1. CHAPTER 1
  2. CHAPTER 1
  3. CHAPTER 1
  4. Chapter 1
  5. CHAPTER 10
  6. CHAPTER 10
  7. Chapter 10
  8. CHAPTER 10
  9. Chapter 11
  10. CHAPTER 11

BY FOUR-THIRTY IN THE MORNING THE PRIEST WAS all cleaned up. I felt a lot better. I always did, after. Killing makes me feel good. It works the knots out of darling Dexter's dark schemata. It's a sweet release, a necessary letting go of all the little hydraulic valves inside. I enjoy my work; sorry if that bothers you. Oh, very sorry, really. But there it is. And it's not just any killing, of course. It has to be done the right way, at the right time, with the right partnervery complicated, but very necessary.

And always somewhat draining. So I was tired, but the tension of the last week was gone, the cold voice of the Dark Passenger was quiet, and I could be me again. Quirky, funny, happy-go-lucky, dead-inside Dexter. No longer Dexter with the knife, Dexter the Avenger. Not until next time.

I put all the bodies back in the garden with one new neighbor and tidied the little falling-down house as much as I could. I packed my things into the priest's car and drove south to the small side canal where I had left my boat, a seventeen-foot Whaler with a shallow draft and a big engine. I pushed the priest's car into the canal behind my boat and climbed on board. I watched the car settle and disappear. Then I cranked up my outboard and eased out of the canal, heading north across the bay. The sun was just coming up and bouncing off the brightwork. I put on my very best happy face; just another early-morning fisherman heading home. Red snapper, anyone?

By six-thirty I was home in my Coconut Grove apartment. I took the slide from my pocket, a simple, clean glass stripwith a careful single drop of the priest's blood preserved in the center. Nice and clean, dry now, ready to slip under my microscope when I wanted to remember. I put the slide with the others, thirty-six neat and careful very dry drops of blood.

I took an extra-long shower, letting the hot hot water wash away the last of the tension and ease the knots in my muscles, scrubbing off the small final traces of clinging smell from the priest and the garden of the little house in the swamp.

Children. I should have killed him twice.

Whatever made me the way I am left me hollow, empty inside, unable to feel. It doesn't seem like a big deal. I'm quite sure most people fake an awful lot of everyday human contact. I just fake all of it. I fake it very well, and the feelings are never there. But I like kids. I could never have them, since the idea of sex is no idea at all. Imagine doing those things How can you? Where's your sense of dignity? But kidskids are special. Father Donovan deserved to die. The Code of Harry was satisfied, along with the Dark Passenger.

By seven-fifteen I felt clean again. I had coffee, cereal, and headed in for work.

The building where I work is a large modern thing, white with lots of glass, near the airport. My lab is on the second floor, in the back. I have a small office attached to the lab. It is not much of an office, but it's mine, a cubicle off the main blood lab. All mine, nobody else allowed in, nobody to share with, to mess up my area. A desk with a chair, another chair for a visitor, if he's not too big. Computer, shelf, filing cabinet. Telephone. Answering machine.

Answering machine with a blinking light as I came in. A message for me is not a daily thing. For some reason, there are very few people in the world who can think of things to say to a blood spatter pattern analyst during working hours. One of the few people who does have things to say to me is Deborah Morgan, my foster sister. A cop, just like her father.

The message was from her.

I punched the button and heard tinny Tejano music, then Deborah's voice. Dexter, please, as soon as you get in. I'm at a crime scene out on Tamiami Trail, at the Cacique Motel. There was a pause. I heard her put a hand over the mouthpiece of the telephone and say something to somebody. Then there was a blast of Mexican music again and she was back on. Can you get out here right away? Please, Dex?

She hung up.

I don't have a family. I mean, as far as I know. Somewhere out there must be people who carry similar genetic material, I'm sure. I pity them. But I've never met them. I haven't tried, and they haven't tried to find me. I was adopted, raised by Harry and Doris Morgan, Deborah's parents. And considering what I am, they did a wonderful job of raising me, don't you think?

Both dead now. And so Deb is the only person in the world who gives a rusty possum fart whether I live or die. For some reason that I can't fathom, she actually prefers me to be alive. I think that's nice, and if I could have feelings at all I would have them for Deb.

