“That’s her statement, Lieutenant.” Eve heard the shrug in his voice. “Her description’s pretty strange, but she’s sticking to it, and doesn’t strike me as a whack job. Her apartment’s got a good view of the area, and she was up walking her kid—kid’s teething. She’s a short-order cook on parental leave. We got her on the canvass.”
“What did she see?”
He cleared his throat. “A monster. Possibly a demon.”
“Officer Slovic, are you actually wasting my time on this?”
“Sir, I wouldn’t, but she gave details, she had the time down, and she admits it sounds crazy.”
“Give me the details.”
“Male, medium build—she thinks—dark hair, wild and stringy.” He made the throat-clearing sound again. “Greenish skin, red, bulging eyes, contorted features, and prominent teeth, wearing a black cape and carrying a black satchel.”
“And this green, red-eyed monster was dancing in the streetlight.”
“And laughing, sir, in what the wit describes as a wild, guttural laugh. I believe her, Lieutenant, I mean about what she saw. It could be the subject was wearing a mask or a disguise.”
“Yeah.” Eve heaved out a sigh. “Will she work with an artist?”
“She’s anxious to.”
“Contact Detective Yancy at Central, and get her to him.”
She shoved the com into her pocket. “A green, red-eyed, cape-wearing monster.”
“Or possibly demon,” Peabody put in and earned a sneer. “I’m not saying I believe in monsters and demons, but somebody hyped up on Zeus, say, convinced he is one, gets in the gear to top it off. Since the wit only saw one man, and the evidence leans toward one man—he’d have to be hyped on something. Zeus not only makes you crazy, but it deadens you to pain, pumps the adrenaline.”
“Maybe. We’ll see it through.” She checked the time. “I want you to go by Slice, talk to the boss, the coworkers, and do the same at the twenty-four/seven. You can round it off with the diner they used as a hang spot. Maybe they had some trouble last night, or somebody followed them home. I’m going to swing by the morgue, see what Morris can give us. We’ll hook up back at Central.”
“I’d sure as hell rather go to a pizza joint than the morgue. Want me to bring you a slice?”
“No . . . maybe. Yeah.”
Eve slid behind the wheel and headed for the morgue.
Zeus was a good fit, she thought, but not a perfect one. It fit the violence, the frenzy of it. But not the calculation. Still, a blend . . . and some enterprising soul was always coming up with a new and improved in the illegals game.
Flying on Zeus, a man could hack, beat, choke—and laugh his ass off while doing it. But he couldn’t plan—costume, satchel with weapons and protective gear, gloved or sealed hands. She didn’t expect the sweepers to gift wrap the killer’s prints for her.
He’d broken in through the back window, Eve thought, bringing the scene back into her head. Need a tool for that, in the satchel. Climb in, nice and quiet—something else that didn’t fit the Zeus, not pure Zeus. Bathroom, back room all neat and tidy, so the killer had moved straight into the front of the shop and the vics.
Target specific, premeditated, planned. She was sure of it.
Motive was a murky area.
She considered, rejected, fiddled with various theories through downtown traffic, then let them simmer as she walked into the white tunnel of the morgue.
Morris wore a gray suit and a strong red tie. The choice cheered her a little. His wardrobe rarely varied from black since the murder of his lover. The band twined through his braid of dark hair matched the tie.
His long, clever eyes met hers over the open body of Jennifer Darnell. Through the speakers, a sax wailed out a jazzy riff.
“I see you got me a triple-header.”
“The monster did it.”
“Not difficult to believe, given the condition of these young people. There’s internal abuse, self-inflicted from years of illegals ingestion, poor diet. They lived hard for their short time. I found signs of recovery and reversal. If they’d lived and kept clean, they should have done well enough.”
“Were they keeping clean?”
“Knowing you’d ask, I ran and rushed the tox screen first, and they were. Their last meal, which I assume they shared about midnight, was pizza, a diet cola for the girl, straight cola for the boys.”
“Sexual activity, consensual or forced?”
“No. Victim one—in order of TOD—suffered multiple broken bones and ribs, some of them postmortem. COD would be a fractured skull. He’d literally had his brains bashed in. By a bat or pipe, some three inches in diameter, and extreme force. I found some paint flakes in the wounds. I’ve sent them to the lab.”
“Head blow first?” Eve speculated.
“From my reconstruction, which is still preliminary, yes. A blow here.” Morris tapped the side of his hand diagonally over his right temple. “It would have knocked him out cold. It’s unlikely he felt the rest.”
“Victim two, multiple stab wounds inflicted with a jagged-edged blade, some four inches in length. Not a hunting or carving knife. More likely an inexpensive meat knife. The tip broke on bone, and that’s at the lab as well. He was stabbed first center of the chest, two strikes, and once in the abdomen. Again, from my prelim, the rest of the wounds came several minutes later.”
“Incapacitate both males.”
“And her. As in your notes, she was struck with the same bat as killed her friend, across the knees, shattering her kneecaps. The ear, eye, and tongue were removed postmortem, and with a smooth, sharp blade—a scalpel would be my opinion. And it was done with precision. Do you know how many are responsible for this?”
Morris’s eyebrows shot up. “One? You never fail to intrigue.” He looked over the bodies again. “The damage here, the strength, the sheer energy it took to beat the first vic was considerable. On the second, the stab wounds are very deep, very forceful, and there are eighty-five holes in that unfortunate boy. That also takes strength and energy. Considerable endurance.”
“And when he’d finished there, he still had enough to manually strangle—correct?”
“Yes,” Morris confirmed, “he used his own hands.”
“To manually strangle the third, which also takes strength. And still after that, he had it in him to break chairs, tables, basically wreak havoc. He ended it, according to the wit we’re working with, by dancing down the sidewalk.”
“Then he has a powerful constitution, probably chemically enhanced. He enjoyed this.” Morris laid a gentle hand on Jennifer Darnell’s head. “I’m not Mira, so that’s simply a dead doctor’s take. But you and I see, every day, what one human being is capable of doing to another. This one enjoyed himself.”
“Yeah, and when they have that much fun, they want to do it again.”
She headed to Central. She needed to review her notes, write an initial report—harass the sweepers and the lab for theirs—start her murder board and book. And she wanted a look at the wit, or at least Yancy’s sketch.
Somewhere in there she wanted to carve out some time to do a good, solid run on Eton Asshole Billingsly.
She smelled cookies the minute she stepped into the bullpen, caught the scatter of crumbs on Jenkinson’s shirt, watched Baxter stuff the remains of one in his mouth before he offered her a big smile.
“Nadine’s in your office, LT.”
“Pathetic. Pathetic that a bunch of cops, fat-assing at their desks instead of out taking down bad guys, can be bribed with cookies.”
Jenkinson shot up a hand. “We got one, Dallas. Reineke’s walking him down to lockup. I’m doing the fives.”
“With cookie crumbs on your shirt.”
He brushed at them hastily as she turned away to stride to her office. Where Nadine Furst, reporter extraordinaire, lounged in her visitor’s chair, nibbling on a cookie and working on her PPC.