Chapter Twelve

Both men stared at Hatter like a patient from the psych ward. But of course Hatter hadn't expected anything but their doubt in his story.

Burks scoffed with his arms crossed leaning on one of the arm rests, "Can you believe that shit? Don't tell me you're buying this crap, McCarthy."

Hatter ignored the man and kept his gaze firmly planted on the detective's who'd been silent the entire time Hatter revealed his and Alice's time spent in Wonderland last year and about the Red Knight, Drew and even Jack Heart. He explained his suspicions that someone from there had returned to seek vengeance. Hatter realized it sounded crazy to normal people from the real world, especially two who were used to dealing with psychopaths, but what could Hatter do? The truth was all McCarthy wanted and now the man looked as skeptical as an orphan on Christmas Eve.

"I promise every word spoken has been the truth, sir." Hatter felt a moment of panic when McCarthy stood up and began walking towards the exit. For some reason it seemed vital for this man to believe him…for Alice's sake.

He paused outside the door. "I'm not sure what to think. It does make some kind of fantastic sense though. Let me talk to a few more people who knew Carol and I'll be back to check on Alice. In the mean time, you get some rest David. I don't want you fretting about your safety or hers. I've posted some of my men outside her room and if you need anything just ask them. Alright?"

"You believe me right?" Hatter rose ignoring Burks' obvious annoyed disdain for him.

McCarthy's eyes glittered with suspicion or pity, he couldn't tell, but the man just nodded his head, "I believe you David. Just get some rest." Hatter sunk in relief in one of the chairs, his legs giving out.

oo

"Have you lost your mind?" Burks barked at McCarthy as they walked out the front glass doors of the hospital. "You can't honestly say that hogwash is the reason Carol Hamilton was murdered."

McCarthy gave him a beleaguered look. "Of course I don't think that. I do believe, however, that David fully thinks he speaks the truth. He may need some help."

"But if you don't believe him, then why didn't we haul him in to Mission? He could be the one causing all these 'accidents' and is too mentally disturbed to realize it. We have plenty of proof he's been in Carol's apartment, finger prints everywhere…for all we know he killed her."

"I don't think he killed her Burks." McCarthy pulled his keys out and unlocked the car.

"What makes you say that?" They both slid inside the stuffy vehicle. McCarthy immediately turned the ignition and cranked up the air.

"A hunch."

"A hunch? Jesus, man! What kind of detective are you?"

"Look, I didn't get this job because my daddy pulled a few strings to get me in and I sure as hell have been around long enough to know when to go with my gut…and my gut says David's not the killer. I don't know who is, but dammit I'm going to find out. So sit back, help me figure this thing out and stop bitchin like a prissy girl!"

Burks face turned every shade of red from fire engine to plum, before he puffed out his chest, pulled a stick of chewing gum out of his pants and popped it into his mouth.

"And just why the hell do you have to chew gum all the damn time, anyways?"

"It keeps me from smoking when I'm stressed," he blurted.

McCarthy hated the man's smacking just about as much as he hated a crooked cop, but it was a hell of lot better than listening to his incessant grumbling. The man must be stressed constantly, but for what reason. Sometimes McCarthy wondered if he even actually thought out his cases or if he just spun around in a circle with his finger pointed out in front. And whoever's picture he landed on when he opened eyes, that was the person he accused of the crime. The man needed to learn a thing or two about detecting…hell about life. McCarthy figured Burks' father had assumed he'd be the man able to show him. Great.

"Look I'm going to stop by the station and drop you off. I want you to take a car out to the Hamilton house and check things out there. I'm going back to Carol's and ask her neighbors some more questions. See if anyone's story has changed. Radio if you notice anything suspicious. Can you handle that?"

"Yes, I can handle that," he sneered, as if spitting venom at him.

oo

It was well after six in the evening when McCarthy finally finished up speaking with all Carol's neighbors. The middle aged man named Fred at the end of the hall, the two twins Mary and Marcy in 22 and eccentric Sibell in 18 who used to bake Carol cakes for her birthdays and holidays. None of which had changed anything about their whereabouts and suspicions of their own from day one. Everything was the same.

McCarthy rubbed the back of his aching neck as he dropped his notebook into his inner jacket pocket and began heading down the hall. It had been a long couple of weeks, especially the last few days. Not one wink of sleep since Carol's murder. It had put him on edge from the very beginning. Something was wrong with this situation, making the hairs on his neck and arms stand on end. He could feel the wrongness of it even now.

A soft thunk sounded from inside the apartment in passing. It wasn't a particularly loud noise, nor an alarming one, but when McCarthy realized it was from the apartment with yellow police tape crossed over the door, his heart began to pound in his temples. Someone was in there. Familiar adrenaline coursed up his arms and down to his legs whenever he sensed trouble.

