“No, don’t turn around,” Gwen said quietly.
The man hissed in pain as her fingers clenched on his upper arm. She walked behind him and to the right, down the crowded street. Neon blinked on the wet sidewalks, on the pedestrians in bulky clothing and on the umbrellas many of them carried. She was wearing . . . what was the word? A tracksuit. What the advertisement called the World’s Finest Cold-Weather Athletic Clothing, with high-laced sports shoes. The clothes were far warmer than she needed, but the jacket had a hood that concealed most of her face, and they were baggy enough to let her body vanish inside.
Few of the crowd looked at her, or at each other. They walked with a hurried, nervous determination that seemed characteristic here; heads slightly bowed, refusing to meet each other’s eyes. Wafts of warmer air gusted up out of the subway stations, with a gagging reek of wastes and ozone. Cars splashed rooster-tail fans of dirty water onto the edges of the sidewalks, and sometimes beyond onto the legs of the passersby. Most of the stores sold weirdly primitive electronics, or various sorts of erotic entertainment almost as crude.
At least the rain did a little something in the way of clearing the air.
“Hey, what you want, man?”
He tugged against her grip, and she tightened it in warning. “I want you to do me a favor,” she said, keeping her voice pitched several octaves deeper than the natural setting.
To a human’s dull ears it would pass well enough for a man’s voice, and it was no particular strain for her vocal cords; she could imitate most animals’ cries well enough to fool the creatures into killing range.
“This is a C-note,” she said, pushing a hundred-dollar bill into his pocket. I need some papers. A passport.”
The man’s free hand brought out the folded bill; he peeked down at the edge to verify the amount and then tucked it securely away. She could hear his subvocalization, a confused murmur with cop? cop? interspersed through it.
“Get me someone who can do the passport, and you get three more like that. Fuck me around and I pull your arm out of your shoulder.”
She gave a single heavy tug, not quite enough to dislocate the joint, proud of her quick mastery of the local dialect. The man’s scent turned heavier with fear, a salty odor, faintly appealing.
Why me? the human was thinking to himself. And: Easy money.
“Easy money,” she said soothingly. She wanted him to be afraid, but not so panic-stricken he forgot greed.
It wasn’t hard to identify petty criminals; not when you could pick up their speech from many times the distance a human could, and automatically sort multiple conversations for keywords. Scenting the drugs and weapons helped, as well.
“Sure, I take you to JoJo,” he said.
He was half lying. Ah. He probably knows of such an individual, but doesn’t plan to deliver.
“Of course you will,” she said. “Right now, and if you try to run away, the arm goes.”
# # #
“Bingo,” Carmaggio said softly, and spat the gum in his mouth toward a manhole cover.
The back courtyard was cold and slick with the last rain; which kept the smell down, at least. He walked over to the body. Damn, that’s unusual. You got used to corpses in all sorts of positions; upside down, hanging from things, in beds, in cars. Once he’d had a killing where the girlfriend’s body got stuffed into a large sealed crate and mailed by the ex-wife to the husband. Who’d fainted, fallen over backward, and killed himself when he opened the crate—and that presented some interesting evidentiary problems.
This one was lying on his stomach, with the forward third of his body propped up against the brick wall of the building. As if he’d run right into it and poured down, like Wile E. Coyote in one of the old Road Runner cartoons.
Carmaggio took his hands out of his pockets and pulled on a pair of gloves. “Another fun night in the Busiest Precinct in the World,” he said. A couple of the uniforms and technical people laughed as they went about their business.
They were about a block from Times Square; he could see the reflected lights of the Embassy 1 in a puddle out on the street, beyond the cars and the cordon. At least now the press had had a month to forget the warehouse killings, so he didn’t have a flock of black-winged cameramen following him around, flapping and squawking and waiting for something to die. There was a Sbarro’s next to the Embassy, which reminded him he hadn’t eaten. I’ll get a meatball sandwich afterward, he decided.
“Ai, me muero,” Jesus Rodriguez said, gloving up as well. “You know, there was a time when I thought I’d be catching murderers, not spending my days with the bodies.”
