Susan L. Williams
Story Note: Written for Faux Paws Productions' Virtual Season 6
A knock and a quiet, "Chief," woke him. He started up with an automatic, "Yeah?" blind in the dark, the only light the blue l.e.d. glowing 3:10 am and the pale, broken sliver slipping under the French doors from the living area.
"Simon called. We've got a body at the Courthouse."
He waited for the rest. Jim wouldn't have woken him otherwise.
"He said--he wondered if you'd come down to the scene."
"Me? Did he say why?" Did he forget I'm not a cop anymore?
"Just that there's something weird. He thought you might know something." A pause. "You don't have to."
"No, man." He threw the covers off. "I'm glad to help."
He switched on the bedside lamp, covered his eyes against the glare. Yeah, that was him. Glad. Thrilled, even. Oh, boy, gonna go see another dead body. Help me to contain my excitement. No, scratch that. Better help me to contain my last meal.
Out of sweats, into flannel-lined jeans, shirt, thick sweater, Doc Martens. Enough layers already. Get out there; you know Jim is ready and waiting. He looked around muzzily. Something was missing, something--Oh, yeah. No gun. Weird how something you'd never wanted in the first place could become something that left a wrongness when it was gone. Or something like that. Jim would understand.
He emerged from his room still not really awake, but functioning well enough to fake it. Jim tossed him his coat and he shrugged into it, pushing his scarf out the sleeve. He draped it around his neck, flipped his hair out from under it and dashed down the stairs in Jim's wake. Jim pushed the door open. Cold air bit, and he shivered, wishing for more layers, wishing for bed and blankets. Suck it up, anthropologist wussy-boy; you're needed.
Jim drove. Nothing new and just as well; shivering until the truck's stingy heat came up was about all he could handle right now. He gazed longingly at an all-night coffee drive-through, but apparently the secret sentinel-shaman telepathic link wasn't working, because Jim zipped right past without so much as a glance. Damn. Where was a mystical connection when a guy really needed it?
Flashing blues and reds outlined the scene. Jim pulled into the Courthouse parking lot and parked the truck as close as he could. Simon was already there, talking to one of the uniforms, hands jammed into the pockets of his overcoat. Forensics swarmed around. A dark lump on the ground must be the body. They got out of the truck and started toward it.
"Oh, God," Jim breathed, and paused for a moment, swaying, as though uncertain of the direction, then charged forward.
He hurried to catch up, anxiety heaving up a major babble. "Jim, what is it? Is it bad? Jim? Ji--"
He stopped, close enough now to see for himself. Close. Too close. She lay on her back, arms and legs carefully straightened, long hair a dark aureole around her head. Dark blue pumps matched her suit--Sapphire, they called it. Like the gem. Right? Sapphire. Her blouse had been white. Now it was red, but not a gem color like her suit, not garnet, or ruby, or any color of cold stone. Above it, a slash of darkness crossed her neck. Her eyes were closed, but he knew they were brown. He knew.
"Oh my God. Oh my God, Jim, it's--"
"Beverly Sanchez," Jim said softly, and knelt beside her.
Memories crashed. Smashing through her apartment door; her astonished, fearful face glimpsed before he tackled her; hearing the glass shatter even before they hit the floor, the bullet from Dylan Juno's gun piercing the wall and not her head. They'd saved her--he had--and now she was dead, murdered, saved from an instant, unaware death for one more horrible and more slow. She must have known, must have felt her life draining away, and no one had come crashing to save her this time.
"Jesus," Jim said, "Jesus," and lurched to his feet, away from the body, careful not to contaminate the scene even while heaving up his guts. He stared, not processing. Jim never threw up at crime scenes. Never. Grateful for the distraction--no matter the source--he went to Jim and laid a hand on his back, not offering useless words. Jim spat and wiped his mouth. His head swung toward the body, his face pale, haunted.
"Her heart's gone."
"Ripped out. The killer ripped it out of her body."
Simon approached them. "Sorry. I would have warned you, but I didn't know it was Beverly until I got here myself."
"Jim says her heart's gone," he said, not looking. "Her body was arranged pretty carefully. You're thinking ritual killing?"
"Either that," Jim said, "or someone who wanted it to look that way."
"Someone with a grudge?"
"Yeah." Simon took a baggie from his pocket, held it out. "This was in her hand."
