"No, Jan, but I have a feeling you're going to tell me anyway."
"The guy's hung, and I mean hung serious. Average girl's got about seven inches of loveway; Shanna Barrington had eight. Your man popped her cervix I've only seen that a couple of times.
This kind of bleed's minor because of the nature of the capillary structures of the cervical cap. It's common with girls who make these porno videos. They get all coked up can't feel a thing, then some guy rams his schlong up her cooze he's got more schlong than she's got loveway and force-dilates the cervical cap. Tears some minor vessels. Like I said, it happens sometimes, but what doesn't happen is the rest. Your man's rod was in her cap when he came; he blew his steam right up into her ampullae, and that's something I've never seen. The cervical channel is about a mil wide unless the girl's preggers, and the uterine line is essentially microscopic. Both were filled with his stuff. We're talking about a tremendous ejaculator. Dilating her cervix with his cock is rare, but this kind of seminal presence is downright unreal. Most pathologists would tell you it's impossible. This guy blew his load all the way up her repro tract. He came so much even her infundibula were distended. The fucker filled this poor girl up like you fill your unmarked at the motor pool."
Jack's stomach was beginning to sink.
"Average erection's about six inches. We're looking for someone with more than twice that, and that's very uncommon. I looked it up. We're talking about less than one tenth of one percent of the male pop. Your killer's a walking smokehouse, sir."
"You have a lovely way with words, Jan," Jack said. "Is the tox screen in yet?"
"Yes, sir. BAC was .01, she was buzzed but not shitfaced."
"Zip. No coke, pot, PCP, skag, no nothing."
What else did Panzram say? he tried to recall. "Did you run her blood for any synthetic morphine derivatives?"
"Of course. Zero. My spec is the girl wasn't into drugs and never has been. Even recreational users have a pot history, and one look at the brain tells all. Lipofusial rancidity, we call it. Shanna Barrington didn't have it. She had a clean brain."
A clean brain, Jack thought. He could easily picture Jan Beck removing the victim's cranial cap with a Stryker orbital saw, looking down, and saying, Yep, a clean brain.
"But there was one thing, sir." Beck's unearthly voice seemed to shimmer through a pause. "Was she a health nut?"
"I don't know. We don't know that much about her yet."
"I mean her place. You find any vitamins, herbs, health stuff?"
"No," Jack said.
"Her blood says she's pretty healthy, except for the booze. Her liver looks like a moderate drinker. The only real deficient blood levels were B6, C, and magnesium, which is common for anyone who drinks regular."
I better start taking vitamins, Jack supposed.
"We found something in her blood that's not CDS. It looks like an herbal extract or something."
"Maybe a designer drug."
"No way, wrong chain. It's something organic."
From his seat on the bed Jack expertly flicked his butt out the window. "Work on it. Anything you got. There's a real deadline on this." What else? Olsher, yes. "Olsher said you were doing an n/a/a-scrape."
"I'm in the middle of that now, I'm going to work all night. The resilience lines and entry patterns worry me. He's using a funny shank, I mean. The scrape-spectrum'll be in by morning. Come and see me."
"Okay, Jan. Thanks."
"Good night, sir."
Jack hung up, sputtering. In the mirror, he could not conceive that the reflection was his own: a pale stick-man sitting on a bed, smoking a Camel, long hair a wet mop in his face. Pretty as a picture, he thought.
He went to his dresser for socks. Beneath the socks was a picture of Veronica. He knew he should not be thinking about this now. He should be immersed in the Triangle case but the picture catalyzed him. It kicked his spirit back in time. Veronica was sticking her tongue out at the camera, holding a big cup of Guinness, her arm around Jack. Craig had taken the picture at the 'Croft last St. Patrick's Day. It was the day after Veronica had told Jack that she loved him.
One time she'd gone to Atlantic City with Ginny. She'd called long-distance just to tell him she loved him. Another time they'd been downtown with Randy and his girlfriend, having a good time, talking innocuously about innocuous things, and Veronica had inexplicably passed Jack a bar napkin on which she'd penned I love you.
