CHAPTER 12. HIS NAME WAS DARYLL EARL MCHALE AND HE WAS what we liked to call a two-time loser

  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

HIS NAME WAS DARYLL EARL MCHALE AND HE WAS what we liked to call a two-time loser. Twelve of his last twenty years had been spent as a guest of the State of Florida. Dear Sergeant Doakes had managed to dig his name out of the arena's personnel files. In a computer cross-check for employees with a record of violence or felony convictions, McHale's name had popped up twice.

Daryll Earl was a drunk and a wife beater. Apparently he occasionally knocked over filling stations, too, just for the entertainment value. He could be relied on to hold down a minimum wage job for a month or two. But then some fine Friday night he'd throw back a few six-packs and start to believe he was the Wrath of God. So he'd drive around until he found a gas station that just pissed him off. He'd charge in waving a weapon, take the money, and drive away. Then he'd use his massive $80 or $90 haul to buy a few more six-packs until he felt so good he just had to beat up on somebody. Daryll Earl was not a large man: five six and scrawny. So to play it safe, the somebody he beat on usually turned out to be his wife.

Things being what they were, he'd actually gotten away with it a couple of times. But one night he went a little too far with his wife and put her into traction for a month. She pressed charges, and since Daryll Earl already had a record, he'd done some serious time.

He still drank, but he'd apparently been frightened enough at Raiford to straighten out just a bit. He'd gotten a job as a janitor at the arena and actually held on to it. As far as we could tell, he hadn't beaten up his wife for ages.

And more, Our Boy had even had a few moments of fame when the Panthers made their run at the Stanley Cup. Part of his job had been to run out and clean up when the fans threw objects on the ice. That Stanley Cup year, this had been a major job, since every time the Panthers scored the fans threw three or four thousand plastic rats onto the rink. Daryll Earl had to schlep out and pick them all up, boring work, no doubt. And so encouraged by a few snorts of very cheap vodka one night, he'd picked up one of the plastic rats and done a little Rat Dance. The crowd ate it up and yelled for more. They began to call for it when Daryll Earl skidded out onto the ice. Daryll Earl did the dance for the rest of the season.

Plastic rats were forbidden nowadays. Even if they had been required by federal statute, nobody would have been throwing them. The Panthers hadn't scored a goal since the days when Miami had an honest mayor, sometime in the last century. But McHale still showed up at the games hoping for one last on-camera two-step.

At the press conference LaGuerta played that part beautifully. She made it sound like the memory of his small fame had driven Daryll Earl over the edge into murder. And of course with his drunkenness and his record of violence toward women, he was the perfect suspect for this series of stupid and brutal murders. But Miami's hookers could rest easy; the killing was over. Driven by the overwhelming pressure of an intense and merciless investigation, Daryll Earl had confessed. Case closed. Back to work, girls.

The press ate it up. You couldn't really blame them, I suppose. LaGuerta did a masterful job of presenting just enough fact colored with high-gloss wishful thinking that nearly anyone would have been convinced. And of course you don't actually have to take an IQ test to become a reporter. Even so, I always hope for just the smallest glimmer. And I'm always disappointed. Perhaps I saw too many black-and-white movies as a child. I still thought the cynical, world-weary drunk from the large metropolitan daily was supposed to ask an awkward question and force the investigators to carefully reexamine the evidence.

But sadly, life does not always imitate art. And at LaGuerta's press conference, the part of Spencer Tracy was played by a series of male and female models with perfect hair and tropical-weight suits. Their penetrating questions amounted to, How did it feel to find the head? and Can we have some pictures?

One lone reporter, Nick Something from the local NBC TV affiliate, asked LaGuerta if she was sure McHale was the killer. But when she said that the overwhelming preponderance of evidence indicated that this was the case and anyway the confession was conclusive, he let it go. Either he was satisfied or the words were too big.

And so there it was. Case closed, justice done. The mighty machinery of Metro Miami's awesome crime-fighting apparatus had once again triumphed over the dark forces besieging Our Fair City. It was a lovely show. LaGuerta handed out some very sinister-looking mug shots of Daryll Earl stapled to those new glossy shots of herself investigating a $250-an-hour high-fashion photographer on South Beach.

It made a wonderfully ironic package; the appearance of danger and the lethal reality, so very different. Because however coarse and brutal Daryll Earl looked, the real threat to society was LaGuerta. She had called off the hounds, closed down the hue and cry, sent people back to bed in a burning building.

Was I the only one who could see that Daryll Earl McHale could not possibly be the killer? That there was a style and wit here that a brickhead like McHale couldn't even understand?

I had never been more alone than I was in my admiration for the real killer's work. The very body parts seemed to sing to me, a rhapsody of bloodless wonder that lightened my heart and filled my veins with an intoxicating sense of awe. But it was certainly not going to interfere with my zeal in capturing the real killer, a cold and wanton executioner of the innocent who absolutely must be brought to justice. Right, Dexter? Right? Hello?

