I know it's been a while since I've updated. The annoying thing is that I've had this chapter almost done for a long time, I just never got around to finishing it up until recently. But it's a little longer than usual, so hopefully that makes up for the delay.
A thank you to my beta reader, TrenchcoatsAreSexy, for editing.
Warning: There is off screen, harm to animals in this chapter.
Chapter 4: Hackles Rise
It had been thirty eight days sixteen hours, and twelve minutes since my brother's attempt on my sister's life. More than four weeks that he had been staying under my roof.
And he was driving me insane.
While I am not known to exhibit emotions such as irritation or anger, I would gladly make an exception for my beloved, infuriating sibling. Don't get me wrong, I'm quite fond of my brother's homicidal tendencies. His beautifully crafted, perfectly blood drained corpses are what brought us together, after all.
It's just that he has certain... habits.
It first started when I finally got the call to get back to work on Monday, two days after I gained a roommate. Deb, understandably, had to a wait a bit longer, as she was currently Brian's suspected target to be. As she was one of his only victims that got away, the police had assumed that he'd come back and finish the job, so they'd assigned a security detail to follow her despite her refusal and adamant claim that she could take care of herself.
I agreed with Deb, but for different reasons. I knew that the security detail wouldn't catch my brother within a hundred feet of my little sister. He knew he'd get on my bad side very quickly if he just up and killed her. My brotherhood was too important to him to just throw away like that. No, if he wanted her dead, she would be chopped up by now. The fact that she was even still alive said that he was capable of at least a little self-control.
My first week back on the job were pretty uneventful. With the police's attention focused on protecting my sister and no new leads on the whereabouts of the Ice Truck Killer, I returned home each day in a relatively relaxed state of mind.
It was only when I got home that my mind began to unravel at the seams.
Since I started going back to work and I couldn't take him with me, my brother was left by himself in my apartment. We had decided that he couldn't go anywhere by himself until the search had cooled down.
All alone. For hours on end. With nothing to do.
This is not a good combination. Especially for a serial killer.
It was also dangerous because my brother was not like me. He was used to satisfying his Dark Passenger on a whim. All he had to do was call in a hooker, knock her unconscious, drain the body, and cut up the pieces. Safe, simple, and, most of all, quick. The only victims of his I could count that weren't hookers, were Tony Tucci, Rudy Cooper (the plumber), and my sister. He didn't have to stalk and observe the way I did with my victims. Without a Code, he had a way of appeasing the Need without the long, complicated process of deeming them worthy of the kill.
And did the thought give me an uncharacteristic surge of jealousy? Of course not.
The point was that my brother wasn't used to going a long period of time without killing someone. So, it came as no surprise to find that my brother, bereft of his usual extracurricular activities, had taken to other outlets to keep his dark urges at bay. Unfortunately, I underestimated the lengths he'd go to stave off the boredom.
Every day, I would come home from work and find him doing something new. Listening to classical music on the radio, going through my slides (for the thousandth time), re-alphabetizing my book shelves, building a tower of playing cards. I even caught him watching Xena reruns on the Oxygen channel. To which, when he caught the curious look on my face, had shrugged and said, "What's not to like about hot women in leather with pointy objects?"
I'd asked if he thought about chopping them up into nice, bloodless pieces with those objects.
He'd just smirked, the dark hunger gleaming behind his eyes, and I saw that no matter what he did, his urges would only truly be slaked by one thing.
This went on for several days. The hunger in his eyes becoming more defined as they went by. After all, the Need could only be held back for so long and I'm sure he was counting down the days since his last kill, just as I was. Already my own Dark Passenger was howling at the moon, salivating for the next piece of meat on my table. Unfortunately, the one thing that would quench both our thirsts was too dangerous to practice at the moment without raising suspicions. Especially with the police using every available resource to track down The Ice Truck Killer and Doakes tailing me from dawn to dusk.
It was that same rising hunger and the inability to fill it that spurned a different kind of emotion. It was the tension that came from having two hungry predators sharing one space that made something in both of us snap.
