Incubi - Edward Lee.wps (5 page)

BOOK: Incubi - Edward Lee.wps
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"What will, smart boy?"

"Competent field investigative work."

"Which you, of course, are an expert on, right?"

"That's right, Larrel." But Jack thought: What's he hedging? He had Olsher's psychology down pat; it was easy to tell when this big black golem had something bubbling underneath.

"You still drinking?"

Thar she blows, Jack thought. "Sure. Off duty. So what?"

"A uniform said he smelled booze on your breath last night."

"I wasn't even on the clock. I got the 64 at home."

"You hung over?"

"Sure," Jack said. "You ever been?"

"That's not the point, Jack."

"I can't predict when someone's gonna get 64'd."

"That's not the point either, and you know it."

Yeah, I guess I do.

Olsher sat down and lit an El Producto. Gobs of smoke obscured his face, which Jack was grateful for.

"Word's going around, Jack."

"Okay, so I wear a little lingerie on weekends."

"Word's going around that Veronica dumped you and you're falling apart, and that you're hitting the booze worse than you did after the Longford case."

"That's bullshit," Jack said.

Olsher adjusted his paunch in the chair. "County exec's office calls me today. They say it might be ‘prudent' to ‘extract' you from the Triangle case. They don't want any ‘incongruities'

that might ‘impoverish' the stature of the department. Then the comm's liaison calls and says, ‘If that shitfaced walking lawsuit fucks up this case, I'll have his goddamn balls hanging from my rearview mirror like sponge dice.'"

That's what I call confidence, Jack thought.

"They want the Triangle case solved quick and clean."

Jack's heart slowed. "Don't take me off it, Larrel."

"Give me one reason why I shouldn't."

"I'll give you three. One, I'm a Yankees fan. Two, I drink good Scotch, not rail brands. And three, I'm the best homicide investigator on your fucking department."

"You gonna get this guy?"

"Probably not, but I've got a better shot than TSD or the rest of your homicide apes. Christ, Larrel, most of those guys couldn't investigate their own bowel movements."

Olsher toked further. Creases in his big, dark face looked like corded suet. "I like you, Jack. Did you know that?"

"Yeah, you wanna hold hands? Kiss, maybe?"

"You've crashed in the last year and a half. I think you're letting the job get to you, and I think this shit with Veronica blew your last seal. I think maybe you should see the shrink."

"Give me a break," Jack groaned. He doodled triangles on his blotter. "Why does everyone think I'm a basket case because of a girl?"

"You tell me. And furthermore, you look like shit. You're paler than a trout belly."

"Can I help it I wasn't born black?"

"And your clothes Christ, Jack. Are wrinkles the new fashion or do you sleep in a cement mixer?"

"I sleep in a cement mixer," Jack said. "That's between us."

"You look worse than some of the skell we lock up."

"I work the street, Larrel. I work with snitches. How effective would I be with a whitewall and black shoes and white socks?" But then he thought Oops, noting Olsher's black shoes and white socks.

"You're not even the same guy anymore," the DPC went on. "You used to have spark, enthusiasm, and a sense of humor. I just don't want to see you go down. Everything about you says. ‘I don't give a shit anymore.'"

This was getting too close to home. Jack felt like a cordon stake being hammered into soil. I'm getting my ass gnawed by my boss, I'm one hair away from reassignment and two away from early retirement, I've got a killer who just carved a girl up like lunch meat, and all I can think about is Veronica. Maybe I am a basket case.

Olsher let the moment pass. "What have you got so far?"

"The girl's not even cold yet," Jack said. "Give me some time. Eliot's squad is doing the make, but I don't think it'll amount to much. I think she was random."

"You just told me it was premeditated."

"The murder, not the victim. The guy's been planning this. For him, it's the act. That's why I think the latents'll be useless. He left them because he knows they're not on file. This guy's not a delusional psychopath or a psychotic. Psychopaths tend to think they'll never make a mistake, but they always do. This guy won't."

"You think he'd do it again?"

"Probably. It depends on the nature of his delusion."

"You just got done telling me he's not delusional."

