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Authors: Lynn Hightower

Alien Eyes (9 page)

BOOK: Alien Eyes
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David took a handful of popcorn. It was crunchy and sun warm, and a piece fell through his fingers to the ground.

“It is easier with fins,” Angel Eyes said.

David smiled.

“Are you here to see me?” she asked. “How did you know where to look? This intrigues me. I did not even know where I was going, until I got here.”

David gave her what he hoped was a mysterious smile. He wondered if an Elaki would recognize a mysterious smile.

“I have some questions to ask you.”

“I imagine so,” she said. “Please, let us sit.” She folded in the middle and perched on the edge of the bench.

David cocked his head to one side. “I've never seen an Elaki sit before.”

“And it is most uncomfortable. But so rude to tower above people when talking, and so uncomfortable for the hu … person to be always standing on the feet. I have heard folk songs about the aching feet, and I do not wish to cause them.”

David wondered what songs she meant.

“How about this?” He climbed onto the bench and stood up. Angel Eyes unfolded. For once, he was able to look down on an Elaki, if only a few inches.

“Unique,” she said. “If you are comfortable?”

“Tell me about Dahmi,” David said. “How well did you know her?”

Angel Eyes set her bag of popcorn on the bench. “Not well. She came to the Wednesday night lectures. Then, sometime, she would hang about after the lecture—there is always a group like that—and continue with questions for me. There is little restaurant across the street from lecture hall. Students might go there, afterward. There were nights she seemed to hurry away. I assume she was needed at home by the little baby ones. How many pouchlings, David?”

“Four,” he said.

“Ah. Is there anyone to do the death watch? I understand she alone of the chemaki is here?”

“It's taken care of.”

“Oh?”

“A friend.” It seemed churlish, but David did not say who. “Was she there? At the last lecture?”

“Yes.”

“You remember?”

“Yes. I checked roll sheet, also. I wanted to know for sure.”

“Did she seem upset?”

“No. But how to tell?”

“Did she stay after the lecture that night? Ask questions?”

“I try to remember. And I ask other Elaki. She did stay, and she did go to restaurant. I did not go.”

“Did she ask anyone about a gun?”

“A gun? Ah. I do not know. I did not go to the restaurant. Where would Elaki get gun? Back of magazine?”

“Good question. Who did go to the restaurant that night?”

“Try Tate Donovan. Human, in the senior dorm. And Dreamer. His Elaki name is Tati. He would have been there. He is also in senior dorm.”

“Why do you think she killed them,” David said softly.

“I do not know.”

“You seemed to know the other day. On television.”

“I have my theory. If you saw the television broadcast, then you know the theory.”

“What would make Dahmi think she was the target of a cho invasion?”

The Elaki moved slightly to one side. “I do not know. But if she did think so, would that not explain?”

“Not really,” David said. “She could have asked for help.”

“From Izicho?”

“From you. From the Guardians. Did she ask you for help, Angel?”

“She did not,” Angel Eyes said, voice nearly inaudible.

David bit his lip. If he didn't know better, he would have sworn that her eyes were glistening with tears.

FOURTEEN

David cocked his head to one side, whistling. He absently crammed a handful of popcorn into his mouth. Rose didn't much like popcorn, but that was because she didn't eat it properly. You had to eat it in fistfuls for it to taste right. One piece at a time wouldn't give the proper effect. Popcorn was as much texture as taste.

David tipped the final contents of the brown paper bag into his mouth. It was salty down at the bottom. He licked butter off his lips.

A girl walked by, carrying a small pack of diskettes and books. Something glistened at her neck and David did a double take. The girl wore a gold chain strung with Elaki scales.

“David?” Mel stood outside the doorway to the Farnum Building. “Where you been?”

David wadded the empty bag, and looked around for a trash can. “In the gardens.”

Mel narrowed his eyes. His voice was flat. “We got to go.”

David felt his heartbeat pick up. “What's up? Where's String?”

“Already on his way in the van. We got a car, should be out by the curb.”

“Dahmi?” David said.

“Cho invasion,” Mel told him. “Not too far from here, as a matter of fact.”

