1.03 "Dexterity" - by Sarah MonetteAct I | Act II | Act III | Act IV | Act V
"Half Angel Half Eagle" © Jane Siberry & Sheeba Records, used with permission.
Chicago, IL, January 2007
Hell came for Dyson Cieslewicz on a sunny Tuesday morning in mid-January.
Eddie shut the door of Dice's room behind him and said, perfectly pleasantly, "I'm sorry, but this left-handed crap has got to stop."
Dice was only half awake; he hadn't gotten to bed until nearly four, still reeking of cigarette smoke and beer and other people's sweat. "Eddie? Man, haven't you heard of knocking?"
"I mean it, Dice." Eddie was already standing beside the bed. He was built like a bulldozer, but he could move fast when he wanted. "This left-handed crap has got to stop."
Dice sat up, left hand groping automatically for his glasses. "What the f--"
Eddie caught Dice's left hand, pinning the wrist with his own left hand, his right hand folded around Dice's fingers. "I'm sorry about this, I really am, but you just don't fucking learn."
And with a single sharp motion, Eddie Cieslewicz broke all four fingers on his older brother's left hand.
Dice howled, folding into a semi-fetal ball, except for his left arm, which remained immobilized by Eddie's iron grip. Eddie watched Dice's agony for a moment, blank faced and unmoved, then said again, softly, "It has to stop," and broke Dice's thumb as well.
On the morning of June twenty-eighth, Daniel Brady woke from the same old nightmare. "Motherfucker," he said softly to the ceiling, then got out of bed and got moving.
The world was still tainted with blood and gunpowder when he got to work, and he was hoping--more desperately than he would ever have admitted--for a case, something, anything to force his mind away from the memory of that spreading pool of blood.
Coffee helped, transmuting the bitterness in his mouth, as did the spectacle of Chaz Villette all but unhinging his jaw to eat a raspberry danish.
"You look rough, Danny," Todd said as he stirred creamer into his coffee. "Want me to beat Villette off long enough for you to grab a cruller?"
"Hey!" Chaz protested without a shadow of resentment or concern, and Brady felt the nightmare crack and fall away.
"That's okay, but thanks. Wouldn't want to deprive a growing boy of his sugar and carbs."
"You may think you're funny," Chaz said, licking his fingers, "but you really really aren't. Besides, sugar is a carbohydrate. And carbs are turned into glucose during digestion. So 'sugar and carbs' is a tautology."
Chaz smiled sweetly and insincerely. "You're redundant, Brady."
"I'd make a smart-ass reply, but there'd probably be something in it you'd need to correct," Brady said. "So--how'd you do at the range Saturday?"
"Asshole," Chaz explained, but he was grinning.
"If I may interrupt the kaffeeklatsch," Reyes said dourly from the door, "I could use you all in the briefing room."
Chaz jerked to his feet. Todd snorted. "I still think 'briefing room' is an exaggeration."
"Yeah," Brady said, topping up his cup and turning to follow, "but 'briefing closet' just doesn't have the same ring."
It was true, though, that the entire team couldn't sit down in the briefing room at the same time, and only barely fit at all. Brady's private suspicion was that this was some sort of complicated psychological stratagem on Reyes's part, like using electric shocks to teach rats to run a maze, although what Reyes was trying to teach them he had no idea and was honestly afraid to speculate. Possibly to abandon the notion of personal space, he thought as he wedged himself between Chaz and Todd at the table.
Todd still smelled faintly of his Vespa and D.C. traffic. Next to him, Hafidha had her hair in cornrows as elaborate as crop circles and glittering silver polish on her fingernails. Reyes and Falkner were standing at the head of the table. Falkner never sat; Reyes sat or stood depending on his mood. Across from Brady, Worth, as bright-eyed and alert as ever, was watching Falkner watching Reyes, and Lau was immaculate but drinking coffee as if her life depended on it.
"Thank you, ladies and gentlemen," Reyes said, still dour. "I appreciate these moments taken out of your very busy schedules."
"God," said Chaz, sotto voce. "Who peed in his coffee?"
Reyes didn't hear him, but he must have sensed the disturbance in the Force--Brady and Todd carefully not laughing--for he glared around the room and said, "Chicago has a serial killer."
"This is news?" muttered someone--Lau or Worth, both of whom were carefully blank faced by the time Reyes wheeled around to pin the glare on them.
"Chicago," Reyes said, "has a serial killer who is beating his victims to death with, so far as Dr. Frost can tell me, his bare hands. And he's doing it with a single blow."
"That's not necessarily a manifestation," Chaz objected. "Certain areas of the body, particularly the neck and skull, are surprisingly fragile, and a well-placed blow can--"
Kill a man before he knows you're there, Brady thought, but mercifully Reyes was already answering: "Bits of the third victim's ribcage were embedded in the wall behind her."
"Oh," Chaz said, looking simultaneously embarrassed and nauseated.
"Chicago PD assumed he was using a sledgehammer until two days ago, when they got a witness who saw the host leaving the fourth victim's apartment building. She saw him from behind and from three stories up, so there's no hope of ID, but she was absolutely, unshakably certain that he wasn't carrying anything. Word got to me, I had the fourth victim sent to Dr. Frost, and she says antemortem contusions of the apparent deathblow are consistent with the imprint of a set of knuckles. Left hand. His skull was crushed."
"The host killed him with a bare-knuckle punch?" Brady said.
Todd whistled. "And he's done it more than once?"
"Four times since February," Reyes said. He knew the same thing they knew. As did Falkner, whose eyebrows were up. Chaz and Lau looked blank, although with Lau that meant her fingers were laced together in front of her rather than anything that was showing on her face. Worth was frowning at the autopsy report.
Brady said, "Punching somebody in the head is a damn fine way to break your hand."
"Not for this guy, apparently," said Todd.
"So Chicago's 'Sledgehammer' is one of ours," Reyes said, investing the nickname with immeasurable distaste. "He's already killed four, and thus far there's been precious little luck in constructing a profile. That's where we're going to start. We need to make the victimology talk."
That was Brady's job, and he and Worth sat down with a sad stack of folders: Marcia Lopez, age 25, Kathleen Cherry, age 28, Lydia Harrigan, age 33, and Paul Brunowski, age 27.
"This is nuts," Worth said after half an hour. "Three women and a man. Three whites and a Hispanic. Three people in their twenties and one in her thirties. Three of them had jobs, and Kathleen Cherry had a sugar daddy. Nothing across the board."
"Not much of a sugar daddy," Brady said. "They were living on his disability checks. So there's one commonality: these are all working-class people. Also, they're all practicing Catholics."
"Not in the same parish," Worth objected.
"No, but each victim's effects included--"
"Brunowski had a St. Christopher's medal," Worth said, looking more interested.
"Right. Cherry and Lopez both wore crucifixes, and Lydia Harrigan's rosary was found in her purse."
"So you're saying..."
"They were easily identifiable as Catholics to their murderer."
"But he didn't kill them for that. No graffiti, no desecration of the bodies."
"No," Brady agreed. "It's not a hate crime. At least not in the traditional sense. He sure hated something about them, though."