"That's not what I meant. He's delusional. But the crime scene shows someone who's not psychopathic; he's what a crime shrink would probably call ‘tripolar.' He executes his crimes according to his delusion but without losing sight of reality. He's afraid of getting caught." Jack paused to light a Camel. "I want to fork my strategies, let Eliot and his guys follow the normal SOPs while I "

"Go off on the other fork in the road?" Olsher said.

"Right. It works. Remember the Jamake hitter we had a couple years ago? Or the guy at the CES

convention who ripped those three hookers? And there's always the Longford case..."

"I remember. You don't have to blow your horn for me."

"Good. I'll need slush money for consulting fees "

Olsher winced like gas pains.

"I'll need a researcher and a forensic shrink, maybe that woman from Perkins. But what I need more than any of that is for you to trust me."

Olsher rose. No DPC enjoyed the headache of cash authorization; getting it was like standing before a Senate subcommittee. Nevertheless, Olsher said, "You've been thinking about this all day, haven't you? Maybe you do give a shit. So get on it."

"You're giving me the case?"

"What do you think, Jack? You're a ragass. You're a longhair. You're probably a drunk. You can't handle the psychological pressure of the job anymore, and you're letting a busted romance pull you to pieces. The Yankees are only good because they buy players, and I've seen you drink house booze many times. But you probably are the best homicide investigator on my fucking department."

Jack smiled.

"But don't make a dick of me on this, or you'll be the best unemployed homicide investigator..."

"Loud and clear, boss." Jack crushed out his Camel and lit another. "If I'm lucky and sometimes I am I can get a line on this fucker. To catch a killer, you have to know him before you can find him. He can be the smartest killer in the world, but no matter how well he covers his tracks, there's always one little thing he always leaves behind."

"What's that?" Olsher asked.

"His soul." Jack drew smoke deep into his chest. Red, he thought. In his mind he saw red. "This guy left his soul all over the walls of that girl's bedroom."

«« »»

It stuck in his mind a memory more persistent than the others. He didn't know why then, but he thought he did now. Perhaps it had been the present telling him something about the future, an eager specter whispering in his ear, saying, Listen, Jack. It's really you they're talking about.

Listen. Listen...

A month ago? Two? He wasn't sure. They'd gone out to eat somewhere McGarvey's, he thought and then had stopped for a drink at the Undercroft. Veronica seemed particularly content; she was used to their relationship now, comfortable with it. She accepted it as part of her.

Jack, too, was very happy that night. It was a combination of complacencies. He'd just gotten a raise and a letter of commendation. Veronica had just sold two more paintings and had been interviewed by Vanity Fair. Their lives, together, were stable. They were happy, and they were in love.

That was the sum of the combination: love. It was his love that made him happy.

Romantic affection sometimes seemed silly, but that made him happy too. Just holding her hand, or the easy way their knees touched when they sat. How she unconsciously touched him when she talked. These were subtleties, yet they were also anchors, weren't they? Verifiers. More little pieces of their love.

There'd been many nights like this, but this one stuck out because of something that happened later. As the evening wound down, some guy from the state film institute came in and introduced himself to Veronica. His name if Jack remembered right was Ian. He was young and had just graduated from film school; he was currently directing an independent movie, some avant-garde sort of thing. Very quickly Ian and Veronica got into a very heavy discussion. It didn't bother Jack, giving some of his time with her to someone else; it seemed important. Instead, he yacked with Craig about beer, women, and the Steelers.

But something bothered him. He found he couldn't help keeping an ear on Veronica's conversation. She and this Ian guy seemed to be talking about the function of fear in art.

What's fear got to do with art? Jack wondered.

"Like Argento and Bava," Ian was saying, "it's all a system of psychological symbols."

"And Pollock and de Kooning," Veronica said, sipping a Sapporo.

"Exactly! Using objective structural standards as a method of subjective conduction."

"Looking in the mirror and seeing someone else's face."

"Or no face at all," Ian postulated.

"Ah, so you're an existentialist," Veronica assumed.