Carmaggio crouched behind the body for a second. Hands were down, resting on the ground palms up. There was a smear of blood on the wet brick, starting about face height for someone the victim’s height. He touched a gloved finger to it and rubbed the result with the ball of his thumb; unscientific, he supposed, but it often worked as a rough-and-ready timecheck. Hard to tell, though, with this temperature and all the water oozing out of the brick—Goddamn all midwinter thaws, anyway; they screwed things up worse than snow. Maybe there was something to this global warming thing; winters had frozen harder when he was a kid.
The initial blood spatter was huge, like an inkblot in one of those old psychologist’s tests. More blood in a pool around the base of the wall. Head injuries bled out fast, as bad as a major wound to the chest cavity.
“What do I see in this?” he wondered, stepping back and looking at the blot. “I see someone who had their head shot out of a cannon at a wall, is what I see.”
There was nothing around the body but garbage. He crouched again and used a pencil in his left hand to move the ponytail of greasy black hair that covered the victim’s neck. Aha.
Livid bruises on either side of the spinal column, right above the shoulders. “Look at this,” he said.
Jesus joined him. Henry spread his hand as if he were about to take the back of the dead man’s neck in it, a straightforward grab with the thumb on the left side. It fit exactly, thumbmark and four fingers, although from the spacing the hand had been slightly smaller than Carmaggio’s.
“What does that say to you?” he asked his partner.
“Perp is right-handed,” Jesus said helpfully.
“Oh, funny man.”
“Geraldo has nothing to me, patrón. I’d say someone put his face to that brick with an extreme quickness.”
Henry grunted. “How long?”
Jesus picked up one of the hands by a thumb. There was a purplish sheen to the waxy skin, and a whitish spot appeared when the younger policeman stuck a finger in the livid patch that had lain nearest the ground. The joints of the hand moved freely.
“Hour, maybe two, no more than three.”
There was a bulletin out with the extremely incomplete description they’d gotten from the restaurant where Fischer had been seen last, but the chances of it doing any good were . . .Somewhere between nada, zip, and fucking zero, he thought resignedly. You couldn’t pull in every tall redheaded woman within a mile of Times Square.
“All right, let’s move him.”
Two of the uniforms came forward, and Jesus got out his minicam, speaking softly into the throat mike. Henry whistled.
Teeth dropped out of the shattered mouth as the slack body was lifted free of the bricks. One of the patrol officers swallowed and wobbled a bit, until her partner hissed sharply at her. Broken jaw, mandible pushed right back. All the upper teeth snapped off. Frontal bones pushed in until there was nothing but a glistening mass of pulp, and the forehead had a dished look.
Carmaggio felt a little off himself. Nothing I could take to court, but it’s the same MO, he thought. The skin along the nape of his neck roughened. Angel dust? he mused.
Something unnatural was behind this combination of speed and strength and utter savagery.
“Right, let’s see if this is who I think it is,” he said.
He slid a hand inside the dead man’s jacket and began checking pockets. “Green cards, blank. Social Security, ditto. Oho, JoJo was getting upscale—passport. Couple of computer disks. Official stationery . . .”
“JoJo?” Jesus said.
“Do-it-while-you-wait JoJo Jackson himself,” Carmaggio confirmed. “Aha.”
A piece. A .32 revolver in a waist holster, no sights, trigger guard cut away—JoJo had always liked to think of himself as seriously bad; in fact, he’d just been bad. Not a very good documents man, either. Sooner or later something like this was going to happen to him—the means might have been more conventional, but the result was much the same.
There was something a little farther down the alley, too. A scrap of paper flecked with blood and plastered to the wet side of a dumpster. A C-note.
“Somebody might want to bag this,” he said mildly. More of the warehouse money.
“Now, why do you come to JoJo?” Jesus said, imitating Carmaggio’s voice.
ID. Lots of things you could do with cash, but you needed some ID for most of them. Like moving around, buying airplane tickets, renting a car. Not necessarily very good ID—people just didn’t look most of the time—but some sort of paper.
“Travel plans,” he answered. Wherever the mystery killer was going, it was probably bad news for the recipients . . . but New York could use the breathing space.
