Read Double dexter Online

Authors: Jeff Lindsay

Double dexter (page 4)

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The sun was just starting to set, but the evening was still hot and very humid, and after three steps into the yard I already felt beads of sweat blooming on my face. They felt cool as they rolled down my cheeks, which meant that my face was hot—I had flushed with an alien rage, a feeling that almost never took me over, and I wondered: What was going on in the Land of Dexter? Of course I was on edge, waiting for an inevitable apocalypse, but why should that suddenly blossom into anger, and why should it be directed at my family? The dull and anxious interior muck I’d been mired in had suddenly erupted into rage, a new and dangerous thing, and I still did not know why. Why did I feel this steaming wrath growing out of what was no more than a few small and harmless examples of human stupidity?

I crossed the patchy brownish grass of our yard and sat at the picnic table, for no real reason except that I had come out here and so I thought I shoulddosomething. Sitting wasn’t much as an activity and it didn’t make me feel any better. I clenched and unclenched my fists and then my face, and I pulled in another hot, damp breath. It didn’t calm me down, either.

Dull, petty, pointless frustrations, the very stuff of life, but they had built to a point where I was falling apart. Now more than ever I needed to stay icy calm and in complete control; someone hadseenme. Even now he might be on my trail, pitter-pattering closer and bringing with him Dexter’s Destruction, and I needed to be at my absolute Mr. Spock–logical best—anything less would be fatal. And so I needed to know whether this flight of angry passion was some final unraveling of the carefully woven artistic tapestry that is Dexter, or merely a temporary tear in the fabric. I took one more large hot breath and closed my eyes to listen as it steamed through my lungs.

And as I did, I heard a soft and reassuring voice over my shoulder, telling me that therewasan answer, and really and truly itwasvery simple, just this one more time, if only I would listen for a single moment to the voice of clear and thrilling reason. I felt the breath inside me chill into a frosty blue mist and I opened my eyes andlooked behind me, through a gap in the tree above me, over the top of the neighbor’s hedge and off into the darkening horizon, where these silky words were floating down from a giant yellow-orange burbling happy moon, just now drifting up over the rim of the world and sliding into the sky to hover like the fat and happy friend from a childhood holiday.…

Why wait for him to find you?it said.Why not find him first?

And it was a lovely, seductive truth, because I was good at two simple things: hunting my prey and then disposing of it. So why not do those things? Why couldn’t I be proactive? Jump into the databases with both feet, find a list of every old, dark-colored Honda in the Miami area with a dangling taillight, and track them down one at a time until I found the right one, and then settle the whole thing once and for all by doing what Dexter does best—clean, simple, and fun. If there was no Witness, there was no threat, and all my problems would melt away like ice cubes on a summer sidewalk.

And as I thought about that and breathed in again, I could feel the dim red tide recede completely, and my fists unclenched, and the flush drained out of my face as the cool and happy light of the moon blew its gentle feather breath across me, and from the shadowy corners of my inner fortress a silken purr uncoiled, agreed, chuckled encouragement, and told me oh-so-clearly,Yes, indeed. It really is just that simple.…

And it was; all I had to do was spend some time on the computer, find a few names, and then slip away into the night, casually stroll off into darkness with a few harmless props—no more than a roll of duct tape, a good blade, and some fishing line. Find my Shadow, and then lead him gently away to share with me the small pleasures of a fine summer evening. Nothing could be more natural and therapeutic: a simple unwinding, a carefree interval to untie all the unreasonable knots, and the end of an unjust threat to all I held dear. It made such good sense, on so many levels. Why should I let anything stand in the way of life, liberty, and the pursuit of vivisection?

I breathed in again. Slowly, soothingly, the seductive purr of this simple solution whispered through me, stropping its fur on my interior legs and promising me utter contentment. I looked up into the sky; the bloated moon gave me one more beguiling simper, an invitationto the dance tinged with the promise of endless regret if I should be stupid enough to say no.Everything will be fine, it hummed to me with a rising tempo and a delightful blend of major chords.Better than fine—blissful. And all I had to do was be myself.