"No evidence of sexual assault."
"But only one man. I think we can assume our guy's straight, but whatever his trigger is, it overrode that."
"You think he's straight because he kills women?"
"I think he's straight because he notices women. He was watching Harrigan, Cherry, and Lopez closely enough to see that they were Catholics, plus whatever else it was that set him off." He shrugged. "It could just be the luck of the draw, but I don't think it affects the profile either way. There's no signs he's enjoying himself. He doesn't linger, either before or after."
"Or during," Worth said, wrinkling her nose.
"Or during. He comes with them to their homes--or that motel room in the case of Cherry--but he never gets farther than the first room. He doesn't want to see their bedrooms."
"Chicago forensics said he probably killed Kathleen Cherry standing in the doorway." Worth shuffled papers, looking for the report. "There was no sign he even went into the room."
"Getting it over with," Brady murmured. "Going on about his business."
"Doing the work of the Lord," Worth said suddenly and shivered.
"Good one, Daph," Brady said. "That's why he's going after Catholics. He's Catholic himself."
"So...what? They're all wicked sinners?" Worth considered. "Well, I guess Cherry was living in sin--and cheating on her boyfriend to boot. And Brunowski was gay. But there was nothing wrong with Lopez or Harrigan."
There was nothing wrong with Brunowski, Brady almost said, but that wasn't what Worth had meant. Instead, he emended her statement: "Nothing that made it into the files. The map is not the territory."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Worth said, waving it off. "But he's a house-cleaner, is my point."
"He seems to be a mission-oriented serial killer," Brady agreed more cautiously.
"Aw, c'mon, Danny. Give me one piece of this darn profile that works like it's supposed to."
"As long as you don't get used to it," Brady said.
They grumbled over the files until Reyes yelled that anyone not ready to go in five minutes was going to get left behind. Brady dumped everything into his briefcase while Worth darted for the bathroom. Chaz, who had been doing something arcane with a street map of Chicago, shoved it into his backpack with one hand, grabbing a handful of peanuts with the other, and muttered under his breath, "Yes, Dad, coming, Dad."
"I heard that, Villette," Reyes said, stone-faced as ever, and Brady thought, for what was probably the five hundredth time, that you would have to be seriously fucking nuts to play poker with Stephen Reyes.
On the plane, Stephen Reyes watched as Chaz Villette spread a street map of Chicago on the fold-out table, drawing the rest of the team from their seats on the jet like a piece of tinfoil attracting jackdaws.
"You want I should get you a dowsing rod?" Todd asked.
"You got one on you?" Chaz said, not looking up.
Todd made a show of checking his pockets, rummaging until Chaz was drawn into looking at him, then grinned, his face creasing like crumpled paper. "Must've left it in my other pants."
Chaz tried to look irritated and failed. Brady said, "Geographic profile?"
It was obvious Chaz was pleased to be asked, pleased to be included in the team's camaraderie instead of being the outcast at whose expense it was established. Reyes remembered how Chaz had been, fresh out of Quantico: long gangling limbs held close and tight, giving him a weirdly prim affect; his face wiped clean of all its natural expressiveness; his voice flat, soft, and every word precensored lest it sound too "brainy." Only those eyes, dark and darker, watching everything and everyone, waiting for the next trap to trigger.
Reyes knew Chaz had been queer-bashed once, not because his fellow trainees thought he was gay, but because he was too different, and that was the only label they had to put on him. Chaz hadn't reported it, because he'd also known it wasn't about his sexual orientation.
Shadow Unit is better for him. It's turned out all right, Reyes thought, and did not ask himself whom he was trying to convince.
"Well," Chaz said, "it occurred to me that although none of the victims lived in the same neighborhood, they all lived relatively close to each other." He jabbed at colored dots he'd made on the map, purple for Lopez, red for Cherry, blue for Brunowski, and green for Harrigan. "And the motel where Kathleen Cherry died isn't far away either." Another dot, this one orange. "So I thought, wherever he's finding them, it's probably somewhere in here." He'd drawn circles around each dot, each with a carefully measured radius, and the area where most of them overlapped had been colored yellow.
All of which, Reyes knew, would be sharp and clear in Chaz's mind. No map necessary. In fact, the map was probably only slowing him down; it would have taken him less time to work it out and simply tell them where to look. This performance--map, radii, colors--wasn't for Chaz. He was doing it for them: showing them how his mind worked, demythologizing the monster. Making himself understood and therefore safe.
Chaz felt Reyes's stare and looked up. Their eyes met; then Chaz gave him a Yeah, but you gotta grow where you're planted shrug and looked back at the map of Chicago that was also, in this small, strange way, a map of Charles Villette.
"Y'know," Lau said, "math classes might be a lot more popular if teachers told students they could catch serial killers with Venn diagrams."
Brady said, "Would've worked for me."
"Oh, hell yes," said Worth. "So what's in your yellow area?"
"I've got Hafidha working on that," Chaz said. "She promised to have a list by the time we land."
In fact, they got Hafidha's list while they were still in the air. "Check your mail, G-men and women," she said when Falkner switched her to speaker phone. "Relevant parts of the city directory are now yours."
Chaz thumbed up the text message. "Thomas Jefferson Middle School."
"None of the victims had kids," Brady answered, as easily as a tennis pro returning a lob.
"Can we do anything with that?" Worth said.
"Three of the four were unmarried, and Lydia Harrigan had been separated from her husband for five years. No go."
"Correlation is not causation, children," Todd said, as Todd had a habit of saying.
"Then I guess we can cross the elementary school and the five daycares off the list, too," Chaz said.
"Things I could've known yesterday," Hafidha grumbled.
"Don't quote Adam Sandler, Hafs," Lau said. "It gives me hives."
"Sorry, sweetie," Hafidha said.
Reyes admired her for sounding so resolutely like herself, as if nothing had happened in Omaha. He admired the rest for sounding as if they weren't walking on knives and eggshells in response.
"There are seven churches of various denominations, plus something that calls itself the Good News Kingdom Hall," Hafidha continued, "but since all the victims are Catholic..."
Reyes lifted his head. "Are any of those churches a victim's parish church?"
"Paul Brunowski went to St. Francis," Hafidha said.
"Which is here," Chaz said, drawing a blue star on his map.
"But Lopez attended Our Lady of the Holy Faith, which is twenty minutes away by bus. Services in Spanish. Kathleen Cherry was pretty lapsed, but when she attended anywhere, it was St. Agnes, which was also Lydia Harrigan's church. It's in Chaz's DMZ, too."
"Here," said Chaz, drawing a green star.
How can you be "pretty lapsed"? Reyes thought, but did not say. Is it like being a "little pregnant"? He'd found that "lapsed" was a binary; once he cut his ties with the Catholic Church, he'd never had so much as a flicker of an impulse to return.
"That's not terribly helpful." Chaz looked discontentedly at his map. "Hafidha? What about public parks? Movie theaters? Um, supermarkets?"
"What about bars?" Brady said.
"Bars?" Chaz and Worth both looked puzzled.
"Bars," Reyes agreed. "Working class victims, probably a working class host. The neighborhood bar is the place they're most likely to have in common."
