“Yes. I . . . Well, here. I was here.”

“That’s a lot of midnight oil to burn.”

“What I’m working on, it’s—I believe—at its tipping point. I worked until after two, then bunked on the sofa in my office.”

“Did you see or speak with anyone during that time?”

“No. I sent Ken and Pachai home about eleven, I think it was. You can ask them, or check the log-outs. Marti left earlier. I spoke with Arianna . . . I’m not sure, I’d have to check the’link log. Maybe ten or ten thirty before I sent the boys home.”

“What are you working on?”

“A serum to counteract deep and chronic addiction and substance abuse. It will treat the craving on both a physical and psychological level, quiet the violence of that need during withdrawal, and after.”

“There are medications for that already.”

“Medications that basically substitute one chemical for another. I’m attempting to work with natural ingredients that will trigger the chemistry in the brain and the body to return to the levels prior to the addiction. A rebalancing, we’ll say.”

He rubbed at his temple again, the same two fingers on the same spot in the same circular motion. “Is there anything I—we—can do for them now? Contacting family? I can’t remember the details of that, but Arianna will have it. With the burial, memorial? Anything?”

“We’ll be notifying next of kin. I’ll need to talk to Ms. Whitwood, and as soon as possible. First I’d like to speak with your other assistants.”

“Interns,” he corrected automatically. “Marti Frank and Ken Dickerson are here on intern scholarships. Sorry, it hardly matters. I want to tell Ari in person, face-to-face, not over the’link. We lose patients, Lieutenant. To their addiction, to the violence it often generates, or the physical abuse it causes. But this? This comes very, very hard.”

“Is she in the Center now?”

“Yes, she should be in session now. I’ll go up, tell her.”

“If you’d tell her I want to speak with her before we leave, I’d appreciate it.”

“Yes. I’m sorry to meet you this way. I’m just . . . sorry.”

Eve let him go, and decided to take the redhead first.

“You got the picture,” Eve began.

“Yeah. It’s a really ugly picture.”

“Were you close to the victims?”

“I hate that word. Victim.” She folded her hands together on her lap as if she wanted to keep them still. “It’s overused.”

“It is in my line of work.”

“Yeah, I guess. Not especially close. I liked them. Jen in particular. She was just so damn likable.”

“You work in the lab. Do you get friendly with a lot of people in the program?”

“There’s interaction. It’s part of it. There’s a communal eatery on-site, so a lot of times staff’s eating with patients and recoverings. When work allows, we’re encouraged to attend sessions or lectures. It’s more than lab work, especially for Justin. It’s our whole life, and understanding who and what we’re working for. You’re going to find out,” she added. “I know how it works. My brother was a junkie, favored Jazz laced with Zeus. He favored it a lot right up until he OD’d. He made my life, my mother’s, my father’s, hell. I hate the junk, and it took a long time before I stopped hating the junkie.”

She glanced over her shoulder. “With Ken it was his father. Came into it late, you could say. Started with prescriptions after a car accident, escalated until he’d destroyed his marriage, did time for smacking his wife and Ken around, ended up on the street where he stabbed somebody to death for twelve dollars and a wrist unit. He died in prison when somebody returned the favor.”

Eve connected the dots. “And Pachai?”

“Childhood friend. They were tight, like brothers. The friend played around with recreationals, liked them too much until he was flying on Ups and Bounce, crashing on Chill. Then he was just one more OD when Pachai found him dead—two days dead. Justin wants people invested who work for him, people who know all the sides, all the layers, and have a reason to be here.”

“He wants it personal.”

“Yeah, and it is.” She looked over at Pachai, then down at her folded hands. “This happening to Jen and the others, people who had a real shot at redemption, who really put it all into kicking it? That’s personal, too. For all of us.”

“Understood. If you know how it works, you know I have to ask. Where were you between one and four this morning?”

“In bed.” Her gaze tracked up, met Eve’s. “Alone and asleep. I had a date, but it didn’t go anywhere. I got home just after midnight. I’ve got a roommate, but she had a date and it did go somewhere. She didn’t get home until six this morning.”

She gave Eve a narrow look. “Anyway, from what you said, how they were killed? The three of us would’ve had to go batshit together, break in to that place, and kill them like a pack.”

“That’s a thought, isn’t it? I appreciate the time. If you think of anything, contact me or my partner.”

Eve moved on to the last.

“Ken Dickerson,” he said. “Did they maybe get attacked on the street?” He watched Eve with horror and hope. His face, pale and thin, showed signs of fatigue. “Maybe they ran,” he continued, in a voice that hitched in a battle against tears. “And the people who attacked them went at them when they got to the building.”


“It just doesn’t seem real,” he murmured, rubbing at his damp, tired eyes. “I feel like I’m going to wake up and none of this happened.”

“How well did you know the victims?”

“I . . . God. I don’t know. To talk to. Not like Pach, but we hung out a couple times. My uncle manages a Slice, and I helped Jen, then Coby, get jobs there. I mean, I asked my uncle if he could give them a try. He’s good about giving people a chance.”

“Did you ever go to the place they were staying?”

“Once. The restaurant’s close to where I live, so I go in a lot. I walked back with Jen and Coby one night. My uncle gave them some food. And we hung out.” He smiled a little. “It was nice.”

“Did they own ’links?”

He blinked in puzzlement. “Sure. Everybody has at least one ’link.”

“Do you know anyone who’d want to hurt them?”

“I don’t see why anyone would. They were harmless. They didn’t have anything, didn’t hurt anybody. Jen was studying so she could do secretarial work. She wanted to work in an office. That’s not much to ask.”

No, Eve thought. It wasn’t much to ask.

When Justin came back in, he looked drained. “If you could give Arianna a few minutes, she’ll meet you in the Meditation Garden.”

“All right.”

“Is there anything more we can do?”

“Not at this time.”

“Will you keep me—us—informed?”

“I can do that. If anything occurs to you, anything at all, let me know.” She signaled Peabody, who put her hand on Pachai’s shoulder before rising.

“Arianna Whitwood, down in the gardens,” Eve told her. “Did you get anything?”

“He was in love with Darnell,” Peabody said as they headed down again. “He didn’t hesitate to tell me, or that he thought maybe she felt something back. No alibi, but he gives off this gentle, kind of sweet vibe. I can’t see him slaughtering three people.”

“On the other hand, he and everyone in that lab knew all three vics, and where they were squatting. At least two of them—and I’d add Rosenthall as a third—had been there, knew the setup. That weighs. There are going to be others who knew them and the setup from Get Straight, and Slice. This wasn’t random.”

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