Home > In Death #33.5 - Chaos in Death(2)

In Death #33.5 - Chaos in Death(2)
Author: J.D. Robb


Struggling to find her own good, steady hand, Peabody opened her kit. “Taking the body parts, those particular body parts, do you think ritual?”

“Possibly.” She looked up at the message on the wall. “Mostly, I think he likes to joke. Real funny guy. He did what he wanted, took what he wanted, now he’s telling us to clean up the mess. Dr. Chaos.”

Eve looked around the room. “That’s what this is. The middle guy? The killer took him out where he lay. Uses a knife, or a scalpel. But he doesn’t use it on the others, except for the removal. He switches to bludgeoning for the other male.”

“Coby Vix, age twenty-six,” Peabody told her. “There had to be two killers, maybe three. One for each vic?”

“Maybe. It’s a lot of work for one man. But only one takes credit?”

As Eve had, Peabody studied the bloody message. “Dr. Chaos. It could be the name of a group.”

Eve considered it while she used the gauges. “Yeah, it could. TOD on Darnell, two hundred thirty-eight.”

“If there was only one, why didn’t she run like hell when he’s stabbing the bejesus out of that guy or beating the crap out of Vix?”

“Took her out, blows to the knees. Shattered kneecaps. But yeah, it could be more than one. Three distinct methods of killing.”

“Vix, TOD two hundred twenty.”

“So, he took some time with Darnell. Enough for rape.” Eve lifted the hem of the short nightshirt. “No bruising, bleeding, tearing I can see, but the ME will determine sexual assault.” Eve lifted the cheap, thin chain around Darnell’s bruised neck. “She’s wearing a ninety-day chip from Get Straight.”

“Vix has sixty.” Peabody held up the chip.

With a nod, Eve rose and moved to the middle victim. “Hear-no has thirty. Wilson Bickford,” she said when she’d run his prints. “Age twenty-two. That same precision, surgical removal on the ear. Dr. Chaos may just be a doctor, or at least have medical training. Hmm, TOD two hundred thirty. Didn’t die first.”

She sat back on her heels, tried to see it.

“He’s the biggest of the three. The killer went at him first,” she continued. “I bet your ass he did.”

“Hey, bet your own ass.”

“Defensive wounds, hands, arms. Bickford put up a fight. Take it a couple ways. Say three killers, one for each vic. Teamwork. One stabs, one beats, one strangles. But this doesn’t look like teamwork,” Eve said, scanning the room again. “It looks like…” She gestured to the message on the wall.

“Chaos.”

“Yeah. Could be the team just went to town on the place. But I’m only seeing one type of bloody footprint, and it’s too much to swallow they all wore the same size and type of shoe.”

“Missed that,” Peabody muttered.

“Maybe there’s more, and I’ve missed them. Or maybe the others were more careful.”

“But you don’t think so.”

“I think that’s an interesting gap of time between TODs. I think the same hand did the removals, an experienced hand, steady. We’ve got serious overkill on the two males, and manual strangulation—which is personal and intimate—on the female. The destruction of the scene is over the top, and that reads rage. But the message is jokey, which reads control and intellect. It could be more than one. One with a cool head, one just batshit crazy.

“Let’s get them bagged, tagged, and transported. I want to talk to the nine-one-one caller.”

Katrina Chu hunched in the back of the black-and-white, her face white as death, her eyes puffy from weeping. One of the uniforms had gotten her some water. Her throat clicked on every swallow. But to Eve’s relief, it looked like Katrina had cried herself out. Her puffy, pale green eyes stayed dry and focused on Eve.

“I need you to tell me what happened,” Eve began.

“Jen didn’t show up for work. She volunteers on the breakfast shift at Get Straight. The one off Canal. And she and Coby and Wil, they go to the meeting after.”

“You worked with her?”

“I’m her sponsor. I work at the free clinic on Canal.”

“Louise Dimatto’s clinic?”

“Yes. Do you know Dr. Dimatto?”

“Yeah.”

The connection seemed to steady her. “I’m an aide there. I’m studying to be a nurse. Jen came into Get Straight a couple months ago, and I offered to be her sponsor. We hit it off. She was really working it, you know? Really trying hard. She got Coby to come in. They wanted to turn their lives around.”

“I have her living on West Sixteenth.”

“They couldn’t pay the rent. They started squatting here a couple weeks ago. Maybe three, I guess. Nobody was using the place, and she said Dr. Rosenthall said it would be okay, for a few weeks.”

“Dr. Rosenthall?”

“He and Dr. Dimatto donate time to Get Straight. He and Arianna basically fund the organization.”

“Arianna.”

“Whitwood. They’re engaged. Arianna and Dr. Rosenthall. She’s a therapist. She donates her time, too. Jen, she wanted to get clean, stay clean. She never missed the morning meeting. And she started working at Slice—a pizza joint—about two months ago. She’d help serve breakfast, take in the meeting, then study for an hour or two—Arianna hooked her up with an online business course—then go to Slice if she had the lunch shift, go into the Center—the Whitwood Center—if she had the dinner shift. But she didn’t show up, not to serve breakfast, not for the meeting. She didn’t answer her ‘link. Neither did Coby or Wil. I got worried.”

A tear leaked through after all. “I thought maybe they’d taken a slide. It happens. I didn’t want to think it. I really trusted she’d tag me if she got in a situation. But I did think it, so I came by on my way to work, to check on her. I knocked. I couldn’t see in the window. It’s boarded and grilled, but Jen gave me a key, so I opened it and… I saw.”

“Do you know anybody who’d want to hurt her, or Coby or Wil?”

“No.” Pressing her lips together, she shook her head. “I know some people think once a junkie, but they were trying. They were clean, and trying to stay that way.”

“What about people they associated with when they were using?”

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