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Delusion in Death edahr-44, Page 3

J. D. Robb

  “No. You were in the bar.”

  “I don’t want to be in the bar. I want to be home.”

  “What happened in the bar?”

  “It doesn’t make sense.”

  “It doesn’t have to.” Peabody again, soothing, soothing, even taking CiCi’s good hand in hers. “Tell us what you think happened, and that’ll help. We’re here to help you.”

  “She’s a monster. There’s blood running out of her eyes, and her teeth are sharp.”

  “Who’s a monster?”

  “It looks like Macie, but she’s not a monster. It’s all mixed up.”

  “What did the monster do?”

  “She stabbed Travis in the face. She picked up Macie’s fork and stabbed him in the eye—oh God, oh God. And she screamed, and everything was crazy. I had glass in my hand, sharp, sharp, and I stabbed and stabbed, and she screamed and beat at me. It hurts! I have to hurt her, and the other one, all the other ones, but I’m on the floor and my arm! And everyone’s screaming and there’s blood everywhere. Then I woke up, and somebody was taking me somewhere. Here. An ambulance. I don’t know.”

  Tears streamed out of her eyes. “I don’t know. I think I killed somebody, but it doesn’t make sense. Please find Macie. She’s really smart. She’ll know what happened.”

  “Let’s try this. What were you doing right before you saw the monster?”

  “There aren’t any monsters, not really. Right?”

  Oh, Eve thought, more than you can count. More than you can name.

  “Don’t worry. Just try to remember before. You and Macie and Travis and Bren. You had a table at the bar?”

  “A table. Yeah. We got a table. It was close to the bar. I mean the bar in the bar.”

  “Okay, that’s good. You all had drinks? It’s happy hour. What did you order to drink?”

  “Ah, I had a house white. It’s pretty good. Macie got a Pink Passion. The guys got beers. And we got jumbo nachos to share. But I was afraid to eat them—much—because they’re messy. I didn’t want to spill because of the blind date.”

  “That’s good. You were having fun, relaxing after work. You had a drink together. Then what?”

  “Um. Oh. Okay. We were talking, and we were going to get another round of drinks. Ah, we—me and Macie, we went to the girls’ room. There wasn’t a big line, so that was good. And we talked about going for dinner, and how I could ask Bren up to my place if he walked me home.”

  The fingers on the sheet moved faster, faster, keeping time with her accelerating breaths. “I wasn’t sure about doing that, but Macie was, and she got, well, a little bit bitchy about it. It’s not like her to get bitchy. But she said she was getting a headache. And went back up. Her head must’ve hurt because she kind of shoved this guy out of her way. I think it was a guy. He’d bumped into her on the way down to the girls’ room.”

  “The same guy?” Eve prompted.

  “I think. I don’t know. I got scared when she shoved him, really shoved him. Everything was too loud, too bright, and she was being so mean. And then we sat back down, and I thought I would see if I had a blocker, but she and Travis started yelling at each other. They hardly ever fight, and they never yell, and my head hurt, too. They were yelling, and my head hurt, and Bren looked mad. Mean. I don’t know. Then it all went crazy.”

  Eve tried a few more questions, walking her back. Had anyone come into or gone out of the bar just before “the monster”?

  But CiCi’s memory circled around monsters and blood. They turned her, weeping again, over to the nurse.

  The next survivor Eve interviewed stayed calm, almost eerily so. James L. Brewster, an accountant, suffered multiple stab wounds, cracked ribs. A vicious gash ran down the left side of his face from under his eye in a jagged route to his chin, and a violent contusion knotted up in a small volcano on his wide forehead.

  He spoke softly, his hands still on either side of his body with the raw, torn knuckles coated with thick gel.

  “I go there at least once a week, usually have a client meeting after work. I work at Strongfield and Klein, in the accounting department. It’s not officially approved of, but several of us have outside clients. Small accounts. I was meeting a new client. I got there about thirty minutes early, so I could do some work and go over the new client’s information. Do you need that?”

  “It would be helpful if we had the client’s name, the contact information.”