~ O ~
Opening the door was my first mistake.
The second was not covering my mouth.
A rush of air freshener, so strong that I could have sworn it singed my eyebrows, came wafting into my lungs. I coughed and gagged a bit before I could safely cover my mouth and nose, carefully making my way into the danger zone. My eyes started to water before I shut the door behind me. I quickly headed toward the windows and slammed both of them open, letting the overwhelming scent rise up and out of my apartment. I let out a sigh of relief when the lemony freshness had left the room. Then, I turned to see what the damage was.
My third mistake.
The first thing I noticed was the cleanliness. It was even cleaner than I usually kept it (And I have been told on numerous occasions that I am nothing short of a "neat freak"), and seemed to sparkle in the daylight. Dusted and disinfected, like someone had spent hours meticulously scrubbing away every inch of grime out of existence. The second thing I saw was Brian, standing in the center of all of it and looking at me like he'd been caught doing the dark deed right there in the living room.
"Brian, what are you doing?"
He muffled a reply that I couldn't understand due to the paper mask across his mouth. He raised a rubber gloved hand and pulled it down to speak clearly. "What?"
I gestured to the general area of the room. "This. Did you spend your entire day cleaning?"
Brian shrugged as if the idea of my brother, The Ice Truck Killer, currently the most dangerous serial killer in all of Miami, besides myself, and the top of Miami Metro's hit list, purging my apartment of dirt and decked out in rubber wasn't the most ludicrous sight I'd ever seen.
"I was bored."
Well, now I knew what would happen if you trapped a serial killer in an apartment for days on end with nothing to do.
He'd go on a cleaning binge.
"So you felt the need for a little spring cleaning? Brian, the curtains were wide open. " My voice went low. "What if someone had seen you?"
"I'm being careful. I always am, Dex, you should know that better than anyone." And he was right, I should have known better.
As the Ice Truck Killer, he had successfully evaded the police for months while, at the same time, leaving me clues to follow, dating my sister, and keeping up his career as a prosthetist . I remembered his bloodless bodies; cold, clean, and careful. I recalled my absolute awe at his tidiness. No prints left anywhere, at any crime scene save for that one partial print the police discovered on a discarded lozenge wrapper. Even then, there was no record of him at all in the database, not even a parking ticket. It had taken Angel Batista's lucky idea of checking mental institution records for them to close in on my brother. Even then, when they had stormed into our mother's old house, seemingly pinning him down, he had escaped underground through a pre-planned escape route. The man knew how to cover his bases. And all this he had done without my help.
Now I felt a bit silly thinking my big brother couldn't take care of himself, but I couldn't help the flutter of relief when I realized he wasn't in any danger.
Even sociopaths have bad days, but by taking my brother in, it seemed as if my normal routine had dropped into chaos. My calm, orderly ways seemed to have abandoned me in light of this addition to my life. It was textbook for sociopaths to be habit forming creatures and I was no exception. This new element threw me off balance. Even after weeks of living in close quarters, I was still unsure how to deal with my brother. The fact that I didn't know the first thing about him, besides what he had already told me back at our mother's house, didn't help.
This also made it hard to keep my masks in place. Foster brother to Deb, boyfriend to Rita, blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department, serial killer, and now blood brother to my long lost sibling, Rudy Cooper aka Brian Moser? I didn't know where the mask started and my real identity began. There were too many variables to juggle all at once. That, mixed with the deafening roar of hunger from the Dark Passenger, was driving me to the very limits of my patience.
He must have seen some of the stress on my face because he tilted his head slightly in an expression that, if I didn't know who and what he was, I would have mistaken for sympathy.
"Dexter, what's wrong? You look distressed."
Was it distress? This slithering of snakes through my thoughts? The searing pain that was threating to tear open my skull? It was a sensation I had only experienced twice before. When Harry had first figured out my little problem. When I realized that I was stuck with it forever.
"I didn't mean to worry you, little brother." The sound of Brian's voice brought me out of my thoughts. "I know this arrangement has had its toll on the both of us."