These were just a few. How could something once so bright have turned so black? Now he could view the past as only a dead providence.
He shoved the picture back in the drawer.
He dawdled about the flat, kept glancing at the phone. You're an idiot, he concluded an hour later. She is not going to call you. Why should she call you? She broke up with you.
...his passion is purposive, Karla Panzram had said. He's very passionate.
I love you, the bar napkin read.
HERE IS MY LOVE, the wall read.
This guy blew his load all the way up her repro tract.
Jack stared at the dresser mirror. "I am a very fucked-up person," he stated to it. His reflection looked like a stranger. There was a loose cannon in his town, cutting up girls alive, yet all Jack could think about was Veronica.
He looked deadpan at the phone.
She's never going to call you again. She's too busy with what's his name. Khoronos.
He left the flat. Dusk was descending; it was warm out, pretty. Main Street was alive with lovers and clean salt air. The purity of the vision depressed him. His long hair was still wet. He walked up toward Church Circle, toward the Undercroft
but at the corner he stopped. Was he sick? He felt dizzy at once; he backed up against a MOST
machine to keep from falling. When he closed his eyes he thought he saw fire.
Something skittered across his mind. Something a thought. A red thought.
No, a word.
"I knew I should've locked the door," Craig said.
"What, and keep out your best tipper?"
"I'm not into coin collecting, Jack. I've told you dozens of times."
"Just keep hocking in my Scotch like you've been doing for the last five years. I'll get the message eventually." Jack took his usual stool at the end. Several regulars raised their glasses in greeting. Jack liked the bar's appointment. The rafters bore hundreds of beer coasters from around the world. Banners from breweries as obscure as Felinfoel, Tennent's, and Tucher covered the front wall. Craig piped Fine Young Cannibals through the sound system while an Orioles game with the sound turned down progressed from the high TV. Jack was happy to see that the Yankees were using the O's for toilet paper.
"What do you call three cops up to their necks in sand?"
"Not enough sand." Craig twirled a shaker cup full of ice perfectly over his shoulder, then poured equal volumes from four bottles at the same time, holding two in each hand. Bar tricks were something he'd honed to an art.
"Poor man's Tom Cruise," Jack commented.
"What's that make you? Poor man's Columbo?"
"I'll drink to that. And speaking of drinks, do I have to fire warning shots to get one in this joint?"
"Keep your liver on." Craig put a shooter before him. "Try that. It's a tin roof."
Craig rolled his eyes. "It's on the house. I call it the Piss Shooter."
It looked like urine. "If your fly was open, I'd be leery." Jack downed the shooter. "Not bad.
Craig ejected the shaker's ice over his shoulder. The ice landed directly in the sink. Craig was famous for never missing. "Couple of your boys were in today, giving me the business."
Randy's men, Jack deduced. "They show you pictures?"
Craig nodded and grabbed the Glenfiddich bottle without looking at it. He had the exact location of every bottle memorized.
"You know her?"
"I've seen her around, but I didn't know her. Shanna something. She's got a rep downtown as a monster rack."
Craig's terminology never ceased to amuse, along with such gems as Mr. Meat Missile, Killer Mammalian Carriage, Body by Fisher, Brains by Mack Truck. Craig also had the ultimate last call: Everybody get the fuck out of the bar! A "monster rack" was a girl with whom not much effort was required to get into bed.
"You know anyone who ever jammed her?"
"No one by name. I've seen lots of guys pick her up at Fran's and the Map Room. Sounds like something heavy went down."
"I'll spare you the details. Ever see her in here?"
Craig shook his head. "She only hangs out at dance places."
Not hangs, hung. And she ain't dancing now.
Craig brought him a Fiddich on the rocks, then raised a brow a few minutes later when the glass was empty. "First one always goes fast," Jack excused himself.
"I'll bet that's what you tell all the women."
"Just your girlfriend."
Craig guffawed. "I don't have a girlfriend. I have a harem."
Jack had to fake going along with the jokes; the first drink was already bringing him down.