"Working class people drink more?" said Lau, in the same tone she usually said "inscrutable Oriental."
"Nope," Brady replied. "Working class people are more likely to live in circumstances where it's hard to socialize at home. So you go where everybody knows your name."
Reyes nodded. He was surprised when Brady saw it and lifted his chin, leaned back in his seat. Daniel Brady shouldn't need gold stars from him or anyone else. Of course he does. He's human. So are the rest of them.
"There are two bars in the Yellow Zone," Hafidha said. "The Crystal Cave and Stosh's Bar."
"All right," Reyes said. "That gives us a division of labor when we hit the ground."
"Running, of course," Todd said.
"Of course," Reyes said and didn't let himself smile. Quite. "Villette, Brady, Lau, you take the Crystal Cave. Falkner, Worth, Todd, you take Stosh's Bar. I'll check in with the detective of record and see what we've got."
Falkner gave him a look, the severely skeptical one he suspected she used on her daughters--though, one hoped, not on her husband. But if she knew, or guessed, that he was avoiding the memories that working class Chicago bars would dredge up, she was kind enough not to say anything about it.
Dice had kept his job at the Crystal Cave mostly because Greg the manager didn't want to piss Eddie off. And because Dice had proved the hard way that, if he had to, he could cope with a beer keg. It hurt like a son of a bitch, but he wasn't going to say that to either Greg or Eddie. Because things could be worse.
Things could be so much worse. A little tango or two with a beer keg wasn't even worth the mention.
Dice was lucky, and he knew it. He fucking lived it, and he'd gotten the rabbit tattoo to be sure he remembered it. Left forearm, where he'd see it every time he forgot and reached for something with his left hand. His left hand that didn't work all that well anymore.
Eddie'd gotten his friend Bruno who was a paramedic to splint it, and Bruno would probably lie down in front of a semi if Eddie asked him to and thought Dice was a pussy anyway, so he hadn't asked questions even though he must have known it wasn't an accident.
Dice had gotten one of those little stress balls and faked physical therapy as best he could, so at least his thumb still worked, although as far as gripping anything, the hand was pretty much a loss. But it was okay, because he wasn't supposed to be using his left hand. You understand me, Dyson? Yes, Dad, I understand.
No, Eddie, I swear, I ain't been using it. I can't, see?
Dice shook himself. He'd learned since January not to let that train of thought get started. That was the other reason he'd gotten the rabbit tattoo, because the rabbit was secretly that rabbit from Watership Down, the one who couldn't keep a secret and almost got everybody killed. A reminder, in other words, to keep his trap shut.
And not to use his left hand.
He'd gotten in the habit of tucking his left arm against his stomach, almost hiding his left hand under his right elbow. And wouldn't you know it, the FBI guy, the one who was sitting out here keeping an eye on everybody while the other FBI guys--one of whom was actually an FBI lady--questioned them, one at a time, back in Greg's office, this tall skinny FBI guy noticed and said, "Hurt your hand?"
Dice kept moving through the automatic flinch and freeze reaction, said, "Nah, old injury. You want more water?"
"Thanks," the FBI guy said, and wow, he had a nice smile when he pulled it out. "We flew in from D.C. today and I feel like a desiccated frog. Do you--I mean, if it isn't any trouble, do you have any lemon slices?"
"Sure." He went and got a lemon out of the fridge in the back, said a quick Hail Mary, and cut it, holding it with the thumb and two fingers of his left hand that worked, using the knife with the right. The slices came out okay--a little uneven, but not so's you'd notice--and he stuck all but one in the Rubbermaid container marked LEMON and went back out to give the FBI guy his water.
And the FBI guy, damn him, sat there and hoovered up the peanuts and noticed all the times when Dice would've used his left hand and couldn't. "Must've been a pretty nasty injury," he said. "How long ago did you say it was?"
"January," Chrissy said, coming up on the FBI guy's other side, and leaning on him so her cleavage would be the only thing he could see. "Dice broke his hand in January and he's been a real bitch ever since."
The FBI guy tried to lean away from Chrissy without it looking like that was what he was doing. "January, huh? That's not that old."
"Chrissy, for fuck's sake, haul your tits in and let the man breathe."
"Ooh, touchy," Chrissy said and made a kissy-face at him before flouncing over to bother Kevin and the bouncer whose name Dice could never remember.
"Sorry," Dice said to the FBI guy, who looked like he could use a hole to crawl into and die. "She wouldn't come on that strong if she really thought you'd be interested."
"I, um. I guess that's reassuring." He drank his water and ate more peanuts and didn't say another word before the other FBI guy, the tank, came out and pointed at Dice. "You. You're next."
The bartender's name was Dyson Cieslewicz, which gave both Brady and Lau, as veterans of America's public school playgrounds, a momentary empathetic flinch. He was 5'10" and skinny, and he carried his shoulders in a defensive hunch that looked beyond habitual and well into constant. Acne scarred face, the Slavic cheekbones that went with the word apparatchik, and also lumpenproletariat, long dark hair, and glasses in those black frames that were either geeky or retro. Brady had lost track of which.
Brady had mostly been trained out of automatically associating "geek" with "loser," but Dyson Cieslewicz was not a good advertisement for the side. He had two rings in his left eyebrow, ten--Brady counted--in his left ear, five in his right, including something Brady believed was called an "industrial." There was an elaborate tattoo on his right arm, a dragon in blue and green and red winding around and around his forearm and glaring balefully out from his right biceps.
He sat down in the chair Brady indicated--cracked orange vinyl and cigarette burns--crossed his arms over his stomach, and peered at the two of them over the tops of his glasses.
Brady glanced at Lau and got the barest inclination of a nod in return before Lau went to work. More intimidation was not what this kid needed. "Mr. Cieslewicz," Lau said, in her dealing-with-the-distraught-public voice, "we need you to look at these pictures and tell us if you recognize any of the subjects."
Lau had the best dealing-with-the-distraught-public voice Brady had ever heard.
Cieslewicz scooted himself forward to the edge of the chair and looked at the pictures laid out on the desk. Brady watched him; unlike the manager and the first waitress they'd interviewed, Cieslewicz was actually looking, and after a frowning moment of contemplation, he said, "Yeah."
"Which one?" Lau said, still in that lovely calm voice, even though she, like Brady, had to have the little voice in her head screaming Jackpot!
Cieslewicz looked up. "All of them."
Brady and Lau did a momentary verbal Keystone Kops impression. Brady backed off; he'd given Lau lead, after all. Lau said, "You know all four of them?"
Cieslewicz shrugged, an ugly awkwardness. Brady thought, He hates his body. "Not know. But" --unclenching enough to jab a forefinger at the pictures as he spoke-- "she drinks Molson, she drinks Stoli, she drinks Mai Tais, and Paul used to give me sh--give me a hard time, until Eddie threatened to rearrange his face."
"Eddie?" Cieslewicz was femme in an Ugly Stepsister sort of way, but he wasn't pinging Brady's gaydar particularly.
A blush, painfully obvious as it made the pocked scars on his face stand out, and his right arm curled back around his body. "My brother. He's a bouncer."
