Cut & Run, page 47part #1 of Cut & Run Series
It felt like a party. Like a welcome home party, complete with bloody confetti. But that wasn’t possible, and Ty frowned as he began to wonder about his own mental stability. The killer had no way of knowing they were back on the case yet. If their theory was correct, he had nothing to be celebrating.
Kneeling on the floor, Zane pulled at the cutout of the hardwood floor with his fingers, but it was too tight to lift. He reached into his jacket sleeve and pulled out one of his knives, sliding it into the gap between the boards and applying pressure carefully.
The board lifted easily. He pulled it away and set it aside, then reached for the next one.
“What are you doing?” Ty asked in alarm as Zane began destroying the crime scene.
Zane looked grimly down into the hole as he lifted a second floorboard. “Take a look,” he said to Ty as he sat back.
Ty and the tech both bent over the hole and peered down into it.
Inside was a simple piece of white construction paper. Drawn on it in blood was a stylized heart.
“Weird,” the tech observed flatly.
Ty turned his head to look at the man, then down at Zane. “Probably our token. What’d you expect to find?” he asked curiously.
Zane shrugged distractedly. “I don’t know. Had hardwood floors growing up, used to hide things under them,” he explained in a troubled voice.
He stood up, peeling the gloves off and handing them to the tech. “Thanks,”
he said quietly before turning on his heel and leaving the room.
Ty stood still and watched Zane retreat with a frown, then looked back down at the note left under the floorboards. He sighed and looked back up. Even in here, far removed from what appeared to be the main crime scene, there was blood and gore.
“Takes a real madman to do this to another human being,” the ME
said to him softly from the doorway where he’d been watching.
Ty gave the ME a glance and shook his head, taking stock of the fact that he himself was trying to figure out how the perp had done it physically, rather than mentally or morally. He stood and walked slowly to the door, standing beside the man.
“Scarier still,” he murmured to the medical examiner as he looked through the house to the back porch where Zane stood. “I don’t think he’s crazy at all,” he said softly as he left the room carefully, making certain he stayed on the plastic on his way out.
Zane stood outside, a cigarette already lit. He didn’t move when Ty came out onto the porch. The dark circles under Zane’s eyes were pronounced, and he looked exhausted and ill. His eyes were still blank, as if he was thinking about something so hard that he was almost zoning out over it.
Ty reached over and took the cigarette from between his lips, putting it out against the thick denim of his jeans. He then put the butt in his shirt pocket and looked away toward the back alley. Zane had to be out of it to be smoking at a fucking crime scene. He didn’t know what evidence the smoke might destroy.
“Better get going before anyone else tries to come in,” Ty said to him in annoyance. “Henninger can’t hold them off for long. ”
They ducked around the ambulance just as they heard Gary Ross’s deep voice, and Zane led the way back out of the alley and down the street, away from the scene. They stopped moving six blocks away, and Zane pulled out another cigarette, getting that deep-in-thought look in his eyes again.
Ty gently reached out and plucked the cigarette from his fingers.
“Tell me what you’re thinking,” he requested calmly.
Zane’s eyes followed the unlit cigarette in confusion, and he blinked owlishly when he looked up at Ty. “What?” he asked, reaching to take the cigarette back.
Ty pulled it further away, holding it out of reach as he looked at Zane pointedly.
Zane’s brows drew together, and he took a few seconds to review the last minute. “Oh … I was thinking about the floorboards,” he said, looking at Ty’s hand and then back up at his eyes.
“What about them?” Ty prodded.
“The Tell-Tale Heart, ” Zane answered with a nod. “You were right.
He’s re-enacting Poe stories. Where that gets us, I don’t know. It’s a relief to finally see the pattern though. ” He wrinkled his nose, gave up on the cigarette, and pulled the crumpled pack out of his pocket to get another.
Ty sighed and handed the cigarette back. “Okay,” he said. “So we get that book out, make a list of the murders, and send it to Henninger,” he suggested. “But you’re right, it gets us nowhere closer to him. That scene was
… different,” he added in a tired voice, mind still working over the new form of his profile.
Zane took the cigarette and tapped it on the pack, but now he was focusing more on Ty’s reaction to giving it back. He didn’t want Zane to smoke. That must be it. He remembered Ty’s wry voice: “Those things will kill you. ” He slid the cigarette back into the pack and stuffed it into his pocket.
“How so?” he asked belatedly.
Ty merely shrugged and looked down, frowning. “Come on,” he said softly as he stepped to the side and began moving again, “I need to write some shit down. ”
Zane rubbed a hand over his face, and they headed back to where they’d parked. It took a while to get back to the seedy motel they’d picked out, and they were both quiet the whole way. Once in the room, Zane shucked the jacket, the weapons, and his boots, and immediately laid face down on the bed. Maybe if he dozed, something would come to him.
Ty didn’t follow Zane’s lead. Instead, he paced at the end of the other bed, pen in hand, drumming it against his thigh as he moved. He was thinking about the welcome party, about his inability to be horrified by the gore. His frown deepened the more he paced.
“Why are you pacing?” Zane muttered after several minutes. “Can’t you sit to think?”
“No,” Ty snapped in answer. “Leave me the fuck alone. ”
Zane sat up, obviously peeved. Growling quietly, he stalked over to his jacket and pulled out the cigarettes and lighter before turning to the door.
Ty watched him go, glowering at the cigarettes in his hand. Zane yanked the door open, shoved the latch over to block it open, and stepped out onto the concrete walkway as he lifted an unlit smoke to his lips.
“Why would he set up the scene like that?” Ty called after him before the door could close.
Startling slightly, Zane almost dropped the lighter. He pushed the door back open partway. “The scene?” he asked, cigarette between his lips as he spoke.
