Serial: "The Cold Slope Incident" - Final Part
The end. To be re-posted as a single piece after an extensive edit.
Woodson went home. They had no reason to keep him. The police would be along for him soon enough. There was a chance he'd get out of it, but it didn't matter if the case didn't stick to him, all that mattered was it didn't come close to Birkman. She'd stopped him at the gate as he left. He drove with his wrists on the wheel since he still couldn't feel his fingers. He almost didn't see the elaborate ornament of the Birkman family crest rising up in front of him and nearly crashed through.
She was standing near the guard house on the side of the driveway, the shoulders of her blouse damp in spots from the mist that had been left behind by the rain. A cold dusk fog was coming, he saw it oozing into the atmosphere out of the corners of his eyes. He rolled down the window.
"You have to let him go," she said, leaning towards him, her hands gripping the door tight like she wanted to hold on and let him speed away with her attached. "It's either him or you." Obviously she had no idea. None at all. What she asked was impossible, after what happened at the cabin.
"I was given every chance to clear out," Woodson said, staring straight ahead at the gate as it whirred open, the pulling mechanism emitting an inhuman whine. "When she showed at the bar. When you revealed yourself. I was blind."
The sister shook her head and backed up. He drove away. At the apartment he sat in the chair by the porch and dumped the contents of the envelope into his lap. He'd seen everything last night, but he hadn't really looked, not too deeply, afraid to feel, afraid of excavating a truth buried shallow in his brain. He flipped through the flash photographs of his brother and Megan in the park. Birkman hired Woodson because he knew who he wanted to get rid of, and how to do it. He would have needed something of Woodson's, something personal. He expected the police to find it before the day was through. Somewhere near her, crushed under the rocks of the mine. Maybe his name would have been obliterated by the pressure. Maybe.
He let the pictures fall on the floor.
The chain had slipped between his legs. He dug for this before setting it on top of the letter, crumpled over his knee. Peter had gone back to the cabin to do it, a peaceful place, he wrote, to say goodbye. It was a confession too. A plea for his brother to save himself. Woodson made a noise and tore the letter to pieces. He waited for them, rocking softly in the chair. The locket on the chain lay open in his hand. All three faces stared up at the stucco ceiling, absorbed by or oblivious to the rough white texture.
April 15th 2013