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CHAPTER 11. THE GREAT BLANKET OF STUNNED SILENCE LASTED for only a moment
THE GREAT BLANKET OF STUNNED SILENCE LASTED for only a moment. Then the buzz of talk in the arena took on a new note as people strained to see, to explain, to speculate.
A mirror. What the hell did it mean?
Good question. In spite of feeling so very moved by the thing, I didn't have any immediate theories about what it meant. Sometimes great art is like that. It affects you and you can't say why. Was it deep symbolism? A cryptic message? A wrenching plea for help and understanding? Impossible to say, and to me, not the most important thing at first. I just wanted to breathe it in. Let others worry about how it had gotten there. After all, maybe it had just fallen off and he had decided to throw it away in the nearest handy garbage bag.
Not possible, of course not. And now I couldn't help thinking about it. The mirror was there for some very important reason. These were not garbage bags to him. As he had now proved so elegantly with this hockey-rink setting, presentation was an important part of what he was doing. He would not be casual in any detail. And because of that, I began to think about what the mirror might mean. I had to believe that, as improvised as it might be, putting it in with the body parts was exceedingly deliberate. And I had the further feeling, burbling up from somewhere behind my lungs, that this was a very careful, very private message.
If not me, then whom? The rest of the act was speaking to the world at large: See what I am. See what we all are. See what I am doing about it. A truck's mirror wasn't part of the statement. Segmenting the body, draining the blood—this was necessary and elegant. But the mirror—and especially if it turned out to be from the truck that I had chased—that was different. Elegant, yes; but what did it say about the way things really are? Nothing. It was added on for some other purpose, and that purpose had to be a new and different kind of statement. I could feel the electricity of the thought surging through me. If it was from that truck, it could only be meant for me.
But what did it mean?
“What the hell is that about?” Deb said beside me. “A mirror. Why?”
“I don't know,” I said, still feeling its power throb through me. “But I will bet you dinner at Joe's Stone Crabs that it came from the refrigerator truck.”
“No bet,” she said. “But at least it settles one important question.”
I looked at her, startled. Could she really have made some intuitive jump that I had missed? “What question, sis?”
She nodded at the cluster of management-level cops still squabbling at the edges of the rink. “Jurisdiction. This one is ours. Come on.”
On the surface, Detective LaGuerta was not impressed with this new piece of evidence. Perhaps she was hiding a deep and abiding concern for the symbolism of the mirror and all it implied under a carefully crafted façade of indifference. Either that or she really was dumb as a box of rocks. She was still standing with Doakes. To his credit, he looked troubled, but maybe his face had simply gotten tired from its perpetual mean glare and he was trying something new.
“Morgan,” LaGuerta said to Deb, “I didn't recognize you with clothes on.”
“I guess it's possible to miss a lot of obvious things, Detective,” Deb said before I could stop her.
“It is,” LaGuerta said. “That's why some of us never make detective.” It was a complete and effortless victory, and LaGuerta didn't even wait to see the shot go home. She turned away from Deb and spoke to Doakes. “Find out who has keys to the arena. Who could get in here whenever they wanted.”
“Uh-huh,” said Doakes. “Check all the locks, see if somebody busted in?”
“No,” LaGuerta told him with a pretty little frown. “We got our ice connection now.” She glanced at Deborah. “That refrigerated truck is just to confuse us.” Back to Doakes. “The tissue damage had to come from the ice, from here. So the killer is connected to the ice in this place.” She looked one last time at Deborah. “Not the truck.”
“Uh-huh,” said Doakes. He didn't sound convinced, but he wasn't in charge.
LaGuerta looked over at me. “I think you can go home, Dexter,” she said. “I know where you live when I need you.” At least she didn't wink.
Deborah walked me to the big double doors of the arena. “If this keeps up, I'll be a crossing guard in a year,” she grumbled at me.
“Nonsense, Deb,” I said. “Two months, max.”
“Well really. You can't challenge her openly like that. Didn't you see how Sergeant Doakes did it? Have some subtlety, for God's sake.”
