Do you know what they remind me of?” Caitlin’s voice whispered, so close that he could feel her breath on his ear.


“The scars on a frozen lake,” she continued, as her icy fingertips touched his belly button and then ran across one of the thicker threads of skin, which cut across his pelvis. “The scars in frozen water. The ones that go away when the water flows again, and come back when it freezes.”

He allowed himself a faint smile.

“You’re frozen at the moment, Joe,” she added. “The scars will be part of you for as long as you’re scared to flow again. You froze on that night nine years ago, but nothing can stay frozen forever. One day…” She pressed a little harder against his skin. “One day, you’ll have to start melting, and then finally the scars will fall away. Until then, they’ll be a part of you, but that’s not so bad, not when they’re so beautiful.” She ran a single fingertip past his belly and up toward his chest, trailing a line of cold water. “I think you’re going to melt soon, Joe. I really do.”

He opened his eyes.

Staring into the mirror, he saw that it wasn’t Caitlin standing behind him, but the stag-headed man, staring at him from behind his mask. Looking down, Joe saw the creature’s cloth-covered hands dragging scratchy lines across his scars.


“What the hell’s going on here?” Beth asked, hurrying into the reception area of the police station just as Alex and Ben emerged from one of the other rooms. “Ben, are you okay?”

“I’m good,” he replied wearily, holding his hands up in mock-surrender. He seemed tired more than anything, and not angry as his sister had expected. “Gotta watch what I do and say, though. Any sudden movements and Officer Gordon here might pop a slug or two in the back of my head. He’s constantly vigilant and constantly watching for signs of criminal activity.”

“Did you
my brother last night?” Beth continued, turning to Alex.

“Nobody was arrested,” Alex replied firmly, having clearly anticipated the question. “Your brother merely agreed to come down here and answer a few questions.”

“Technically, I was being arrested at the start,” Ben pointed out, “but then old Alex here told me he’d just treat it as a questioning for now. Gotta think he broke some rules there, but whatever, I suppose I should be grateful.”

“I could have arrested you for resisting arrest,” Alex told him.

“Do you want to think about the circular logic in that one?” Ben replied with a grin.

“And then you kept him in overnight?” Beth asked, staring in disbelief at Alex. “On what grounds?”

until about a half hour ago,” Alex continued. “We could’ve been done a lot quicker, but your brother’s the kinda guy who never uses one word when he can think of ten to take its place. He led us down some blind alleys along the way.”

“In my defense,” Ben said with a smile, “I’ve always been naturally verbose.”

“So he’s free to go?” Beth asked, still staring at Alex with an expression of anger.


“For now,” Ben added. “I think my ass is on a string and I could get yanked back at any moment.”

“I might need to talk to you again,” Alex continued, turning to him, “so don’t go leaving town without letting me know, okay? I know you like to treat everything as if it’s a joke, but this is a serious matter and it’d do you some good to grow up.”

“It’s Christmas in a few days,” Ben reminded him. “Where else would I go, but the warm, loving bosom of my family home?” He smiled. “It was nice talking to you, Mr. Gordon. I hope I was super helpful with all your questions. You sure had a lot, it was hard to keep up sometimes, especially since you were so mean with the coffee. Pro tip, if you want someone to follow your somewhat circuitous trains of thought, you might like to help them stay awake.”

“It’s 8am,” Alex replied, checking his watch. “I don’t know about you, but I have to freshen up a little. Like I told you, Ben, this was just a routine chat about a few things. Nothing to get worried about, at least not for now.”

“But I should stay in town. Gotcha.”

As Alex headed back to his office, Ben turned and smiled at Beth before making his way to the door, slinging his coat onto his shoulder as he did so.

“What the hell happened?” she asked, hurrying after him. “I got a message from Jack this morning saying you’d been taken in by Alex. I came down to check on you as soon as I’d finished dropping Lucy off at school, but I just assumed there’d been some kind of mix-up, I never thought you’d
been arrested.”

“I wasn’t arrested, remember. It was questioning.”

Grabbing his arm, she pulled him back and forced him to stop and turn to her. “Why did Alex Gordon suddenly decide he needed to question you about the murders?”

“Ask Jack.”

“What’s Jack got to do with it?”

“He didn’t tell you? He was with me when Alex picked me. In fact, he’d been chatting to Alex a little while earlier.
In fact
…” He paused. “In fact, he’d put the whole idea into Alex’s head in the first place.”

“Jack wouldn’t do that.”

“Jack would absolutely do that and you know it.”

“No, he…” Pausing, she realized he was right. “But why? Why would Jack…” Her voice trailed off.

“Because he truly believes, deep down, that I’m a serial killer with multiple victims under my belt stretching back more than a decade,” Ben replied, with the smile having left his face. “He’s not joking when he makes those snide little comments, he really, honestly thinks it’s true. Him and Dad, they’re the same. They’ve got me pegged as some kind of monster.” He waited for a reply. “But you don’t think that, do you?”

“No,” she replied, clearly exasperated, “of course I don’t, not for one second. Ben, I’m so sorry, I don’t know what Jack was thinking…”

“Yeah, you do,” he continued, heading to the wall and leaning back as he pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. His fingers were trembling slightly as he lit up and took a drag. “He’s had his finger on the trigger for years,” he continued. “I should’ve known he’d pull it one day. I guess that’s what I get for winding him up. I probably should accept some of the blame myself.”

“I am so, so sorry,” she replied, stepping over to him. “He didn’t talk to me about it, he didn’t give me any indication that he was going to do something like this.” She paused, before putting her arms around him and giving him a hug.