# # #
Gwen unfastened her seatbelt and stood. Air flowed in through the door of the airliner, mildly warm. Welcome to Cali, Colombia. Welcome to a country that had never even existed in her history; there had been a Republic of Grand Colombia from the 1820s, but that had stretched over all the Andean lands. The smell of burnt kerosene was overwhelming, and she breathed through her mouth to compensate. Outside only the distant mountains were familiar. Friends of hers had estates here, growing coffee and stock and heaven-berries and ganja—in the Domination’s timeline. There was a minor liftport and a settlement nearby, mostly servus. This millions-strong monstrosity was almost completely alien, save for a few ancient Spanish churches and public buildings preserved for aesthetics in both histories.
She hefted her bags and followed the crowd to the Customs checkthroughs. Green-uniformed guards with submachine-guns slung across their chests waited among the milling crowd. Some of them had guard dogs on leashes. The animals’ heads came up as they scented her, tracking back and forth with cocked ears to find where the unfamiliar trace came from. One of them began barking and tugging at his lead, until the policeman quelled him with a sharp order. Passengers surged away from the growling and bared teeth.
Noisy lot, humans, she thought.
Their smell lay heavy in the concourse. It had none of the sharp clean scent of her own species, or the comforting sweetness of servus; the harsh feral smell put her teeth on edge. She showed them in a snarl of her own for an instant. It was a good thing that humans couldn’t use their noses for anything but keeping their eyes and upper lips apart; if they had a decent sense of smell she’d never have been able to hide. And what they did scent, they only noticed subliminally, most of the time. She had been working on her pheromones during the flight. It took a while to adjust them upward, although toward the end the cabin staff and several passengers had been hovering around her seat—without knowing exactly why, of course. She smiled as she handed her forged passport to the clerk.
He was only a pace away across the desk. His brown skin flushed as he looked up at her. She took off her sunglasses and tucked them into a pocket, smiling as she met his eyes. The Colombian swallowed and put a hand to the collar of his shirt.
“Welcome to Colombia,” he said mechanically.
“Why, thank you,” she said, smiling more widely. The forged passport rested between the ringers of her right hand. “It looks like a lovely country.”
“Ah . . . your Spanish is excellent,” he stammered. Several of the other clerks were looking at him oddly; he straightened and cleared his throat.
“Thank you,” Gwen said.
It wasn’t difficult to learn, when you had an eidetic memory; just read a grammar and spend a few days listening to Spanish-language television, of which New York had plenty, and practice a little. She probably had a Puerto Rican accent.
“Ah, purpose of visit?”
“Business,” she said. To be precise, laundering $970,100 in American currency, but no need to go into details. Some contacts with the local criminal classes might also be useful.
“How long do you expect to remain in Colombia?”
“About a month.”
Drops of sweat were rolling down the clerk’s face. The men at the other desks were glancing over again and again. Hmmm. Perhaps a little too much on the pheromones.
“Your papers, please, and put the luggage here.”
She put the suitcase on the flat surface and handed him the passport. He dropped it to the desk and opened it, reaching for his stamp.
That he hesitated only an instant when he saw the ten hundred-dollar bills folded inside the passport said a good deal for his nerves and self-control, especially when you remembered the effects of the pheromones.
The standing desk had a wooden rim around it; the bills vanished into a drawer.
Thump. The stamp went down on her passport, and the clerk opened the suitcase and gave the clothes inside a cursory inspection. The money was underneath the folded garments, in neat bundles wrapped in plain paper and sealed with tape.
“Enjoy your stay, Senora Smith,” the clerk said. He hesitated, then went on: “If you need assistance . . .” and slipped a piece of paper across the desk. With his name and address on it.
She palmed it. “I’ll certainly remember your land offer, Señor Gaitán,” she said.
The man looked after her as she walked away, until a supervisor came by and cleared his throat. She continued slowly, thinking. A hotel, of course. Then . . .
“Why, hello, Dolores,” Gwen said.
One of the flight attendants; Dolores Ospina Pastrana. They’d chatted on the plane, although of course she hadn’t understood exactly why this particular yanqui was so interesting, so charismatic. The stewardess was pulling her luggage along on a wheeled carryall, looking trim and efficient in her blue uniform. She fidgeted with the handle,
“Do you have a ride?”
Gwen smiled, white teeth flashing. “Why, no, I don’t. Thank you for the offer; I hope it isn’t an inconvenience.”