So I went. I drove out of the Metro-Dade parking lot and got onto the nearby Turnpike, which took me south to the section of Tamiami Trail that is home to the Cacique Motel and several hundred of its brothers and sisters. In its own way, it is paradise. Particularly if you are a cockroach. Rows of buildings that manage to glitter and molder at the same time. Bright neon over ancient, squalid, sponge-rotted structures. If you don't go at night, you won't go. Because to see these places by daylight is to see the bottom line of our flimsy contract with life.

Every major city has a section like this one. If a piebald dwarf with advanced leprosy wants to have sex with a kangaroo and a teenage choir, he'll find his way here and get a room. When he's done, he might take the whole gang next door for a cup of Cuban coffee and a medianoche sandwich. Nobody would care, as long as he tipped.

Deborah had been spending way too much time out here lately. Her opinion, not mine. It seemed like a good place to go if you were a cop and you wanted to increase your statistical chance of catching somebody doing something awful.

Deborah didn't see it that way. Maybe because she was working vice. A good-looking young woman working vice on the Tamiami Trail usually ends up as bait on a sting, standing outside almost naked to catch men who wanted to pay for sex. Deborah hated that. Couldn't get worked up about prostitution, except as a sociological issue. Didn't think bagging johns was real crime fighting. And, known only to me, she hated anything that overemphasized her femininity and her lush figure. She wanted to be a cop; it was not her fault she looked more like a centerfold.

And as I pulled into the parking lot that linked the Cacique and its neighbor, Tito's Café Cubano, I could see that she was currently emphasizing the hell out of her figure. She was dressed in a neon-pink tube top, spandex shorts, black fishnet stockings, and spike heels. Straight from the costume shop for Hollywood Hookers in 3-D.

A few years back somebody in the Vice Bureau got the word that the pimps were laughing at them on the streets. It seems the vice cops, mostly male, were picking the outfits for the women operatives who worked in the sting operations. Their choice of clothing was showing an awful lot about their preferences in kinkiness, but it did not look much like hooker wear. So everybody on the street could tell when the new girl was carrying a badge and gun in her clutch purse.

As a result of this tip, the vice cops began to insist that the girls who went undercover pick their own outfits for the job. After all, girls know more about what looks right, don't they?

Maybe most of them do. Deborah doesn't. She's never felt comfortable in anything but blues. You should have seen what she wanted to wear to her prom. And nowI had never seen a beautiful woman dressed in such a revealing costume who looked less sexually appealing than Deb did.

But she did stand out. She was working crowd control, her badge pinned to the tube top. She was more visible than the half mile of yellow crime-scene tape that was already strung up, more than the three patrol cars angled in with their lights flashing. The pink tube top flashed a little brighter.

She was off to one side of the parking lot, keeping a growing crowd back from the lab techs who appeared to be going through the Dumpster belonging to the coffee shop. I was glad I hadn't been assigned to that. The stink of it came all the way across the lot and in my car windowa dark stench of Latin coffee grounds mixed with old fruit and rancid pork.

The cop at the entrance to the parking lot was a guy I knew. He waved me in and I found a spot.

Deb, I said as I strolled over. Nice outfit. Really shows your figure to full advantage.

Fuck off, she said, and she blushed. Really something to see in a full-grown cop.

They found another hooker, she said. At least, they think it's a hooker. Hard to tell from what's left.

That's the third in the last five months, I said.

Fifth, she told me. There were two more up in Broward. She shook her head. These assholes keep saying that officially there's no connection.

It would make for an awful lot of paperwork, I said helpfully.

Deb showed me her teeth. How about some basic fucking police work? she snarled. A moron could see these kills are connected. And she gave a little shudder.

I stared at her, amazed. She was a cop, daughter of a cop. Things didn't bother her. When she'd been a rookie cop and the older guys played tricks on Deborahshowing her the hacked-up bodies that turn up in Miami every dayto get her to blow her lunch, she hadn't blinked. She'd seen it all. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.

But this one made her shudder.


This one is special, is that it? I asked her.

This one is on my beat, with the hookers. She pointed a finger at me. And THAT means I've got a shot to get in on it, get noticed, and pull a transfer into Homicide Bureau.

