CHAPTER 3. THERE IS SOMETHING STRANGE AND DISARMING about looking at a homicide scene in the bright daylight of the Miami sun

  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

THERE IS SOMETHING STRANGE AND DISARMING about looking at a homicide scene in the bright daylight of the Miami sun. It makes the most grotesque killings look antiseptic, staged. Like you're in a new and daring section of Disney World. Dahmer Land. Come ride the refrigerator. Please hurl your lunch in the designated containers only.

Not that the sight of mutilated bodies anywhere has ever bothered me, oh no, far from it. I do resent the messy ones a little when they are careless with their body fluidsnasty stuff. Other than that, it seems no worse than looking at spare ribs at the grocery store. But rookies and visitors to crime scenes tend to throw upand for some reason, they throw up much less here than they do up North. The sun just takes the sting out. It cleans things up, makes them neater. Maybe that's why I love Miami. It's such a neat town.

And it was already a beautiful, hot Miami day. Anyone who had worn a suit coat was now looking for a place to hang it. Alas, there was no such place in the grubby little parking lot. There were only five or six cars and the Dumpster. It was shoved over in a corner, next to the café, backed up against a pink stucco wall topped with barbed wire. The back door to the café was there. A sullen young woman moved in and out, doing a brisk business in café cubano and pasteles with the cops and the technicians on the scene. The handful of assorted cops in suits who hang out at homicide scenes, either to be noticed, to apply pressure, or to make sure they know what's going on, now had one more thing to juggle. Coffee, a pastry, a suit coat.

The crime-lab gang didn't wear suits. Rayon bowling shirts with two pockets was more their speed. I was wearing one myself. It repeated a pattern of voodoo drummers and palm trees against a lime green background. Stylish, but practical.

I headed for the closest rayon shirt in the knot of people around the body. It belonged to Angel Batista-no-relation, as he usually introduced himself. Hi, I'm Angel Batista, no relation. He worked in the medical examiner's office. At the moment he was squatting beside one of the garbage bags and peering inside it.

I joined him. I was anxious to see inside the bag myself. Anything that got a reaction from Deborah was worth a peek.

Angel, I said, coming up on his side. What do we have?

What you mean we, white boy? he said. We got no blood with this one. You're out of a job.

I heard. I crouched down beside him. Was it done here, or just dumped?

He shook his head. Hard to say. They empty the Dumpster twice a weekthis has been here for maybe two days.

I looked around the parking lot, then over at the moldy façade of the Cacique. What about the motel?

Angel shrugged. They're still checking, but I don't think they'll find anything. The other times, he just used a handy Dumpster. Huh, he said suddenly.


He used a pencil to peel back the plastic bag. Look at that cut.

The end of a disjointed leg stuck out, looking pale and exceptionally dead in the glare of the sun. This piece ended in the ankle, foot neatly lopped off. A small tattoo of a butterfly remained, one wing cut away with the foot.

I whistled. It was almost surgical. This guy did very nice workas good as I could do. Very clean, I said. And it was, even beyond the neatness of the cutting. I had never seen such clean, dry, neat-looking dead flesh. Wonderful.

Me cago en diez on nice and clean, he said. It's not finished.

I looked past him, staring a little deeper into the bag. Nothing moving in there. It looks pretty final to me, Angel.

Lookit, he said. He flipped open one of the other bags. This leg, he cuts it in four pieces. Almost like with a ruler or something, huh? And so this one, and he pointed back to the first ankle that I had admired so deeply, this one he cuts in two pieces only? How's come, huh?

I'm sure I don't know, I said. Perhaps Detective LaGuerta will figure it out.

Angel looked at me for a moment and we both struggled to keep a straight face. Perhaps she will, he said, and he turned back to his work. Why don't you go ask her?

Hasta luego, Angel, I said.

Almost certainly, he answered, head down over the plastic bag.

There was a rumor going around a few years back that Detective Migdia LaGuerta got into the Homicide Bureau by sleeping with somebody. To look at her once you might buy into that. She has all the necessary parts in the right places to be physically attractive in a sullen, aristocratic way. A true artist with her makeup and very well dressed, Bloomingdale's chic. But the rumor can't be true. To begin with, although she seems outwardly very feminine, I've never met a woman who was more masculine inside. She was hard, ambitious in the most self-serving way, and her only weakness seemed to be for model-handsome men a few years younger than she was. So I'm quite sure she didn't get into Homicide using sex. She got into Homicide because she's Cuban, plays politics, and knows how to kiss ass. That combination is far better than sex in Miami.

