“Question’s why,” Pearl said.
“We’ll think on it,” Fedderman told her, giving her a look that let her know she’d stated the obvious.
“Sure. We’re detectives.”
“Act like it,” Quinn said. He didn’t want them getting into a spat, especially in front of the CSU people. They were pretending not to be listening, but he knew they were.
“No tattoos on any of the victims,” Fedderman said. “Could just be coincidence.”
“No nipple, nose, or belly button rings, either,” Pearl said.
Quinn looked at her with something like approval.
“What the hell does that mean?” Fedderman asked.
“Means they probably didn’t run with a kinky crowd,” Quinn said. “Not part of the S&M scene, that kinda thing.”
Fedderman pointed at the lifeless, violated torso. “You don’t call that sadism?”
Quinn let out a long breath. “You’ve got a point.”
“An interesting one to ponder,” Pearl said.
“Whether they’re S&M snuff victims?” Fedderman asked.
“No. Whether you’ve got a point.”
She’d said it thoughtfully, obviously not trying to rag Fedderman.
Neither man questioned her about it. When Pearl let her mind go off on its own, which she often did, they knew not to disturb her.
Let her ponder. It would keep her mind off her phone call from her mother, or whatever had upset her. Keep her from snapping at people.
Later that day, Linda Chavesky phoned Quinn on his cell. She told him the victim’s heart had been struck by a fragment of a twenty-two-caliber bullet that had nicked the sternum going in and broken into three pieces.
“It wouldn’t have killed her right away,” she said, “but it probably would have put her down, into shock.”
“A second shot, then,” Quinn said, “to a part of the body not found. Her head, probably.”
“Most likely. Or the severing of a large artery in her neck or thigh by a knife. We don’t know if she bled to death or the blood simply drained out of her when she was dismembered. That could happen if she was dismembered soon after death, and the blood hadn’t had time to coagulate.”
Quinn didn’t say anything, thinking this was sounding more and more like a professional hit man—the shooting part. One to the heart, another shot or two to the head, to make sure.
“Another thing. She suffered vaginal penetration, then beyond, by a cylindrical, sharply pointed wooden object, consistent with a sawed-off and sharpened broomstick. This was after she was killed.”
“How do you know it was wooden?” Quinn asked, figuring he was going to hear again about the furniture polish lubricant.
“I put in some extra time on this one. Found a splinter.”
“Excellent. That’s something for sure that we were only guessing at before.”
“That a compliment?”
“Whatever penetrated her left a slightly oily residue.”
“Furniture polish,” Quinn said. “It was in the other victims. But it didn’t necessarily mean wood for sure, until you found the splinter.” He could imagine the killer lovingly sharpening and polishing the deadly piece of broomstick—if that’s what it was. Helen Iman would suggest it was a phallic symbol. She might be right.
“I’d put the victim in her early thirties, average weight, and most likely curvaceous,” Linda said. “A magnet for men.” She kind of surprised Quinn. Usually M.E.s weren’t so voluble or willing to speculate, especially over the phone to detectives they’d only recently met.
“Hold on a minute,” she said.
Quinn waited, the phone pressed to his ear, hearing unintelligible voices in the background on the other end of the connection.
Linda’s voice came back on. “My friend from ballistics just gave me the report on the bullet. It was fired by the same gun that killed the other victims. So there’s something else you know for sure. You wanna meet someplace for coffee?”
“You don’t need a pardon; you’re a cop. I’m asking you out on a date. You’re not exactly a real NYPD cop, and even if you were, you’d be my superior officer, so it wouldn’t be sexual harassment. A yes or no’ll do.”
Quinn got over his surprise and thought, what the hell. Laughed. “It’s a yes, Linda. We’ll meet somewhere for drinks.”
“I did say coffee.”
Quinn sensed that he’d tweaked a nerve. “Sure. Coffee it is.”
“I used to drink alcohol for nonmedicinal purposes. I’ll be up front about that.”
“You’ve got lots of company if you used to have a drinking problem,” Quinn said, thinking immediately that he shouldn’t have told her that. She hadn’t exactly said she’d had a problem.
“Nobody ‘used to have’ a drinking problem, Captain Quinn. I’ve been dry for over two years and intend to stay that way.”
“It’s just Quinn, Linda. Tonight at the Lotus Diner on Amsterdam suit you?”
“Sure does. I know where it is. About seven?”
“Let’s make it six. We might have coffee, then decide to go out for dinner.”
“We’ve got a date, Quinn.”
Quinn was smiling. Then he remembered this was an official conversation. “Anything else about the victim, Doctor?”
“She didn’t drown.”
A date, Quinn thought, staring at the phone’s tiny blank screen. What unsettled him somewhat wasn’t that Linda Chavesky had come on to him. In his early fifties, he was still at least presentable enough to be in the game. What struck him was that not once during his conversation with Linda had he thought about Pearl.
He knew he was as obsessive and stubborn, as Pearl often told him he was, but even the most determined person finally got tired of knocking on a door and not getting an answer, of waiting patiently and then waiting some more.
Maybe Pearl had finally convinced him that any possibility of them ever being in a loving relationship again was gone forever. Possibly she was right and that was how it should be, accepted by both of them and not just her.
Or maybe he was simply giving up hope.
And grasping for more hope.
Jill had settled on E-Bliss.org.
She’d checked out several of the matchmaking services on the Internet, limiting them to those based in or serving New York City. There was no shortage of them, especially if you had some sort of exotic sexual preference. A few of them seemed respectable if not downright staid. It was among those that she’d found E-Bliss.org. She’d carefully filled out its online questionnaire for its personality profile. She’d had a flattering photo, a head shot from a wedding she’d attended a few years ago back home, already on her hard drive. She’d attached the jpeg along with the filled-out, surprisingly detailed questionnaire, then put it on “Mail Waiting to Be Sent” and given herself two days to reconsider.
Two days later, to the hour, she’d drawn a deep breath