"Is he here today?"
"'S'is day off. It's the other guy today."
"You recognized all four of them," Lau said. "Did they know each other?"
Cieslewicz jerked his shoulders in a shrug. "How should I know? They don't hang out together, but Paul mostly comes to play pool, and a lady who drinks Molsons and a lady who drinks Mai Tais are not ladies who have a lot in common, if you follow me. The Stoli lady, she comes in once a month, Fridays, like clockwork, has her shot of Stoli and then mostly she amscrays. I figure she comes straight from confession."
"She's Catholic?" Brady said, reminding himself not to quiver like a hunting dog on point.
Cieslewicz grinned, looking briefly as young as his driver's license said he was. "I was an altar boy, believe it or not. I know the stigmata. The Stoli lady is definitely Catholic."
"And the others?"
"Paul grew up going to St. Francis same as me, though I wouldn't take bets on how long it's been since his last confession. I got no idea about the other two. In this neighborhood, it's even odds."
"Are you a practicing Catholic, Mr. Cieslewicz?"
"I go to Mass. I light candles for my father. And what has that got to do with anything?"
"Nothing," Lau said mildly, but that wasn't a nothing and Brady didn't need Lau's sidelong flick of a glance to alert him. What she was setting up, though, remained unsprung. Chaz came in, crossed the office in three gangling steps and leaned over to murmur something in Lau's ear. Lau's poker face didn't flicker; she said, "Mr. Cieslewicz, may we see your left hand?"
The bartender hunched in even further.
"It's nothing to do with you," Cieslewicz muttered, his head lowering until nothing of him was visible except the fall of his hair.
"These four people have been murdered, Mr. Cieslewicz," Chaz said.
It was brutally obvious that Dyson Cieslewicz hadn't known. A motivated perp, anomalous or otherwise, could fake a lot of things, but nobody could have faked the way he went pale in blotches, the way he looked wildly back at the pictures, as if he could make them be of people he didn't know, the way he released that tight protective curl of his right arm to cross himself.
Chaz was frowning, but he said, "Your hand?"
Cieslewicz extended it automatically. There was a tattoo of a rabbit on the inside of his wrist, delicate black lines and mad red eyes. The hand was obviously crippled, the joints swollen, skin mottled, ring and pinkie fingers jutting stiffly while index, middle, and thumb were curled protectively. Brady remembered the autopsy report and raised his eyebrows at Chaz. This guy?
"Mr. Cieslewicz," said Chaz, raising his eyebrows at Brady over the bartender's bowed head, "how did you hurt your hand?"
"Accident," Cieslewicz mumbled. "In January, like Chrissy said."
"Mr. Cieslewicz," said Lau, "where were you on Tuesday night?"
"Tuesday? I was here, same as..." His head came up, and he stared from Lau to Brady, and then twisted to look up at Chaz. "You think I killed them? Because of..."
"Paul Brunowski's skull was crushed by a left-handed blow," Chaz said.
"You people are fucking nuts," said Dyson Cieslewicz. "I can't even make a fist no more, much less hit anybody with it." He held his hand up, and they watched as his fingers tensed. The ring and pinkie fingers trembled, but did not bend.
"And how did you hurt your hand?" Chaz said, implacable as the hounds of Hell.
"Accident," Cieslewicz said. "Like I told you." He jerked his hand back into its sheltered position against his side.
Lau's cellphone played "Ride of the Valkyries." "Falkner," she mouthed at Brady and whisked herself out the door.
"Let's work on your alibi," Brady said. "12:30 a.m. Wednesday morning."
"Shift finished at midnight. I went home."
"Is there anyone who can corroborate that?" Chaz asked.
"Did anyone see you?" Brady translated.
"Eddie went out someplace. Prob'ly with Bruno." That sounded like old bitterness. "Dunno if Mrs. Eckstein on the ground floor was awake. She might've been. But this is nuts. I didn't kill anybody, and most especially not left-handed. You can see that." He looked from Chaz to Brady, frustrated and frightened. "Can't you?"
Brady raised an eyebrow at Chaz, who looked dissatisfied.
"What about May twelfth?" Brady said.
"Christ in a bucket!" Brady and Chaz just waited. "Okay, okay. May twelfth. What day was that?"
"Saturday," Chaz said.
"Oh, then that's easy. I was here. Six to two, only usually it's more like three. And I got people to corroborate it." He drawled corroborate out in angry mockery. "People out to here. You can start with Greg." He glared at them defiantly.
Chaz muttered something like, "But there must be..."
Then Lau came in and said, "Sorry, boys, time to pack up the rodeo. Mr. Cieslewicz, thank you very much for your cooperation. Will you be here if we need to speak to you later?"
"'Til midnight," Cieslewicz said. "And you got my address anyway." He looked doubtfully at Chaz and Brady; Brady gave him the nod, and he left, moving like an alley cat that's been in too many fights and been kicked too many times.
Brady stood up, cracked his spine, and followed Lau and Chaz out through the bar into the street, where Lau turned and said, "Chicago PD has another one. Fresh."
Brady whistled soundlessly. "Fresh enough...?"
"Yeah. Nobody who's here could have done it."
"But if all four of them were regulars..." Chaz said, frowning.
Brady remembered something the bartender had said. "The brother!"
"What?" said Chaz.
"The bartender's brother. It's his day off."
"Falkner wants us at the crime scene," Lau said, starting briskly for the Suburban. "I'll call Hafidha as we go. The brother's name is Eddie, right?"
"Yeah. Probably Edward, but it could be Edmund."
"Or Edwin," Chaz said. "Or Edsel. Or Edison."
"Chaz," said Lau. "Stop helping. Hafs? We need everything you know on an Edward--or Edmund--"
"Or Edmonton," Chaz said.
"Cieslewicz," Lau said and stuck her tongue out at Chaz. "C-I-E-S-L-E-W-I-C-Z."
Brady fished out the keys and hit the button to unlock the doors about two seconds before Chaz, who covered ground like one of those huge walking tanks in Star Wars, reached for the handle.
"What do we know about Number Five?" Brady asked. "Did Falkner give you anything?"
"Just the address and the name: Stephanie Fisher. She was a single mother."
"Shit," Brady said. "Was the kid--"
"There?" Lau said unhappily. "That's how they found her so fast: he was crying."
"Shit," Brady said.
"I've notified Child and Family Services."
Chaz grimaced, and although he was in the front seat and Lau in the back, she said, "It's the best we can do."
"I know," Chaz said, hunching into himself like a turtle--or, Brady thought and told his profiler's brain to shut up--like Dyson Cieslewicz being asked about his crippled hand.
Stephanie Fisher's sprawled puppet-broken body was being examined by a forensics technician when they got to her apartment. As with the other victims, she was lying near her front door. The nearby stroller was skewed at an angle that made Brady's fingers itch to straighten it.
Falkner was holding the baby, looking simultaneously incongruous and perfectly natural, and she said as they came in, "There's a case worker on her way. Thank you, Lau."