I gave her my happy smile. Ambition, Deborah?

Goddamned right, she said. I want out of vice, and I want out of this sex suit. I want into Homicide, Dexter, and this could be my ticket. With one small break She paused. And then she said something absolutely amazing. Please help me, Dex, she said. I really hate this.

Please, Deborah? You're saying please to me? Do you know how nervous that makes me?

Cut the crap, Dex.

But Deborah, really

Cut it, I said. Will you help me or not?

When she put it that way, with that strange rare please dangling in the air, what else could I say but, Of course I will, Deb. You know that.

And she eyed me hard, taking back her please. I don't know it, Dex. I don't know anything with you.

Of course I'll help, Deb, I repeated, trying to sound hurt. And doing a really good imitation of injured dignity, I headed for the Dumpster with the rest of the lab rats.

Camilla Figg was crawling through the garbage, dusting for fingerprints. She was a stocky woman of thirty-five with short hair who had never seemed to respond to my breezy, charming pleasantries. But as she saw me, she came up onto her knees, blushed, and watched me go by without speaking. She always seemed to stare at me and then blush.

Sitting on an overturned plastic milk carton on the far end of the Dumpster, poking through a handful of waste matter, was Vince Masuoka. He was half Japanese and liked to joke that he got the short half. He called it a joke, anyway.

There was something just slightly off in Vince's bright, Asian smile. Like he had learned to smile from a picture book. Even when he made the required dirty put-down jokes with the cops, nobody got mad at him. Nobody laughed, either, but that didn't stop him. He kept making all the correct ritual gestures, but he always seemed to be faking. That's why I liked him, I think. Another guy pretending to be human, just like me.

Well, Dexter, Vince said without looking up. What brings you here?

I came to see how real experts operate in a totally professional atmosphere, I said. Have you seen any?

Ha-ha, he said. It was supposed to be a laugh, but it was even phonier than his smile. You must think you're in Boston. He found something and held it up to the light, squinting. Seriously, why are you here?

Why wouldn't I be here, Vince? I said, pretending to sound indignant. It's a crime scene, isn't it?

You do blood spatter, he said, throwing away whatever he'd been staring at and searching for another one.

I knew that.

He looked at me with his biggest fake smile. There's no blood here, Dex.

I felt light-headed. What does that mean?

There's no blood in or on or near, Dex. No blood at all. Weirdest thing you ever saw, he said.

No blood at all. I could hear that phrase repeat itself in my head, louder each time. No sticky, hot, messy, awful blood. No splatter. No stain. NO BLOOD AT ALL.

Why hadn't I thought of that?

It felt like a missing piece to something I didn't know was incomplete.

I don't pretend to understand what it is about Dexter and blood. Just thinking of it sets my teeth on edgeand yet I have, after all, made it my career, my study, and part of my real work. Clearly some very deep things are going on, but I find it a little hard to stay interested. I am what I am, and isn't it a lovely night to dissect a child killer?

But this

Are you all right, Dexter? Vince asked.

I am fantastic, I said. How does he do it?

That depends.

I looked at Vince. He was staring at a handful of coffee grounds, carefully pushing them around with one rubber-gloved finger. Depends on what, Vince?

On who he is and what it he's doing, he said. Ha-ha.

I shook my head. Sometimes you work too hard at being inscrutable, I said. How does the killer get rid of the blood?

Hard to say right now, he said. We haven't found any of it. And the body is not in real good shape, so it's going to be hard to find much.

That didn't sound nearly as interesting. I like to leave a neat body. No fuss, no mess, no dripping blood. If the killer was just another dog tearing at a bone, this was all nothing to me.

I breathed a little easier. Where's the body? I asked Vince.

He jerked his head at a spot twenty feet away. Over there, he said. With LaGuerta.

Oh, my, I said. Is LaGuerta handling this?

He gave me his fake smile again. Lucky killer.

I looked. A small knot of people stood around a cluster of tidy trash bags. I don't see it, I said.

Right there. The trash bags. Each one is a body part. He cut the victim into pieces and then wrapped up each one like it was a Christmas present. Did you ever see anything like that before?

Of course I had.

That's how I do it.

: 2015-09-13; : 6;

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