“Subtlety.” She stopped dead in her tracks and grabbed me. “Listen, Dexter,” she said. “This isn't some kind of game here.”
“But it is, Deb. A political game. And you're not playing it properly.”
“I'm not playing anything,” she snarled. “There are human lives at stake. There's a butcher running loose, and he's going to stay loose as long as that half-wit LaGuerta is running things.”
I fought down a surge of hope. “That may be so—”
“It is so,” Deb insisted.
“—but Deborah, you can't change that by getting yourself exiled to Coconut Grove traffic duty.”
“No,” she said. “But I can change it by finding the killer.”
Well there it was. Some people just have no idea how the world works. She was otherwise a very smart person, truly she was. She had simply inherited all of Harry's earthy directness, his straightforward way of dealing with things, without latching on to any of his accompanying wisdom. With Harry, bluntness had been a way to cut through the fecal matter. With Deborah, it was a way of pretending there wasn't any.
I got a ride back to my car with one of the patrol units outside the arena. I drove home, imagining I had kept the head, wrapped it carefully in tissue paper, and placed it in the backseat to take home with me. Terrible and silly, I know. For the first time I understood those sad men, usually Shriners, who fondle women's shoes or carry around dirty underwear. An awful feeling that made me want a shower almost as much as I wanted to stroke the head.
But I didn't have it. Nothing for it but to go home. I drove slowly, a few miles per hour under the speed limit. In Miami that's like wearing a KICK ME sign on your back. No one actually kicked me, of course. They would have had to slow down for that. But I was honked at seven times, flipped off eight, and five cars simply roared around me, either onto the sidewalk or through oncoming traffic.
But today even the energetic high spirits of the other drivers couldn't cheer me. I was dead tired and bemused and I needed to think, away from the echoing din of the arena and the bonehead blather of LaGuerta. Driving slowly gave me time to wonder, to work through the meaning of all that had happened. And I found that one silly phrase kept ringing in my head, bouncing off the rocks and crannies of my exhausted brain. It took on a life of its own. The more I heard it in my thoughts, the more sense it made. And beyond sense, it became a kind of seductive mantra. It became the key to thinking about the killer, the head rolling into the street, the rearview mirror tucked away amid the wonderfully dry body parts.
If it had been me—
As in, “If it had been me, what would I be saying with the mirror?” and “If it had been me, what would I have done with the truck?”
Of course it had not been me, and that kind of envy is very bad for the soul, but since I was not aware of having one it didn't matter. If it had been me, the truck would be run into a ditch somewhere not too far from the arena. And then I would get far away from there fast—in a stashed car? A stolen one? It would depend. If it had been me, would I have planned on leaving the body at the arena all along, or had that come up as a response to the chase on the causeway?
Except that made no sense. He could not have counted on anyone chasing him out to North Bay Village—could he? But then why did he have the head ready to throw? And then why take the rest to the arena? It seemed like an odd choice. Yes, there was a great deal of ice there, and the coldness was all to the good. But the vast clattery space was really not appropriate for my kind of intimate moment—if it had been me. There was a terrible, wide-open desolation that was not at all conducive to real creativity. Fun to visit, but not a real artist's studio. A dumping ground, and not a work space. It just didn't have the proper feeling to it.
If it had been me, that is.
So the arena was a bold stroke into unexplored territory. It would give the police fits, and it would most definitely lead them in the wrong direction. If they ever figured out that there was a direction to be led in, which seemed increasingly unlikely.
And to top it off with the mirror—if I was right about the reasons for selecting the arena, then the addition of the mirror would of course support that. It would be a comment on what had just happened, connected to leaving the head. It would be a statement that would bring together all the other threads, wrap them up as neatly as the stacked body parts, an elegant underlining to a major work. Now what would the statement be, if it was me?
I see you.
Well. Of course that was it, in spite of being somewhat obvious. I see you. I know you're behind me, and I am watching you. But I am far ahead of you, too, controlling your course and setting your speed and watching you follow me. I see you. I know who you are and where you are, and all you know about me is that I am watching. I see you.
