red lipstick too. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
“Ha, I get that a lot,” she says, and they’re inside now, out of the rain. “I used to be an actress,” she says, “before this happened,” she adds, patting her stomach.
“Oh really? I’ve just gotten into the TV industry myself.”
“You’re an actor?”
He shakes his head. “A consultant. What would I have seen you in?”
“Well, this is kind of embarrassing,” she says, “but nothing much. Just shampoo ads, mostly. And some hotel ads. Often you’ll see me behind the desk, or sitting by a pool, or in the shower. My career is really taking off,” she says, giving a grin. “Though with the baby you won’t see me again for a few years, unless it’s a diaper ad. Well, I hate to be rude, but nature calls,” she says, and she pauses next to a small corridor with a sign indicating that the toilets are only a few feet away. “You have children?” she asks.
“Two,” he says. Water is starting to puddle around his feet.
“This is my first,” she says. “I think he’s going to be a practical joker. I mean, at the moment he finds it funny to have me running off to the bathroom every ten minutes. Thanks for . . . for the lift,” she says, smiling.
He walks up to the counter, on the other side of which is a very large woman. There’s a piece of Plexiglas between them. It feels like being in a bank. Last time he came out to the prison was back in summer when Theodore Tate was being released, and then all he did was wait out in the parking lot. Tate was a buddy of his who used to be a cop, but who became a criminal. Then he became a private investigator. Then a criminal again. Then a cop. Then a victim. Tate has been a lot of things, and Schroder makes a mental note to go and visit him. It’s been a few days.
“I’m here for Joe Middleton,” he says, and he hands over his ID.
Her face tightens a little at the mention of Joe’s name, and so does his. Joe Middleton. For years that slimy bastard worked among them, cleaning their floors, empting their rubbish bins, the entire time using police resources to stay ahead of the investigation. Joe Middleton. Schroder got the credit for arresting him, but the entire thing was a fuck up. They should have gotten him sooner. Too many people died. He felt responsible. A lot of them did. And so they should—they let a killer walk among them.
“He’s five minutes away,” the woman says, and Schroder knows that no matter what this woman says, that’s the way it is. She doesn’t look like somebody you’d want to mess with. She looks like she could singlehandedly run the entire complex out here. “Take a seat,” she says, and points behind him. He knows the drill. He’s waited out here before—just never as a civilian. It’s different. He doesn’t like not having a badge.
He moves over to the seats. He’s the only one here. The pregnant woman is still in the bathroom, and he remembers what it was like with his own wife, and how in the end she refused to be more than thirty seconds away from a bathroom.
He sits down, his wet clothes pushing against him. The chair is a solid plastic one-piece with metal legs. There’s a table with magazines on it. Add some coughing people and a screaming baby and it would be just like a doctor’s office. He can hear drips of water coming off him and hitting the floor. The guard looks over at him and he feels guilty about the mess he’s making. He expects that any second now the Take a seat woman is going to throw him some paper towels, or throw him a mop, or throw him out.
Five minutes. And then he has to face the man he arrested a year ago.
The Christchurch Carver.
The man who made a fool of them all.
This must be what it’s like to win the lottery. Or what it’s like to win the lottery and not even have bought a ticket. Both guards look sick. Adam looks like he wants to punch me. Glen looks like he could do with a