“No, no, I’m off duty for the next three days.”
“That’s wonderful,” Gwen said, smiling more broadly. Her nostrils flared slightly. “Perhaps you could show me some of the sights.”
She didn’t intend to stay in Colombia long, and a native guide would certainly help her get started more quickly. The evidence could always be disposed of, one way or another.
“It’s a lovely city,” Dolores said. “But it can be dangerous for an outsider.”
Gwen chuckled. “Let’s go. I’m sure you can shield me from the perils of ignorance.”
# # #
“Who did you say you were with?’ Mary Chen asked, stepping in front of the personable young man before he could pass through.
“We’re with the Federal government, Dr. Chen,” he said, with a frank, open smile.
He was wearing a nondescript dark suit and raincoat; so was his friend. They were both six-footers, one young and dark, the other fortysomething, heavy, and graying blond; the older man looked like an athlete gone very slightly to seed, or a lawyer who spent a couple of nights a week at the gym. He carried something like an attaché case, only considerably larger. Unlike his younger companion, he didn’t smile.
“Well, that’s you and a couple of hundred thousand others, even under this administration,” Chen said. “What does the Federal government want with medical evidence being held in an ongoing investigation?”
Nobody waltzes into my office like this! It might not be much of an office; cluttered, with a couple of spider plants on top of the filing cabinets, and smelling faintly of disinfectant from downstairs, but it was her turf.
The young man laughed easily, eyes crinkling. “We’re with an executive agency,” he said. “And it’s not an ongoing investigation anymore. Since it’s a closed file, I’m sure you won’t object . . .”
“Great, an executive agency. FBI, CIA, NSA, Bureau of Indian Affairs, NASA, what?”
He reached into his jacket. “The City wants full cooperation,” he said gently, and extended a handful of documents.
She read raising her brows. “Impressive.” It was; including two heavy hitters in the NYPD. “Unfortunately, you don’t seem to have noticed that I’m a medical examiner—and we’re appointed by the courts. We’re not part of the police department.”
She handed the sheaf of paper back. Mary Chen had spent a good deal of the last twenty years around police officers; long enough to recognize the very slight bulge below the young man’s left armpit. Icy certainty paralyzed her mind for an instant. These were Feds of some sort; it would be deeply stupid to make a claim she could refute with a simple phone call. And they were serious. Some sort of Federal cop, or more likely spooks; FBI would have been more open about who they were.
The older one stepped by her and put his carrying case on the desk. He pressed the buttons on a digital lock and snapped the catches open with his thumbs, the metallic click loud in the little room. Much of the space inside was insulation, leaving just enough for an arm. A very large arm.
“Look,” she began. “If you think I’m going to sit still for this, you’re very much mistaken.”
The young man’s smile didn’t waver. He reached a black-gloved hand inside his jacket and produced another folded paper.
“Dr. Chen, this is a national security matter,” he said. She snorted.
“If you’ll take a moment to think about it, you’ll realize that that’s not just a phrase to shut you up. We’re nearly into the twenty-first century, and pretty soon genetics are going to be as important to our security as electronics have been for the past few decades. You must realize something of how sensitive this matter is, or you wouldn’t have kept it as quiet as you have—nothing to the press, no publicity, just a few friends of yours at the university, nothing on paper. That’s fine, but this needs to be studied by top people. We can provide the facilities. You can’t; with all due respect, you’re a forensic pathologist, not a research geneticist. No offense.”
“None taken,” she said between clenched teeth.
Before she could continue, the man handed over the letter.
“The United States needs to keep its technological edge,” he said earnestly. “Otherwise, our influence goes; and it’s an influence for good, well beyond our borders.”
The paper was an official document, but not from the American government. The language was Vietnamese; in the upper right-hand corner was an identity photograph of her aunt Edelle. Who was still in Hue . . . in a Vietnam growing even more hostile to its ethnic-Chinese minority since the naval clashes over those damned islands. Not that it had ever been very friendly.
“I didn’t even know she was still alive,” Chen whispered.
Gloved fingers plucked the document out of her hand. A promise, she realized. Hanoi was extremely anxious to stay on Washington’s good side these days. Possibly a threat. More probably just a promise,
She turned her head aside. “In the cold storage,” she said.