That felt right. Why didn't it make me feel better?
Further, how much of this should I tell poor dear Deborah? This was becoming so intensely personal that it was a struggle to remember that there was a public side to it, a side that was important to my sister and her career. I could not begin to tell her—or anyone—that I thought the killer was trying to tell me something, if I had the wit to hear and reply. But the rest—was there something I needed to tell her, and did I actually want to?
It was too much. I needed sleep before I could sort all this out.
I did not quite whimper as I crawled into my bed, but it was a very near thing. I allowed sleep to roll over me quickly, just letting go into the darkness. And I got nearly two and a half full hours of sleep before the telephone rang.
“It's me,” said the voice on the other end.
“Of course it is,” I said. “Deborah, wasn't it?” And of course it was.
“I found the refrigerated truck.”
“Well, congratulations, Deb. That's very good news.”
There was a rather long silence on the other end.
“Deb?” I said finally. “That is good news, isn't it?”
“No,” she said.
“Oh.” I felt the need for sleep thumping my head like carpet beaters on a prayer rug, but I tried to concentrate. “Um, Deb—what did you . . . what happened?”
“I made the match,” she said. “Made absolutely certain. Pictures and part numbers and everything. So I told LaGuerta like a good scout.”
“And she didn't believe you?” I asked incredulously.
“She probably did.”
I tried to blink, but my eyes wanted to stick shut so I gave it up. “I'm sorry, Deb, one of us isn't making much sense. Is it me?”
“I tried to explain it to her,” Deborah said in a very small, very tired voice that gave me a terrible feeling of sinking under the waves without a bailing bucket. “I gave her the whole thing. I was even polite.”
“That's very good,” I said. “What did she say?”
“Nothing,” Deb said.
“Nothing at all?”
“Nothing at all,” Deb repeated. “Except she just says thanks, in a kind of way like you'd say it to the valet parking attendant. And she gives me this funny little smile and turns away.”
“Well, but Deb,” I said, “you can't really expect her to—”
“And then I found out why she smiled like that,” Deb said. “Like I'm some kind of unwashed half-wit and she's finally figured out where to lock me up.”
“Oh, no,” I said. “You mean you're off the case?”
“We're all off the case, Dexter,” Deb said, her voice as tired as I felt. “LaGuerta's made an arrest.”
There was far too much silence on the line all of a sudden and I couldn't think at all, but at least I was wide awake. “What?” I said.
“LaGuerta has arrested somebody. Some guy who works at the arena. She has him in custody and she's sure he's the killer.”
“That's not possible,” I said, although I knew it was possible, the brain-dead bitch. LaGuerta, not Deb.
“I know that, Dexter. But don't try to tell LaGuerta. She's sure she got the right guy.”
“How sure?” I asked. My head was spinning and I felt a little bit like throwing up. I couldn't really say why.
Deb snorted. “She has a press conference in one hour,” she said. “For her, that's positive.”
The pounding in my head got too loud to hear what Deb might have said next. LaGuerta had made an arrest? Who? Who could she possibly have tagged for it? Could she truly ignore all the clues, the smell and feel and taste of these kills, and arrest somebody? Because nobody who could do what this killer had done—was doing!—could possibly allow a pimple like LaGuerta to catch him. Never. I would bet my life on it.
“No, Deborah,” I said. “No. Not possible. She's got the wrong guy.”
Deborah laughed, a tired, dirty-up-to-here cop's laugh. “Yeah,” she said. “I know it. You know it. But she doesn't know it. And you want to know something funny? Neither does he.”
That made no sense at all. “What are you saying, Deb? Who doesn't know?”
She repeated that awful little laugh. “The guy she arrested. I guess he must be almost as confused as LaGuerta, Dex. Because he confessed.”
“He confessed, Dexter. The bastard confessed.”
Äàòà äîáàâëåíèÿ: 2015-09-13; ïðîñìîòðîâ: 6; Íàðóøåíèå àâòîðñêèõ ïðàâ