Read Double dexter Online

Authors: Jeff Lindsay

Double dexter (page 3)

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He looks, and he sees them, and a tired smile twitches onto the uncovered part of his face. “Yes,” he says, in a voice that is half-muffled by the tape and shattered by the noose but still sounds clear when he sees. He is drained of hope now, and every taste of life has faded from his tongue, but a small and warm memory tiptoes across his taste buds as he looks at the pictures of the boys he has taken away. “They were … beautiful.…” His eyes wander over the pictures and stay there for a long moment and then they close. “Beautiful,” he says, and it is enough; and we feel so very close to him now.

“So are you,” we say, and we push the tape into place over his mouth and go back to work, winding up into well-earned bliss as the climax of our sharp symphony blares up out of the cheerful growing moonlight, and the music takes us higher and higher until finally, slowly, carefully, joyfully, it comes to its final triumphant chord and releases everything into the warm wet night: everything. All the anger, unhappiness and tension, all the cramped confusion and frustration of the everyday pointless life we are forced to trudge through just to makethishappen, all the petty meaningless blather of trying to blend with bovine humanity—it is all gone, all of it shooting up and out and away into the welcoming darkness—and with it, trailing along like a battered and beaten puppy, all that might have been left inside the wicked, tattered husk of Steve Valentine.

Bye-bye, Puffalump.

TWO

WE WERE CLEANING UP AND FEELING THE SLOW ANDtired contentment creeping into our bones as we always did, a smug and satisfied laziness at being done and done well with our very happy night of need. The clouds had rolled away and left a cheery afterglow of moonlight and we felt much better now; we always feel better afterward.

And it may be that we were not paying quite as much attention as we should have to the night around us, wrapped as we were in our satisfied cocoon—but we heard a noise, a soft and startled breath, and then the whispered rush of feet, and before we could do any more than turn toward it, the feet ran toward the back door of the darkened house, and we heard that door bump shut. And we could only follow and stare through the door’s glass jalousies in silent all-consuming dismay as a car parked at the curb leaped into life and sprinted away into the night. The taillights flare—the left one dangles at an odd angle—and we can only see that it is an old Honda, some uncertain dark color, with a large rust stain on the trunk that looks like a metallic birthmark. And then the car races out of sight and a cold and acid knot tightens in the pit of our stomach as the impossible, dreadfultruth burns up inside us and pours out panic like the bright and awful blood from a newly opened wound.…

We have been seen.

For a long appalling minute we just stare out the door, rocked by the endless echoes of that unthinkable thought.We have been seen. Someone had come in, unheard, unnoticed, and they hadseenus as we really were, standing drained and contented over the half-wrapped leftovers. And they had very clearly seen enough to recognize the odd-shaped pieces of Valentine for what they were, because whoever it was had left in a lightning-fast panicked gallop and vanished into the night before we could do more than take a breath. They hadseen—they might even have seen our face; in any case they had seen enough to know what they were looking at, and they had raced away to safety—and probably to call the police. They would be calling right now, sending patrol cars to scoop us up and put us away—but here we stood, frozen into dumb astonished inaction, gaping and drooling at the place where the taillights had disappeared, stuck in stupid incomprehension like a child watching a familiar cartoon dubbed into a foreign language.Seen … And at long last, the thought gives us the jolt of fear we need to galvanize us into action, kick us into high gear, and send us racing through the last stages of cleanup and out the door with the still-warm bundles of all we have done this once-fine night.

Miraculously, we make it away from the house and off into the night and there are no sounds of pursuit. No sirens wail their warning; no squealing tires or crackling radios rip the darkness with their threats of Descending Doom for Dexter.

And as I finally, tensely, vigilantly made my way out of the area, the blather-headed numbness of that single shattering thought came back and roiled through me like the never-ending rattle of waves on a rocky beach.

We had been seen.

