Serial Saturday: The Dagger Part 4 by Scott Tierney

  1. Serial Saturday: The Dagger Part 1 by Scott Tierney
  2. Serial Saturday: The Dagger Part 2 by Scott Tierney
  3. Serial Saturday: The Dagger Part 3 by Scott Tierney
  4. Serial Saturday: The Dagger Part 4 by Scott Tierney
  5. Serial Saturday: The Dagger Part 5 by Scott Tierney
  6. Serial Saturday: The Dagger Part 6 by Scott Tierney




The Dagger: Part 4


For the longest time, Cane’s hands remained open, anticipating delivery of the object which Pineclay clasped tightly in his fist.

“If you wish for me to share with you its gift, detective, I will need to retake custody of that dagger.”

Pineclay scoffed at what he took to be a threat of the most benign. Size difference and physique aside, both heavily in his favour, the detective was well aware that handing over a weapon to a clearly psychopathic killer was not the wisest of strategies. That being said, the detective was also aware that if this precarious gesture did somehow loosen the killer’s lips, causing him to slip confessions rather than riddles, it was at the very least a risk worth considering. 

But it is a risk…

Seemingly, this deadlock of affairs Cane understood.

“As long as there remains an arm’s length between us, you will hold the deciding advantage.” he smiled, his fingers, with so much dried blood under the nails, remaining open. “I assure you, detective, I seek only that dagger in order to educate – not to lacerate.”

Pineclay shrugged, the hunk of loaded iron holstered at his hip providing all the assurance he needed. What the hell he figured, offering the dagger up – albeit blade first. “But you pull anything clever,” he warned, unbuttoning the clasp on his holster, “and I’ll make your mutilations look as ham-fisted as hash. Comprehend?”

Cane nodded. He accepted the dagger with chivalrous delicacy, cradling the bronze artefact as the very treasure he had sworn it to be. It was only when Pineclay rested an impatient hand on his firearm that Cane broke from his reverie.

“Your father was killed in the line of fire, was he not?” Cane ventured without a hint of expression, as though his inquiry were nothing more intimate than an asking of the time. “And your son. He met a similar fate, also?”

The plaintiveness of Cane’s questions caught Pineclay off guard. As such, his response was more a retaliation than a riposte.

“What’s it to you? You trying to teach me a lesson?”

“I have a lesson to teach, yes. One which I have recently learned.” Cane continued. “Having a father on the force must have been of great determination? When coming to choose the profession which would define you, I mean. Once upon a time I myself also arrived at this same juncture, and I, like yourself, decided wholeheartedly to pursue the calling of a career, albeit one as an academic. 

“Please note my emphasis, detective,” the old man raised up his voice. “Pursue. I did not happen upon my perceived calling by chance, I pursued it as a moth does pursue the moon.”

“Or like I was pursuing you. And look how that turned out.”

“Indeed.” Cane smiled. “I became infatuated with pursuit, you see? The pursuit of pursuit, singularly guided by it as a bloodhound does pursue a scent. I pursued the professional satisfactions of a career with such tenacity that I eventually forgot what satisfaction actually was. I did not realise this at the time, naturally. One never does. Unlike yourself, detective, I did not have a family to turn my back on, nor a wife, nor…children. Thus, I felt no pang of regret.”

Brooding with impatience, the Pineclay made a show of gripping his holster. Unfazed and unsettlingly collected, Cane went on.

“Lord, I was such a foolish old fool. Hours, days, years…a lifetime wasted in the study of those lives already passed! I spent my best years choking on library dust in an endeavour to quench my enterprise, travelling overseas to courses and conventions and excavations and conferences, staying in single-bed rooms, chewing single-portion meals, never accompanied, never partnered. Toasting my successes alone.”

“That’s your excuse for murder?” Pineclay scoffed. “Bachelorism?”

Belying their amiability, Cane’s eyes turned on the detective, flickering with the flames of a suppressed anger – this the detective found most rewarding, and thus worthy of his own pursuit

“Do yourself a favour, Cane. Admit to it. You cut that woman open. You cut them all open. And you enjoyed it.”

Falling into a penitent silence, the old man’s gaze came down to the dagger. As though testing it for dust, he pulled a single finger along the cusp of its blade.

“I did not kill her.” Cane assured. “As for enjoying it–” 

“Come on! Murder weapon! Scene of the crime! The damn blood on you!”

“No…no, I do not expect you to believe a word that I say. I myself did not believe the dear Mrs. Haven when she came to my aid–”

“With her ‘gift’?”

“Yes, detective.” the old man brightened, his brief animosity withdrawn. “You see, Mrs. Haven confessed to once being just as adrift as you and I–”

“We’re not alike, you and I.

“-She spoke of a kindred spirit gifting her salvation, just as another spirit had done before them, and umpteen more before them, generations upon generations gifted a lifetime of hindsight by–”

“Out with it, Cane! Enough riddles!” Pineclay snapped. “You’re not making sense!-”

“I know. And for that I am sorry. But I can only attempt to impart the knowledge which I, and those who have come before me, have learned through experience. Through bitter, excruciating experience…

“And here-upon, detective, the time is right that I present to you the dagger’s gift.” Cane grinned. “My gift. From me to you.”

It was only then that Pineclay realized that the blood-bedraggled and previously seated killer was now standing in the middle of the room. Pineclay instinctively reached for his firearm and flicked back the hammer. “Sit the hell down! You take a step closer and I swear I’ll-”

Yet, nonchalant to the detective’s remonstrance, the wispy old man seemed quite content not to venture a step closer. Instead, much to Pineclay’s puzzlement, Cane proceeded to clasp the dagger between both hands and raise it up to his eyeline. He did not aim nor foist the dagger at Pineclay, however, nor even signal any intention to weaponize it against him; rather, as though hoisting a chalice of holy water above his head in order to baptise himself, Cane gently rested the dagger’s point against his own forehead, just above his balding hairline– 

And pressed. 



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