His tone was off somehow. It was too soft, barely above a whisper. I glanced up at him. Carefully crafted concern that only a fellow monster could see through. His position had changed as well. He had moved a few steps closer during my brief moment of inner turmoil and now we stood only inches apart.
"We've both been restless lately, haven't we?" His eyes narrowed and must have found something in mine that acted as confirmation. "I thought so."
The Dark Passenger was rustling its wings. Not a good sign as to where this was going.
"I know we agreed to be careful, but its been such a long time being cooped up in an apartment without any fresh air. It's not healthy. I've been so bored, Dex," He quirked a small, dark smile, "And so very hungry."
Sometimes I resented my brother's habit of dancing around the subject. He had a flair for the dramatic, an actor on a stage. Conversations with him were as if our little game of "Follow the Leader" was still in play, but with words instead of blood. And, with the hunger itching under my skin and the stress of keeping my life in check, I was more than a little impatient for him to get to the point.
"What do you want me to do, Brian? You know I can't let you go out by yourself just yet, not with the police still on high alert."
"Oh, I wasn't thinking of doing it alone." He flicked his gaze over to a long, black bag that I just noticed set out on the kitchen counter.
Well, he had been busy, hadn't he? I wonder how long it had taken him to pick the lock; even longer to figure out there was a secret compartment to the trunk. I'm pretty sure he hadn't known where I stored my tools, even on the occasions where he had broken into my apartment. I had made sure they were too well hidden for anyone to just come upon them. Because if dull, drab Dexter was found with a closet full of shiny, dangerous toys, who knows what kinds of questions that would raise? Especially from my foul mouthed foster sister, who certainly didn't need any more earth-shattering revelations damaging her psyche.
I glanced at him. He looked at me. The only sound was the low hum of the AC.
He let out a long suffering sigh. "The Code."
I nodded stiffly, immovably. "The Code."
Brian's eyes sharpened, abandoning all innocent pretenses. "I'd be willing to accommodate."
The moon looked on through the open window, singing symphonies and crooning choruses. The shadows danced beneath our feet, cackling vehemently as my last defense was stripped away.
His expression was shamelessly gleeful. "You have no excuses, Dexter."
The Dark Passenger coiled its claws around my control.
"Doesn't it burn, Dex? The emptiness? The starvation?"
The rumble of the monster's empty stomach echoed in my ears, reminding me just how long I had been waiting.
"Come on, little brother. We can do it your way. We can kill whoever you want, however you want. Just choose."
My unbreakable resolve cracked. Harry shook his head behind my brother in warning. Follow the Code, Dexter. Don't break the Code, Dexter. The Code is your life, Dexter.
I ignored him. This was his fault for lying to me in the first place. His fault for taking one little boy from a shipping container, but throwing the other to the dogs. Besides, there wasn't anything in the Code against bringing your serial killer brother along for the ride.
It's my life, Harry.
The steering wheel spun out of my hands as the Dark Passenger careened out of control.
Brian grinned wickedly. Harry frowned reprovingly.
~ O ~
Over the next week and a half, we split the workload of researching potential victims between us. I told my brother that if we were going to do this my way, we were going to do it the right way. My brother didn't seem to mind, so desperate was he for the sight of blood. In the end, as long as there was a corpse on the table, both of us were in agreement.
While my brother hacked into the police database from my apartment, I looked through what records I could from my lab. My coworkers didn't seem to find it suspicious. All they saw was a determined big brother trying his best to catch the son of a bitch that had dared to hurt his little sister, while I was entertaining thoughts of blood slides and silvery incisions in my head as I skimmed through killer after killer. Though it was a good cover, I found that it couldn't excuse my longer than usual hours forever.
I found the perfect opportunity to carve a better mask when Angel Batista approached me one day after work.
"You've gotta get out more, compadre." Angel had put a hand on my shoulder; his face screwed up into a sympathetic smile. "We all want to catch him, Dex, and what he did to your sister was unforgivable, but this obsessing, it's gonna to drive you into the ground."