He took the bag, and cupped his hand under the contents. It looked like a potsherd, roughly oval in shape, slightly curved, some kind of red-glazed ceramic. If it was a shard, it was old--centuries. There were no sharp edges, no sign of dust. In fact, the edges looked almost polished, from handling maybe. There was paint, too, white, black, and another red, some kind of symbols or maybe a picture. He couldn't be sure; there wasn't enough of it to really identify. But it looked familiar. And oddly disturbing. He turned it over, but the other side was blank.
"What can you tell me?" Simon asked.
He shrugged. "It's old, I think. Mesoamerican, maybe, but I'm not sure."
Simon did not look impressed by his knowledge.
"Sorry. I'll need to do some research, run some tests, to tell you anything more definite."
"I don't want to take you away from your school work."
"No, it's okay, Simon. I want to do what I can to help."
Jim plucked the bag from his hand. "Let me see that, will you, Chief?"
He was glad to let it go. Jim looked at the shard, frowned. "What the hell--?"
Jim thrust the baggie back at him.
"Jim? You okay?"
Jim wiped his hand on his pants. "Yeah."
He held the bag in two fingers, dangling. Not touching it suddenly seemed like a really good idea. "Is it something with your senses?"
"No. Maybe. I don't know."
"Well--what did you feel?"
Jim stared at the bag. "Dirty."
"You mean, like sex-stuff dirty?"
"Get your mind out of the gutter, Junior."
He looked at the shard again, and knew. "Unclean."
Jim's eyes met his. "Yeah. Exactly."
"What are you talking about?" Simon huffed.
They exchanged glances. He opened his mouth to explain, but Simon held up one hand and snatched the baggie away with the other. "Never mind. I don't want to know. When forensics is done with this, you can do whatever mumbo jumbo you want with it."
They stayed at the scene until the M.E. took Beverly's body away. She hadn't been killed in the parking lot; there wasn't enough blood on the asphalt. But her car was in the lot. Someone had abducted her, killed her, then brought her back here and laid her out. Courthouse security hadn't noticed anything unusual. The guard had found her body during a routine check and called 911. The uniforms had been first to respond. Jim talked to the older partner while he chatted with the other: David Anderson. He'd gone through the Academy with him. Anderson was an okay guy; hadn't given him any grief, anyway.
"Back to school, huh?" Anderson said.
"Yeah." He sighed. "Yeah, back to school."
"You have problems with the Job?"
"No. Nothing like that. I got an opportunity to finish my doctorate."
"Some guys go to night school."
"Hey, my nights are full, man."
Anderson grinned. "Full of shit, you mean."
Anderson's partner called him over. "Later, Doc."
"Yeah. See ya."
He watched Anderson approach his partner and Jim, but didn't join them. Wasn't his deal anymore. Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he looked around the empty parking lot. His gaze arrowed to the outline of Beverly's body, and the darker patch on the asphalt, where blood had soaked through her jacket. His feet developed a will of their own, and in seconds he was crouching next to the outline. He held one hand out over the dark patch, not touching it, and closed his eyes.
"What are you doing?"
He jumped, almost fell over but caught himself, and glared up at Jim. "Jesus, Jim, don't do that."
"Sorry." Yeah, right. "So?"
"I wanted to see if I could feel anything."
"I don't know. Vibrations, residual body heat--whatever."
"Nothing." He straightened up. "Why don't you give it a try?"
"Come on, Jim, you've done it before. Try it now."
Jim sighed his "exasperated but humor the kid" sigh and crouched, dutifully held his hand over the dark patch, but didn't close his eyes.
"There's no heat. She was already cold when they brought her here." His face twisted. Jim straightened up fast and walked away. "There's nothing else."
That was such a lie. "Jim?" He followed, working up an anger, because he was sick of this, goddamnit, sick of the whole denial-wheedle-demand-grudging admission cycle, and he wasn't going to do it, not now, not at five o'clock in the goddamn morning. He grabbed Jim's arm and yanked him to a stop. Jim looked at him impatiently--impatiently, goddamnit!--and that was totally the wrong thing to do because he was the impatient one in this partnership right now and he was not ceding his position to Jim "Denial is my middle name" Ellison.
"Tell me, damn it."
Jim gave him the blank look. "Tell you wha--"
"Don't start, Jim. Just don't."
Jim sighed again, but that was okay, this was the caving sigh, the "I know I can't get away with this shit anymore" sigh, so he waited, and eventually, Jim said,
"I can't explain it. I just--feel like I have to get away."
He nodded. "A fight or flight response."
"There's nothing there, Chief. Nothing to run from."
