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

AND I HAD. SO LONG AGO, YET THE MEMORY STILL pulsed in me. Of course, I still had that first dry drop of blood on its slide. It was my first, and I could call up that memory any time by taking out my little slide and looking at it. I did, every so often. It had been a very special day for Dexter. Last Nurse had been First Playmate, and she had opened up so many wonderful doors for me. I had learned so much, found out so many new things.

But why was I remembering Last Nurse now? Why did this whole series of events seem to be whipping me back through time? I could not afford a fond remembrance of my first pair of long pants. I needed to explode into action, make large decisions, and begin important deeds. Instead of strolling sappily down memory lane, wallowing in sweet memories of my first blood slide.

Which, now that I thought of it, I had not collected from Jaworski. It was the kind of tiny, absurdly unimportant detail that turned strong men of action into fidgeting, whimpering neurotics. I needed that slide. Jaworski's death was useless without it. The whole idiotic episode was now worse than a stupid and impulsive foolishness; it was incomplete. I had no slide.

I shook my head, trying spastically to rattle two gray cells into the same synapse. I half wanted to take my boat for an early-morning spin. Perhaps the salt air would clear the stupidity from my skull. Or I could head south to Turkey Point and hope that the radiation might mutate me back into a rational creature. But instead, I made coffee. No slide, indeed. It cheapened the whole experience. Without the slide, I might as well have stayed home. Or almost, at any rate. There had been other rewards. I smiled fondly, recalling the mix of moonlight and muffled screams. Oh, what a madcap little monster I had been. An episode unlike any of my others. It was good to break out of dull routine from time to time. And there was Rita, of course, but I had no idea what to think about that, so I didn't. Instead I thought of the cool breeze flowing across the squirming little man who had liked to hurt children. It had almost been a happy time. But of course, in ten years the memory would fade, and without that slide I could not bring it back. I needed my souvenir. Well, we would see.

While the coffee brewed, I checked for the newspaper, more out of hope than expectation. It was rare for the paper to arrive before six-thirty, and on Sundays it often came after eight. It was another clear example of the disintegration of society that had so worried Harry. Really, now: If you can't get me my newspaper on time, how can you expect me to refrain from killing people?

No paper; no matter. Press coverage of my adventures had never been terribly interesting to me. And Harry had warned me about the idiocy of keeping any kind of scrapbook. He didn't need to; I rarely even glanced at the reviews of my performances. This time was a little different, of course, since I had been so impetuous and was mildly worried that I had not covered my tracks properly. I was just a bit curious to see what might be said about my accidental party. So I sat with my coffee for about forty-five minutes until I heard the paper thump against the door. I brought it in and flipped it open.

Whatever else one can say about journalistsand there is a very great deal, almost an encyclopediathey are very rarely troubled by memory. The same paper that had so recently trumpeted COPS CORRAL KILLER now screamed ICE MAN'S STORY MELTS! It was a long and lovely piece, very dramatically written, detailing the discovery of a badly abused body at a construction site just off Old Cutler Road. A Metro Miami police spokespersonmeaning Detective LaGuerta, I was suresaid that it was much too soon to say anything with certainty, but this was probably a copycat killing. The paper had drawn its own conclusionsanother thing they are seldom shy aboutand was now wondering aloud if the distinguished gentleman in captivity, Mr. Daryll Earl McHale, was actually, in fact, the killer. Or was the killer still at large, as evidenced by this latest outrage upon public morality? Because, the paper carefully pointed out, how could we believe that two such killers could possibly be on the loose at the same time? It was very neatly reasoned, and it occurred to me that if they had spent as much energy and mental power trying to solve the murders, the whole thing would be over by now.

But it was all very interesting reading, of course. And it certainly made me speculate. Good heavens, was it really possible that this mad animal was still running loose? Was anyone safe?

The telephone rang. I glanced at my wall clock; it was 6:45. It could only be Deborah.

I'm reading it now, I said into the phone.

You said bigger, Deborah told me. Splashier.

And this isn't? I asked with great innocence.

It's not even a hooker, she said. Some part-time janitor from Ponce Junior High, chopped up at a construction site on Old Cutler. What the hell, Dexter?