# # #
Claire Finch had been with the FBI for three years now. She’d never seen her superior as angry as he was now; a cold, grim rage that crackled through the office despite the expressionless set of his face.
“The investigation’s being canceled,” he said.
“Twenty-odd murders, and it’s canceled?”
“Not our jurisdiction.” John Dowding rose and walked over to the window, looking down at the Washington street.
“The Fischer was a kidnapping-murder.”
“Nope. He went back to his apartment voluntarily.”
“She used his panix.com account illegally—that is our turf.”
“Not according to the memo,” he said over his shoulder.
“What about the DNA sample from the skin and hair?”
“The sample’s been removed from Quantico. The records have been removed. Just between you and me, that . . . arm . . . thing, whatever, has been quietly spirited away too. And the people who were working on it have been told it’s a matter of national security. Not that anyone would listen to them with the evidence.”
Finch shook her head. “This stinks, sir.”
“Stinks of Langley, possibly the NSA,” he said. “They took a look at the genetics and they panicked. If someone is that far ahead of us, it is a crisis.”
“Not as much of a crisis as it was to Stephen Fischer,” she said tartly.
“Granted.” Dowding’s long, bony face nodded. “And this doesn’t look like an espionage situation to me—and it’d be our affair if it was.”
Not theirs personally—they were with the Behavioral Sciences section—but counterespionage within the borders of the U.S. was a Bureau function. A distinction more often observed in the breach than the observance, true, but the Bureau was about as likely to relinquish its jurisdiction as a pit bull was to give up a marrow bone.
Finch bit at her lower lip. “Sir, generally if the Other People tried to take something like this away from us, the Director would tell them to go pee up a rope.”
Dowding leaned back in his swivel chair and tapped the knuckles of one hand with a pen. “Exactly. So the truth about this evidence must be so terrifying that the Director or someone just below his level wants to hand it over to somebody else.”
“I have a bad feeling about this, sir,” she said.
Dowding nodded. “Finch, I trust you.”
She looked up, startled. He was holding a disk in his hand, one of the new read-write opticals. “This is that DNA report on the skin samples that Quantico did,” he said.
They shared a glance. The powers-that-be hadn’t really grasped how difficult it was to get rid of every copy of inconvenient data, yet.
“Here’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “Strictly off the record, of course. I think our highly-unusual mystery suspect will be back . . .”
# # #
The Parque de Calzado wasn’t much, Gwen decided. A few tall palm trees, a rectangle of grass cut by a St. George’s cross of tessellated brick pavement, and a central fountain. Around it were apartment buildings in the hideous style the humans seemed to like, boxy things of steel-reinforced concrete; nobody in the Domination’s timeline had ever built anything like them, except as factories or warehouses. Here they were residences, including Dolores’s, where she’d holed up for the past three days.
It was also quite dark, now.
“Gwen, this park is . . . this is not a safe place,” Dolores pleaded.
“Even less so, now that I’m in it,” she chuckled.
The air bore a confusion of scents; mostly bad, but not as much so as New York. The temperature was quite pleasant as night fell; a fair number of people were out strolling. Fewer and fewer as she led the ex-stewardess away into the back streets.
She stopped, impatient, and gripped the Colombian by her upper arm, jerking her close. “Dolores,” she said quietly, staring into her eyes. “Let’s get one thing settled about this relationship, right from the start. I’m in charge. Understand?”
She could hear the other’s heart accelerate, smell the acrid tinge of fear in her sweat. Pupils dilated.
“Good. Shall I send you back to the apartment?”
No, the Columbian subvocalized. Not alone, not now. She shook her head.
“Good.” I don’t want you on your own for long, not for a couple of weeks yet. It would take that long to get her settled in and accepting the situation. The alternative was to snap her neck, but that would be wasteful; besides that, she was likable.
“Now, let’s keep going. Do you know the Rule of Seven?”
“No. Seven?” Dolores was trying to keep the quaver out of her voice, Gwen noted with approval.
“Nobody is more than seven acquaintances away from anyone else. For instance, you know this Señor Mondragón—”
“Just his name, from the papers. I don’t know such people.”
That seemed to be a general attitude here in Cali. People who did know such people or said they did had a tendency to vanish.
