Dreams in the Key of Blue

Dreams in the Key of Blue by John Philpin

Book: Dreams in the Key of Blue by John Philpin Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Philpin
rural road west of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, shrouded in overhanging maples. Reds. Split-leafs. Sugars.
    No one knew how many victims Markham claimed. Darcy was number eleven of the twentythree that Bolton and I identified. She was also Markham’s transition kill: he changed M.O., moved indoors after Darcy Smith.
    She turned her head, glanced over her shoulder at the sound of the approaching vehicle, and stuck out her thumb.
    They were alone, isolated in early summer.
    Clumps of orange day lilies bloomed at the edge of the field. Darcy wore white shorts and a yellow T-shirt, and held strings that restrained a bouquet of balloons in shades of blue.
    The colors crashed, mutated into a cacophony of cymbals, horns, and dissonant plucked strings. The phenomenon is called synesthesia, or cross-sensing. The stimulus received by one sensory channel triggers a perceptual response in another. A fragrance can stimulate a feeling of warmth and comfort. A tune from the sixties might evoke the image of a woman’s face. Or, music becomes a multihued assault, and color an explosion of sound.
    Markham slowed the van, pulled to the side of the road, and watched the door open.
    Darcy’s face was scrubbed innocence. Creamy skin. Blue eyes. Blond ponytail. Lips painted a frenzied red.
    She was a young woman who engaged in a transaction with the mighty.
    Darcy glanced at the slender man, at his stringy brown hair and bad teeth.
    He didn’t ask her where she was going, and she didn’t tell him. The van pointed in the right direction for both of them. It drove itself to the crest of the hill, then onto an unmarked dirt road.
    There was no tone of urgency when she finally asked about their destination. It was matter-of-fact. Curiosity.
    “To the end of all roads,” he said, and that seemed to make sense to both of them.
    Years ago when Markham told me his story, I imagined that I heard piano notes—a tinkle at first, a soft and simple melody, then a crash, as if someone sat on the keys. Once associated only with LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs, synesthesia is a common occurrence in any altered state of consciousness. Colors often became dissonant sounds when I slipped into a hypnoid state.
    Darcy Smith was seventeen years old. She accepted a ride with a stranger. There was a dynamic at work, face validity, the appearance of legitimacy. As this transaction began, a service was offered and accepted. She wanted a ride; he provided it.
    She believed. She trusted.
    Markham said there was conversation. I have imagined the two of them talking, neither of them eager to string together long chains of words. He was excited. She struggled to avoid the notion that things were not as they seemed.
    I know that Markham had removed the inside handle on the van’s passenger door. When she climbed into the van, Darcy was trapped.
    She stood in the clearing, looked at a wall of beech and birch and thick undergrowth. She wore a placid expression,but her balloons were gone. Idly, she scratched a mosquito bite high on her thigh, pulling the hem of her shorts up unselfconsciously.
    Darcy never felt intimidated by the world.
    The afternoon sun was hot in the clearing. Sweat slithered in beads from the back of Markham’s neck, across his shoulder blades. The scent of wild roses drifted on the languid summer air.
    Darcy’s arms remained at her sides. She made no attempt to flee. Her face registered the presence of the knife in Markham’s hand. Her nose wrinkled. Her eyes widened as he walked toward her and raised the knife.
    I knew what came next. I knew all of it. Short of rewriting history, there was nothing that I or anyone else could do to stop it.
    I remember that I looked around at the cramped hallway where we sat outside Markham’s holding cell.
    Rolled mattresses; a thirteen-inch black-and-white TV that his sister had brought him; a lunch tray with leftover beans, a partially eaten hot dog, hardening in the stale, dry air; the smell of three hundred

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