You did know I'm not perfect, didn't you, Deborah?

It doesn't even fit the patternwhere's the cold you said would be there? What happened to the small space?

It's Miami, Deb, people will steal anything.

It's not even a copycat, she said. It isn't anything like the others. Even LaGuerta got that right. She's already said so in print. Damn it all, Dexter. My butt is way out in the wind here, and this is just some random slasher, or a drug thing.

It hardly seems fair to blame me for all that.

Goddamn it, Dex, she said, and hung up.

The early-morning TV shows spent a full ninety seconds on the shocking discovery of the shattered body. Channel 7 had the best adjectives. But nobody knew any more than the paper. They radiated outrage and a grim sense of disaster that even carried over into the weather forecast, but I'm sure a large part of it was caused by the lack of pictures.

Another beautiful Miami day. Mutilated corpses with a chance of afternoon showers. I got dressed and went to work.

I admit I had a minor ulterior motive in heading for the office so early, and I beefed it up by stopping for pastries. I bought two crullers, an apple fritter, and a cinnamon roll the size of my spare tire. I ate the fritter and one cruller as I cheerfully threaded through the lethal traffic. I don't know how I get away with eating so many doughnuts. I don't gain weight or get pimples, and although that may seem unfair, I can't find it in my heart to complain. I came out reasonably well in the genetic crapshoot: high metabolism, good size and strength, all of which helped me in my hobby. And I have been told that I am not awful to look at, which I believe is meant to be a compliment.

I also didn't need a great deal of sleep, which was nice this morning. I had hoped to arrive early enough to beat Vince Masuoka to work, and it seemed that I had. His office was dark when I got there, clutching my white paper bag for camouflagebut my visit had nothing whatever to do with doughnuts. I scanned his work area quickly, looking for the telltale evidence box labeled JAWORSKI and yesterday's date.

I found it and quickly lifted out a few tissue samples. There might be enough. I pulled on a pair of latex gloves and in a moment had pressed the samples to my clean glass slide. I do realize how stupid it was to take yet another risk, but I had to have my slide.

I had just tucked it away in a ziplock baggie when I heard him come in behind me. I quickly put things back in place and whirled to face the door, as Vince came through and saw me.

My God, I said. You move so silently. So you have had ninja training.

I have two older brothers, Vince said. It's the same thing.

I held up the white paper bag and bowed. Master, I bring a gift.

He looked at the bag curiously. May Buddha bless you, grasshopper. What is it?

I tossed him the bag. It hit him in the chest and slid to the floor. So much for ninja training, I said.

My finely tuned body needs coffee to function, Vince told me, bending to retrieve the bag. What's in here? That hurt. He reached into the bag, frowning. It better not be body parts. He pulled out the huge cinnamon roll and eyed it. Ay, caramba. My village will not starve this year. We are very grateful, grasshopper. He bowed, holding up the pastry. A debt repaid is a blessing on us all, my child.

In that case, I said, do you have the case file on the one they found last night off Old Cutler?

Vince took a big bite of cinnamon roll. His lips gleamed with frosting as he slowly chewed. Mmmpp, he said, and swallowed. Are we feeling left out?

If we means Deborah, yes we are, I said. I told her I'd take a look at the file for her.

Wulf, he said, mouth full of pastry, merf pluddy uh bud is nime.

Forgive me, master, I said. Your language is strange to me.

He chewed and swallowed. I said, at least there's plenty of blood this time. But you're still a wallflower. Bradley got the call for this one.

Can I see the file?

He took a bite. Ee waf awife

Very true, I'm sure. And in English?

Vince swallowed. I said, he was still alive when his leg came off.

Human beings are so resilient, aren't they?

Vince stuck the whole pastry in his mouth and picked up the file, holding it out to me and taking a large bite of the roll at the same time. I grabbed the folder.

I've got to go, I said. Before you try to talk again.

He pulled the roll from his mouth. Too late, he said.

