Dallas pulled up to the curb and shifted the cruiser into park. “Do we know anything about this guy?”
“Other than his name and address?” Bo asked from the passenger seat. “No, not quite. Though I’d love to be allowed to research every suspect, witness, or person involved in a case—”
“Yeah, it was a stupid question, huh?”
Bo snorted, shaking his head. “No, I’m serious. I would love to, but Lieutenant says we don’t have the funds to provide for it.”
“Paying you the hours, I imagine?”
“Yes, I suppose. Most likely paying for the things I could access with a bit of hacking, as well.”
“No shit. You hack shit?”
“It’s an enjoyable pastime, though I try not to do more than dabble in it. My adoptive mother assures me she didn’t raise a criminal, and I suppose that’s a jab at my not-so-legal hacking.”
Dallas laughed as he undid his seatbelt. “Why, Austen, I didn’t know you were a rule-breaker.”
“I’m a rule-follower with minor exceptions.”
Dallas practically cackled, pushing open the driver’s side door. “Man, I am glad we’re friends.”
“Officially, I do believe I’m your babysitter.”
“Mm, pretty sure we agreed on ‘partners’.”
Bo cracked a small smile. “I recall that being something I offered to refer to you as that in front of witnesses.”
“I… unfortunately recall much of the same.”
Ugh, you do this shit with Xavier too. Don’t start talking like the guy. Please, for the love of God, don’t start talking like him, Ed said.
Dallas bit back an eyeroll. If you hate the way he or Xavier talks so much, maybe you should find someone else’s head to be bound to forever.
Ed laughed. Yeah, maybe I should, Tex. Maybe I should.
Dallas cleared his throat, nodding his head toward the house. “You’re coming in with me, right? Partner?”
“Of course. I don’t plan to do much talking, if that’s all right.”
“That’s fine. I’d like to test my hand at a homicide witness interview. But if I get stuck…?”
“I’ll step in, just like I did at the beach. I’ve thankfully hung around enough to know my way around an interview. I just find there are less problems with things the less I talk,” Bo said.
Wonder why? Ed mumbled.
Dallas shook his head. If he managed to get rid of Ed in the next five minutes, it still wouldn’t be soon enough.
Dallas and Bo walked up to the door and, as expected, Bo hung back while Dallas lifted his good hand to knock. “What’s his name again?”
“Do I tell him I’m an officer or a detective?”
“I’d personally go with neither. One’s a lie and one unfortunately sounds less official when investigating a homicide. People pick up on that with their level of cockiness. You work for the Homicide Department of the LAPD. You don’t have to give him a title,” Bo said.
Dallas nodded. He figured that was easy enough, and not admitting he was an officer being forced to do a detective’s job for less pay would always be nice. Or… some form of ‘nice’, at the very least. “Sounds good to me. Ready to head up?”
“Ready when you are.”
If you entertain the blonde’s bullshit for even a MOMENT in there, I will ruin this interview for you.
He isn’t even planning on talking. I’m not sure there will be any ‘bullshit’ to entertain.
Ed chuckled darkly. Well, let’s hope for that, then.
Dallas rolled his eyes. He really needed to re-adopt his policy of never responding to Ed’s dumb ass.
At the door, Dallas lifted a hand and knocked. “Name?”
“Joseph… Harper,” Bo said slowly. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I just feel like I’m tiptoeing around a migraine.”
Ed snorted. Wow, good cover, Tex.
“Well, I hope the tiptoeing helps you avoid it completely,” Bo said.
One corner of Dallas’s mouth lifted. “You and me both, man.” Dallas lifted his head as the door opened. “Joseph Harper?”
The man’s brow furrowed, but he nodded. “Yeah. Wh-what’s going on?”
“You aren’t in any trouble. It’s okay. We’d just like to speak to you about a homicide investigation.”
Dallas laid a hand on his chest. “I’m Dallas Silver from the LAPD, and this is my partner, Bo Austen. We’ve been told you used to be friends with Robert Sawyer. Is that correct?”
“Yeah. What’d he do now?”
“I’m afraid he’s our victim.”
“Oh,” Joseph whispered. He nodded. “They carve him up?”
“What makes you ask that?”
Joseph crossed his arms over his chest and leaned his shoulder against the doorjamb. “Rob was really, uh, into some cult shit. For a while there, before he officially joined or whatever, he tried convincing me to join with him, so I know more about it than I’d care to.”
“I can imagine. Mind telling us a bit about what you know?”
“They’re freaks. That’s what I know. They carve themselves up with symbols of strength and health so when the ‘ritual’ is complete, they can kill the youngest member and the old bastards can eat the organs they need to replace. Fucked up liver? Kill a fifteen-year-old and eat his. Lung cancer? No worries, the sixteen-year-old who just joined has perfectly healthy ones for the taking.”
And you think I’m fucked up, Ed said.
Dallas chose not to dignify him with a response. It was rare the bastard deserved one in the first place.
“Rob’s the one who told you this?” Dallas asked.
Joseph nodded. “Yeah. With less disgust, though. Fucker was, like… proud of it, even before he joined. Thought it was amazing, that it gave life purpose or some shit.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “I’ve got a fiance, a kid, and two dogs. They give my life purpose. Carving myself up so some old fucker can cut me open and eat my kidney or my heart? That’s not a purpose. It’s fucked up.”
“Can’t disagree with you there,” Dallas said quietly. “Did you ever meet any of the members of this cult?”
“No. Rob said I could only meet them if I promised I was going to join, if I swore to it. Don’t get me wrong, I considered lying to him and swearing on it, but I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t go through with it. Figured they’d probably still kill me, just without the organ-eating since I hadn’t been through the ‘ritual’ or whatever. But, God, I wanted to meet those bastards. I wanted to meet the monsters who brainwashed my best friend, who turned him away from sports so he could never risk breaking a leg or arm. I wanted to meet the guy who turned my best friend against everyone who didn’t want to be like them.” Something in Joshua’s eyes shifted, life sparking in the previously unfocused brown of them. “That cult, they aren’t gonna go down easy, not without a fight. When Rob joined, he took his father’s gun. That was one of the, like… conditions? Requirements? Hell if I know. Point is, they’re armed, they’re dangerous, and they are not going to let anyone take their supply of young, healthy organs without one hell of a fight.”
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