LaGuerta is very very good at kissing ass, a world-class ass kisser. She kissed ass all the way up to the lofty rank of homicide investigator. Unfortunately, it's a job where her skills at posterior smooching were never called for, and she was a terrible detective.

It happens; incompetence is rewarded more often than not. I have to work with her anyway. So I have used my considerable charm to make her like me. Easier than you might think. Anybody can be charming if they don't mind faking it, saying all the stupid, obvious, nauseating things that a conscience keeps most people from saying. Happily, I don't have a conscience. I say them.

As I approached the little group clustered near the café, LaGuerta was interviewing somebody in rapid-fire Spanish. I speak Spanish; I even understand a little Cuban. But I could only get one word in ten from LaGuerta. The Cuban dialect is the despair of the Spanish-speaking world. The whole purpose of Cuban Spanish seems to be to race against an invisible stopwatch and get out as much as possible in three-second bursts without using any consonants.

The trick to following it is to know what the person is going to say before they say it. That tends to contribute to the clannishness non-Cubans sometimes complain about.

The man LaGuerta was grilling was short and broad, dark, with Indio features, and was clearly intimidated by the dialect, the tone, and the badge. He tried not to look at her as he spoke, which seemed to make her speak even faster.

No, no hay nadie afuera, he said softly, slowly, looking away. Todos estan en café. Nobody was outside, they were all in the café.

Donde estabas? she demanded. Where were you?

The man looked at the bags of body parts and quickly looked away. Cocina. The kitchen. Entonces yo saco la basura. Then I took out the garbage.

LaGuerta went on; pushing at him verbally, asking the wrong questions in a tone of voice that bullied and demeaned him until he slowly forgot the horror of finding the body parts in the Dumpster, and turned sullen and uncooperative instead.

A true master's touch. Take the key witness and turn him against you. If you can screw up the case in the first few vital hours, it saves time and paperwork later.

She finished with a few threats and sent the man away. Indio, she spat, as he lumbered out of earshot.

It takes all kinds, Detective, I said. Even campesinos. She looked up and ran her eyes over me, slowly, while I stood and wondered why. Had she forgotten what I looked like? But she finished with a big smile. She really did like me, the idiot.

Hola, Dexter. What brings you here?

I heard you were here and couldn't stay away. Please, Detective, when will you marry me?

She giggled. The other officers within earshot exchanged a glance and then looked away. I don't buy a shoe until I try it on, LaGuerta said. No matter how good the shoe looks. And while I was sure that was true, it didn't actually explain to me why she stared at me with her tongue between her teeth as she said it. Now go away, you distracting me. I have serious work here.

I can see that, I said. Have you caught the killer yet?

She snorted. You sound like a reporter. Those assholes will be all over me in another hour.

What will you tell them?

She looked at the bags of body parts and frowned. Not because the sight bothered her. She was seeing her career, trying to phrase her statement to the press.

It is only a matter of time before the killer makes a mistake and we catch him

Meaning, I said, that so far he hasn't made any mistakes, you don't have any clues, and you have to wait for him to kill again before you can do anything?

She looked at me hard. I forget. Why do I like you?

I just shrugged. I didn't have a cluebut then, apparently she didn't either.

What we got is nada y nada. That Guatemalan, she made a face at the retreating Indio, he found the body when he came out with the garbage from the restaurant. He didn't recognize these garbage bags and he opened one up to see if maybe there was something good. And it was the head.

Peekaboo, I said softly.



She looked around, frowning, perhaps hoping a clue would leap out and she could shoot it.

So that's it. Nobody saw anything, heard anything. Nothing. I have to wait for your fellow nerds to finish up before I know anything.

Detective, said a voice behind us. Captain Matthews strolled up in a cloud of Aramis aftershave, meaning that the reporters would be here very shortly.

Hello, Captain, LaGuerta said.

I've asked Officer Morgan to maintain a peripheral involvement in this case, he said. LaGuerta flinched. In her capacity as an undercover operative she has resources in the prostitution community that could assist us in expediting the solution. The man talked with a thesaurus. Too many years of writing reports.