“He set up the murder weapon like an offering,” Ty answered, voicing what had been bothering him. “Like a … gift. ”
“On a silver platter, yeah. I wasn’t amused,” Zane said, blowing the smoke away from the door. “I bet he was. ”
Ty blinked at him and his lips parted slightly as if he was surprised at what Zane had said. He looked down to the thin carpet and blinked again, mouth working silently for several moments. “We haven’t been amused,” he mumbled.
Zane watched Ty, confused. “What’s going on in that head of yours?”
he asked mildly, the snap and frustration gone for the moment.
“I think I completely missed the profile,” Ty answered dazedly.
Zane blinked in surprise. He stuck the unlit cigarette behind his ear and reentered the room, shutting the door behind him and turning the bolt.
“Tell me,” he prompted.
“We’ve been assuming he was playing games, flaunting how good he was and waiting for someone worth playing the game against,” Ty answered quickly as he began pacing again. “Burns said there was an overall feeling that the killer was depressed after we left, despondent and silent. We assumed—because we’re FBI and ego is a requirement—that it was because he thought we were good enough to play the game. But why would he think that?” he posed as he stopped and looked at Z
He’s not trying to play. He’s trying to please. ”
“Trying to please? You mean to keep us busy? To give him our attention? And then when he lost it, he was unhappy?” Zane asked.
Ty shook his head. “You read crime novels and watch detective movies, right?” he said eagerly. “The stereotype in almost every one is a bored cop; he wants something exciting to sink his teeth into, wants action, wants…a big case to work on,” he rambled almost excitedly. “Right? For all his intelligence and talent, this perp has bought into that image. He admires law enforcement officers,” he went on, beginning to form a new profile as he spoke. “His dad or father figure might even have been a security guard or some sort of pseudo-policeman type. That’s why he became a Fed, if he is one. He admired them. He wants to please the people he admires, give them something worth their time. ” He closed his eyes and lifted his chin, raising his face to the ceiling.
Zane bit back a smile. He glanced to the stack of crime and suspense novels he’d bought. “Okay, I can see that. So, he’s hoping to give us a good game. So if we figure it out, what’s to stop him from changing the game?”
“He has to change it. He’ll be well-schooled in forensics and profiling. He’ll think he’s hiding by switching his MO, but he’s still got that pattern. He may have picked it because it offered so many different methods.
Or it may have more special meaning to him. He killed the Poe Toaster in Baltimore, we can be sure of that, either as a jumping-off point or practice. He had to have picked him because of who he was. Poe is the playbook he’s sticking to in order to stay safe. He’s not killing for the pleasure of the kill, not like normal serials. What he enjoys— his real ritual—is the after-effects,”
Ty explained as the profile unfolded before him like a road map over his mental steering wheel. “What he craves is the attention of the authorities afterward. Not the press, not the public. Just the cops and Feds. He doesn’t just return to the scene of the crime; he lives it. He soaks the mayhem in afterward, either by being physically present or thriving on the official reports. That’s why he’s sending stuff in the mail; he’s helping the people he admires try to solve him. ”
“So, it might not be someone at the Bureau, but maybe a cop from the city who’s got access,” Zane realized. “Someone who works both sides of the case, although in a minor role. Like the Steves are attached to this case. ” He tossed the cigarette pack on the table and sat back down on the bed. “I wish we had that damn list of all personnel who’ve touched anything to do with this mess. ”
“The new profile screams cop with an inferiority complex,” Ty agreed. “But with the access he has, I’m still saying FBI. It also makes me think that something we did, the two of us, told him that we were enjoying what he was doing,” he went on more tentatively. “We may have expressed admiration for his skill somehow or shown interest in how or why he did something that none of the other agents had noticed. Whatever it was we did, he thought he’d finally found someone who was enjoying the fruits of his labor. ”
Zane’s face was blank and then he blanched. “So he’s been doing this
… specifically to amuse us? You and me?”
“Not at first,” Ty answered with a shake of his head. “And not even now. To assume that would be to assume he knows we’re back. The two of us, specifically. I think he heard somehow that the Bureau was sending in a new crew. That, back there? That was his welcome party. ”
Zane closed his eyes, feeling slightly ill at the thought. That had been perhaps the most gruesome scene he had ever witnessed, and he’d seen a lot, but Ty seemed to be thinking of it as merely another stepping stone to finding their killer.
He opened his eyes again and looked—really looked—at Ty, studying him, catching on to the slightly detached air he had about him. He’d had it ever since they’d been reunited. Even back at his home in Baltimore. He remembered Ty’s reaction to the woman being found in his hotel room all those months ago, and experience with psychology told Zane what was going on. Ty was still in shock. He’d gone through the treatment like a good little soldier, but he hadn’t really processed any of the therapy. He had basically severed any links to deeper emotions to avoid anything hurting too much.
Ty snorted and continued to pace, oblivious to Zane’s study of him.
“We should call Henninger,” he finally murmured. “Tell him to change the profile. ”
“It’ll be several hours ‘til he’s off the scene and able to talk,” Zane reminded. He felt for Ty. Not just aching because Ty was so removed, but in other ways as well. It scared him, and his chest tightened as he watched his partner pace.
“Call him anyway, this shit is important,” Ty grunted in annoyance as he patted himself down for his own phone.
“All right. Call Henninger, then what?” Zane asked. “We need somewhere bigger than this to spread out the files he’s supposed to bring us and give them a good study. We should probably change hotels anyway, just in case. ”
Ty was very still, letting the last words sink in. “You think he knows we’re back?” he asked neutrally.
Zane swallowed, thinking back to what they’d talked about minutes before. “Yeah. ”
“Us, specifically?” Ty asked quietly.
Meeting Ty’s eyes, Zane wondered if the curling anxiety showed in his own. “Yeah. ”
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