  “Of course. MaryEllyn—that’s one word, cap E, two Ys. Geraldi. I’m afraid I don’t remember her contact information, but it’s in my book. I don’t know where my book is.”

  “That’s all right, Mr. Brewster,” Peabody assured him.

  “I think I got there about half past five, maybe a bit earlier. They know me there, and the waitress—that’s Katrina—I don’t know her last name—she’d saved me the little two-top over by the wall as I’d called in earlier to let them know I’d be bringing a client in. It’s my usual table.”

  He closed his eyes—pale, bloodshot blue—a moment. “Usual. Nothing’s usual now. I ordered a soy latte, and started my review. I like to keep as much pertinent information fresh in my head before a meeting. It was crowded. It’s not a big place, you understand, but it’s friendly and well run. That’s why I like to use it, and like the small table by the wall. Katrina brought over my latte, and I was going to ask her for some water as I had a sudden headache and wanted a blocker. Then the bees came.”

  “Bees?” Eve repeated.

  “Yellow jackets, very large.” His chest rose and fell on a shuddering breath. “Impossibly large. I was badly stung as a boy, on my grandfather’s farm in Pennsylvania. They swarmed me, and I still remember them all over me, stinging, buzzing, and stinging as I ran. I’m deathly afraid of them. That sounds foolish, but—”

  “No,” Peabody interrupted. “It doesn’t.”

  He gave her a grateful smile, but his chest continued to rise and fall, faster, faster. “I think I jumped up. I was so startled to see the bees, and I swatted out. They were crawling on Katrina, and I swatted at her to get them off. And then … I must have hallucinated. My phobia, I must have hallucinated because Katrina opened her mouth, and bees swarmed out of her. That’s crazy. I must’ve panicked. They swarmed out of her, and her eyes changed, her body. It was—I know this is crazy—it was as if she turned into a huge bee. Like in a horror film. This can’t help you.”

  “Whatever you remember,” Eve told him, “however you remember helps.”

  “Pretty waitresses don’t turn into giant bees. But it seemed real, so terrifyingly real. There was screaming, and buzzing, and everything went mad. I think, I’m not sure, but I think I grabbed my chair and beat at her with it. I’ve never struck anyone in my life, but I think I struck her with the chair, and tried to run but the bees were stinging me. It felt as if they were stabbing me, and one of them ripped the stinger down my face. I fell. They were all over me, but I must’ve passed out. When I woke up, there were people lying everywhere, there was blood everywhere. And something—someone—was lying on top of me. I finally pushed him off. He was dead. I could see he was dead. People were dead. Then the police came and found us.

  “I don’t know what happened to Katrina. She’s so young. She wants to be an actress.”

  When Eve stepped out of the room she stood a moment weighing options. “I want you to see if you can talk to any of the other survivors,” she told Peabody. “If so, I want detailed reports. I want a solid time line. I’m going to the morgue, see what Morris can tell us.”

  “I didn’t see any bees, giant or otherwise at the crime scene. Or any demons. What would cause people to hallucinate that way, and so intensely for so short a time?”

  “We sure as hell better find out. Detailed reports,” she repeated, “of everything we have so far, everything you get. He hadn’t been served yet,” she murmured.

  “Who? Brewster?”

  “The waitress brought over his latte, he said, and the bees came. So hi
s hallucination came before he’d had anything to drink, anything to eat. It wasn’t ingested. I’ll hook up with you back at Central.”

  She contacted Feeney as she walked out of the hospital. “Anything?”

  “We’ve got people going in, coming out, normal as you’d expect on the door cam. Female suit, mid-thirties, exits at seventeen-twenty-two. Two women entering ten seconds later. We got a man and a woman—pegged them as mid-late twenties, come out arguing, looks like a hot one. She storms off. He calls after her, starts to go back in the bar. Changes his mind and heads in the same direction she took. That’s logged at seventeen-twenty-nine. Seventeen-thirty-two a couple of suits walked out, split off, one north, one south.”

  “We’ll run face recognition on all of them.”

  “We’ll do that. On the ’links we’re processing, we get a lot of people going off, some starting out easy then screaming or swearing. We’ve got some audio, and it ain’t pretty. It doesn’t tell us much.”