"Another, Craig." Watch it, don't get shitfaced again. Then the latent fact hit him like a fist. This was the same stool he'd been sitting on the night he met Veronica.
Khoronos, of course, would be strikingly handsome, older, mysterious. He would be different.
He would be the kind of guy who could offer her a different experience.
Experience, she'd told Jack that last night.
The second drink went nearly as fast. "Riding the black train again, huh?" Craig asked.
Jack lit up, slouching already. "I'm its favorite passenger these days." The alcohol and memory formed a whirlpool. He was flotsam in it, wreckage. He was going down.
"Let me tell you something." Craig flipped a Marlboro in the air and caught it in his mouth.
"You're not the first guy in the world to get sacked by a girl."
"I know," Jack said.
"You gotta tighten up the bootstraps and move on. Remember what we were talking about today?
Every day you spend boo-hooing about it is another day down the drain."
Jack shrugged. He didn't need lectures.
"Here's another way of looking at it, and stop me if I'm getting on your nerves."
"You're getting on my nerves."
Craig grinned. "First, look at yourself. You're drinking too much, you feel dismal, and you're depressed. Since the minute Veronica broke up with you, you've been miserable."
"I don't need to hear this, Craig."
"Yes, you do. Okay, we've established that you're miserable." Craig paused, probably for dramatic effect. "Is Veronica miserable?"
The question sunk deep. Was Craig trying to make him feel worse? The answer was obvious.
Veronica is not miserable. Right now she's partying it up with Khoronos. I'm miserable and she's probably having the time of her life. She's happier...without me.
"See?" Craig said, pouring a Betsey Bomber and Bloody Mary at the same time. "It hurts, sure.
It's the last thing in the world you want to think. But you have to face it, and get on with your life."
"I know," Jack whispered.
"And you're better than all that shit."
Craig walked away, taking beer lists to some newcomers. Am I really? Jack thought.
He went upstairs to the men's room, where the walls proved more of the Undercroft's diversity.
No phone numbers or cuss words the 'Croft sported highbrow graffiti only. "Loss of love equals loss of self," someone had written. Jack frowned as he whizzed. "The sleep of reason breeds monsters." Better, he thought. "The test of will is man's ultimate power," read another.
I don't feel very powerful today. He went back down with full intention of ordering another drink.
"Captain Cordesman?" Craig was inquiring. "See that guy there, with the long hair and off-duty gun in his pocket? That's him."
A girl, either timid or annoyed, came around the bar. There was some kind of plainness about her; she was attractive through no overt kind of beauty. Her roundish face lent her a cast of frayed innocence; her gray eyes seemed extant. She was neither fat nor skinny in simple faded jeans. A plain print blouse accommodated a plenteous bosom, and a straw-colored ponytail hung nearly to her waist. She was carrying a briefcase.
"At your service."
"I'm Faye Rowland. Lieutenant Eliot said I might find you here."
"Jack lives here," Craig cut in. "He sleeps on the bar after we close. We let him shave in the men's room."
Faye Rowland frowned at the jokes. "I'm an information systems technician for the state public service commission."
"Oh, you must be my researcher."
"That's right. Someone named Olsher made the arrangements with my department head. I'm on loan as long as you need me."
Jack had hoped for an associate prof or at least a T. A. from the university. Instead they'd sent him a systems jockey.
"All I know about your case is what your office faxed me this morning," she went on. "They said there's a big rush on it so I thought maybe you could brief me tonight. Save time."
Jack wasn't used to people hunting him down in bars on business. At least she was dedicated. He took her to a corner table. From her briefcase she withdrew color dot-matrix prints of Shanna Barrington's walls, and Jack's initial 64 summary.
"The very first thing you have to do is find out what aorista means," he told her. "That's the "
"Aorista is an exclamatory form of the noun aorist. It indicates an intransitive verb tense. It's in the Oxford dictionary."
Jack felt dumbly impressed.
"Denotatively, it's a grammatical inflection from Greek and Sanskrit, a set of inflectional verb forms which denotes action without specific reference to duration. In this case, though, I think you're probably looking for the common connotation."