“By someone you mean the police?” Fedderman asked, from where he sat in an uncomfortable-looking chair near the table with the floral arrangement.
“Definitely. But the public, too. The torsos are his public souvenirs that he’s sharing with them.”
“Generous,” Fedderman said.
Helen might have smiled. It was hard to know from her silhouette. “They’re also a way of taunting the police and terrorizing the city.”
Quinn was long familiar with the games serial killers played, and he wasn’t convinced. “Isn’t it possible the killer makes sure his victims’ remains are anonymous simply to hinder the investigation into their deaths?”
“Quinn’s right. I can buy into that part,” Pearl said, before Helen could answer. “And to taunt us.” She shook her head. “The rest, the souvenir business, I’m not so sure. Some serial killers like to keep souvenirs of their victims—a lock of hair, that sort of thing—but they don’t generally want to share them with the public or anyone else. They want to keep them where they can look at them from time to time, like all collectors.”
“True,” Helen said. “They like to relive their conquests. It gives them a feeling of power and importance.”
Quinn shifted in the soft leather chair nearest Renz’s flight deck–sized desk and crossed his arms. “None of this is for sure.”
“Agreed,” Helen said. “Like you, I don’t have much to work with.”
“We do know for sure he’s one sick puppy,” Fedderman said.
“The stakes, or whatever he uses to penetrate his victims,” Pearl said.
“After they’re dead,” Renz reminded them. He looked inquisitively at Helen. “Why after they’re dead?”
“As of now, I don’t know,” Helen said.
“A necrophiliac who can’t get it up,” Fedderman suggested.
Helen shrugged. “Good a guess as any.”
Some profiler, Quinn thought. An honest one. “Truth is, this guy’s got us operating pretty much in the dark.”
“We can deduce from that that he’s smart,” Helen said sarcastically.
“Now you’re cookin’,” Renz said.
The poised silhouette that was Helen seemed unmoved by his return sarcasm.
Quinn wanted to stop them before a volley of sarcasm got going that might lead to a real argument.
The phone beat him to it. He hadn’t even seen the phone; it was concealed in a sunken alcove on the far side of the desk. It had a soft, controlled ring that wasn’t a ring at all. It sounded more like a repetitive, soothing note of a violin about to begin a gentle melody.
As Renz lifted a dark plastic receiver that matched the desk, he looked annoyed that they should be disturbed. Almost immediately, his expression became serious. “Yes. Yes,” he said. He produced a notepad from the sunken alcove. “Christ!” he said, looking in turn at everyone in the office. He might have been identifying the caller, judging by the somber, dazed expression on his bloodhound features.
He switched the phone to his left hand so he could write on the notepad. He kept saying yes intermittently while scribbling with his pen. Finally, he thanked the caller and hung up.
He sat for a minute running his fingertips along the loose flesh of his sagging cheeks. It stretched the skin around his eyes downward and made him look even more like some upright breed of hound.
“We’ve got us another torso,” he said. “Found alongside a Dumpster on the Upper West Side.”
“Maybe a match for our arm,” Fedderman said.
Renz shook his head no. “This one’s too fresh. Killed within the last few days.”
Pearl, who’d been leaning back so only her chair’s back legs were on the floor, realized the import of Renz’s words. She sat forward so the chair’s front legs made a soft thump on the thick pile carpet.
“Victim number four,” she said.
Renz was staring down at the folded City Beat on his desk. “I guess I oughta call Cindy Sellers.” He looked at Quinn as if for help. “The woman’s become one big pain in the ass.”
Quinn shrugged. “You’re the one who made the deal with the devil.”
“I do it all the time,” Renz said. “Usually it works out okay.”
He shoved his notepad forward so Quinn could copy the information on his own.
“I need you to find this bastard, Quinn.”
Quinn didn’t think that required a reply and kept on silently writing.
They left Renz in his office to go to the West Side address where the torso had been found. Left him in the suddenly smaller room with his plaques and commendations and ego-inflating framed photographs.
Right now, it wasn’t a comfortable place for him.
The three of them were in Quinn’s old Lincoln on the way to the West Side address where the latest torso had been found. Quinn was driving, Pearl beside him, Fedderman in back. They were headed uptown on Broadway. Traffic was heavy, and there was a haze that smelled like exhaust fumes over everything. The sun angled in low along the side streets and turned the haze golden.
As Quinn veered around a sightseeing bus to make better time, Pearl’s cell phone buzzed and vibrated in her pocket.
She fished it out and saw by caller ID that the call’s origin was Golden Sunset.
Her mother. Had to be. A familiar dread and anger closed in on her.
Quinn glanced over at her, wondering if she was going to answer her call.
Feeling that she had little choice, Pearl made the connection. “Officer Kasner.” Let her mother know she was working. She glanced at Quinn, who was staring straight ahead. Was he smiling? Was that bastard smiling?
“It’s your mother, Pearl,” came the strident voice from the phone. Pearl didn’t want to hear it, yet she had to press the tiny phone close to her ear so Quinn and Fedderman couldn’t overhear.
“Pearl? Is that you, dear?”
“Yes.” Keep it terse and simple. Brief.
“I called your apartment, dear, and got your machine. Such a world since we started using machines to answer our phones. Maybe the phones could just talk to each other. Don’t you ever check your messages?”
“Maybe your machine erases mine. What I wondered, dear, is if you and Milton Kahn left each other on good terms.”
“I mean, after last night,” her mother said.
What? This was unacceptable. “Who told you? What do you mean?” Unacceptable!
“That’s two questions, dear.”
“Then answer them both.”
“Don’t snap, Pearl. That’s very rude. Mrs. Kahn told me. And why not? It’s no secret you and her nephew Milton are hotsy-totsy.”
Pearl had a pretty good idea where Mrs. Kahn had gotten her information. She fell silent,