Captain, I'm not sure that's necessary, LaGuerta said.

He winked and put a hand on her shoulder. People management is a skill. Relax, Detective. She's not going to interfere with your command prerogatives. She'll just check in with you if she has something to report. Witnesses, that sort of thing. Her father was a damn good cop. All right? His eyes glazed and refocused on something on the other end of the parking lot. I looked. The Channel 7 News van was rolling in. Excuse me, Matthews said. He straightened his tie, put on a serious expression, and strolled over toward the van.

Puta, LaGuerta said under her breath.

I didn't know if she meant that as a general observation, or was talking about Deb, but I thought it was a good time to slip away, too, before LaGuerta remembered that Officer Puta was my sister.

As I rejoined Deb, Matthews was shaking hands with Jerry Gonzalez from Channel 7. Jerry was the Miami area's leading champion of if-it-bleeds-it-leads journalism. My kind of guy. He was going to be disappointed this time.

I felt a slight quiver pass over my skin. No blood at all.

Dexter, Deborah said, still trying to sound like a cop, but I could tell she was excited. I talked to Captain Matthews. He's going to let me in on this.

I heard, I said. Be careful.

She blinked at me. What are you talking about?

LaGuerta, I said.

Deborah snorted. Her, she said.

Yeah. Her. She doesn't like you, and she doesn't want you on her turf.

Tough. She got her orders from the captain.

Uh-huh. And she's already spent five minutes figuring out how to get around them. So watch your back, Debs.

She just shrugged. What did you find out? she asked.

I shook my head. Nothing yet. LaGuerta's already nowhere. But Vince said I stopped. Even talking about it seemed too private.

Vince said what?

A small thing, Deb. A detail. Who knows what it means?

Nobody will ever know if you don't say it, Dexter.

There . . . seems to be no blood left with the body. No blood at all.

Deborah was quiet for a minute, thinking. Not a reverent pause, not like me. Just thinking. Okay, she said at last. I give up. What does it mean?

Too soon to tell, I said.

But you think it means something.

It meant a strange light-headedness. It meant an itch to find out more about this killer. It meant an appreciative chuckle from the Dark Passenger, who should have been quiet so soon after the priest. But that was all rather tough to explain to Deborah, wasn't it? So I just said, It might, Deb. Who really knows?

She looked at me hard for half a moment, then shrugged. All right, she said. Anything else?

Oh, a great deal, I said. Very nice blade work. The cuts are close to surgical. Unless they find something in the hotel, which no one expects, the body was killed somewhere else and dumped here.


Very good question. Half of police work is asking the right questions.

The other half is answering, she told me.

Well then. Nobody knows where yet, Deb. And I certainly don't have all the forensic data

But you're starting to get a feel for this one, she said.

I looked at her. She looked back. I had developed hunches before. I had a small reputation for it. My hunches were often quite good. And why shouldn't they be? I often know how the killers are thinking. I think the same way. Of course I was not always right. Sometimes I was very wide of the mark. It wouldn't look good if I was always right. And I didn't want the cops to catch every serial killer out there. Then what would I do for a hobby? But this oneWhich way should I go with this so very interesting escapade?

Tell me, Dexter, Deborah urged. Have you got any guesses about this?

Possibly, I said. It's a little early yet.

Well, Morgan, said LaGuerta from behind us. We both turned. I see you're dressed for real police work.

Something about LaGuerta's tone was like a slap on the face. Deborah stiffened. Detective, she said. Did you find anything? She said it in a tone that already knew the answer.

A cheap shot. But it missed. LaGuerta waved a hand airily. They are only putas, she said, looking hard at Deb's cleavage, so very prominent in her hooker suit. Just hookers. The important thing here is to keep the press from getting hysterical. She shook her head slowly, as if in disbelief, and looked up. Considering what you can do with gravity, that should be easy. And she winked at me and strolled off, over toward the perimeter, where Captain Matthews was talking with great dignity to Jerry Gonzalez from Channel 7.

Bitch, Deborah said.

I'm sorry, Debs. Would you prefer me to say, We'll show her? Or should I go with I told you so?

She glared at me. Goddamn it, Dexter, she said. I really want to be the one to find this guy.

And as I thought about that no blood at all

So did I. I really wanted to find him, too.

: 2015-09-13; : 5;

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