For dessert we went to the isle of the dead. A chilly ice cream palace of bodies. The variety was almost endless. Any flavor you might like. Murder, accidental and natural. Seattle had some money. The morgue was even nice. Functional and attractive, marble floors. It was such a pleasant setting that we both wondered who it was all for. The corpse of Ronaldo was pulled out of the drawer. He had been kept at the perfect temperature. He seemed small and shriveled in spite of his youth. A man who didn’t have much presence. “You ever wonder what it would be like to be dead?” Gillian asked. “Cold” is all that I said. Gillian left it alone and farted bad burger gas. Dinner was not sitting well.
“So, what’s your theory?” I asked. “On death?” “On his death. One killer or two?” “Would you like fries with that?” he joked. It didn’t make any sense but we needed the humor. It was all that kept us from fighting. We both looked at his neck. Ronaldo had small, straight marks from where the tape had been wrapped. The killer had been none too gentle.
“Four out of five” he said. His gallery of victims had several winners. Three out of four had been executed in exactly the same way. Electrical tape and plastic bag. Death by asphyxiation in every case.
“What about ours?” I asked. “Maybe they ran out of tape. Beats the hell out of me.” At least he acknowledged that Eric was different. He had been strangled in a more classic way. Somebody held the bag against his neck with their hands. They felt him kick, struggle and gasp. Heard the funny noises come from his throat. It was a different type of experience.
Ronaldo and the others had been covered and taped. The killer probably enjoying the more detached method. They would have convulsed and twitched as the killer kept his distance. A more visual than tactile method.
I started humming a tune. Gillian didn’t get it. In fact, he was a little bit pissed. “Quit that. What’s wrong with you?” he asked. “You don’t recognize the song? It’s a tune from a kid’s show. “Which One Doesn’t Belong.” “Very funny, Asshole” he said. “Seriously, how can you fit Eric Thurman into this group, even if all the rest are connected?” I asked.
He launched into a lecture how I only looked to tear down and had nothing to offer in its place. I pointed out that the difference between tape and not was bigger than he was giving credit. It was a different thrill for the killer. A different high. Pre-planned death rituals were very specific. I admitted that four of the vics were possibly connected. But I refused to back down on Eric.
“Maybe the killer planned on using tape but somehow got interrupted.” Gillian threw out some scenarios, a few of which made sense in explaining the tape discrepancy. “Why didn’t we find any records of Eric booking a motel?” “Maybe there was somewhere private he used that time. I don’t know, Dudek. I don’t know, OK?. But I will. Don’t shoot me down before I’ve even had a chance.”
We closed the door and let Ronaldo sleep. Happy dreams, sad little bastard. Gillian’s words had hit home. I felt like a shit. Investigations take time. Gillian’s theory was worth pursuing. I fessed up to my wrongs and was all apologies. All was forgiven. At least for now. As long as I promised to fight for the cause. Until proven otherwise, Eric was a star in the making. Serial Killer Victim Number Five.
DOGS IN THE DISTANCE, NOW IN PAPERBACK!