“It’s okay.”

“So at least you set Alex straight, right? You showed him that you didn’t kill Mel Armitage or Hayley Maitland?”

“And how would I show him that?” Ben asked, taking another deep, calming drag on the cigarette as his sister stepped back from the hug.

“By telling him where you were when they were murdered.”

He paused. “It’s complicated.”

“Complicated? It’s not complicated, Ben, it’s how you prove you couldn’t have killed them.”

“Alex doesn’t know exactly when they were killed,” he continued. “There’s, like, a window of several hours for each of them. It’s kind of hard to be helpful and prove where you were for several hours at a time, even if you felt that way inclined. Which I can’t say I do.”

“You can’t…” She paused, before sighing. “You did answer his questions properly, didn’t you? Please, Ben, tell me you didn’t spend the whole night being sarcastic and elusive?”

He shrugged.

“You didn’t,” she continued, “you can’t have done. You’re not that goddamn stupid.”

“Can’t fight who I am.”

“He’s a cop!” she hissed. “I get it, you like acting that way with Jack, you like winding him up, but you can’t do the same thing when the police haul you in for questioning. That’s the time to be straightforward and honest, it’s the time to get real!”

He smiled. “Get real. Yeah, I should do that some time.”

“You’re not helping yourself, Ben. It’s one thing for Jack to think you did something, Jack’s just one man, but if Alex thinks the same thing, you could be in serious trouble!” She sighed. “Come on, let’s get you home. You must be exhausted.”

“Nah, I’m gonna stick around here for a little while.”

“Ben -”

“Go on, you get on with whatever you’ve got to do today. I appreciate you rushing down, truly I do, but there’s something I need to deal with and it’s kinda urgent, so I’m gonna trundle around for a bit before I come home.”

She stared at him, clearly at a loss for words.

“You’re making this harder for yourself,” she told him finally, taking a step back. “Whatever you’re trying to prove, it’s not worth it. You’re as guilty as Jack when it comes to letting this garbage keep on ruining your life. You have the power to drop it and let it fade away.”

“I know,” he muttered, taking another drag on his cigarette as he watched Beth heading back to her car. Once she was gone, he slid down until he was crouching with his back against the wall, and he continued to enjoy the cigarette. He watched as the town square began to wake up, as storefronts opened and people emerged to run their daily errands. There was something strangely peaceful and calming about the sight, and he couldn’t help feeling a little envious of all those men, women and children who went about their lives with no idea of the darkness that existed just beneath the surface. Then again, he had a sneaking suspicion that most of them
know, even if they didn’t want to admit as much. Reaching down, he tapped twice on the ground with his knuckles.

Finally, he saw a familiar car pull up nearby, and a moment later he smiled as he saw Jane arriving for work. As soon as they made eye contact, she stopped with a worried look in her eyes.

“Hey, sister-in-law,” he said, hauling himself to his feet, “I think we need to have a chat.”

“Ben -”

“About the Border,” he said firmly, interrupting her as he took another drag on his cigarette. “We need to talk about the Border.


“So basically the police have got nothing,” Daniel muttered, as he finished reading Jack’s latest editorial for the following day’s paper. “Apart from two dead bodies, I mean. It’s kinda sad when the media’s better at solving crimes than the cops.”

“It’s not sad,” Jack replied, leaning back in his chair, “it’s completely natural, especially in the modern age. We’re more motivated than they are.”

Daniel turned to him with a frown.

“The police are just trying to keep the town safe,” Jack continued, “whereas guys like you and me, we’re catering to the public’s need for information. We’re keener so we work harder, our readership expects regular updates.” Glancing at his laptop, he brought up an old window. “Website hits are twenty times what they’d usually be around now. We could make as much online ad revenue in a month as we usually make in a year, and that’s money that’ll go right back into the newspaper to help it survive.”

“So you’re just chasing clicks?”

“I’m doing my job,” Jack said firmly. “I’m getting to the truth, which is what a journalist should always be doing. I can’t help it if I’m good at that.”

“Either that or the cops around here are dumb-asses,” Daniel pointed out, before pausing. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that, I know Jane’s not a dumb-ass.”

“She’s doing her best,” Jack replied, “but my money’s always on a journalist to get to the bottom of things before a cop.”

“And you really think the identity of the killer is gonna be revealed in the next couple of days?” Daniel asked. “I mean, at the end of this editorial you make some pretty bold claims, it’s almost like you’re promising some big revelation in one of our upcoming issues.”

Jack nodded. “I’m certain of it.”

“So who is it? Do you know?”

“I…” He paused. “I have a very strong suspicion. Not really a suspicion, actually, more like… knowledge that still requires a little more proof.”

“From looking at your wife’s phone and emails, stuff like that?”

“No, and -” He glanced at the door. “Keep your voice down, okay? Stuff like that isn’t for general consumption. It’s technically illegal.”

“Sure, boss, but…” Looking down at the copy again for a moment, Daniel finally sighed. “Well, at least you can relax about your brother now.”

Jack frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Well, I know you kinda suspected maybe he was the killer, but obviously you don’t anymore.”

“Why don’t I?”

“Because you seem so relaxed,” Daniel continued. “I mean, if you think you know who the killer is, obviously you don’t think it’s Ben, or you wouldn’t be acting so…” He tried to think of the right word. “I don’t know, victorious. You’re obviously very relieved.”

BOOK: The Border Part Five
7.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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