of it through my window. She’s in her doorway bleeding. Please help, please help!”
“ Do you have the exact address, sir?” The dispatcher’s voice was tinny, interrupted by the clacking of a keyboard. “Can you tell me exactly what happened?”
Sobbing through the call, Adam did his best to provide the information for the police and medics, begging them to hurry. He wanted to be there himself, to help Chloe, even to hold her as she died in his arms.
But he couldn’t even get back into his chair.
Cooper leaned back at his cramped desk. Bored. Pencils were stuck in the soft acoustic tile over his head. He flicked another one up, and it embedded itself point first in the drop ceiling, near all the others. Even with his Brilliant skills, he couldn’t see any pattern there, no matter how hard he tried.
Because it was Thursday, he had stayed late, waiting, dreading, sure the call would come soon—but he didn’t want to risk getting occupied with something else. He knew it was only a matter of minutes or hours before a report came in from Denver, announcing the next murder. He was ready to call Director Peters at home, to wake him with a grim “I told you so,” and get clearance to go out to Colorado.
H e stared up at the pencils and, as if embarrassed, one of them dropped back out. Cooper caught it midair.
“Come on, come on . . .” Leaning forward in his chair, he picked up the datapad, scrolled through the Western western-Region region crime databases, incident reports, emergency lists, alert for anything.
It made him feel cold and calculating, just to wait for someone—some Brilliant—to be murdered. If he had gone out to Denver after the previous Thursday-night killing, maybe he could have seen a pattern, solved the case by now—that was optimism, not arrogance—and saved another victim.
B ut Director Peters hadn’t given him any other real choice. Wait and see.
Sometimes, caution was jus t . . . reckless.
H e touched his fingers to his lips and placed them against the framed photograph of Natalie and Todd. With a sigh, he stood and wandered over to the filing cabinets at the side of his cramped office. Another pencil dropped out of the ceiling.
A clunky contraption rested on top of the file cabinet. A piece of masking tape labeled it Dr. Frankenstein’s coffeemaker , the Frankenmaker. The actual brand logo had worn off with time, and the cream finish was now stained tan from repeated usage.
A can of coffee grounds, the brand of which changed weekly depending on whatever was on sale, sat beside the Frankenmaker. The clerical staff on the building’s main floor had decommissioned the coffeemaker, but instead of throwing it out, they had donated it to the budget-starved Equitable Services upstairs. Probably more as a joke than as a gesture of kindness.
The coffee always tasted terrible, and he didn’t even want a cup right now, but he had nothing else to do. He grabbed one of the occasionally washed mugs and poured out the viscous black nectar, trying to remember—or not remember—when he had brewed it.
The ES offices were empty this late at night, and e veryone else had left at a reasonable time of 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. It was almost midnight now. Ten o’clock in Denver . . . still probably too early to hear any reports.
B y his best estimate, the coffee was six hours old. Minimum. He stared at the cup he had poured, aware that he was taking his life into his own hands. But he was one of the few, one of the proud, one of the brave. He sipped, grimaced, swallowed, sipped again—and pretended it was perfect.
He could have been home with his family. Todd would already be in bed. In fact, he and Natalie might already be in bed, and he could have been curled up next to his wife, dozing, maybe even fooling around. They had always thought about having another child—and babies didn’t happen without practice. Lots of practice.
Yes, he could have been