Arty was only being so free with the PD's information on this case because the Department had absolutely nothing. Normally there would be a lot of pretty-pleasing and owing favors and the like; not this time. Arty was desperate for any lead, even if it came from a Lady Detective.
So in the spirit of having nothing, Arty was sharing the lab report on the latest victim to what the press had taken to calling The Cryptic Man. After the third murder there was no way to keep the clues a secret . . . the Blog City PD decided it was better to put it out there rather than have some pain in the ass reporter get it via a leak and embarrass them.
"The tox report is interesting, X."
"Oh? What did they find?"
"What didn't they, is more like it. The victim was heavily and very skillfully medicated. The ME told me it takes some skill to give somebody this much barbiturates and narcotics and not kill him. In the ME's opinion, the killer was attempting to make the death and the bloodletting as close to painless as possible."
Arty paused. "Fucking freak!"
I had to suppress a laugh. Arty wanted the killer to be a sick sadistic bastard -- warped sadism was something he could easily understand, but a guy going to all that trouble to basically drain a guy of all his blood without hurting him? Arty couldn't wrap his mind around that one.
It made sense in a strange way, though. Sadism was a luxury a good professional hit man could never afford. Any more than a banker could afford to get personal about money, a hit man couldn't get personal about violence. Once it stopped being a job, and being fun, he would be doomed . . . when you're having fun you make mistakes.
"Anything else interesting, Arty?"
"Only that is there is nothing interesting . . . in fact, nothing at all. Everything, except for the murder itself, was clean as a whistle. As you surmised, the murder weapons were various knives, all run through the high-pressure dishwasher and yielding nothing at all. No stray prints . . . no footprints in the blood or anything like that. The only blood was the victim's. No forced entry, no accessing of the alarm panel other than by the victim.
The call waiting beeps. It's mandy.
"I'll call you back, Arty."
* * *
Vallie's phone rang, just when he knew it would.
"Good afternoon. I wonder if you would be interested in a satellite TV system for just $29 a month."
Vallie looked down at his list a moment, just to be sure.
"No thank you, I only watch election returns anyway."
"You can pick up the back half . . . the number is 30099."
Vallie wrote down the number. He liked a client who didn't make a fuss about payment.
"And I have one more for you, and then our business is concluded. This one is a specific victim, and, in light of that and of several complicating factors, I won't haggle. $100,000 for this one."
Vallie did his best to remain impassive. "As long as it's not the President, we've got a deal."
The voice on the other end of the phone never wavered, never laughed, never faltered. Almost anyone else but Vallie would've been at least a little afraid of it, in some undefinable way. To Vallie there was nothing scary about it . . . for him it was more an intellectual curiosity, an interesting little peculiarity of circumstance.
"OK. This is not going to be the easiest contract you've ever done. The target is armed, and wary. But some of the background work has been done for you already . . . "
Vallie listened intently, making notes as he did so.
* * *
Day of Infamy is proof positive that a little cash, properly applied in the right places, works wonders. The club regularly featured live sex acts and all other manner of debauchery right on the stage, yet they were never raided, no do-gooder mayoral candidate ever made closing it down a campaign promise, nothing of the sort, ever.
I had a soft spot for DOI since it's where I first met mandy. And because, well, DOI specialized in D/s-type debauchery, My absolute favorite kind.
It felt weird being there alone. mandy had begged off, citing a stack of paperwork. Thank goodness she was interested in the day-to-day running of the business and totally committed to Me.
I swirled the bourbon in My glass and looked again at the action on stage. A very muscular black man had just finished very skillfully whipping a waify redhead . . . she screamed like the skin was being ripped from her bones but there was hardly a mark on her -- Master Leo was very good with that whip.
His hand rakes back through her hair, and his big hand seemed almost the same size as the girl’s head. He pulled back until her whole body arched, and then shoved the whip handle inside her and began to fuck her with it, slowly at first, letting her whimpers of pain gradually turn and finally tip over to moans of pleasure. He started to take her harder, faster with the handle . . . holding her tight by the hair, her body caught, caught in the bondage, caught in his grasp, and caught in the slowly rising tide of excitement that she couldn't fight.
I realized all of a sudden how quiet it had gotten -- the crowd was rapt, their attention drawn to the stage and held there. The skinny redhead was shuddering in her bonds now . . . words here flying, pouring out of her as she begged Leo to let her explode. Leo’s powerful arm kept the whip handle hammering her cunt hard and fast . . . the squishing of it and the girl’s sobbing and begging were all that could be heard in the crowded club.
Leo finally broke the tension . . . his words finally giving her release. Her screams made Me shiver, the intensity and the absolute need she was expressing wordlessly were so real, so total, so right-in-the-here-and-now. By the time the girl finally collapsed, spent, I realized that I’d been holding My breath, watching.
I ordered another drink and My mind wandered of course to where exactly I was on the case.
What had I learned? It wasn't Bobby Astro, Arty and I were both pretty sure of that. It wasn't some guy named “Vail” from Chicago -- no one on either side of the law, except Squids, had ever heard of him. Thankfully the kind of money I was getting from King made the $200 I wasted on Squids an afterthought.
What else? Our killer was very professional, very careful, and very versatile. He could do clean, messy, and everything in between. And he had a grudge against King.
Which was looking like another dead end. The cops had looked into everyone they could think of who was known to have any reason to hate King. Funny thing was, the vast majority of those who weren't in prison were no longer living.
The stupid word game clues were no help. She’d been over the words a thousand times. Gangster. Arty Daniels. Royalty. There's no pattern, no meaning, nothing indicative of where or when or in what way the killer might strike next. There was no pattern to the victims, no relationship between them, or to King.
I write down the locations of the killings on a napkin. House of Domination. Pool Hall. Bar/restaurant. The addresses. I hold up the bourbon and look at the napkin through the amber translucence . . . laughing at Myself.
It was a prefect illustration of how life was totally unlike the movies. In the movies the geeky guy in the precinct would plot the locations of killings on a map of the city and they would form an arrow pointing to the location of the next killing. In the movies the first letter of each clue answer would start spelling out the name of the killer's mother. In the movies the killer would be sending Me love notes chock full of subtle but detectable forensic evidence that would lead us to him. In the movies we've had caught this fucker by now.
The truth was, a careful, unemotional, killer could commit plenty of murders and not get caught. The really, really smart ones were almost impossible to catch until they start liking it too much. Then they got caught.
I let the case go away for a little while . . . My bestie Astrid and Her new slave, chastityboy, were about to perform.