"But see, Jim, that's wrong. There is something there, something you can feel, it's just not tangible. It's like the psychometry you did with things that--things that Alex Barnes had touched."
Brief hesitation, but Jim caught it anyway and winced a little, another apology, another reminder neither of them needed. "What good is it?"
"It's all good, Jim. It gives us information. About you, about your sentinel abilities--"
"How does that help us with the case?"
"Well, so far, I think it tells us we should be cautious with this one. The fight or flight response is basic. And since it's you, and the flight response is overpowering the fight, we've gotta figure it's something pretty bad. Something beyond the normal."
"Beyond the normal?"
"Come on, Jim, you know what I mean."
Jim shook his head. "I don't like it."
"Goes without saying, man." He put his hand on Jim's shoulder. "Let's go home. You can catch a couple hours' sleep before your shift starts."
"Yeah." Jim gazed off into the dark distance, but Beverly was still in his eyes. "Okay."
Wolf and jaguar ran through the jungle. Sometimes, one pulled ahead, but always each waited for the other to catch up. Sometimes, they loped easily; at other times, they ran hard or forced their way through dense undergrowth. The jungle grew dark around them, but each had night-seeing eyes, though jaguar's were keener. They ran more slowly, setting their feet more carefully.
They came upon a structure that rose from the jungle floor into the sky. "Pyramid," one thought, "ziggurat," the other, but to both it was "temple." They paced around it, investigating. Stone it seemed at first, and some of it was, but some was wood made to look like stone, imperfect and impermanent, rotten in places and in others eaten away. Altogether it was no safe place, no place where wolf or jaguar wished to set paw or sniff too deeply of the air.
Nets engulfed them, trapped them, dragged them snapping and clawing into the temple, into a room with an altar, and braziers burning something that stank of oil and char and meat. A woman lay on the altar, or a man, with long dark hair or short blond waves, or brown curls, or hair receding in a widow's peak. A figure moved around the altar, human in shape, face covered by a grotesque mask. One side of the face bared teeth in a grin; the other melted, the features smeared and dripping. The body was badly formed and sexless, seeming cobbled together from different people and races. It spoke in a babble of languages that made no sense, and might have been laughable if not for the obsidian knife clutched in one hand.
The blade gleamed in the firelight; beads and chips of stone dangled glittering from the handle. The figure raised its arms to the sky, lowered them toward the earth, raised the knife over the altar and plunged the blade into the breast of the man/woman/man who lay there. Blood spurted, spraying the mask and body. Ignoring it, the figure cut a swift crescent in the victim's chest, reached a hand inside and pulled out the still-beating heart.
He jerked awake, heart slamming in his chest, stared at the clock, not focusing on the numbers, only on the light, and on breathing, slowly, evenly, calmly. Shit. Shit, that was not fun. He heard the weight of Jim's feet on the loft stairs, heard the refrigerator door open and close, but didn't get up.
The phone rang. The clock read 3:27. Shit.
They didn't know this one. It was a man, mid-thirties, with light hair thinning on top and a goatee. The driver's license in his wallet read "Troy Kelly." Kelly wore expensive, slightly scuffed shoes, jeans, and a really ugly print shirt with abstract swirls of blue, green, and bright red. Found outside Club Worthy, Kelly was laid out just like Beverly had been, his throat cut, his heart gone. Forensics was just starting to go over the scene, so they were extra careful not to disturb anything. Jim hung back, watching Serena do her thing, doing his own with his sentinel sight. That was fine. He had no interest in going near the body anyway; he could see more than enough from his position at Jim's side.
Three days since Beverly. They'd hoped maybe the weirdness factor was faked, that her murder had been revenge disguised, or a fear of prosecution. No way that was true now. Unless this was part of the plot, killing someone else to make it look like Beverly's job hadn't made her a target. But that was more elaborate than most criminals were likely to get. Most criminals couldn't get more complex than "woman in way--kill woman--woman out of way."
He'd done some research, mostly on the net so far. Forensics was still holding onto the potsherd or whatever it was Beverly had been clutching, but he had photos. He hadn't found much of anything. Mesoamerican? Probably. Maybe Aztec. Old? He was pretty sure. That, or a good fake. What it meant, to the killer or anyone else? He didn't have a clue. But he was willing to bet that--
Serena looked up. "Jim? You'd better have a look at this."
Jim was there almost before she finished saying it. They squatted beside the body and followed Serena's latex-gloved finger to the victim's right hand, fingers open now, a red-glazed, painted potsherd lying in his palm. Jim reached toward the shard, but recoiled without touching it.