The thought stayed with me as I disposed of the leftovers—how could it not? I drove with one eye on the rearview mirror, waiting for the blinding burst of blue light to flare at my bumper and the brief harshwhoop!of a siren. But nothing came; not even after I ditched Valentine’scar, climbed into mine, and drove carefully home. Nothing. I was left entirely at liberty, all alone, pursued only by the demons of my imagination. It seemed impossible—someone hadseenme at play, as plainly as it was possible to be seen. They had looked at the carefully carved pieces of Valentine, and the happy-weary carver standing above them, and it would not take a differential equation to arrive at a solution to this problem—A plus B equals a seat in Old Sparky for Dexter, and someone had fled with this conclusion in perfect comfort and safety—but they had not called the police?

It made no sense. It was crazy, unbelievable, impossible. I had beenseen, and I had walked away from it consequence-free. I could not really believe it, but slowly, gradually, as I parked my own car in front of my house and just sat for a moment, Logic came back from its too-long vacation on the island of Adrenaline, and I sat hunched over the steering wheel, and communed once more with sweet reason.

All right, I had been seenin flagrante iuguloand had every right to expect that I would be instantly outed and arrested. But I hadn’t been, and now I was home, evidence disposed of, and nothing remained to tiemeto the happy horror in the abandoned house. Someone caught a very quick glimpse, yes. But it had been dark in there—probably too dark to make out my face, especially in one brief, terrified glance, with me turned half away. There was no way to connect the shadowy figure holding the knife with any actual person, living or dead. Tracing the license plate of Valentine’s car would only turn up Valentine, and I was reasonably sure he would not answer any questions, unless somebody was willing to use a Ouija board.

And in the incredibly unlikely event that my face was recognized and a wild accusation was made against me, they would find no evidence at all, only a man with a sterling reputation as a member of the Law Enforcement Community who could certainly stand on his dignity and scoff at these absurd allegations. Absolutely no one in their right mind would believe that I could possibly have done anything of the kind—except, of course, for my very own personal nemesis, Sergeant Doakes, and he had nothing at all on me except suspicion, which he’d had for so long that it was almost comforting.

So what remained? Aside from a dubious dark and partial glimpseof my features, what could anyone possibly have seen that might prove awkward to my ambitions for remaining at liberty?

The wheels and levers in my mighty brain clicked, whirled, and spat out their answer: Absolutely Nothing.

I could not possibly be connected to anything that some shadowy, frightened someone had seen in a dark abandoned house. It was an inescapable conclusion, pure deductive logic, and there was no way around it. I was home free, and I would almost certainly remain that way. I took a very deep breath, wiped my hands on my pants, and went into my house.

It was quiet inside, of course, since it was so very late. The sound of Rita’s gentle snoring drifted down the hall to me as I peeked in at Cody and Astor; they were asleep, unmoving, dreaming their small and savage dreams. Farther down the hall, into my bedroom, where Rita lay fast asleep and Lily Anne was curled up in her crib—wonderful, improbable Lily Anne, the one-year-old center of my new life. I stood looking down at her and marveling, as always, at the soft perfection of her face, the miniature beauty of her tiny fingers. Lily Anne, the beginning of all that is good about Dexter Mark II.

I had risked all that tonight. I had been stupid, wildly thoughtless, and almost paid the price—capture, imprisonment, never again to cradle Lily Anne in my arms, never to hold her hand as she tottered through her first steps—and, of course, never again to find some well-deserving friend like Valentine and take him out to the Dark Playground. It was far too much to risk. I would have to lie low and be very well behaved until I was absolutely sure I was in the clear. I had beenseen;I had brushed up against the flowing skirts of that old whore Justice, and I could not take that chance again. I must drop Dark Dexter’s Delights and let my Dex Daddy disguise morph into the real me. Perhaps this time it would be a permanent hiatus; did I really need to take such awful risks just to do these dreadful-wonderful things? I heard a soft and sated chuckle of mockery rise from the Dark Passenger as it slithered down into rest.Yessss, you do, it hissed with sleepy satisfaction.