I had wanted something simple—here it was. Seek and slice, and an end to all strife. I looked up at the moon, and it looked back fondly, beaming at its favorite student, who had at last worked through the problem and seen the light.

“Thank you,” I said. It didn’t answer, except with one more sly wink. I took another cool breath, stood up, and went back into the house.

THREE

THE NEXT MORNING I WOKE UP FEELING BETTER THAN Ihad in days. My decision to take a proactive path had released all the unwanted anger I’d been wallowing in, and I jumped out of bed with a smile on my lips and a song in my heart. Of course, it was not the kind of song I could share with Lily Anne, since the lyrics were a little too sharp for her, but it made me happy. And why not? I was no longer simply waiting for something bad to happen; I was going to leap into action andmakeit happen—even better, happen to someone else. That was much more to the point; I was meant to be a stalker, not a stalkee, and accepting that this was my lot in life was bound to make me more content. I hurried through breakfast and managed to get to work a little early in order to get right at my new research project.

The lab area was empty when I got there, and I sat down at my computer and called up the DMV database. I had spent my morning drive thinking about how to construct a search for the phantom Honda, so there was no need to ponder and dither. I called up a list of all Honda sedans more than eight years old and sorted them by the owner’s age and location. I was quite certain that my Shadow had been under the age of fifty, so I quickly discarded anyone older.Next, I sorted for vehicle color. I could only say with certainty that the car was a darkish color; one very quick look at it racing away was not enough to be more specific. In any case, age, sunlight and the salty Miami air had done their work on the car and it would probably be impossible to say what color it was even if I looked at it under a microscope.

But I knew it was not light colored, so I pulled up all the dark-painted cars from the first search and tossed out the rest. Then I did one final sort for location, throwing away anything on the list registered to an address more than five miles away from the house where I had been seen. I would start with the assumption that my Witness lived somewhere nearby, in the South Miami area; otherwise, why would he be there, instead of Coral Gables or South Beach? It was a guess, but I thought it was a good one, and it immediately cut two-thirds of the entries from my list. All I needed was one quick glance at each car, and when I saw one with the dangling taillight and distinctive rusty birthmark on its trunk, I would have my Witness.

By the time my coworkers began to wander into the lab, I had compiled a list of forty-three old, dark-colored Hondas registered to under-fifty owners in my target area. It was a little daunting; I clearly had my work cut out for me. But at least it was my work, on my terms, and I was confident that I could get this done quickly and efficiently. I put the list into an encrypted file labeled “Honda,” which sounded innocent enough, and e-mailed it to myself. I could call it up on my laptop when I got home and go right to work.

And as if to prove that I was finally moving in the right direction, a mere two seconds after I sent myself the list and brought my computer back to its official home screen, Vince Masuoka came in carrying a white cardboard box that could only be pastry of some kind.

“Ah, Young One,” he said, holding up the box. “I have brought you a riddle: What is the essence of the moment but as fleeting as the wind?”

“All that lives, Master,” I said. “Plus, whatever is in the box.”

He beamed at me and opened the lid. “Snatch the cannoli, Grasshopper,” he said, and I did.

Over the next few days I slowly, carefully, began to check the names on the list after work. I started with the ones closest to myhouse; these I could check on foot. I told Rita I needed exercise, and I jogged through the area in ever-widening circles, just another Normal Guy out for a run without a care in the world. And in truth, I began to feel as if I might really be back on the path to a worry-free life. The simple decision to take action had halted my fretting, stilled my churning bosom, and smoothed my furrowed brow, and the thrill of the hunt put the spring back in my step and brought a very good fake smile to my face. I fell back into the rhythms of Normal Life.

