Once we had returned to back-roads, Tricia began breathing enough to give me some directions. “You will turn right twice, then take your second left. Mackenzi’s phone has been there, now, for nearly twenty minutes.”
“Been where, exactly?” I spoke with my tongue between my teeth, chewing it lightly to help me concentrate on driving.
Tricia’s response made me bite it. “At a firing range.”
The revelation brought David leaning back into the front seat, transforming his body into a hefty blind spot. Nearly missing my turn, I smacked at him ineffectually, while he marveled, “A firing range? You mean with, like, guns and stuff?”
I pushed hard enough to topple his mountainous torso backward, revealing Tricia’s face in time to see her brows rise. “Coincidentally,” she said, “the name of the business is Guns ‘n’ Stuff.” Looking up through the windshield, she added, “According to their website, they offer ‘More Shoot for Less Loot.’ Pull over to the right, please. Video from Whirly is arriving.”
This created a problem for me. Just as the prospect of spying on Mackenzi had caused me to risk two peoples’ jobs and—as a bonus—steal a licensed cab, that same prospect now excited me to the point that it distracted me from my already questionable driving. Obeying laws and controlling vehicles became secondary to the goal that was always most important to me: protecting the only parent I had left. That’s why, while Tricia pulled up the video from her drone, I mixed up my pedals and accelerated over a curb.
My new friends were very understanding as our ride lurched into a low cement post. David breathed what may have been a sigh of relief, but neither of them said a word after the front of the cab had crumpled around the barrier and started hissing out steam. We all just crowded around the phone screen to see what Mackenzi was doing.
We were all, as it turned out, too curious to care about very much else.
At first, the screen seemed to be filled only with a barely changing shade of green. After an adjustment or two, though, Tricia managed to bring a distant treeline and some sky into view, revealing the green expanse to be a manicured lawn. Some familiarity about it niggled at my memories, and I actually squinted to look at some small dots of color sitting just shy of the forest. “What are those?” I asked.
David knew. “They’re targets. Each shooter has a lane, like in bowling; that’s why the lawn is sort of cut in those stripes that lead toward the targets.”
His choice of words shook me, and a one of those memories rattled free. I grabbed his wrist, and breathed, “Diagonal stripes.”
“Well, no,” he winced, twisting his arm to loosen my grip, “they’re not really diagonal. It’s just this perspective that makes—”
“I know,” I said, interrupting. “That’s the perspective I’ve been recreating since yesterday… by painting diagonal stripes.”
My suggestion hovered, mummifying us inside that hissing car. Nobody from the public should have had a chance, yet, to see what I was painting. If the killer was somewhere among the viewing audience, then he had not yet seen diagonal stripes of lawn: not even that first stripe that Detective Grainger had scolded me for risking. The broadcast was still twenty minutes away, so if the lawn inside Guns ‘n’ Stuff resembled my latest work, then that must mean that Mackenzi—
“No,” David protested, breaking the spell. “You wouldn’t… you weren’t painting a firing range. She wouldn’t… she didn’t come here for that.”
I mined my voice for the words to say to him, but came up with nothing. David needed to see the logic behind trying to catch his boss in the act; like my father, though, I wasn’t widely known for my logical thinking. Anything I might risk saying to him now would be charged with fear, and with the determination I felt to keep my family protected. I was an artist; instinct and emotion were my battlegrounds, and, at times like this, the noise they were making drowned out any voice of reason inside me.
Fortunately, that voice was sitting right next to me. “The Canvas Killer has never responded to a partial painting before,” Tricia reasoned. “The scene would only need to resemble a firing range for her to come here.”
With her use of the feminine pronoun, David’s head snapped on his neck toward her. He was betrayed.
“Look,” Tricia said toward her phone.
She had been turning Whirly around, letting the camera take in the scene at the other end of the range. It must have been a slow day at Guns ‘n’ Stuff, because only one lane had a shooter in it. We could see the top of a head, with a baseball cap pulled over blonde hair, and a pair of sound mufflers clamped tightly over that. The shooter was busy with matters offensive to me: loading a pistol, taking aim, planning violence. “Can you get a better angle?” I asked, and Tricia’s fingers did their little dance.
Whirly lowered her altitude, and pulled closer to zoom in on the shooter’s face. Instead of a face, we saw something unexpected; we saw a muzzle.
Then, we saw nothing.
“Whirly…” Tricia breathed. She was already grieving.
The last of my control dissolved in that moment, and I needed it back. Pushing open my door on screeching hinges, I called, “Come on,” and then took a few paces toward the building. I had to turn back again, though, when the others didn’t follow; their grief was already forming over more than just a lost drone, and it was paralyzing them. “Come on!” I shouted again to make them move.
As they emerged, and walked away from the geyser of steam still escaping from the front of the cab I’d commandeered, I noticed the bumper sticker on the back of it.
How is my driving?
Death Imitates Art is my project for NaNoWriMo 2016. If you are a member, you can sign in here to check my progress and more some ideas.