But not for a while; tonight would last, would have to last; I had been seen. I climbed into bed and closed my eyes, but the brainless worriesof capture scurried back into my mind. I batted at them, swept them away with the broom of logic; I was perfectly safe. I could not be identified, and I had left no evidence anywhere that could ever be found, and reason insisted that I had gotten away with it. All was good—and even though I still did not quite believe it, I finally drifted off into anxious, dreamless sleep.

Nothing that happened at work the next day gave any indication that there was anything at all to worry about. Things were quiet in the forensics lab of the Miami-Dade Police Department when I arrived at my job, and I took advantage of the morning stupor to fire up my computer. A careful check of last night’s duty logs revealed that no frantic call for help had come in with reference to a maniac and a knife in an abandoned house. No alarm had sounded, no one was looking for me, and if it had not happened by now it was not going to happen at all. I was in the clear—so far.

Logic agreed with the official record; I was perfectly safe. In fact, Logic said this to me countless times over the next few days, but for some reason my lizard brain would not listen. I found myself hunched over at work, raising my shoulders against a blow that never fell—that Iknewwould never fall, but I anticipated it anyway. I woke up at night and listened for the sounds of the Special Response Team scuffling into place around the house.…

And nothing happened; no sirens came in the night. No knock on the door, squeal of bullhorn, demands that I come out with my hands up—nothing at all. Life steamed along on its well-oiled tracks, with no one calling for Dexter’s head, and it began to seem like some cruel invisible god was taunting me, mocking my watchfulness, sneering at my pointless apprehension. It was as if the whole thing had never happened, or my Witness had been consumed by spontaneous combustion. But I could not shake the thought that something was coming to get me.

And so I waited, and my jitters grew. Work became a painful test of endurance, sitting at home each night with my family was an annoying chore, and in short, all the zing and zest had fled from Dexter’s life.

When the pressure builds too high, even volcanoes boil over, and they are made of stone. I am made of slightly softer stuff, and so itshould have been no surprise when I finally erupted after three days of waiting for a blow that never fell.

My day at work had been particularly stressful for no real reason. The main corpse of the day was a floater, a badly decomposed thing that had probably been young and male and had apparently been standing on the wrong end of a large-caliber pistol when it fired. A retired couple from Ohio had found it when their rented pontoon boat ran over it. The floater’s silk shirt had gotten tangled in the boat’s propeller, and the man from Akron had suffered a small, nonfatal heart attack when he leaned over to clear the prop and saw the rotting face staring back up at him from the end of the motor’s shaft. Peekaboo: Welcome to Miami.

There was a great deal of jollity among the cops and forensics geeks as this scenario became known, but the warm glow of camaraderie failed to penetrate Dexter’s bosom. The gruesome jokes that would ordinarily bring forth my best fake chuckle seemed like fingernails on a chalkboard, and it was a miracle of self-control that I simmered silently through the moronic hilarity for ninety minutes without setting anyone on fire. But even the most trying experiences must end, and since there was no blood left on the body after so much time in the water, there was really no call for my particular expertise, and I was finally released to return to my desk.

I spent the rest of the workday on routine paperwork, snarling at misplaced files and seething at the stupidity of everyone else’s report writing—when did Grammar die? And when it was finally time to go home I was out the door and in my car before the last stroke of the hour rang out.

I found no cheer in the casual bloodlust of the evening traffic. For the first time I found myself honking my horn, returning the upraised middle fingers, and raging at delay along with all the other frustrated drivers. It had always been obvious that everyone else in the world is painfully stupid; but tonight that truly grated on my nerves, and when I finally arrived home I was in no mood to pretend I was glad to be back with my little family. Cody and Astor were playing Wii, Rita was giving Lily Anne a bath, all of them performing their empty, oblivious dumb show, and as I stood inside the front door and looked at the profoundly annoying idiocy of what my life had become, Ifelt something snap, and rather than smashing furniture and laying about me with my fist, I flung my keys on the table and stalked out the back door.

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