The hand that shakes his is a block of ice that has been carved into a fair facsimile of the mitt that hangs at the man’s left side. The left hand is not the sinister one. His own right hand is red from the experience, almost numb; he rubs it with his left hand trying to warm it.
He is never going to forget that meeting. Not that he could tell you why. But that feeling is something that shivers through him. He shook the hand of the man that he suspects did the deed, and he let him go. He has met killers before; he has known ones that got away; not many of them became ghosts for him, and most of the meetings were forgettable cliches.
A moment where your mind goes blank. You wake up, standing in the same spot; it is like those moments when grief wrapped you and the world fell away. Where did it come from? A touch on the hand woke a memory and a flower bloomed from the shadow cast by the past.
He will not forget the meeting, but he does not recall the face.
Time is ashes rising through the stack of heat above a fire. His memories small ashen flakes in a reverse snowfall — is he forgetting or remembering something?
Stood in the office behind Archie, as he rattles the keyboard, he begins to smell that godawful smell at the site where they found young Ian. The brutality of the attack on the child had weathered cops crying; big men vomiting. Anger rebooted in those made apathetic by the presence of constant horror.
Archie seems oblivious.
‘There are small children involded.’
‘There were small children involved.’
‘There are small children involved.’
The bodies were warm when they found them. The bodies were cold now – in the freezer in back; preserved until the case could be closed, before it went cold.
Dengler looks at Archie and he wonders how this man – this kid – barely out of school himself, can sit there and type this report up so calmly.
‘Have to do what you have to do, eh, Detective Dengler?’ Archie smiled.
Dengler smiled and saluted the kid, eager to go and get a drink at The Unfinished Tale. Why did he smile like that though?
Dengler had cultivated the kind of memory that absorbed details and put them each into an isolated state of churn. When they had been moved around and become familiar with, if anything interesting had been flagged up, it would then be compared with other interesting items and analysed for any connections. Sometimes, when he spotted something he would put the whole system into over-drive. That smile spun up so much. The calm collected air of the kid as he typed the reports. The savagery of the murders. The blankness. The cold hand shake.
The killings had stopped, but they had theorised that it was part of an emergent cycle, which they had only observed the smallest fragment of. This was not public knowledge. There was certainty in Archie’s voice; certainty that didn’t belong there.
He decided to skip The Unfinished Tale. There was another tale that he wanted to discover the end of.
Archie was still at the office. He had just finished typing and he was enjoying a cold one from the fridge.
Dengler sat down next to him.
‘I should shake your hand. How did you work it out?’
‘It was pretty simple.’
‘No, it wasn’t. But your a puzzle solver, aren’t you, Dengler?’
‘Sure. But this is throwing me a little bit. Why just make this part for me so easy?’
‘Because this part doesn’t matter.’
‘How does it not matter?’
‘Because something began when the thing you are looking at ended.’
‘The killings have ended?’
‘This cycle using this vessel has ended.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘Archie is leaving.’
‘Archie isn’t going anywhere.’
Archie smiled. Like a switch was flipping inside him he dropped into a slump and he slide from the chair. An image of young Ian flashed in his mind. Dengler sat there frozen.