The baby was wide-eyed and silent, his skin shadow-dark against Falkner's white shirt. He looked healthy, clean, well cared for, although he'd been crying hard and would probably be crying again soon. Brady didn't blame him.
"Still playing éminence grise with the Chicago PD. He seems to think Detective Bruckner needs leaning on."
The apartment was clean, very neat, decorated with more care than money, and with a lot of color, colors picked up by the beads in Stephanie Fisher's dreads. There was a guitar hanging on the wall, well out of the reach of a baby's inquisitive fingers. Chaz walked over to inspect it, probably more to get away from the body and the wide-eyed baby than anything else. Then he stiffened.
"What?" said Brady.
"It's a left-handed guitar," Chaz said. "Is she left-handed?"
"She's got a writing callus that says so," the forensics tech said.
"Chaz, it's the murderer who's--"
"No, no, no, no, no," Chaz said. "What about the other victims? Do we know? Can we find out?"
"Is there anyone in the WTF who doesn't have Hafidha on speed dial?" Lau said, her phone already against her ear. "Hafs? The victims--lefties or righties?" She listened a moment, her eyebrows climbing. "Southpaws, all of them. Thanks."
"Chaz?" said Falkner. "You want to explain?"
"Dyson Cieslewicz's broken hand," Chaz said. "All four fingers and the thumb. I can't think of a way that could happen by accident. And I was watching him, before. He's a left-handed man forcing himself to use his right hand. I thought he was the host, that the anomaly was letting him use that hand to kill, even though it's crippled, but I had it backwards."
"But it still doesn't--"
Chaz interrupted Falkner without even noticing. "Dyson Cieslewicz isn't the host. He's the first victim."
"We were wondering about his brother anyway," Brady said.
"Yeah, but that was just an opportunity for today," said Chaz. "This is the rest of it. This is why. Dyson Cieslewicz's broken hand is where it starts."
"You think Eddie did it," Lau said. "Because his brother's left-handed?"
"I think we need to talk to Dyson Cieslewicz again," said Brady.
"Lau, take the baby," Falkner said. "I'm coming, too."
Dice had barely gotten himself talked down, had just taken over from Greg at the bar--already bracing himself for the questions about why they'd been closed for an hour and a half in the middle of the day--when the FBI was back.
This time they had their boss with them, and you didn't have to ask to know that lady was their boss. She looked around the bar like a searchlight in one of those old World War II escape-from-the-Nazis movies, and then the tank and the gawky guy who'd said he felt like a frog were headed straight for the bar.
All Dice's instincts said to run like fuck, but--unlike most of Eddie's loser friends--Dice was smarter than his instincts. He stood pat, and when the tank said, "We need to talk to you again," he just nodded and let them take him back to Greg's office.
"Have a seat, Mr. Cieslewicz," the tank said.
"No thanks," Dice said, "unless you guys are gonna sit down, too."
"Ooh, score one for the opposing team," said the frog and smiled at him, a quick little there-and-gone grin that made Dice feel better despite himself.
"Chaz." The boss, exasperated. She sat down in Greg's chair, pointed the tank and the frog--Chaz--at the love seat along the wall, then gave Dice a smile that was all steel and not really very much smile. "Have a seat, Mr. Cieslewicz."
Chaz the frog, leaning forward, said, "Mr. Cieslewicz, did your brother do that to your hand?"
The world went very bright and very sharp, and Dice was halfway to the door before he even knew he was moving. So much for being smarter than his instincts. And then he wasn't going anywhere, because the tank had a very polite, very unshakable grip on his shoulder, which if he shifted about a tenth of an inch was going to be red-hot agony. Dice knew that grip from his dad. He held still.
"Mr. Cieslewicz, I really am sorry about this," Chaz said, and damn him, he sounded like he meant it. Dice turned his head very cautiously to look at the love seat, and the tank let him do it. Chaz was still leaning forward, watching him with wide eyes, and he did mean it. "But we have to know. The five people who have been murdered--"
"Five?" Dice said and then braced himself, but the tank's grip stayed polite.
"Five. A fifth this afternoon," the boss said. "Stephanie Fisher."
"Stephanie? Oh fuck. Fucking hell. You can let go of me, tank. I ain't going anywhere."
The tank let go like he thought he was going to have to grab on again in a moment, but Dice just went back to the chair and sat down. "She played here. Open mic on Thursdays. She wasn't very good yet, but she was gonna be, y'know? Oh fucking hell. What about Noah? Is he okay?"
"Is Noah her baby?" the boss said.
"Yeah. His father's in Joliet on account of some stupid shit he should've known better than, so it's just--it was just Stephanie and Noah, and she was running herself into the ground... Jesus." He took his glasses off, pinched the bridge of his nose. "Is Noah okay?"
"He's fine," the boss said. "Child and Family Services will take care of him. Unless you know of someone--a grandmother, an aunt?"
Dice shook his head. "I don't know. Stephanie wasn't from Chicago, and she never...I don't know."
"It's all right," the boss said. "It's their job, not yours. Your job right now is to tell us about your brother."
"You think Eddie did this." It wasn't a question, and he couldn't get his voice any louder than a whisper.
"Did Eddie hurt you?" Chaz asked softly.
And oh God now that somebody finally asked, that question was so easy to answer, it was like falling down a well. "Yes," Dice said.
"Left hand's the Devil's hand." His voice sounded too far away, too spooky. "Dad taught us that."
He'd called his mother, the day after Eddie broke his hand, although he still wasn't quite sure why. He wasn't a kid anymore; he didn't think his mother could make everything all right.
She told him about Dad's bowling league, and the coaching he was doing at the Boys' Club, and Dice shut his eyes and remembered her voice twenty years ago: You're Dyson Cieslewicz now, and this is your Dad. He adopted you and Eddie, Dyson, legally and everything, isn't that wonderful? He remembered her fingers pinching his shoulder, telling him it was wonderful and he'd better agree. So he'd nodded, but that hadn't been enough. Say thank you to your new dad, Dyson.
Thank you, what? his mother prompted, her smile getting brighter, more fixed, and Dice had looked at his shoes--bulky, shiny black shoes that pinched his toes, shoes he only had to wear on Sunday, except he'd had to wear them today, and today was Tuesday--and whispered, Thank you, Dad.
He'd sat up that night, after Eddie was asleep and snuffling into the pillow, sat up and watched out the window for his father to come, to stand on the sidewalk and wave up at him and make this all not be real.
But Bobby Spivak didn't come. Bobby Spivak wasn't coming, wasn't coming back from wherever it was and whoever it was he'd run off to find, and it was the next morning that Dice had been buttering toast and Art Cieslewicz had turned him around, pinned him against the counter, and slapped him so hard he bit the inside of his cheek and tasted blood all morning. No son of mine is going to be a sissy freak like that. You don't want to be like your father, do you, Dyson? DO YOU?
And his mother, sitting at the table with Eddie, hadn't said a word.
Later, after the third time, the fourth time, she'd told him what lies to give his teachers. Your dad's a good man, Dyson. He didn't have to adopt you, but he did. I've been unhappy a lot in my life, and it's not easy for a man to take on a woman with two children. You don't want to ruin this for me, do you?