I sat in my apartment, rubbing my sleep-crusted eyes and thinking about the show I had just watched. It had been as near perfect as a press conference could be without free food and nudity. LaGuerta had clearly pulled every string she had ever gotten a hand on in order to make it the biggest, splashiest press conference possible, and it had been. And for perhaps the first time in her Gucci-licking career, LaGuerta really and truly believed she had the right man. She had to believe it. It was kind of sad, really. She thought she had done everything right this time. She wasn't just making political moves; in her mind she was cashing in on a clean and well-lit piece of work. She'd solved the crime, done it her way, caught the bad guy, stopped the killing. Well-earned applause all around for a job well done. And what a lovely surprise she would get when the next body turned up.

Because I knew with no room for doubt that the killer was still out there. He was probably watching the press conference on Channel 7, the channel of choice for people with an eye for carnage. At the moment he would be laughing too hard to hold a blade, but that would pass. And when it did his sense of humor would no doubt prompt him to comment on the situation.

For some reason the thought did not overwhelm me with fear and loathing and a grim determination to stop this madman before it was too late. Instead I felt a little surge of anticipation. I knew it was very wrong, and perhaps that made it feel even better. Oh, I wanted this killer stopped, brought to justice, yes, certainlybut did it have to be soon?

There was also a small trade-off to make. If I was going to do my little part to stop the real killer, then I should at least make something positive happen at the same time. And as I thought it, my telephone rang.

Yes, I saw it, I said into the receiver.

Jesus, said Deborah on the other end. I think I'm going to be sick.

Well, I won't mop your fevered brow, sis. There's work to be done.

Jesus, she repeated. Then, What work?

Tell me, I asked her. Are you in ill odor, sis?

I'm tired, Dexter. And I'm more pissed off than I've ever been in my life. What's that in English?

I'm asking if you are in what Dad would have called the doghouse. Is your name mud in the department? Has your professional reputation been muddied, damaged, sullied, colored, rendered questionable?

Between LaGuerta's backstabbing and the Einstein thing? My professional reputation is shit, she said with more sourness than I would have thought possible in someone so young.

Good. It's important that you don't have anything to lose.

She snorted. Glad I could help. 'Cause I'm there, Dexter. If I sink any lower in the department, I'll be making coffee for community relations. Where is this going, Dex?

I closed my eyes and leaned all the way back in my chair. You are going to go on recordwith the captain and the department itselfas believing that Daryll Earl is the wrong man and that another murder is going to take place. You will present a couple of compelling reasons culled from your investigation, and you will be the laughingstock of Miami Metro for a little while.

I already am, she said. No big deal. But is there some reason for this?

I shook my head. It was sometimes hard for me to believe she could be so naïve. Sister dearest, I said, you don't truly believe Daryll Earl is guilty, do you?

She didn't answer. I could hear her breathing and it occurred to me that she must be tired, too, every bit as tired as I was, but without the jolt of energy I got from being certain I was right. Deb?

The guy confessed, Dexter, she said at last, and I heard the utter fatigue in her voice. I don'tI've been wrong before, even when I mean, but he confessed. Doesn't that, that . . . Shit. Maybe we should just let it go, Dex.

Oh ye of little faith, I said. She's got the wrong guy, Deborah. And you are now going to rewrite the politics.

Sure I am.

Daryll Earl McHale is not it, I said. There's absolutely no doubt about it.

Even if you're right, so what? she said.

Now it was my turn to blink and wonder. Excuse me?

Well, look, if I'm this killer, why don't I realize I'm off the hook now? With this other guy arrested, the heat's off, you know. Why don't I just stop? Or even take off for someplace else and start over?

Impossible, I said. You don't understand how this guy thinks.

Yeah, I know, she said. How come you do?

I chose to ignore that. He's going to stay right here and he's going to kill again. He has to show us all what he thinks of us.

Which is what?

It's not good, I admitted. We've done something stupid by arresting an obvious twinky like Daryll Earl. That's funny.

Ha, ha, Deb said with no amusement.

But we've also insulted him. We've given this lowbrow brain-dead redneck all the credit for his work, which is like telling Jackson Pollock your six-year-old could have painted that.

Jackson Pollock? The painter? Dexter, this guy's a butcher.

In his own way, Deborah, he is an artist. And he thinks of himself that way.

For Christ's sake. That's the stupidest

Trust me, Deb.

Sure, I trust you. Why shouldn't I trust you? So we have an angrily amused artist who's not going anywhere, right?

Right, I said. He has to do it again, and it has to be under our noses, and it probably has to be a little bigger.

You mean he's going to kill a fat hooker this time?

Bigger in scale, Deborah. Larger in concept. Splashier.

Oh. Splashier. Sure. Like with a mulcher.

The stakes have gone up, Debs. We've pushed him and insulted him a little and the next kill will reflect that.

Uh-huh, she said. And how would that work?

I don't really know, I admitted.

But you're sure.

That's right, I said.

Swell, she said. Now I know what to watch for.

: 2015-09-13; : 5;

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