The neighborhood was as old as the university, older. The houses were meticulously tended, many of them landmarks on the historical tours. It was a neighborhood popular with the tenured faculty. Close by were houses that had been converted into apartments, various sororities and fraternities, all bordering the university proper.

The driveway had been roped off, and there were cars up and down both sides of the street. Neighbors stood quietly in groups in adjoining yards. The car let David and Mel off in the road, then went on without them.

“Aw hell, Daley's standing outside.” Mel groaned. “Must be a ripe one.”

David wished he'd left the sport coat and tie in the car. He headed up to the porch. Daley was a big man, blond and hefty, and he looked forlorn. Sweet disposition, for a cop.

David frowned suddenly. “These aren't Elaki.”

Mel met his eyes. “We got people this time.”

David looked for bicycles and roller skates and was happy not to see any. There was a stack of rolled-up newspapers in a neat mound on the porch, and the small black mailbox was ajar, stuffed with mail that hadn't been picked up. Flies clustered in the corners of the window. The porch light was on.

Happened at night, David thought. Behind him, Mel muttered into his recorder. David turned and pointed to the porch light. Mel nodded.

Daley smoothed the thin blond hair that was combed over his pink scalp. He nodded at David.

“How you doing, Daley?” David said. “You take the call?”

Daley nodded. “That old-time favorite, check out the suspicious odor.”

“How long?”

“A week at most. Hard to tell. Been a lot of decomposition.”

Mel grimaced. “Air-conditioning on, please God?”

“Turned off. Just like the other two.”

“Shit,” Mel said. He unwrapped a pack of small white filters, handed two to David, and put one in each nostril. “Let's do it.”

“Watch out for—”

They went in fast, tramping through a dried oblong of black blood.

“The blood,” Daley said.

David looked at Mel, who shrugged. “That's what cops are for. Fucking up the crime scene.”

“A time-honored tradition,” Daley muttered.

David smelled hot death, and coffee. He turned to Daley. “You put the grounds on?”

“Helps, a little bit,” Daley said. “Wait till you get upstairs.”

In the kitchen, the floor and the back wall were liberally splashed with blood. A woman in a thin blue negligee was limp and battered on the floor. Her face was gone, blown into bits. Blood had fanned and dried in Rorschach patterns beneath and behind her. A wall calendar was specked with blood. The woman had been hog-tied with fishing wire that had been looped several times around her ankles, run between her legs to her hands, crossed behind her back, and tied around her neck. Her fingers were cut and bloody. The hole in her face was about two inches in diameter, the edges scalloped.

Her skin was blue and swollen, and flies buzzed in the carnage of her face. Her breasts were visible under the thin nightgown. Her hips were generous, belly overlarge and flaccid. The nightgown was twisted around her thighs—she had spent some time struggling with the fishing line. David squatted down. The filters in his nose were not effective. He knew he would carry the smell home with him.

The skin of the neck flapped open from the gouge of the knife that had severed her vocal cords. Whoever did these killings didn't like to hear them scream.

He stood up, looking around the kitchen. The garbage can was overflowing, and on top were the remains of brightly colored wrappers with cartoon characters.

Kids in the house, he thought. David left the kitchen and headed through the living room.

The first thing he noticed were the books. Stacked everywhere there was a surface, two to three feet high, laced with magazines, computer printouts, disks. The furniture was old, the kind that stayed in the family, a few nice pieces, dusty. The clock on the wall watched.

David went up the stairs.

There were stacks of magazines on the steps, like someone had tossed them there to get them out of the way. Streaks of dried brown blood stained the carpet, the handrail, the baseboard of the wall. David recognized the bright yellow cover of a
National Geographic
and a
Children's Hour
, both splotched with blood splats. Several bloodstained magazines were strewn across the second and third step, and David and Mel stepped over them.

It was hot upstairs, the air putrid. The first door, on the left, was closed. David snugged rubber gloves over his hands, and opened the door.

Bunk beds. The smell was strong here. David clenched his jaw and walked in.

The Elaki on the floor was quite dead, and it would take some time to reconstruct the pieces. There was enough upper torso intact for David to see that the vocal chamber had been slashed.