No, he didn't. He only wanted to be good, but he'd never been able to be good enough.
"Is Eddie left-handed?" asked the tank.
"Nah. Eddie learned. Not like me."
"Eddie learned not to be left-handed?"
"Dad made him. Said we didn't want to be like our father." Christ in a bucket, Cieslewicz, these people are not here to play Twenty Questions. "Our father--whatsit, biological father--he ran off when I was five and Eddie was two. Mom remarried, and he adopted us. So he's Dad. And he had this thing about being left-handed. He couldn't stand it, said it was the mark of Satan and everything. So he made us switch. Only I was never any good at it, and he beat the everloving shit out of me every couple months. Almost killed me when I was fifteen."
"Eddie got the hang of the right-handed thing. Not a lefty at all. Except..."
It'd been easier for Eddie for some reason--because he was younger, because he was better coordinated, Dice didn't know. But Eddie went from using his left hand to using his right hand with nothing more than a spanking or two, and Dice was glad because he didn't want Eddie to hurt like he did half the time.
But Dad started saying there must be something really wrong with Dice, really wicked, if Eddie could learn to be right-handed and Dice couldn't. The left hand is the Devil's hand, Dad said, and the worst thing was when Eddie started saying it, too.
Eddie was too young to remember their father; Eddie was exactly the kind of son Dad wanted, the kind of son he could teach to box and take to the gym on weekends and brag about to his bowling league. Eddie practically worshipped Dad. Eddie wanted to be just like Dad. And now Eddie had--
The boss brought him back to now with, "Mr Cieslewicz? You said 'except'?"
"Oh, sorry. Right. Yeah. Except in the ring."
She leaned forward. "The ring?"
"Eddie's a boxer," the tank said, like something was making sense to him now.
"Well, he was. He quit right after Christmas."
"About the same time he broke your hand?"
"Um. Yeah. About."
"Did you notice any other changes at that same time?" the boss asked. "Increased appetite? Mood swings?"
"Well, our grocery bills about tripled, if that's what you mean."
"You live with him?" said the tank.
"Yeah," Dice said, blushing now because he'd admitted Eddie hurt him, and the next obvious question was why he hadn't moved out, why he'd just hung around like a battered wife or something. He didn't have an answer to that, except that Eddie was his brother and until January he'd never...not even when they were kids...he'd parroted everything Dad said about being left-handed and being a freak and a sissy and wicked and wrong, but he'd never once told. Never once.
They didn't ask that question, though. They wanted to know about Eddie's schedule, where he was on particular days at particular times. And every time Dice had to say he didn't know, that it was Eddie's day off, or Eddie'd traded a shift with the other bouncer, or Dice had learned not to ask what Eddie did on the nights he didn't come straight home after work, their faces got grimmer and more certain.
"Would he ever have seen Stephanie Fisher play?" Chaz asked finally.
Dice's stomach was gone, there was just this cold hollow nothing. "Last week," he said. "The other guy wanted Thursday off. And Stephanie was good that night. I remember saying something to Eddie on the way home, and he just kind of grunted at me. But Eddie doesn't care about music much."
"And did he know we were here today?" the tank said.
"Yeah, I called, because, I mean, how often do you get the...oh god it's my fault. He went after Stephanie today because I...that's it, isn't it? It's my fault."
"No," Chaz said. "He's accelerating anyway, and it's his day off. He was probably planning--"
"If I'd had the guts to go to the police back in January, he wouldn't have got the chance to kill anybody at all. They would've locked him up or made him do therapy or something, wouldn't they?"
"We can't know," the boss said.
"And you didn't know," Chaz said, all wide-eyed again. "Did you?"
"No! I thought it was just me and Dad and the whole fucked-up thing. I thought it was us." Which, Jesus, sounded sick, but he didn't know how else to put it.
"Don't blame yourself for doing the best you could," Chaz said.
And the tank said, "One last question, Mr. Cieslewicz. Do you know where Eddie is now?"
Reyes met his team in front of the Crystal Cave. Two SUVs full of FBI agents and Chaz Villette standing on the sidewalk, arguing with a skinny, ugly man who carried himself like an abuse victim. Reyes got out of Detective Bruckner's unmarked car and immediately started listening for clues.
"...look, I'm just saying that maybe if you let me talk to him, you wouldn't need a fucking SWAT team!"
"Mr. Cieslewicz," said Chaz, who was clearly trying to edit his response on the fly. More fieldwork, and he'd get the hang of it. "Your brother is one of a very rare kind of serial killer--I'm sorry," he added as Cieslewicz flinched, "I'm really sorry, but it's what he is, and..." Reyes watched him bite back the word host, bite back the word UNSUB, and finally settle lamely on, "people like him tend to be very resistant to capture."
"That's what I'm saying!" Cieslewicz said, almost bouncing with frustration. "Let me talk to him and maybe he won't be so resistant he has to end up dead!"
Chaz floundered, and Reyes said, "Let him come."
"Sir?" This time, what Chaz bit back looked a lot more like Are you out of your mind?
Reyes pulled him aside, out of earshot of Cieslewicz, though not quite out of earshot of the avidly listening Detective Bruckner. "It may be possible to bring Edward Cieslewicz in without bloodshed," Reyes said, unperturbed, knowing that Chaz would hear the subtext Bruckner wouldn't: It may be possible to bring Edward Cieslewicz in alive. "But it becomes a lot more possible if we have someone he can connect with."
"That's what hostage negotiators are trained for," Chaz said, giving him a skeptical look worthy of Falkner.
"No hostages," Reyes countered.
"That's what I'm trying to--" Chaz broke off, and the nature of the skepticism in his expression changed. "You think you've seen something."
"I think there's a reason Cieslewicz's first victim is still alive. And I think if we can use that to our advantage, we should do so. Chaz." That brought Chaz's gaze to his face, waiting. "I won't let him get hurt."
"All right," Chaz said and loped back over to Dyson Cieslewicz--who registered surprise, then nodded and followed Chaz back to where Reyes and Bruckner were waiting. Chaz performed introductions, and Reyes gave him a pleased nod for remembering. Dyson Cieslewicz shook hands and squinted at Reyes against the sun. "You really think I can help?"
The uncertainty was at odds with his earlier insistence; behind the barricading glasses, his eyes were gray and defenseless and asked his real question: Do you really think you can save my brother? Reyes gave him a reassuring smile and said, "Yes, I do."
The Cieslewicz brothers lived on the fourth floor of an ugly gray box of an apartment building three blocks from the Crystal Cave. Reyes and Brady went up first, but there was no one in the apartment, and Brady radioed Falkner to let Cieslewicz in.
Reyes was bagging the blood-stained Gold's Gym t-shirt lying in the middle of the floor when Cieslewicz stepped into the apartment. He went a little green at the sight.
Reyes watched to be sure that was all. No, Cieslewicz wasn't going to contaminate the scene. "Mr. Cieslewicz, was your brother wearing this today?"
Cieslewicz swallowed and nodded.
"Look around," Brady said. "Anything else look out of place?"
"We don't usually keep the Bible on the kitchen table," Cieslewicz said.
