Light from the busted door streamed into the dankness, fingering its way across the uneven floor and up the blood spattered walls to the ceiling. There was more to this small, cramped space than the eye could see; something beyond claustrophobic, something beyond, far beyond, the depths of despair and terror embedded not only in the walls, but in the floor and what furniture there was. It was woven into the air, into the filth and the dust particles that danced before her eyes; its scent lingered in the bitterness of the dried urine, mold and blood; its essence floated in the air, trapped in the jagged rays of light, pointing, pointing, pointing, look at me, Karen, look at me.
Karen shone the Maglite across the walls. Broken glass crunched under foot. Something glittered briefly beneath the beam. She bent down. Gloving her hand, she picked up the item, turning it over between her fingers. A medallion, a silver St Christopher medallion.
“The patron saint of travelers,” said Sal, “for protection. Looks like the one Raquel Gomez wore.”
“Well,” Karen replied, straightening up, “I wonder how that worked out for her?”
As she stood by the door, gulping in fresh air, the face of Raquel Gomez burst into her thoughts. Rage simmered until it boiled over, foaming and white hot. Karen breathed hard, heat stinging at her eyes. Raquel Gomez, so desperate to be noticed, so desperate for someone to love her, looking for someone to show her the world her parents had boxed and cotton wooled her from; all she had wanted was someone to accept her and this was where she had ended up. In a shithole shack, gutted and savaged and dumped like trash behind a supermarket.
Karen sighed. No matter how much she saw, it never got easier. The murders just got harder, the hurt kept on coming and the hand of pain kept on squeezing her heart, relentless and unforgiving. The killer might as well have rammed his knife into her own belly.
She walked back behind the car, fell on all fours and threw up. Tears and snot streamed down her face and mingled with the burning vomit. She became aware of Fontaine’s presence. Karen spat some of her ponytail out of her mouth and squinted up at him. His face was screwed up in disgust and worry. “I shouldn’t have eaten that mutton stew last night,” she quipped.