"No, I'm just a director. The only honest creative philosophy is no philosophy. Truth is all that motivates me human truth."

Sounds like a bunch of gorilla shit to me, Jack thought.

"And you view truth through its correlation to human fears," Veronica stated rather than asked.

"Yes," Ian said. "Our fears make us what we are. Every action generates a reaction. Fear makes us react more than anything else."

"Wait a minute, pal," Jack interrupted. "You're saying that fear is the only truth in life?"

Ian's eyes sparkled. "Yes, I think I am. Fear is the base for everything else we want to be truth.

Even our joys are created out of inversions of our fears."

"That's a load of shit."

"Jack!" Veronica snapped.

"But he's just proved it himself. His reaction to our discussion has created a denial. His fear that we might be right."

Jack felt fuddled.

"For a short time in my life," Ian explained, "I went on a hiatus. I knew I could never be creatively complete until I had identified my greatest fears. So that's what I did, I went looking for the things that scared me the most."

"What were the things?" Veronica asked.

"There were only three," Ian said. "Drugs, greed, and love."

«« »»

Love, Jack thought. Cigarette smoke smeared the sunlight in his office window. The sudden recognition numbed him. Fear. Love. Was one really based upon the other? Now he knew why that night stuck in his mind. It was a portent, a mirror to the disheveled future he was sitting in right now. Ian had been right. Jack's love now that he no longer had Veronica to give it to scared him to death.

Fear is the base for everything else we want to be truth, Ian had said.

Love, Jack thought.

Then he saw another, closer memory. In red:

HERE IS MY LOVE

"I just talked to Beck in Millersville," Randy Eliot said.

Jack hadn't even noticed the entrance of his partner. Randy, in a sharp gray suit, was helping himself to Jack's coffee. When he turned, he stopped. "Christ, Jack. You look like "

"Like I slept in a cement mixer. I know. Olsher just got done doing the plunger on my ass. Thinks I'll fuck up the case."

Randy stayed comment and sat down.

"Let me ask you something, as a friend," Jack said. "Do you think I'm slipping?"

"Anybody who brews coffee this bad must be good for something." Randy dropped his cup in the trash. "You want the truth? You drink way too much, and you're too impressionable."

"Impressionable? What's that supposed to mean?"

"You don't let go of things. Like Veronica."

Jack smirked. "Who asked you anyway?"

"You did."

"Well, next time I ask, don't answer. What's that about Beck? I thought you were running down the Bayview girl."

"I am, and we've dug up plenty of shit. Name's Shanna Barrington, thirty-two, single, no roommates. Got an art degree from St. John's, worked for an ad agency off the Circle, one of the big ones. She started in the business as a commercial artist..."

Jack remembered the pastels and watercolors on the walls.

"Got promoted to senior art director last year, pulling almost seventy K. Good job record, good credit..."

"But?"

"Mary Poppins she wasn't."

"Guys, you mean?"

"All kinds. She was a dance-club queen. Neighbors say she'd come home with a different guy every night. Hung out at a lot of the ritzier places downtown. The resident manager got tons of complaints about her; she was a screamer. A few of the downtown barkeeps gave us the same story. She'd meet a guy, tag him in the sack the first night, then—"

"Next day she's sick of him," Jack finished. "She's out looking for someone new. It's a common cycle. Lotta girls that age get that way because they're afraid they're losing it..." Then he paused, thinking. What? Afraid. Fear. Again, he thought of Ian. "They go hypersexual because they never get the kind of emotional attention they need. So they replace it with physical attention. It gets to be a compulsion. They don't feel real unless they're getting laid by a different guy every night."

"A girl can make a lot of enemies doing that. All she's got to do is burn the wrong guy..."

No, Jack thought. Not this one. The feel was all wrong, and so was the evidence. Shanna Barrington was not murdered as a result of her promiscuity. She was chosen because of it.

"What were you saying about Beck? She find something?"

Randy nodded, then patted his hair, which was his own compulsion. "The victim had an address book in her nightstand. There were over a hundred names and numbers in it."

BOOK: Incubi - Edward Lee.wps
9.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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