The Naked Eye - A Trilogy

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Chapter 9

“Un-fucking-believable!”

The door swings open. Lombardo comes stomping in.

“Are you aware you live above a brothel?”

Max turns, grabs his coat off the back of his chair. “If you’re complaining about the smell, it’s probably the restaurant across the alley. They offer this tofu fermented in milk. It’s wretched.”

“I’m not talking about the smell, I’m talking about being accosted on my way in here by a pack of prostitutes, hissing and feeling up my junk.”

“Did you check to make sure you still have a wallet?” Furor says, wrestling into his coat as he scours the room for his keys.

“Since when does Chinatown operate a red-light district?” Lombardo says, patting down his coat until he feels the bulge of his wallet.

“Since there’s been a Chinatown,” Furor says, scooping his keys off the kitchen table.

“Was that a communal bathtub I passed on my way down—?”

The snap of fireworks causes Lombardo to jump.

“What the hell is that?” he says, stepping to the window.

“Chinese New Year,” Furor tells him, collecting his phone. “You’re just in time for the parade.”

“Parade?” Lombardo says. “Is that what the big dragon looking thing was doing backing up traffic over there on Grant?”

“Take a look at this,” Furor says, gesturing for his partner to have a look at the screen of his laptop.

Lombardo pounds across the room in a series of lumbering strides. “What are we looking at here?” he asks, staring down at the image of a darkened street, centered by a man in a trench coat and fedora, aiming a gun at the fourth wall. Visible over his shoulder is the profile of a young girl, cloaked and peering backwards, eyes alive with fear. Across the top, in large stylized lettering, the words The One-Eyed King’s Society.

“Have you ever heard of these guys?”

“Sure,” Lombardo says, wrinkling his nose. “It’s an association of retired law enforcement officers. They deal exclusively with cold case murders, if I’m not mistaken and from what I understand, they’re quite successful at it. What about them?”

“You know I met with the therapist yesterday, just after we had lunch.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Do you remember me telling you about finding something in Jai Mei’s mouth that night?”

“An object attached to a piece of dental floss she’d swallowed while in the trunk of the killer’s car, wasn’t it?”

“Precisely. Well, that object just happened to be a key with a distinct insignia at the base, one I couldn’t make out because it was too dark and I only had it my hand for a couple seconds before I was waylaid from behind. Then when I woke up it was gone.”

“How do you know there was an insignia then?”

“Hypnosis,” he tells him.

“Hypnosis? Really?”

“You’d be surprised the way your mind records things.”

“What about the killer? Did you happen to see his face at all?”

“No, not even a glimpse, but I did catch a glance of his right hand.”

“Is that useful?”

“It is, for two reasons. One, the upward angle of his arm confirms the blind witness’s description of the man’s height.”

“And two?”

“It was empty.”

Lombardo shakes his head.

“Meaning,” Furor says, “the object he struck me with was in his left hand.”

“He’s left-handed. That’s consistent with what we’ve always assumed. The earliest pathology reports all suggested the cuts on the throat were made going right to left.”

“Only now, it’s more than just an assumption.”

“In a city of 8 million people, half of which are men and only ten percent are left-handed that leaves us with a suspect pool of roughly, what… four hundred thousand? How does that help us and what does any of it have to do with the key or the One-Eyed King’s Society?”

“Do you see that,” Furor says, pointing at the computer screen and the One-Eyed King’s Society’s all-seeing eye logo. “That’s the insignia I saw on the base of the key.”

Lombardo leans in, squints, sounding out the inscription just below the logo. “In Terra Caeci Sumus Vigilantes. What does it mean?”

“It’s Latin for ‘In the Land of the Blind, We’re Watching.’”

Lombardo settles back onto his heels, sets his jaw. “What’s the connection? You think the killer is affiliated with this organization somehow?”

“Our working theory has always been that the victims were abducted off the street, rendered unconscious by a blow to the head, and then transported to the final staging area. The witness who called dispatch that night said he saw a man dragging a woman from the trunk of his car into the warehouse. What if while Jai Mei was in the trunk she woke up, found that key, and, realizing she was going to be killed, had the presence of mind to swallow it, knowing by its uniqueness that it would be useful in identifying the killer?”

Lombardo bites down on the corner of his lip, nods his head. “Heads up move on her part.”

“And who better to pull off a series of serial murders than a retired homicide cop?” Furor says.

“It would certainly explain the lack of forensic evidence at any of the crime scenes,” Lombardo adds. “Do they have an office somewhere?”

“They get together twice a month for brunch at the Algonquin Hotel. I already called ahead to set up a meeting with the society’s director.”

“So, when’s their next meeting?” Lombardo asks.

Furor looks at his watch. “In about an hour.”

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