  “I’m heading to the morgue, maybe Morris has something. Bring everything you find to the briefing. We’ll sort through it.”

  “It’s hit the media, Dallas. Too many people, cops, medicals, bystanders, to keep the lid tight. Nobody has real details. Right now it’s coming over as a possible gang hit or bar fight gone seriously south.”

  “We stick to ‘no comment’ until we know the direction, and we keep leaks plugged tight in EDD and Homicide.”

  “You got that. Your man’s got us a list of employees, and who was on. He’s working their electronics himself.” Feeney paused, glanced over his shoulder as if checking if any ears were close by. “Nobody’s saying the one thing everybody’s thinking.”

  Terrorism. She nodded. “Then let’s not say it yet. I’ll check back.”

  Facts first, she told herself as she drove. Evidence, time lines, names, motives. Just work the case, one step at a time.

  CiCi Way and friends, party of four, having cocktails and bar food. Women visit the bathroom, go back. And CiCi’s work pal turns into a demon and stabs her boyfriend in the face with a fork.

  Brewster, party of one. Comes in, takes his usual table, consumes nothing, and his waitress turns into a giant bee.

  An entire bar of office drones and suits turns into a battlefield of makeshift weapons for—given current data—approximately twelve minutes. Result: over eighty dead.

  Both survivors interviewed reported a sudden headache, and both came to with blurry memories, but no signs of continued hallucination.

  For now, she decided. No telling if whatever had caused it to happen would reoccur.

  She walked into the morgue. The long white tunnel, usually quiet, thrummed and echoed with activity. She saw lab coats and protective gear, harried faces, hurrying feet. She could smell the death, still fresh, still bloody as she made her way to Morris’s autopsy room.

  He had three on tables, and she assumed more stacked somewhere. He wore a clear work cape over his sweater and pants, and had something soft and sorrowful playing on his speakers. Blood coated his sealed hands.

  “Busy night,” he commented. “We love our work, you and I, in our strange and twisted way. But this? This tests resolve, even dedication.”

  Delicately, he laid a brain on a scale, programmed for analysis.

  “So many dead,” he continued, “and by whose design? What would cause someone to want so many people, strangers, surely many of them strangers, to slaughter each other?”

  “Is that what happened? You can confirm it?”

  “Our number two—” He gestured. “She has flesh under her nails, in her teeth—not her own flesh. Number one, not all the blood on him is his own, and three? He has deep gashes in his palm, his fingers—right hand. Sliced there from a glass shard held this way.”

  Morris gripped his hand as if holding a knife. “His hand’s cut to the bone from it. I’ve people working with other bodies, and reports coming in of the same sort. Offensive and defensive wounds, claw marks, flesh and blood under nails, in teeth, bite marks, some of them savage. We’ve already found human flesh in some gullets.”

  “Jesus Christ.”

  “Or whatever deity you might name.” He moved to a sink to rinse blood and God knew what off his sealed hands. “Your on-scene speculation on COD on these three and the TOD established are accurate. Opinion?”


  “Specific COD in these cases won’t matter as much as what turned these very likely ordinary people savage. Stabbings, beatings, gashing, chokings, the broken or crushed bones and skulls. It’s an ugly variety pack, Dallas.”

  “We still need them, every one.”


  Curiously, she lifted the right hand of number three, studied the wide, deep gash. “A wound like this should’ve made him scream like a baby, drop the glass.”

  “Should have, yes.”

  “I need tox reports, as many and as quickly as possible.”

  “Also understood. We’ve been rushing them as we go. The lab’s not pleased with us, or you.”

  “Fuck Dickhead and the horse he rode in on.”

  Morris’s lips curved with a combination of amusement and sympathy. “He’s suffering from a broken heart, I’m told.”

  “He’s suffering from shitheaditis most of the time.”

  “Unfortunately true. In any case he and several of his key people have come in to work it, and we have the initial reports on some that expand on what I’ve been able to process.

  “Down and dirty?” he asked after a pause. “Or scientific and complex?”