"You're the expert, Chief."
He borrowed a glove from Serena--no need to carry his own anymore--and picked up the shard. The painted symbol or partial picture or whatever was different. But it looked like it was from the same pot (if it was a pot) as the other shard. He couldn't feel anything through the glove; he brought the shard up close to his face, trying to spot any significant details.
"It's okay, Jim."
Make that was okay. A wave of nausea knocked him onto his ass. He felt the blood drain from his head. Oh, God, he was going to throw up or pass out. Maybe both.
"Are you okay?" Serena asked.
She was holding a plastic evidence bag. He scrabbled for it, barely managed to drop the shard in before he pushed to his feet and stumbled away from the body. His knees hit the cement, and he bent over, supporting himself on shaky arms, waiting for the inevitable.
Nothing happened. He knelt there for a miserable five minutes, expecting to lose it at any second, and nothing. The nausea and dizziness slowly passed, his vision un-tunneled, and he sank back on his heels.
Jim's hand gripped his shoulder. "All right, Chief?"
"Yeah." He looked around, saw Serena's concern. "You know me and bodies, man."
They weren't much help to Serena and her crew. If she'd noticed Jim's aversion to the potsherd, she didn't mention it, and they sure as hell weren't going to talk about it where anyone could overhear. Jim prowled around the edges of the scene, seeing more than anyone else could close up, which would have been great if there had been anything worth seeing. They questioned the couple who had found the body--the woman was doing okay, but the man was a mess--and Jim asked them to come down to the station in the afternoon. The morning would be given over to Beverly's funeral.
She'd had family in a small town near Spokane. Parents, five siblings, seven nieces and nephews. They hadn't known; she'd never said, they'd never asked, and he felt guilty about that, guilty to become aware of their existence and to meet them only because the one person who linked them was dead. It wasn't right, and there was nothing they could do to fix it. That should make him sick, not a gruesome body, not a stupid piece of clay. Beverly was dead. Troy Kelly was dead. Some sicko had killed them, and they had no idea, not the slightest idea, who it was. Which meant that he could do it again, and they couldn't prevent it. They could only hope that he messed up and gave himself away.
Candles burned in a semi-circle before him; drumbeats dictated the rhythm of his heart. He concentrated on breathing until his awareness floated away, affording him a measure of peace, removed from the world and from his own thoughts. Content, he drifted, troubled by neither visions nor dreams.
He opened his eyes to find Jim sitting on the couch watching television. Apart from the glow of candle and screen, the room was dark around them. Jim had changed from the suit he'd worn at the funeral to jeans and a sweater.
"Hey, Jim," he said, and stretched. "What time is it?"
"The Maharishi speaks," Jim intoned. "It's about eight."
"Already?" He blew out the candles and stood, leg muscles protesting hours of twisting into a half-lotus. "I've got to get to the library."
"I brought deli."
"Great. I'll take it with me." He ducked into his bedroom, grabbed his backpack, snatched his paper-wrapped sandwich from the kitchen counter and lifted his coat off the hook by the door. "I'll put the candles away when I get back, okay?"
Jim nodded, eyes never leaving the screen. Not once. He stared at the deli paper, weighing his options. Wait until he got back? Jim might be in bed by then. Probably would be, in fact, and that would mean putting it off another day. Okay, then: Now.
Still holding the sandwich, he went back and perched on the arm of the couch. "Jim? Can I ask you something?"
"Did you have a nightmare last night? Just before the call came in?"
Jim looked at him.
"Jaguar and wolf? Temple? Human sacrifice?"
Jim nodded. "You, too?"
"Yeah. You think it's a message?"
"You're the shaman; you tell me."
He sighed. I don't want patience: pliers. Give me pliers. "I think it's a message."
"What? That our perp is some kind of Frankenstein's monster?"
"Something like that."
"That's not much help."
"No. Guess not." He stood up. "I better get going. You'll tell me if you have another nightmare?"
"Won't you know?"
"Maybe. But let's play it safe, just in case."
"Whatever you say, Chief."
Don't I wish.
He was supposed to be working on his diss. He was supposed to be researching, organizing, writing--anything that would move this thing forward. But he couldn't concentrate on the workings of the police; he was too busy concentrating on police work. His table was piled high with books on Mesoamerican art and rituals, and the photos Serena had taken were spread out at the top of his notebook. He compared them to illustration after illustration, until faces superimposed themselves over the pictures: Beverly, and Troy Kelly. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, gazed off into the distance to give his focus a rest.