"It's open to Matthew," said Reyes. "And he's left his wallet and keys on the table."
Cieslewicz squinted near-sightedly at the keys. "Everything's there but the apartment key. So he's either smoking in the courtyard" --Brady looked out the window and shook his head no-- "or he's in the basement."
"What's down there?" Reyes asked, while Brady talked to Falkner about covering exits from the building.
Cieslewicz shrugged, a tight motion almost like a shudder. "The laundry machines. Some storage lockers. Mr. Demarco's woodworking equipment."
"Anything he could use as a weapon?" Brady said. "As for example a gun?"
"I don't think so. Eddie's more likely to use his fists anyway." Then he blanched. Reyes had often wondered what it was like to learn that your loved one was a murderer several times over; he thought now, as he'd thought before, It's like reaching out with a phantom limb.
And then Cieslewicz's eyes widened. "Matthew Eighteen. Oh fucking hell." And before either Reyes or Brady could react, he turned and bolted, greyhound fast, and all they could do was run after him. Down the stairs, then down a dark, narrow hallway with the faint lingering smell of wet garbage. They caught him at the door to the basement. It was open, and the lights were on.
Brady got a grip on Cieslewicz's shoulder and said in a hard whisper, "You wanna explain what that was?"
"Matthew Eighteen-Eight. If your hand or foot causes you to sin..." He looked from Brady to Reyes, and Reyes saw knowledge in his eyes like death.
Understanding hit Brady an instant later, and Cieslewicz made a tiny noise of pain as his grip tightened for a split-second.
"Are you sure?" Reyes said, catching Cieslewicz's gaze and holding it.
"Yeah," Cieslewicz said. "I'm sure."
"All right." Either Eddie Cieslewicz had already cut his hand off and bled to death, in which case there was nothing dangerous left in the basement, or he was still trying to make up his mind. In which case, the sudden entrance of the FBI would almost certainly panic him into action, but his brother...
This was why he'd let Dyson Cieslewicz come along.
"You go down first," Reyes said in Cieslewicz's ear. "Try to get him to talk to you. Keep him as calm as you can."
Brady swelled like a bullfrog with objections, but Reyes caught his eye and stared him down.
As he'd expected, Cieslewicz did not protest that he couldn't keep Eddie calm; he probably prided himself on his ability to "handle" his brother. Reyes would have bet money that the pattern of abuse between them was of far longer duration than the presence of the anomaly.
Cieslewicz nodded jerkily and started down the stairs, calling, "Eddie? You down here?"
Brady and Reyes clearly heard the answering voice: "Dice?"
The clunk of Cieslewicz's boots on the stairs stopped. "Eddie? Where are you, man?"
"Don't come any closer, Dice." Eddie Cieslewicz didn't sound good.
"Eddie? You okay?"
"I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought if they wouldn't learn, they had to be... I couldn't teach everyone the way I taught you. And it made sense. I knew that hand was bad, but when I realized how strong it was, like the hand of Samson, I thought I was getting a chance to, I dunno, redeem it. To do God's work, even with an unworthy tool. And you learned, didn't you, Dice? I did the right thing with you, didn't I?"
"Like hell," Brady muttered, only just loud enough for Reyes to hear.
"Eddie." The sound of Dice Cieslewicz descending another two, three steps. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Don't come any closer! And maybe I had it wrong. 'Cause I didn't use my left hand on you. I was careful. But I thought..." Eddie Cieslewicz's voice trailed off into indistinct muttering.
"What did you think?" Dice's footsteps changed as he reached the bottom of the stairs and moved from wood to concrete.
"I thought I could make things better. I thought I could make the world cleaner. But...the baby was crying, Dice. I could hear him all the way down the hall. And she couldn't. She couldn't hear her baby because I...
"Because you beat her to death," Dice said, not ungently. "Just like Dad almost did to me."
"Fuck!" Brady said, but Reyes held up his hand to keep him still.
"That wasn't right, was it?" Eddie said, and Reyes remembered that Dice was the elder of the brothers.
"No, Eddie, that wasn't right." Doc Martens scuffing over a concrete floor. "But it's good that you know that. It means you don't have to... Jesus fucking Christ, Eddie, would you get away from that thing?"
"I've been thinking about it," Eddie said. "And about what it says in Matthew. I looked it up when I got home." And he recited it, just as Dice had started to: "If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire."
The whine of a table saw underlay the threat of everlasting fire, and now Reyes and Brady were both scrambling madly for the basement stairs. "Eddie," said Dice, his voice as shaky and strained as his brother's, "that's not necessary, man. I get that you're sorry--"
"FEDERAL AGENTS! FREEZE!" Brady roared, reverting to type, although Reyes would have freely admitted he didn't have a more subtle plan.
Edward Cieslewicz looked like someone had taken Dyson and fiddled with his aspect ratio: the same height, but twice as broad. And there was nothing gentle in Eddie's face.
Reyes was pleased to see that Dice had stayed out of his brother's reach, well away from the table saw's whirling scream. Brady moved instantly to interpose himself between Eddie and Dice; Reyes moved the other way, and Eddie's eyes tracked him.
"You are too fucking late, man," he said and brought his left wrist down squarely and hard onto the table saw's blade.
It was Dice who screamed. Eddie didn't make a sound.
Blood flew in a tremendous spattering arc, painting all of them with Eddie's sin. Reyes and Brady lunged for Eddie, but he used the anomaly's unnatural strength against himself, pushing against the saw blade, and when Brady tackled him away from the saw, Eddie's hand remained behind.
Dyson Cieslewicz, screaming obscenities, dragged his t-shirt off and shouldered Brady aside. He began applying pressure to the stump of his brother's left wrist.
Brady told the radio to call for a fucking ambulance and hurry!
Entirely automatically, Reyes turned the saw off. And flinched from the still warm touch of Eddie Cieslewicz's left hand.
The hospital was nice and gave Dice something clean to wear, his own clothes being pretty much soaked in Eddie's blood and confiscated by the FBI to boot. Which was fine, when he thought about it. Because how often were you going to wake up and think, Yeah, today I want to wear the shirt I used to keep my brother from bleeding to death after he cut off his own hand on purpose?
Not very fucking often, was Dice's feeling.
So he felt kind of ridiculous, in those blue hospital-type pajamas and his ratty sneakers and his leather jacket that some FBI guy had been nice enough to bring along, but at least he didn't look like prom night in Carrie and he didn't have to deal with the smell anymore. And they'd stuck him in a little waiting room, not out there in the freakshow of the ER waiting room, for which he was profoundly grateful, thank you, hospital.
He sat on one of the little flowery couches and tried to pretend he was reading a magazine, although he wasn't even seeing the pictures, never mind the words. And his hands were shaking, but he was ignoring them. Every once in a while, he'd have to squeeze his eyes shut and wait out a huge cramping shudder, but then he'd look back at the magazine and maybe even remember to turn the page.
And then his parents came in.
Mom was crying and Dad looked sort of pissed off and sort of confused, which was a very bad look and everything in Dice staggered into Red Alert for, God, the fourth or fifth time that day and wasn't Thursday ever going to end?