Of course, normal life for a forensics geek in Miami is not always what most people think of asnormal. There are workdays when the hours are very long and filled with dead bodies, some of them killed in startling ways. I have never lost my sense of wonder at the endless ingenuity of human beings when it comes to inflicting fatal wounds on their fellow creatures. And as I stood in the rain one night almost two weeks after Valentine’s Night, on the shoulder of I-95 at rush hour, I marveled again at this infinite creativity, because I had never before seen anything like what had been done to Detective Marty Klein. And in my small and innocent way, I was very glad that there was something new and noteworthy about Klein’s exit, because Dexter was Drenched.

It was the dark of the moon, and I stood in the rain, in a cluster of people blinking at the lights of rush-hour traffic and the huddled police cars. I was soaked and hungry, with frigid water dripping from my nose, my ears, my hands, rolling down the neck of my useless nylon windbreaker, into the back of my pants, soaking into my socks. Dexter was very, very wet. But Dexter was at work, too, and so he must simply stand and wait and endure the endless babble of the police officers—officers who can comfortably take all the time they want to repeat the same pointless details, because they have been thoughtfully provided with bright yellow rain suits. And Dexter is not actually a police officer. Dexter is a forensics geek, and forensics geeks don’t get bright yellow rain suits. They must make do with whatever they might have flung in the trunk of their car—in this case a flimsy nylon jacket that couldn’t protect me from a sneeze, let alone a tropical downpour.

And so I stand in the rain and soak up cold water like a semihuman sponge while Officer Grumpy tells Officer Dopey one more timehow he saw the Crown Vic pulled off onto the shoulder and went through all the standard procedures, which he repeats out loud again as if reading them from the manual.

And worse than the tedium, worse than the chill spreading through his bones and deep into his very center, Dexter must stand in all this dripping rain-soaked misery and maintain an expression of shocked concern on his face. This is never an easy expression to get right, and I can’t really summon the urgency tonight, wallowing as I am in my blank misery. Every two minutes I find the necessary expression slipping away, replaced by a more natural look of soaking-wet annoyed impatience. But I fight it off, rearrange my features to the appropriate mask, and soldier on in the dark, wet, and endless evening. Because in spite of my cloudy disposition, I need to get it right. We are not looking at some nasty little drug dealer who got what he deserved. This is no headless wife caught in unfaithful performance by a temperamental husband. The body in the Crown Vic is one of us, a member of the fraternal order of Miami cops. At least, it seems to be, from what we can tell by glancing casually through the car’s windows at the shapeless blob inside.

And it is shapeless, not because we cannot see it clearly through the windows—unfortunately, we can—and not because it has slumped down into a relaxed sprawl and curled up with a good book—it hasn’t. It is shapeless because it has, apparently, been hammered out of its formerly human shape, slowly, carefully, and thoroughly bludgeoned into a blob of shattered bones and bruised flesh that no longer resembles even a little bit anything that might be called a person, let alone a sworn officer of the law.

Of course, it is terrible to do such a thing, even worse to do it to a cop, a peacekeeper, a man with a badge and a gun whose only purpose in life is to stop such things from happening to everyone else. Squishing a cop like that, so slowly and deliberately, is an extra-awful affront to our well-ordered society, and it is a dreadful insult to every other brick in the thin blue wall. And we all feel outrage—or at the very least, we present a reasonable facsimile. Because this kind of death has never been seen before, and even I can’t imagine who, or what, could have done it this way.

Someone, or something, has spent a tremendous amount of timeand energy smashing Detective Marty Klein into a glob of jelly—and worse still, outrageous beyond measure, they’ve done it at the end of a long day’s work, when dinner is waiting. No punishment is too severe for the kind of animal who would do this, and I truly hoped that terrible justice would be served—right after dinner and dessert, over a cup of dark coffee. Possibly with a small biscotti or two.

But it’s no good; the stomach growls, and Dexter is drooling, thinking of the sublime pleasures of Rita’s cooking that wait for him at home, and therefore not keeping his facial muscles locked into the required expression. Someone is bound to notice and wonder why Detective Klein’s dreadfully battered corpse would make anyone salivate, and so with a major effort of my iron will, I realign my face again and wait, pointing my somber scowl at the puddle of rain growing around my sopping shoes.

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