  “D&D, for now.”

  “Every sample from every victim so far processed shows traces of a complicated cocktail of chemicals—in the nasal passages, on the skin, in the mouth and throat, and in the blood.”

  “They breathed it in. It’s airborne.”

  “They breathed it in,” Morris agreed. “You have that cocktail—a bastardization of Zeus, LSD in a heightened form, one I’ve never come across. Add in Rush, peyote, synthetic adrenaline and testosterone, and an element or two I can’t identify, not clearly.”

  “That’s not a cocktail. It’s a freaking stew.”

  “Yes, you’re right. Stew’s more accurate. Measured, mixed, and cooked,” he murmured, “into a quick-acting virus. In my opinion this strange recipe could cause someone to hallucinate with strong and violent reactions.”

  Eve turned to Victim One: Joseph Cattery, she remembered. What was left of him. “You think?”

  He smiled a little. “The D&D of it? Exposure to such a combination of substances would make a subject bat-shit crazy. I have to assume the elements I’ve been unable to pin down are responsible, at least partially so, for how quickly it infects.”

  “It doesn’t last long. The time line’s giving it about twelve minutes running time.”

  “Time enough. How it was released, how whoever released it escaped the results—if indeed he did—and why the symptoms reversed in a relatively short amount of time? Those are beyond my scope, at least at this point.”

  “Released into the air?” Inside, she thought. People in and out, a couple arguing as they left.


  “No one’s reported seeing a cloud of bat-shit crazy descending,” she told him. “Into the air, carried on it, infecting by inhalation and touch? On two levels, into closed areas like the kitchen, the restrooms. But not outside, as far as we know. Who thinks of this shit?”

  “That would be your area, or Mira’s. I can tell you these three people were reasonably healthy when they woke up this morning. All three had consumed alcohol and eaten within twenty minutes of death. None shows previous signs of illegals abuse. All have offensive and defensive wounds.”

  “What about the brains.” She jutted her chin toward the one still patiently waiting. “When we dealt with those suicides through mind control, the vics had a kind of burn on the brain.”

  “Nothing here.” He moved to the comp, brought up the completed ana
lyses. “Not on these three or any DBs I’ve gotten reports on. We’ll run more tests, but at this point it appears the substance left no permanent damage other than violent death.”

  “That’s pretty fucking permanent.” She stuck her hands in her pockets, scanned the bodies again. “I need everything and anything you get as soon as you get it.”

  “You think this is the first, but not the last?”

  “Unless this was some twisted form of self-termination and whoever did it is on one of your slabs, yeah. It worked so well, why stop now?”

  “Then we’ll hope he’s here. Otherwise, anyone, anywhere, anytime.”

  Murder could happen, she thought as she drove to Cop Central, to anyone, anywhere, anytime. She’d seen the worst of what people did to people over love, money, for power, for revenge. Or just because. But mass murder painted a darker canvas, and using victims as weapons made for a particularly twisted mind.

  Morris was right. That was Mira’s territory, and she needed to bring in the department’s top shrink in a hurry. She checked the time, shook her head, and contacted Dr. Charlotte Mira at home.

  “Eve.” Mira’s calm, pretty face filled the screen. “What can I do for you?”

  “There’s been an incident,” Eve began.

  “We’ve seen several bulletins. Multiple deaths in a bar downtown.”

  “That’s the incident. I’m sorry to disturb your evening, but I need you at Central. There’s a briefing scheduled. This is Code Blue. We’re not going to be able to hold that very long, but for now. I need you on this, and fast.”

  “I’ll come right in.”

  “Okay.” Eve thought of Dennis Mira, with his mismatched socks and kind, kind eyes. “Ah, is Mr. Mira home?”

  “Yes. He’s right here.”

  “Maybe you could make sure he stays home. Stays in. Just a precaution.”

  “Eve, how bad is this?”

  “I don’t know yet. That’s the problem. I’ll fill you in at the briefing.”

  She clicked off as another thought struck her. Her friend Mavis, Leonardo, the baby. She could contact Mavis, tell her to keep her family home. But for how long?