"Dyson!" Mom said, or kind of wailed. "What happened?"
Dice stood up, purely on instincts that said don't let him stand over you and don't let him get between you and the door and don't let him trap you, and his mouth opened and said, "Well, Mom, Eddie went batshit crazy."
Mom covered her face and sobbed. Dad's head snapped around, and he said, "Don't speak to your mother like that."
Which, okay, Dice hadn't meant to. The words had just come out, and he would've taken them back if he could.
He knew exactly why he was scared of his stepfather, down to the tally of broken bones (seven--two up on Eddie: three ribs, his left forearm, his nose, his left cheekbone, and oh yeah, his skull). But standing there in his leather jacket and blue hospital pajamas, like a refugee from a movie about Hell's Angel nurses, with the memory of Eddie's blood still under his fingernails, he looked at Art Cieslewicz and thought, Why did I ever care about you? He said, "Sorry. I guess watching Eddie cut his own freaking hand off has got me kind of rattled."
Mom sobbed louder, and Dad was torn between comforting her and tearing strips off Dice. Which was, all in all, a really great moment for the tank to stick his head in and say, "Mr. Cieslewicz, could we speak to you for a moment?"
"Sure," Dice said.
"Who the hell is that?" Dad demanded.
The guy who arrested Eddie, Dice almost said, but the tank got there first.
"Daniel Brady, FBI," he said and shook hands. He didn't yield a millimeter to Dad's grip, just grinned toothily and gripped back, hard enough that Dad almost winced. "You must be Arthur Cieslewicz. The local field office will have an agent here to speak to you in, oh, about two minutes. I just need a minute of your stepson's time." He raised his eyebrows at Dice. "Coming?"
"You bet," Dice said and, looking down at his magazine as he abandoned it, discovered he'd spent the last hour staring at a copy of Modern Maternity.
Chaz was waiting in the hall, and he gave Dice this weird grimace that Dice decided was probably supposed to be a supportive sort of smile. "We're heading back to D.C., but we just wanted to tell you a little about what's going to happen next."
"That ain't your job, is it?"
"Um," said Chaz, and "Not exactly," said Brady.
They looked at each other, and Brady went on, "Cases like your brother's are a little unusual, and there are things that--"
Chaz leapt in: "If we don't tell you, nobody will."
"He's going to go to a secure facility in Ashton, Virginia," Brady said. "It's called Idlewood. He'll be confined, but the doctors will do their best to be sure he's comfortable."
"There are drugs that help," Chaz said. "Sometimes."
"He'll have access to books and DVDs and music. After he's settled, you'll be able to write letters to him, although all his correspondence will be monitored."
"You can visit, if you want," Chaz said.
"This Idlewood place get many visitors?" Dice said.
"No. But it's an option," Chaz said earnestly. "We didn't want you not to know you had the option."
"What he is, it isn't his fault," Chaz said. "It's...it's like an illness."
"That's what they always say about crazy people."
"No. I mean, yes, but no, that wasn't quite what I meant. What happened to Eddie..." He looked helplessly at Brady.
Brady sighed. "This is where we say we can't talk about our job. But it's true, what Chaz says. Something happened to Eddie. It's no more his fault than it would be if he'd been hit by a car."
"You aren't talking about the batshit crazy part."
"No," said Brady at the same time Chaz said, "Yes." They glowered at each other.
Their bosslady came out of the stairwell and said, "Do you want on this plane, or would you rather walk home?"
Dice shook hands with Brady--who made no effort at all to crush his knuckles--and then with Chaz. Chaz's handshake was awkward, kind of like shaking hands with a folding chair, but for sure the opposite of a dead fish, and he said, "It's complicated. But I've never seen anybody fight the...well, the infection the way Eddie did. And you care about him, right?"
"Yeah." Because he did. Because Eddie was his brother and had never told on him and hadn't killed him, either, although Dice could do the math on all the other dead left-handed people and knew he should have been one of them. "Ashton, you said?"
Chaz smiled at him--and wow, he had a really nice smile when he pulled it out--and said, "Yeah. Ashton, Virginia." He slung his bag over his shoulder, gave Dice an awkward little wave, and followed Brady toward the stairs.
Dice watched him go, hearing his parents' voices rising in a fight behind him, and wondered if they'd let him in to see Eddie before they took him away. He wanted to let Eddie know he wasn't giving up.
Reyes glowered around the briefing room. "How many of you are left-handed?"
Brady closed his fingers around his coffee mug and looked down the table.
Hafidha raised her hand.
Chaz, at Brady's left shoulder, said, "Um."
"Yes, Dr. Villette?" Reyes said.
Chaz raised both hands. "I confess! Ambidextrous! Maybe a little left-dominant."
"You write with your right hand," Worth objected.
Chaz shrugged one of his complicated shrugs, the kind that made him look like he had too many joints. "Actually, I write with both. But trying to find a left-handed desk is a pain."
"Left-handed by birth, right-handed by the grace of the Las Vegas Public School System," Todd suggested.
"Something like that. But it's not a trauma or anything. Besides, I like fountain pens."
"You can really write with either hand?" Worth said. "How 'bout a demonstration?"
"Okay. Um." He leaned over and snagged the ballpoint out of Brady's fingers.
"Hey!" Brady protested, pro forma.
"Just wait. Uncle Chaz is going to do a magic trick." He thought a moment and wrote, right handed, when you stare persistently into an abyss, the abyss also stares into you. Then he flipped the pen neatly into his left hand and wrote the same phrase. The writing was a little different, a little back-slanted, but clear and precise and still quite obviously Charles Villette's handwriting.
"Wow," Worth said, mock-solemn.
"No, no," Chaz said. "That's not the magic trick. This is." And still left-handed, he wrote, swiftly and fluidly, the same phrase for the third time, indistinguishable from how he'd written it right-handed, except flawlessly reversed.
"Mirror writing," Reyes said, with that look in his eye, the one Brady hated, the one that said what Stephen Reyes really wanted most in this world was a chance to open up Chaz Villette's skull and go poking around inside.
"Yeah," Chaz said, a little uncomfortably. "The funny thing is, when I learned how to write initially, I didn't do that. But when I figured out that my teachers would get on my case less if I was right-handed, and I switched, my left hand started doing that." He jabbed the pen at the line of mirror writing. "So basically I learned to write three times, once with my right hand and twice with my left, and whoa, off-topic, sorry about that." He looked back at Reyes. "Was there a reason you wanted to know?"
"Seventy-two percent of anomalous individuals for whom we have these data are left handed," Reyes said.
Falkner gave him an exasperated look. "So are you."
"But that is significant, statistically speaking," Chaz said, although he didn't sound happy about it, "given that the occurrence of left-side dominance in the population as a whole is only fifteen to twenty-five percent. Higher for people of Asian descent."
"Right-handed, thank you," Lau said.
Todd tipped his chair back and said loudly to the ceiling, "Correlation is not causation."
"But it's a very suggestive correlation," Reyes said.
Chaz said, almost too softly to be heard, "The left hand is the Devil's hand," and gave Brady back his pen.