Immediately, McCarthy drew his gun and held it eye level. He batted the yellow tape away and kicked in the door. He was stiff, ready for threat whatever direction it came from and quickly scanned the room, announcing his presence. A deep voice yelled from outside the window in the alleyway between apartment buildings. A flash of shadow went by the window where a fire escape connected with stairs leading down onto the pavement. McCarthy rushed to the window and saw two men dressed in jeans and black hoodies run down the alleyway and disappear around the corner of another back alley.

He tested the window that was in fact unlocked and had merely been shut by the men on their way out. It had to have been the killer or in this case killers. Why would two men have been in this apartment unless they were thieves who saw an easy gain by stealing things from a crime scene? But neither one of the men had been carrying anything with them. Surely if they were thieves they would have carried some sort of bag with them?

McCarthy swallowed hard and pushed up the window. He didn't like this. He didn't like this one bit. His mouth was dry as he hurried down the steps into the alleyway. Running to the corner he'd seen the men disappear down, McCarthy stopped abruptly when he heard voices arguing with one another. Positive both were male, early to mid-thirties, Caucasian, fair skinned and possibly dark hair. He couldn't quite make out their features from the hoods casting their faces in shadow.

Hiding behind the wall, he listened to their arguments to figure out who the hell these guys were. Apparently they hadn't noticed McCarthy come into the apartment nor run after them. He'd make use of this, seeing how the alley where the men stood dead ended. With nothing, but a large blue dumpster that reeked of soured milk and cat piss, a couple cardboard boxes and ratted recliner next to it and an old mirror with a rusted frame leaning against the bricks.

"Look, we are almost through alright…" the shorter man said.

He was probably more around McCarthy's height of five-ten or six even. The other had to have been at least six foot three inches tall if not more and that was only an estimate. He responded in a softer tone, "It's been over a year. I want this finished, so we can go after that sniveling weasel, Drew, and kick him off the throne."

"Right." He moved closer to the taller man with a malevolent giddiness in his eye. As if he were mentally rubbing his greedy hands together.

"You should have had them on the cliff the other day, Francis. I can't afford to risk them coming back. We need this taken care of now!" he yelled at the short man.

"I tried, Kael! But how was I to know how difficult it'd be? The man was good at dodging me."

"Let's just get this handled soon. I've got too much riding on this and I don't need those two fucking it up…especially the woman. She's notoriously known for foiling our plans up."

"I'll do whatever you need me to do," Francis said.

"No! You had your chance and you screwed up. Looks like I'm going to have to take care of them like I did the last one."

McCarthy shook his head in disbelief. No way, it couldn't be true. David had told them about Drew becoming the new king of the Red Knight's land, but it had sounded so insane. Were these guys off their rockers too or were they all telling the truth? Did Wonderland actually exist? And these men came back for revenge? God, his head hurt too much when he tried to picture the story he'd read as a child was in fact a true place Alice had visited.

Well, make believe or not a real person had been murdered and these men were real criminals. They were involved in this somehow and McCarthy intended to find out to what extent. He quietly radioed Burks for backup and then held his gun out once more.

He took a deep breath and raced from his hiding spot, yelling, "SFPD!" But when he rushed out into the open where the men had been standing no one was there anymore. The breeze caught his hair as McCarthy lowered his weapon that began to shake in his hand. The last time he'd felt the rush of confusion and nervous unease on the job, he'd been a rookie. He was always confident and steady. But he sure as hell felt the unease now. There was no way for them to climb or enter any buildings except for one back door, but it had no handle to grab on to. It was one of those that only opened from the inside out.

Where the hell did they go? McCarthy walked down the alley and readied his gun once more just in case they decided to pop out from behind the dumpster, but it was clear. Everything seemed perfectly fine. He glanced at the large mirror leaning on the wall and studied it a moment. Was this the looking glass mirror David had mentioned? It couldn't be…could it? This was just a grungy mirror left in a grungy alley.

McCarthy holstered his gun and hesitantly walked up towards his reflection. It appeared to be an ordinary mirror…not some secret passage way to a fictional land. He reached his hand up to touch it, but stopped. "This is insane," he grumbled to himself and turned to walk away back down the alley. But something made him stop. What if David was right? And where did those men go? He had to find out. He'd regret it the rest of his life if he didn't get down to the bottom of this and despite his logical brain telling him he was stupid for trying this…McCarthy waltzed right up to the mirror and tried to flatten his palm against the glass.

It was cold at first and then warm as his fingers began slipping through it as though it were a doorway of some sort. "No," he breathed. He gulped and watched the mirror ripple like water as he yanked his hand back. His skin tingled where it had touched the reflective glass.

There were some things McCarthy could not handle and this happened to be one of those things.