“Maybe he dressed up for it,” Eve considered. “Theatrics.”
“I know he was creepy. And that laugh.” Cynthia shuddered. “It was this maniacal laugh, but low and deep—and kind of raw. Like he had something stuck in his throat. After he stuffed something in the recycler, he bent over, his hands on his knees, laughing and laughing. I started to go wake up Reed—Lilian’s daddy—but then he—this guy—left. He went up the street—spinning around so the cape he was wearing twirled.”
She let out a sigh. “You see all kinds of strange stuff and people in the city, and half the time you barely notice or get a kick out of it, you know? But this was . . . Well, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.”
“When you see something like this in the middle of the night outside your window, it would spook you,” Eve commented.
The tension in Cynthia’s face eased. “I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I felt stupid, but then those three people, I had to report it once I knew. However he looked, how could he be laughing and dancing around after killing them? He is a monster.” She drew the baby closer. “On the inside, he’s exactly how he looked. Evil.”
“I know how it looks, too,” Yancy said after he’d walked Cynthia out. “But she was solid, Dallas.”
“Yeah, I got that. I don’t think we’ll be issuing a BOLO on this face at this time, but she saw what she saw. The attitude fits—the laughing, dancing around, the theatrics. There was definite glee in the killings. So he dresses up for it, adds some punch.” She frowned over the sketch. “He strangled Darnell face-to-face. Is this what he wanted her to see? Adds more fear, but it’s not as personal if she’s seeing this mask, this disguise, and not him.”
“Are you certain she knew him?” Roarke asked.
“Oh yeah. They knew each other. He knew all of them. Ear, eyes, tongue. What did they hear, see? What was he afraid they’d say? So . . . send me the file copy,” she said to Yancy. “We’ll start checking costume shops, theaters.”
“If it’s makeup,” Yancy told her, “he’s a pro and an expert. If it’s a mask of some kind, it’s damn good, so it’d cost large.”
“Yeah. And that should help. Nice job, Yancy.”
“Here to serve. Strangest sketch I’ve ever done, and I’ve done some strange.”
“Have you considered a combination?” Roarke asked as they walked back. “That he has some sort of deformity and played it up. The jaw—if your witness has it right—it looks severely dislocated.”
“I’m going to be working that angle, but nobody I’ve interviewed so far has any kind of facial deformity. You can’t hide something like that. If it’s a medical condition . . . I’m waiting for Louise to tag me back. Maybe she’d have some ideas on that. Or Mira. I need to walk this through with Mira.”
When they stepped back into the bullpen, Peabody hailed her. “Not much to add from Slice or the twenty-four/seven or the diner. I’m writing it up. Hey, Roarke. Lucky I brought back a personal pie. Maybe Dallas will share with you.”
Eve picked up the takeout, passed it to Roarke. “Maybe she will. Did you see anybody like this?” She offered Peabody the sketch.
“Yancy thinks the wit’s solid, and as I talked to her myself, I agree.”
“Part demon, part monster, part human. He’s like a mutant.”
“He’s like somebody in costume,” Eve corrected. “Start running down this look. Theaters, costume outlets. See if you can find anything that fits.” She started to dig out money for the pizza.
“You got the last one,” Peabody told her.
“I probably did. And let’s see if we can find anyone connected to the center or Get Straight who’s involved in theater or theatrical makeup. Costume parties,” she added. “Places like the Center have fund-raisers like that, right? Where they make people dress up like idiots, then squeeze them for donations.”
“I doubt they think of it in quite those terms,” Roarke considered. “But, yes.”
“We’ll look at that. If you get anything close to a hit,” she told Peabody, “let me know.”
She went back in her office with Roarke. “Go ahead,” she said, gesturing at the take-out box. “I want to try to get a meet with Mira.”
She sat and began chipping away at the scales of the dragon at Mira’s gates. “Ten minutes,” Eve insisted. “I’ve got three DBs.”
“And Dr. Mira has a full schedule today.”
“Ten minutes,” Eve said again. “For this.” She angled so her ’link captured the murder board.
“In thirty minutes,” the admin told her. “Don’t be late.”
Sampling the pizza, Roarke wandered over to her board. “You know, you could contact Mira directly.”
“Yeah, but it’s not right. Channels are channels for a reason, even when they’re annoying.”
“I suppose. You’ve discounted this being done by someone from their past? An addict, a dealer.”
“Not discounted.” She tried the pizza herself. “But the probability’s low any of them knew someone back then who had the skill to surgically remove body parts. I think he was on something when he did—the frenzy, the strength and endurance, then laughing and dancing. So even flying he had skill, a steady hand. Add to it, Darnell’s been out of that for nearly four months and wouldn’t be tough to track down. If she’d known something that threatened someone with this skill, wouldn’t he have dealt with her before? For four months she’s been immersed in the Center and the program. It’s somebody attached to that.”
“I can’t fault your logic. I rarely can.”
Her ’link signaled. “Dallas.”
“Dallas, I was in surgery.” Louise, still in scrubs, mask dangling, came on screen. “I just heard. I can’t quite believe it.”
“You knew them.”
“Yes. I’m actually Jen Darnell’s physician of record. I do her monthly exams. Did,” she corrected. “I’d see her often when I did a rotation at either the Center or Get Straight. And Coby, too, in the last few months. I met Wil recently. He hasn’t been in the program as long.”
“How well do you know Rosenthall and Arianna Whitwood?”
“Very well. They were in Haiti helping to set up a new clinic when Charles and I got married or they’d have been at the wedding.”
Louise’s pretty face pruned. “He’s an excellent therapist and a complete jerk.”
“I need to talk to you about this.”
“I’ve got another surgery scheduled. It’s minor, but they’re already prepping the patient.”
“Have her and Charles meet us for drinks,” Roarke suggested and got a blank look from Eve.
“Here.” He simply nudged her aside. “Hello, Louise.”
“Roarke. I didn’t realize you were there.”
“Why don’t you and Charles meet us for drinks after work? You and Eve can discuss what needs to be discussed.”
“Yes, I think that would work.”
While Roarke set it up, Eve turned back to her board. She liked Louise and Charles, but wasn’t sure how she felt about her interview with a source turning into a social hour.
What the hell.
“Find somewhere to meet up near the crime scene,” Eve said, and gave Roarke the address. “I want to go back over it.”
“There.” Roarke turned away from the ’link when he’d finished. “Now you can talk to Louise, revisit your crime scene, and have a little time with friends. Interlude on West Eleventh, between Sixth and Seventh. At five, or as close as you can make it.”
He skimmed a fingertip down the dent in her chin. “It’s efficient.”
“I guess it is.”
“I’ve got a meeting shortly, so I’ll see you there.” Leaning down, he brushed his lips over hers. “Take care of my cop,” he told her, then left.