The funeral had been large, but quiet. They'd been afraid the mayor would take advantage of the situation to make a speech, but Hawkins had shown some restraint for once and contented himself with remarks about Beverly's fine character and legal ability, and how much Cascade would miss her "crusading spirit." Beverly had never been on a crusade. She'd just wanted to do her job and do it well. Like Jim. Still, considering what the mayor could have said, it was harmless enough.
Her family was nice. He and Jim had made a point of introducing themselves and saying a few words about what a great person Beverly was as well as a great D.A. Nothing original, but they hadn't wanted her family to think that they were there only because it was some sort of professional obligation, or because they were investigating Beverly's murder.
Not they. Jim. Jim was investigating Beverly's murder. He was just--a consultant. A real one, this time. Not that the Cascade PD was paying him, any more than it had before. And not that it mattered. He'd be doing it even if Simon had ordered him not to. Not that Simon could order him, now. But maybe that was wrong. Maybe Simon could order him, as one of the trustees of his scholarship. Everyone else involved in it had tried to tell him what he could and couldn't do with his life.
No, he had to be fair. Simon had offered him a choice, told him he could come back to the PD at any time, that he'd be welcome back. Simon had left all the decisions up to him. If he screwed up, it was his own fault. If he let the Chancellor dictate to him, that was his own fault, too. He was long past being a kid.
This was accomplishing nothing. He rubbed his face, put his glasses back on, and returned to the books. It was all so familiar: the shards, the removal of the hearts. Excardiation was common to Mesoamerican cultures. The Maya would have painted the victims blue first, but the Aztec and Olmec wouldn't. The shards might be Aztec, but they weren't big enough for him to be sure. As far as he knew, Mesoamericans had only slit the throats of children, not adults, but he was no expert. Except for his constant search for possible sentinel references, he hadn't studied this stuff since his undergrad days, and that was, what, more than ten years ago. Oh, man, he was getting old. Pretty soon, he'd be referred to as "the geezer." Which was better than--
That was what he needed: an expert. And since he'd been in the Anthropology Department for most of forever, he knew everyone. Including both resident experts on Mesoamerican cultures. Rodney Jepson was pretty much unapproachable, but he'd always gotten along with Marissa Dulong. It was too late now--much too late. Geez, eleven-thirty already?--but he'd call her first thing in the morning.
He closed the books and started to pack them up with his other stuff. Marissa's input would get them that much closer to Beverly's killer. He felt good about this. It was definitely the right way to go, he was sure of it. Maybe he'd even get some sleep tonight.
Or not. He stared at the ceiling, trying to make his heart slow down. Shit, he hated these nightmares. Or visions. Or whatever the hell they were. Okay, the big one in Sierra Verde last year had been pretty cool, if a little scary in parts, but these--these sucked. And what was with the repeat performance anyway? It wasn't like he was gonna forget the first one. And it hadn't given him any more information than he already had, so what was the point?
Jim's voice startled him. Damn, man, turn a light on or something. Give a guy a little warning. "Yeah?"
"You want something to drink?"
He pulled his flannel robe on over his t-shirt and sweats and shuffled out to the kitchen where, in the interest of shaman safety, the sentinel had turned on a light. Jim handed him a beer and he stared at it stupidly for a second. He'd been thinking more along the lines of a cup of tea, but what the hell. Beer was good.
They headed for the couch, but Jim veered off toward the balcony doors, so he followed. Together, they stared out at the lights of the Great City. For about the millionth time, he wondered how much Jim could see, and if there was any real way to convey that to someone without enhanced vision. Probably not. Jim had tried a few times, describing colors and distant shapes and night-flyers gliding, and he could imagine it, but he couldn't really know.
He drank some beer, and cleared his throat. "Same nightmare?"
Jim nodded, his own beer half gone.
"I feel like I should know what it means. Like it's trying to tell us something and I'm just not getting it. You know?"
Jim nodded again, his beer three-quarters gone.
"I feel like I'm not doing my job."
"Which job is that?"
"The shaman-thing. Shamans are supposed to interpret dreams. I can't even figure out my own."
"What if it wasn't your dream?"
"What if it was just my dream? What would you do to interpret it?"
"I--guess I'd make a detailed record of it and compare it to the facts of the case. And then I'd, um, probably just wing it."
Jim's beer was gone. "So do that."