“—and someone we meet will know someone who knows someone, and we’ll be led to Señor Mondragón, soon enough.”
Why does she want to meet a criminal?
“Because I have some business to conduct, mi amiga. Now shut up.”
Gwen patted her gently on the back to take the sting out of the words. She had been very useful, and it was a great relief to finally have her biological needs taken care of on a civilized basis. If something of a strain for Dolores at first.
They had wandered into an alleyway; dark enough that it was a little dim even to Gwen’s eyes, and Dolores was blundering along in a literally blind panic. It stank as well, of cat-piss and less savory odors, starting with spoiled garbage. Gwen smiled, her ears cocked forward a little. Two sets of heartbeats, they were accelerating as she and the Colombian walked down the cracked and slimy pavement. Two shapes spreading out, black silhouettes outlined against the slightly brighter street beyond. A light flared under a heavy brown acne-scarred face as one lit a cigarette. Dolores whimpered slightly, but kept to her position in Gwen’s wake.
The short man’s face looked a little puzzled as the women kept coming toward him. His companion was four inches taller and much heavier; a blank bovine expression over shoulders and belly that stretched the grubby white cotton of his T-shirt.
“One for each of us,” the short man whispered aside to his friend. Aloud: “Good evening, ladies! You shouldn’t be wandering alone around here. Perhaps we can help you.”
“I think you can,” Gwen said, smiling. “We’re looking for a Señor Mondragón.”
Both the men stiffened slightly; she watched the play of muscles around mouth and eyes, listened to the involuntary intake of breath. Not enough for a human to notice, but meaningful. Both men recognized the name, of course; but their fright was direct and personal. Fear produced anger.
“Shut up, puta. Miguel, you take the other one.”
“I don’t think so,” Gwen said, as he reached past her for Dolores.
She grabbed the wrist; it was thick, a thin layer of blubber over solid muscle and bone. A quick jerk, and the big man stumbled forward, sending his lighter companion spinning aside to crash into the flaking stucco of the alley’s wall. At the same time she squeezed, feeling the small bones of the wrist grate and splinter under her grip. The man gave an incredulous grunt, eyes and mouth flaring open in three O’s of surprise. She jerked again, bracing her feet—he was heavier than she, even though she weighed over a hundred and ninety pounds, much more than a human of her size. When a lighter object reacted against a heavier, the lighter tended to move regardless of energy outputs; it was a matter of leverage, not strength.
He stumbled again, to his knees. Gwen pivoted on her left heel and kicked with her right, into his throat, releasing her hold as the blow impacted. The body snapped backward several meters and fell limp, head lying back between the shoulderblades. She took a deep breath and stepped closer to the survivor; he was standing with his hand half under the tail of his zippered jacket, eyes bulging in shock.
“Miguel?” he said, halfway between a croak and a whisper.
Humans are slow, she thought. Not just their reaction time, but their ability to assimilate data.
“Miguel is dead,” she said. “Now, I need some information.”
The hand came out with a knife, curved and sharp, moving quite quickly for a human. Gwen swayed her upper body back just enough for the cutting edge to miss as it ripped upward, her hand snapping out to grab and span the other’s fist where it clenched around the hilt. She continued the natural path of the weapon until the point touched the man’s throat just below the angle of the jaw. For a long moment they stayed locked, a trickle of blood running down his throat from the knifepoint. His pulsed fluttered on the edge of shock and then steadied a little; there was an irritating edge to his scent, a hint of metabolic wrongness. Some sort of drug interfering with the metabolism, she decided.
“Who are you?” he shrilled. “What are you doing?”
“What I’m doing,” Gwen said, leaning a little closer and increasing the pressure of the steel, “depends on you. If you’re not cooperative, I’m going to torture some information out of you and then kill you. If you were better looking and didn’t smell so bad, I’d rape you first. Or you can tell me what I want to know.”
“Sí, sí, anything you want to know, lady, anything! Look, I know where you can get kilos, the real thing, cheap, I’ll—”
“That’s my boy!” Gwen said cheerfully, patting him on the cheek with her free hand. His made vague pawing motions at the air. “Now, Señor Mondragón.”
“Oh, Jesus and His Mother, no soy nadie, I don’t know him.”