I walked slowly back to my little cubbyhole, glancing at the contents of the folder. Gervasio César Martez had discovered the body. His statement was on top of the folder. He was a security guard, employed by Sago Security Systems. He had worked for them for fourteen months and had no criminal record. Martez had found the body at approximately 10:17 PM and immediately made a quick search of the area before calling police. He wanted to catch the pendejo who had done this thing because no one should do such things and they had done it when he, Gervasio, was on the job. That was like they had done it to him, you know? So he would catch the monster himself. But this had not been possible. There was no sign of the perpetrator, not anywhere, and so he had called the police.

The poor man had taken it personally. I shared his outrage. Such brutality should not be allowed. Of course, I was also very grateful that his sense of honor had given me time to get away. And here I had always thought morality was useless.

I turned the corner into my dark little room and walked right into Detective LaGuerta. Hah, she said. You don't see so good. But she didn't move.

I'm not a morning person, I told her. My biorhythms are all off until noon.

She looked up at me from an inch away. They look okay to me, she said.

I slid around her to my desk. Can I make some small contribution to the full majesty of the law this morning? I asked her.

She stared at me. You have a message, she said. On your machine.

I looked over at my answering machine. Sure enough, the light was blinking. The woman really was a detective.

It's some girl, LaGuerta said. She sounds kind of sleepy and happy. You got a girlfriend, Dexter? There was a strange hint of challenge in her voice.

You know how it is, I said. Women today are so forward, and when you are as handsome as I am they absolutely fling themselves at your head. Perhaps an unfortunate choice of words; as I said it I couldn't help thinking of the woman's head flung at me not so long ago.

Watch out, LaGuerta said. Sooner or later one of them will stick. I had no idea what she thought that meant, but it was a very unsettling image.

I'm sure you're right, I said. Until then, carpe diem.


It's Latin, I said. It means, complain in daylight.

What have you got about this thing last night? she said suddenly.

I held up the case file. I was just looking at it, I said.

It's not the same, she said, frowning. No matter what those asshole reporters say. McHale is guilty. He confessed. This one is not the same.

I guess it seems like too much of a coincidence, I said. Two brutal killers at the same time.

LaGuerta shrugged. It's Miami, what do they think? Here is where these guys come on vacation. There's lots of bad guys out there. I can't catch them all.

To be truthful, she couldn't catch any of them unless they hurled themselves off a building and into the front seat of her car, but this didn't seem like a good time to bring that up. LaGuerta stepped closer to me and flicked the folder with a dark red fingernail. I need you to find something here, Dexter. To show it's not the same.

A light dawned. She was getting unpleasant pressure, probably from Captain Matthews, a man who believed what he read in the papers as long as they spelled his name right. And she needed some ammunition to fight back. Of course it's not the same, I said. But why come to me?

She stared at me for a moment through half-closed eyes, a curious effect. I think I had seen the same stare in some of the movies Rita had dragged me to see, but why on earth Detective LaGuerta had turned the look on me I couldn't say. I let you in the seventy-two-hour briefing, she said. Even though Doakes wants you dead, I let you stay.

Thank you very much.

Because you have a feeling for these things sometimes. The serial ones. That's what they all say. Dexter has a feeling sometimes.

Oh, really, I said, just a lucky guess once or twice.

And I need somebody in the lab who can find something.

Then why not ask Vince?

He's not so cute, she said. You find something.

She was still uncomfortably close, so close I could smell her shampoo. I'll find something, I said.

She nodded at the answering machine. You gonna call her back? You don't have time for chasing pussy.

She still hadn't backed up, and it took me a moment to realize she was talking about the message on my machine. I gave her my very best political smile. I think it's chasing me, Detective.

Hah. You got that right. She gave me a long look, then turned and walked away.

I don't know why, but I watched her go. I really couldn't think of anything else to do. Just before she passed out of sight around the corner, she smoothed her skirt across her hips and turned to look at me. Then she was gone, off into the vague mysteries of Homicidal Politics.

And me? Poor dear dazed Dexter? What else could I do? I sank into my office chair and pushed the play button on my answering machine. Hi, Dexter. It's me. Of course it was. And as odd as it was, the slow, slightly raspy voice sounded like me was Rita. Mm . . . I was thinking about last night. Call me, mister. As LaGuerta had observed, she sounded kind of tired and happy. Apparently I had a real girlfriend now.

Where would the madness end?

: 2015-09-13; : 7;

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