The Butterfly Garden

Page 17

Among other things.

And just as I let him do other things, I let him fuss over me, and take care of me, and tuck me into his bed while he went to get a tray from Lorraine. I wouldn’t have thought I could sleep, but I did, all night with his breath against the back of my neck as he stroked my hair and sides.

The next afternoon, as I relaxed in my own bed with Bliss keeping me company, Lorraine threw a package at me. While Bliss muttered something about foul-tempered bitches who needed to stick their heads in an oven, I unwrapped the plain brown paper and started to laugh.

It was a book of Poe.

“So the Gardener didn’t approve of what his son did?”

“The Gardener cherished us, and genuinely regretted killing us. Avery was just . . .” She shakes her head, folding her legs beneath her on the chair. She winces and presses a hand against her stomach. “I’m sorry, but I really need to use the bathroom.”

The tech analyst opens the door a minute later. Inara gets up and joins her there, then glances back at Victor as if asking for permission. At his nod, they leave and close the door behind them.

Victor shuffles through the photos of the hallways, trying to count the individual sets of wings.

“Do you think that’s all the girls he took?” Eddison asks.

“No,” Victor sighs. “I wish I could say yes, but what if a girl was injured in such a way that it damaged her wings or back? I doubt he displayed them then, because these are all in perfect condition.”

“They’re dead.”

“But perfectly preserved.” He lifts one of the close-ups. “She said glass and resin; have the scene techs confirmed that?”

“I’ll find out.” He shoves back from the table and pulls his cell phone from his pocket. As long as they’ve been partners, Victor’s never seen him able to stand still while he’s on the phone, and as soon as the number’s dialed, he starts pacing back and forth across the narrow room like a caged tiger.

Finding the pen attached to Eddison’s notebook, Victor scrawls his initials across the bag with the collection of IDs and slits it open, letting the plastic cards spill out over the table. It gets a curious look from Eddison that he largely ignores as he sifts through them until he finds the name he’s looking for. Cassidy Lawrence.


Her driver’s license was only three days old when she was taken, and the pretty girl in the picture beams with excitement. It’s a face meant for smiles, for joy, and he tries to age that into the fierce-eyed girl who welcomed Inara into the Garden. He can’t quite manage it. Even when he places the ID against the picture of those pumpkin wings caught in glass, he can’t make himself accept the connection.

“Which one do you suppose is Giselle?” Eddison asks, shoving the phone back in his pocket.

“Too many redheads to guess, unless Inara can tell us which butterfly she had.”

“How can he have been doing this for thirty years without us ever noticing?”

“If the police hadn’t gotten that call and noticed our flags on some of those names, how much longer do you think he would have gone unnoticed?”

“That’s a fucking terrible question.”

“What did the techs say?”

“They’re closing up the scene for today, giving a tour to the guards for tonight. They said they’d try to open the cases tomorrow.”

“Closing up?” He twists his wrist to check his watch. Almost ten o’clock. “Christ.”

“Vic . . . we can’t release her. She could just disappear again. I’m not convinced she’s not part of this.”

“I know that.”

“Then why aren’t you pushing harder?”

“Because she is more than smart enough to turn it back on us, and”—he laughs sharply—“more than enough of a smart-ass to enjoy doing it. Let her tell it in her own way; all it costs us is time, and this is one of the few cases where we have the time.” He leans forward, clasping his hands against the table. “The suspects are not in good condition; they may or may not survive the night. She’s our best chance of learning the larger picture of the Garden.”

“If she’s telling the truth.”

“She hasn’t actually lied to us.”

“That we know of. People with fake IDs aren’t usually innocent, Vic.”

“She may be telling the truth about why she has it.”

“It’s still illegal, and I still don’t trust her.”

“Give her time. That will also give us time for the other girls to recover enough to talk to us. The longer we keep her here, the better our chances of getting the other girls talking.”

Eddison scowls but nods. “She’s irritating.”

“Some people stay broken. Some pick up the pieces and put them back together with all the sharp edges showing.”

Rolling his eyes, Eddison scoops the IDs back into the evidence bag. He stacks each photo neatly into a pile and lines the edges with the corner of the table. “We’ve been up more than thirty-six hours. We need to sleep.”

“Yes . . .”

“So what do we do about her? We can’t let her disappear. If we take her back to the hospital and the senator hears about her . . .”

“She’ll stay here. We’ll get some blankets, see if we can find a cot, and in the morning we’ll resume.”

“You really think that’s a good idea?”

“A better idea than letting her go. If we keep her here, rather than moving her to a holding cell, it’s still an active interrogation session. Even Senator Kingsley isn’t going to butt in during an active interrogation.”

“Are we holding our breath on that?” He gathers the trash from dinner, stuffing everything into one of the bags until the paper splits and bursts around the strain, and heads to the door. “I’ll hunt down a cot.” He yanks open the door, scowls at the returning Inara and Yvonne, and stalks away. Yvonne nods to Victor and returns to the observation room.

“What a pleasant man,” Inara notes dryly, and slides into her seat on the far side of the table. The soot streaks and dirt are gone from her face, her hair neatened into a heavy twisted bun.

“He has his uses.”

“Please tell me talking to damaged children isn’t one of them.”

“He’s better with suspects,” he allows, and wins a hint of a smile. He looks for something to occupy his hands, but Eddison’s compulsiveness straightened everything on the table. “Tell us about being in the Garden.”


“Day to day, when nothing out of the ordinary was happening. What was it like?”

“Boring as all fuck,” she answers succinctly.

Victor pinches the bridge of his nose.

No, but seriously, it was boring.

There were usually twenty to twenty-five of us in the Garden at any given point, not counting Lorraine, because really, why would she have counted for anything? Unless he was out of town, the Gardener “visited” at least one of us a day, sometimes two or three if he didn’t have to work or spend time with his family or friends, which meant he still didn’t spend time with all of us within a single week. After what Avery did to me and Giselle, he was only allowed in the Garden once a week, and only under his father’s supervision, though he defied that as often as he thought he could get away with. It didn’t last long, anyway.

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