Shadow Unit

Case Files

Teasers & Deleted Scenes

En route, Washington, D.C. - Chicago, IL, June, 2007

Stephen Reyes watched as Chaz Villette spread a street map of Chicago on the fold-out table, drawing the rest of the team from their seats on the jet like a piece of tinfoil attracting jackdaws.

"You want I should get you a dowsing rod?" Todd asked.

"You got one on you?" Chaz said, not looking up.

Todd made a show of checking his pockets, rummaging until Chaz was drawn into looking at him, then grinned, his face creasing like crumpled paper. "Must've left it in my other pants."

Chaz tried to look irritated and failed. Brady said, "What is it you're doing, anyway? Geographical profiling?"

It was obvious Chaz was pleased to be asked, pleased to be included in the team's camaraderie instead of being the outcast at whose expense it was established. Reyes remembered how he'd been, fresh out of Quantico: long gangling limbs held close and tight, giving him a weirdly prim affect; his face wiped clean of all its natural expressiveness; his voice flat, soft, and every word precensored lest it sound too "brainy." Only those eyes, dark and darker, watching everything and everyone, waiting for the next trap to trigger.

Reyes knew Chaz had been queer-bashed once, not because his fellow trainees thought he was gay, but because he was too different, and that was the only label they had to put on him. Chaz hadn't reported it, because he'd also known it wasn't about his sexual orientation. Shadow Unit is better for him. It's turned out all right, Reyes thought, and did not ask himself whom he was trying to convince.

"Well," Chaz said, "it occurred to me that although none of the victims lived in the same neighborhood, they all lived relatively close to each other." He jabbed at colored dots he'd made on the map, purple for Lopez, red for Cherry, blue for Brunowski, and green for Harrigan. "And the motel where Kathleen Cherry died isn't far away either." Another dot, this one orange. "So I thought, wherever he's finding them, it's probably somewhere in here." He'd drawn circles around each dot, each with a carefully measured radius, and the area where most of them overlapped had been colored yellow.

All of which, Reyes knew, would be sharp and clear in Chaz's mind. No map necessary. In fact, the map was probably only slowing him down; it would have taken him less time to work it out and simply tell them where to look. This performance--map, radii, colors--wasn't for Chaz. He was doing it for them: showing them how his mind worked, demythologizing the monster. Making himself understood and therefore safe.

Chaz felt Reyes's stare and looked up. Their eyes met; then Chaz gave him a Yeah, but you gotta grow where you're planted shrug and looked back at the map of Chicago that was also, in this small, strange way, a map of Charles Villette.

"Y'know," Lau said, "math classes might be a lot more popular if teachers told students they could catch serial killers with Venn diagrams."

Brady said, "Would've worked for me."

"Oh, hell yes," said Worth. "So what's in your yellow area?"

"I've got Hafidha working on that," Chaz said. "She promised to have a list by the time we land."

In fact, they got Hafidha's list while they were still in the air. "Check your mail, G-men and women," she said when Falkner switched her to speaker phone. "Relevant parts of the city directory are now yours."

Chaz thumbed up the text message. "Thomas Jefferson Middle School."

"None of the victims had kids," Brady answered, as easily as a tennis pro returning a lob.

"Can we do anything with that?" Worth said.

"Three of the four were unmarried, and Lydia Harrigan had been separated from her husband for five years. No go."

"Correlation is not causation, children," Todd said, as Todd had a habit of saying.

"Then I guess we can cross the elementary school and the five daycares off the list, too," Chaz said.

"Things I could've known yesterday," Hafidha grumbled.

"Don't quote Adam Sandler, Hafs," Lau said. "It gives me hives."

"Sorry, sweetie," Hafidha said.

Reyes admired her for sounding so resolutely like herself, as if nothing had happened in Omaha. He admired the rest for sounding as if they weren't walking on knives and eggshells in response.

"There are seven churches of various denominations, plus something that calls itself the Good News Kingdom Hall," Hafidha continued, "but since all the victims are Catholic...."

Reyes lifted his head. "Are any of those churches a victim's parish church?"

"Paul Brunowski went to St. Francis," Hafidha said.

"Which is here," Chaz said, drawing a blue star on his map.

"But Lopez attended Our Lady of the Holy Faith, which is twenty minutes away by bus. Services in Spanish. Kathleen Cherry was pretty lapsed, but when she attended anywhere, it was St. Agnes, which was also Lydia Harrigan's church. It's in Chaz's DMZ, too."

"Here," said Chaz, drawing a green star.

How can you be "pretty lapsed"? Reyes thought, but did not say. Is it like being a "little pregnant"? He'd found that "lapsed" was a binary; once he cut his ties with the Catholic Church, he'd never had so much as a flicker of an impulse to return.

"That's not terribly helpful." Chaz looked discontentedly at his map. "Hafidha? What about public parks? Movie theaters? Um, supermarkets?"

"What about bars?" Brady said.

"Bars?" Chaz and Worth both looked puzzled.

"Bars," Reyes agreed. "Working class victims, probably a working class host. The neighborhood bar is the place they're most likely to have in common."

"Working class people drink more?" said Lau, in the same tone she usually said "inscrutable Oriental."

"Nope," Brady replied. "Working class people are more likely to live in circumstances where it's hard to socialize at home. So you go where everybody knows your name."

Reyes nodded. He was surprised when Brady saw it and lifted his chin, leaned back in his seat. Daniel Brady shouldn't need gold stars from him or anyone else. Of course he does. He's human. So are the rest of them.

"There are two bars in the Yellow Zone," Hafidha said. "The Crystal Cave and Stosh's Bar."

"All right," Reyes said. "That gives us a division of labor when we hit the ground."

"Running, of course," Todd said.

"Of course," Reyes said and didn't let himself smile. Quite. "Villette, Brady, Lau, you take the Crystal Cave. Falkner, Worth, Todd, you take Stosh's Bar. I'll check in with the detective of record and see what we've got."

Falkner gave him a look, the severely skeptical one he suspected she used on her daughters--though, one hoped, not on her husband. But if she knew, or guessed, that he was avoiding the memories that working class Chicago bars would dredge up, she was kind enough not to say anything about it.

-- from "Dexterity"