Chapters 45-50, Epilogue
As the story approaches its climax events begin accelerating again, mostly in the “tie a bow on it all” sense. Rachel’s analysis of the Traveling Man’s crimes make it increasingly clear that Parker is the primary target of the “messages” that TM is sending, but that he appears to be becoming bolder and more spectacular in his efforts. Louis offers a contrasting view based on his own experiences, which is that TM simply enjoys killing people and wants attention. As plot threads tie up, Parker accompanies the Fontenot’s on a raid of Joe Bones compound, in retaliation for the attacks on the funeral. Bones, before being dispatched by the Fontenot’s men indicates that he has been in contact, in some form, with the Traveling Man, but refuses to tell Parker anything. Rachel, disgusted by Parker’s involvement with a targeted killing, decides to return to New York, just as someone leaks the details of the Traveling Man’s crimes to the press in New Orleans. In our final example of “chump Parker” in this book, it is obvious, from the details and the curious omission of Parker’s name from the press, that the leak came from someone within the FBI. To make matters worse, the Traveling Man kills Morphy and his wife, Parker’s contact with the local police in New Orleans, giving every authority in the area an excuse to send Parker home, as his presence is clearly making matters worse.
While being escorted out of town by Morphy’s partner, words comes of another body of a young girl found near Honey Island in a barrel. The local police, taking advantage of Woolrich and the FBI manhunt raiding the just conveniently located hiding place of their main suspect in the Traveling Man murders, agree to keep Parker on briefly and not divulge the discovery to the FBI. Through, again, a remarkable set of lucky coincidences, the new body is identified as Lisa Woolrich, the estranged daughter of the FBI agent, who allegedly ran away from home to join a cult in Mexico. Parker, finally, begins to get a clue, and his suspicions are confirmed when, meeting Woolrich after the FBI raid, he casually asks about his daughter and is told that Woolrich spoke to her recently. The enormity of this confirmation of just how long Parker has been toyed with by a sociopath overwhelms him, and Woolrich, realizing the jig is up, has time to escape, kidnapping Rachel in the process.
Parker tracks Woolrich to the home of an ex-girlfriend that Woolrich claimed moved away but, in all likelihood, was another Traveling Man victim. The actual confrontation is quite short, considering the bulk of the book beforehand, and ends in a shootout between a ketamine drugged Parker and Woolrich, with Parker shooting Woolrich to death in a room filled with jars containing the faces of Woolrich’s victims-far more than the FBI, as led by Woolrich’s investigation, suspected. Woolrich has nothing much to offer in the way of justification; his explanations hew closer to Louis’ theory that he simply enjoys killing, those his justifications for targeting Parker veer towards Rachel’s theories, particularly in his excuse that Parker became his target for “parading” his family in front of him while Woolrich could see that Parker was, at the time, no more than a drunk, taking us back to the suggestion that Parker somehow brought this on himself and others for failing to live up to someone else’s standards. The epilogue closes us out with another visit by Parker to his family’s graves as he leaves New York for the upstate area and the home of his late grandfather, with Rachel, understandably, refusing to see him.
One of the things I find useful about rereading/rewatching things I’ve enjoyed is that it allows me to take a closer, more nuanced look at the thing. I enjoy Connolly’s novels tremendously, and the world he has created for Parker is deep and fascinating, and bridges the gap between “supernatural” and detective fiction in a way that makes me wish I was more talented and had thought of the idea first. And while many of the themes that become important in later books in the series are premiered here, much of this book doesn’t quite hang together as well is it maybe should. The hints that Woolrich is really the Traveling Man very quickly pass from “foreshadowing” into “the characters are idiots for not recognizing this” territory. The Adelaide Modine subplot doesn’t quite match up with the Traveling Man story; while it mirrors it in many ways, the stories feel like two separate incidents stitched together hastily. A lot of these flaws are understandable in light of this being Connolly’s first novel and the large amount of world-building that is taking place here, and the quality of the writing and strength of characterization more than makes up for it.