"Okay. Okay, but you're going to have to help me. I'll need you to tell me everything you remember about the dream. And we have to do it now, while it's fresh in our minds."
Jim nodded. "Let's get started."
He grabbed a notebook from his room, took up half-lotus position on the couch, and began to record the dream. Jim was cooperative for once, which had to mean desperation to solve this case. He only had to prod once or twice to get details Jim was reluctant to give. The differences in their recollections were too slight to matter, and he ended with a record of the dream that seemed complete to both of them.
"Okay, here's what we know: One, the killer kidnaps the victims and returns them to the same place he took them from. There's no correlation to that in the dream.
"Two, the killer slits their throats and cuts out their hearts. We've got the hearts in the dream, but not the throat-slitting. Actually, the dream is more historically accurate. Mesoamericans didn't cut the throats of their sacrificial victims unless they were children.
"Three, the killer places pieces of ceramic in his victims' hands. The ceramic may be Aztec in origin. There's no direct correlation to that in the dream, but the mask the killer wears may be Aztec. Well, half of it anyway. I don't think the Aztecs ever made masks with half the face, um, contorted like that.
"Four . Is there a four?"
Jim thought for a moment. "Don't think so."
"Okay, so let's go to the dream-only stuff. We've got victims shifting as we watch, but that's probably just an indication that this guy isn't finished yet. Or maybe that he's not particular about his victims."
"Two of those victims are us," Jim said.
"Well, yeah, but I don't think we need to take that literally. I think that just relates to our being on the case and needing to find the killer." I hope. "Like, maybe we're supposed to put ourselves in the victims' place and see if we come up with anything."
"The killer's place," Jim said softly.
"You put yourself in the killer's place, not the victim's."
"Man, I do not want to get into that guy's head."
Jim smiled darkly. "I hear that."
"Could the victims have something in common?"
"Not so far. Kelly was a stockbroker."
"In that shirt?"
"His co-workers told us that Kelly thought of himself as some kind of Romeo, after hours. The guy was good at his job: made a lot of money."
"Did Beverly have a stockbroker?"
Jim shook his head. "Good thought, though. Kelly never had anything to do with any case of hers, either. As far as we know, they never met. They went to different schools, came from different states. They were both single, but Beverly wasn't the type to go clubbing. They belonged to different health clubs, shopped at different stores, lived in different sections of the city."
"So, the only thing they had in common is that they were good at their jobs?"
"That's about it."
He sighed. "Okay, back to the dream imagery. The killer uses an obsidian knife. That's historically accurate. But the ornamentation on the handle of the knife isn't Mesoamerican, it's more North American, and that doesn't fit."
"Maybe our brains aren't getting it right."
"Maybe. But I wouldn't mix them up like that. Are you familiar at all with any of this?"
"Not really. I mean, you said the Temple of the Sentinels was Olmec, right? But I never studied it or anything."
"So if it were coming from our brains, it would either have accurate Mesoamerican imagery--from me--or it would have only the Olmec imagery from the Temple of the Sentinels--from you."
"Maybe it's a combination of you and me."
"I don't know, man. Do you remember seeing any of this imagery before?"
"No. But I might have just forgotten it, right? Consciously? Hell, for all I know, I saw the North American stuff on Bonanza."
"Could be. TV Westerns are not known for their accuracy. So, either it's a mix of cultures for a reason, or because our brains don't know any better." Well, that helped a lot. "I figure the reason the killer is a Frankenstein's monster in our dream is that we don't have a clue who it is, so it could be anyone."
Jim nodded. "That, and the guy's a sick, twisted bastard."
"What about the temple? Only part of it's stone. The rest is rotten wood. What does that mean?"
"I don't know. It's dangerous?"
"The temple? The place where the victims are killed? The killer himself? The idea?"
"The reason for the sacrifices. Maybe the killer's trying to accomplish something."
"They usually are, Darwin."
"Yeah." He put the notebook down. "We're not accomplishing anything, are we? Nothing fits."
"Maybe that's it. You said the mask is wrong and the knife's wrong, and we both know the temple's wrong. Maybe, whatever the killer's trying to do, he's doing it wrong."
"Maybe. But where does that get us?"
"I don't know. But we know more than we did before. We'll figure it out."
He smiled, hoping Jim would buy it. "Sure."
Jim stood, stretched, and bent to squeeze his shoulder. "We'll work on it tomorrow."
"Okay." He unfolded himself and started back to his room. "Good night, Jim."
Jim was already climbing the stairs to the loft. "Good night, Chief."