“What's the Elaki doing here?” Mel asked.

David shrugged. He walked to the bunk beds. Empty. He opened the closet door. Stuffed animals cascaded out, and something fell and scattered, sounding like marbles. No children.

“Detective David?”

“String?” David moved into the hallway. “When'd you get here?”

“Just now.” String extruded his fin. “Here. In the bathtub. I believe this to be the man of the house.”


Was
the man of the house,” Mel said.

The green tile of the bathroom floor was streaked with blood. The walls were tastefully covered in floral wallpaper, no stains. The sink had clawed feet and no cabinet underneath. The shower curtain had been pulled off the rings, and was crumpled in the corner. The toilet lid was up.

It was odd, David thought, that bodies looked bigger underwater.

The man in the tub was naked, swollen, skin white and bluish. The only visible wound was on the man's throat, where the vocal cords had been cut, signature of the cho invaders. The eyes bulged, the hair floated in the pink-stained water. The skin looked loose, like ham that has baked so long it falls tenderly off the bone. White foam caked the nostrils and open mouth. Lividity in the head and neck was marked.

David knelt and peered into the water. There were fingernail marks on the right hand, and the left was bunched into a fist.

He looked at String. “Miriam here?”

“Downstairs in kitchen.”

David moved into the hallway and down the stairs. He looked again at the trail of scattered magazines and blood and imagined the man in the bathroom, vocal cords cut, being dragged up the stairs by the killers. He nodded at Daley, who stood in the doorway.

“Nano machines?” Daley had the proprietary nervousness of the crime scene man.

“Not yet,” David said. “Soon.”

Miriam was kneeling next to the woman's body. She glanced at David over her shoulder.

“Shotgun?” he said.

“Twenty gauge,” Miriam said. “Killer stood three to six feet away. More like three would be my guess. No separation of pellets, wad propelled into the body. Edges of the wound are scalloped. Some powder tattooing.” She lifted the woman's hand. “Defense wounds on forearm, and—” She clicked off her recorder. “You see this, David?”

He stepped closer. “Middle finger missing.” He peered at the bloody stump. “Defense wound?”

“I think so. It hasn't been cleanly severed, like it would be for a torture thing. Gouged and pulled. Possibly when her vocal cords were cut. She put up a fight.” Miriam frowned. She peeled down the shoulder straps on the nightgown. “Maybe someone held her shoulders. The lividity here may be bruising. I wouldn't expect much pooling here along the top.”

“Bruised by fingers? Or fins?”

“No finger imprints. Not sure, could be fins. My guess is someone held her, while the other one slashed the vocal cords, but she broke away and fought back. She was tied after, there's blood pumped everywhere here, but she was still alive, I think, till the shotgun blast.” Miriam pointed to the stove. “My guess is he, she, or it stood right there. Fired while she lay on the floor.”

“Any idea how tall the killer was?”

“Not yet. Wait for the autopsy. You see that finger anywhere?”

“Nope.”

“Bet the killers kept it.”

David nodded. “Can you come upstairs with me? Guy in the bathtub has something in his fist. I want to take a look at it. You want to do the honors?”

“A man after my heart. Let me at it.”

Mel and String moved out into the hallway. Miriam peered into the tub.

She chewed her lip. “I can't risk it. There's a surprising amount of skin slippage here. And I don't want the water contaminated until we run it through the nano filter. Sorry, David. You'll have to wait.”

The sudden ring of the telephone was jarring.

“I'll go,” David said.

“Probably my office,” Miriam said. “There's an extension in the kitchen.”

“Also bedroom at end of hall,” String said.

David left the bathroom. The phone was shrill. The hallway had wood floors that creaked when he walked. David opened the door to the bedroom.

Here, evidently, was the master bedroom. The bed was enormous and old, the mahogany dull and dark. A simple, white cotton bedspread was bunched at the bottom and pulled to one side, and the grey top sheet had been pulled back, as if someone had just gotten out of bed. Got up to answer the door, David thought. He wondered why anyone went to the door after dark.

BOOK: Alien Eyes
5.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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