“But you know someone who knows someone, don’t you, little one?” she said softly.
The drops of blood flowing down his neck became a steady trickle. Tears and mucus from eyes and nose joined them. Unconsciously his right arm kept trying to jerk the knife away from his throat, but she controlled the surges without allowing more than a quiver in the metal.
“Sí, I know Pedro, Don Pedro, and he—”
Gwen waited until the babbling began to repeat itself. “That’s all,” she said, and pushed with quick, savage force.
The knife slid through neck and throat and into the small man’s mouth, then crunched into the bones of the palate. She pushed a little harder, and there was a yielding crackle as it slid into the brain. The body arched in spasm, a thin trickling whine blowing out of clenched teeth, then slid to the ground, voided, and died. Gwen sighed and turned.
Dolores was backed against the wall, hands pressed to either side of her head, her mouth trembling. Trembling with terror and a dreadful reluctant excitement.
Ah, Gwen thought. Got to watch the pheromones.
“Come on,” she said soothingly. “Enough outdoor work for one night.”
# # #
“You make me tired. Just looking at you makes me tired, Carmaggio.”
Looking at you generally makes me want to puke, Captain, Carmaggio thought. He could feel the back of his neck flush, which was usually a bad sign; probably Captain McLeish could see the thought printed across his face like an LCD display. McLeish smirked and leaned back in the swivel chair behind his desk; there were pictures of himself with several commissioners and mayors on the walls, and a slight smell of old socks. He looked Carmaggio up and down, letting the contrast between the other man’s rumpled off-the-rack and his own beautifully tailored suit speak for itself. He was in better shape than Carmaggio, too, which the tucked waist showed off quite well.
Looks like a pimp, Carmaggio thought. Right down to the cool-dude side whiskers, although at least he didn’t have letters shaved into his ’fro.
It wasn’t that he had anything against blacks. Not after Happy Lewis saved his ass that time he didn’t see the claymore; he’d made a private resolution right then and there not to use the word “eggplant” for anything but vegetables ever again.
It was asskissers and fuckups he didn’t like. McLeish was a prime example of both, in his considered opinion. How he’d gotten as far as he had only God and the Echelons Beyond Reality who thought they were God knew. Welcome to the wonderful world of the civil service. He was profoundly glad that they’d found out ulcers were caused by bacteria, not stomach acid—because every time he had to report to McLeish, he got a couple of cupfuls of the original patented bile spewed out into his gut.
“We’ve got twenty-three homicides, Captain. With all due respect—”
“How many thousand homicides do we have in this shitty city, Carmaggio? You’ve got no evidence to put a solid link between them, and nothing new has turned up in six months. It’s spring—wake up and smell the roses. Serial killers don’t stop. That’s what our great good friends at Federal Bullshit Incorporated keep telling us.”
“Yeah, they don’t stop. Not permanently. If we let this one go—”
“They’ve already gotten away.” The you dumb guinea bastard was unspoken but plain. “Not to mention the FBI say they don’t want to hear about it anymore; and whose idea was it to call in Quantico, in the first place? This is not, for your information, some pissant little two-sheriff town without its own forensics department.”
Carmaggio felt the flush spreading from the back of his neck to his ears.
“Maybe the tooth fairy did it, Carmaggio. Maybe that Jew cunt at Primary Belway Securities was the one who offed Fischer.”
Maybe JoJo beat his own head in against that wall because he realized he’d never be President, Henry thought, as his superior went on: “And maybe you don’t have enough work to do. You want me to put a few more on your docket? Didn’t you have a court appearance today?”
He didn’t slam the door as he left. There hadn’t been any more action on the file, and there was a lot of other work to do. He’d long ago resigned himself to the fact that he’d retire not much above his present rank; interviews like this were simply a symptom of that. People got to the top of the greasy pole largely because they wanted to, real bad—sometimes so they could do the job, more often not. He did this lousy job because he wanted to, not to get a better office. Shits like the captain regarded actual police work as a distraction from more important matters.
Whether or not the captain thought it was too much trouble to bother with, they’d be hearing from this particular perp again, closed file or no closed file.
Or somebody would be hearing about them. This isn’t the sort that goes somewhere and hides.