“Did they tell you about anyone who concerned them, who gave them any grief, put any pressure on them to use again?”
“No. None of them had any family, no one they were close to or had contact with, not for a long time. They formed friendships, associations at the Center, and at Get Straight. They were still in the honeymoon stage, so happy to be where they were, so happy to have each other.”
“Were they intimate?”
“No, not sexually. Jen and Coby had been, if you can call it intimacy, when they were both using. What they’d formed now was a family, so they lived that way. For Jen, sex had been that bartering tool, or something to do with another addict. She’d become desensitized about sex. I think she was beginning to feel normal and natural urges. She was attracted to Pach—Pachai Gupta—and he to her. But neither of them moved on it.”
“How can you be sure?”
“She would have told me. Honesty had become a vital tool for her in recovery, and she trusted me. They’d made a vow—Jen, Coby, and Will—to abstain for six months, to focus on themselves as individuals. Coby joked about it. He was funny, sharp. He’d used that charm and wit to survive on the streets. Now he used it to keep himself and his friends steady. Wil went the more spiritual route. He’d lived with his great-grandmother until she died, and she’d taken him to church. He’d started to go back. Jen and Coby went with him a few times, but more for friendship than interest.”
“Ah . . . Chelsea Baptist.”
“Where else did they go routinely, do routinely?”
“They liked to hang out at the Twelfth Street Diner, drink coffee, and talk. They all put in time at Get Straight, attending meetings, taking on chores—cleaning, organizing donations—that’s part of the program. They attended group there, too, as well as here. They’d see a vid now and then, but primarily they worked—saved their money toward finding a place to live—concentrated on the program, studied. Or Jen did. She was taking a business class.”
“You gave them permission to live in the building?”
“Yes. Justin asked me, and we thought it would give them a breather, allow them to live on their own, save, stay close to the Center. The stipulation was they had to keep the place, and themselves, clean. They did.”
“You visited them there?”
“Either Justin or I would drop by once a week. Spot-check,” she said with the first hint of a smile. “We trusted them. But you can’t trust the addiction.”
The sharp call sliced through the quiet garden. A man, tall, his dark hair cropped close to a tanned face, hurried toward them. His eyes, a green as sharp as his voice, were all for Arianna. Ignoring Eve and Peabody, he grabbed her hands, got to his knees.
“I heard what happened. What can I do for you?”
“Eton.” Tears shimmered in her eyes. Eve saw her bear down against them. “I was going to tell you myself, but I needed to speak with the police. Lieutenant Dallas, Detective Peabody, my associate, Eton Billingsly.”
“The police.” He shot Eve a disgusted look. “At a time like this?”
“Murder usually brings the cops.”
“It’s hardly necessary to interrogate Arianna at all, and particularly before she’s had time to process.”
“Okay. Let’s interrogate you. Where were you between one and four a.m. this morning?”
He blustered. Eve couldn’t think of another word for the sounds he made or the look on his face as he sprang to his feet. “I’m not answering any of your insulting questions, and neither is Arianna.”
“Oh yeah, you are,” Eve corrected, “here or at Cop Central. Your choice.”
“Eton.” Arianna rose. “Stop now. You’re upset. The police are trying to find out who hurt Jen and the boys, and why.”
“They’ll hardly find out here, with you.” He took her hands again. “Justin should never have allowed it.”
“Justin doesn’t allow anything.” Gently, but deliberately, Arianna drew her hands away.
“You’re right, of course. But it’s natural to want to shield you from this kind of ordeal. I know how much you’d invested in these recoverings.”
“I haven’t heard an answer yet, Mr. Billingsly.”
“Dr. Billingsly,” he snapped at Eve. “And at that time of the morning, I was home in bed.”
“What was your relationship with the victims?”
Perhaps due to the fact that his face went red, Arianna answered for him. “Eton is one of our psychologists. He specializes in hypnotherapy. The process can help them through withdrawal, give them focus, and can often help them bring the root of their addiction to the surface.”
“So, did you do the ‘you’re getting sleepy’ with the victims?” Eve asked him.
“As Arianna can tell you, they were making excellent, even exceptional, progress.”
“When’s the last time you had contact with them—each of them?”
“I’d have to check my book. I can hardly remember off the top of my head.”
“Do that. Did you ever visit the building where they were living?”
His lips thinned. “No. Why would I? Instead of wasting time here, you should be out on the street, looking for the maniacs who did this. It’s obviously the result of violent addicts, people they associated with before they began the program.”
“Nothing’s obvious at this point. You’ve been very helpful,” she said to Arianna.
“Can you let us know when . . . Justin and I would like to arrange a memorial. We’d like to arrange for their remains.”
“Arianna,” Billingsly began.
“Eton, please. It’s little enough.”
“I’m required to inform the next of kin,” Eve told her. “I’ll be in touch once I have. You have transcripts of your sessions with them. They could help me. Doctor-patient privilege doesn’t apply when the patients are dead.”
“I’ll have them sent to you this afternoon. I’ll show you the way out.”
“We’ve got it, thanks.”
As they walked away, Eve glanced back. Eton had her hands again, his head bent toward hers as he talked rapidly.
“Asshole,” was Peabody’s opinion.
“Big, flaming asshole with a big, flaming temper. Looks like he keeps in good shape. Bet he puts in plenty of gym time. And he wants Arianna Whitwood for his own.”
“Oh yeah, and she doesn’t want him for hers.”
“That’s a pisser for him. I bet she gave the vics a lot more of her time, attention, and affection than she gives Billingsly, which is another pisser for him.”
“Killing the hell out of them doesn’t change that. Would be a pretty murky motive.”
“Maybe, but I really hate him already. Plus, hypnotherapy. Who knows what he’s up to with that?”
“Why didn’t you ask for his transcripts?”
“Because he wouldn’t give them up, not without a warrant, which you’re going to put in the works while we head over to Get Straight.”
“Oooh, that’s going to be another pisser for Billingsly.”
“I can only hope it’s not the last.”
They got little more from Get Straight but confirmation of everything they’d heard before, and more grief. Even as they stepped out into the air holding the first faint hint of fall, Eve’s com signaled. She recognized the first on scene on her screen.
“Sir, we dug up a wit claims she saw someone near the rear of the crime scene, and observed him stuffing something in the recycler where we found the bloody protective gear.”
“That’s a break. How good a look?”
“She claims a good, solid one. There’s a streetlight, and she states she saw him clearly, and he was dancing.”