I smiled slightly, the ever worried big brother. "Thanks, Angel, but it helps take my mind off of things. Really, I need the distraction."
"Tell you what, Dex. If you need a distraction, join the department's bowling team. We've been down a member ever since Anderson got shot in the leg in the line of duty. We could really use another bowler."
So, I had agreed. After all, what harm could it do if it helped me keep the illusion from falling apart?
And I found, to my amazement, that I was actually good at it. All the bowling balls and trophies at Joseph Driscoll's house were starting to add up now.
When I told Brian, he laughed. "I guess murder's not the only thing that runs in the family."
This became my standard excuse to Rita and the kids for any later than usual hours. Hours really spent pouring over potential victims and kill scenarios with my brother.
But this cycle could not last forever.
~ O ~
Our first hitch since that night at 1235 Mangrove Drive came just as predicted but somehow it still managed to blindside me. It was so obvious and I should have seen it coming, but the most obvious things are the ones we never look for, aren't they?
"I've found him."
His smile held a good helping of glee with a light but sharp sprinkle of hunger.
Oh, that's who.
I set the paper down and gave him my full attention. My throat went suddenly dry. "Which one?"
His footsteps seemed to be deliberately heavy and the file he handed me had more force than was necessary.
"Days of researching. I finally found the perfect one." He almost giggled .
"Just spit it out, Brian."
He frowned, but continued. "Jimmy Sensio, also known as "The man with God in his mouth"." I raised an eyebrow. He held a hand for further explanation. "He's a Voodoo high priest hired to perform "death curses" on people."
I snorted. He laughed.
"That was my reaction. Turns out, he really kills them by selling them drinks poisoned with ricin."
"Proof?" I skimmed the file slowly.
He grit his teeth. "I swear, it's like you don't trust me, little brother."
"Proof?" I repeated, eyes narrowed up at him.
He sighed. "I tracked a particular client of his. Apparently the deal went wrong and Jimmy decided to seek other employment."
"By getting rid of his current one?" Easy guess.
"Exactly. I snuck in one night while Jimmy was out and took a peek into his back room. Found the body and looked it over before he could get rid of it. That solution I had you run at the lab? The one that came up, containing ricin? Proof." He smiled, pleased beyond all belief.
I continued to skim over the file. Until I saw one detail that made me stop.
Brian's smile dropped. "So?"
"I'm not sure if it's such a good idea."
"Especially with the police still out there."
"Don't you dare-"
"Maybe we should wait a few days."
Suddenly, Brian's face was inches from mine. "A few days?"
I glared right back. "You've waited a few weeks. What's a couple more days?"
His eyes narrowed. "Hunger doesn't wait, little brother. I can't slice a fucking apple without feeling it. I need this, Dex." His voice broke and my eyes widened at the touch of almost emotion. "I need this."
The pleading in my brother's voice weighed itself against the threat of discovery.
"I'm sorry, Brian. I can't. Not yet."
The slam of his door practically shook the foundation of the apartment. I sighed.
This was going to a long couple of days.
~ O ~
From there, it just got worse. I could tell just by watching him. It was already the third week of the Ice Truck Killer investigation. In the mornings, he was sullen, only speaking to me when he needed food, and not even bidding me good bye when I left for work like he normally did. In the evenings, he'd just sit in front of the TV, eyes glazed over and barely moving. This went on for three days.
To be honest, it scared me.
Wanting to kill people? Perfectly reasonable for a sociopath. But complete lack of it? That was disturbing.
Then, on the third night, it reached the breaking point.
I came home, expecting to see him slumped in front of the TV as he had two nights previous. Instead, I found him cooking dinner. What was a normal everyday activity to humans, my brother had made ten times more threatening just by holding a knife and chopping up some meat.
He smiled at me when I walked in the door. One of his canine grins that gave me a very bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. "Hey, little brother. Hungry?"
I returned the grin, trying not to show my unease at the blade glinting dangerously in his hand. "What are you making?"
His eyes flashed. "Meatloaf surprise."
I spoke slowly, eyeing the meat. "What's in it?"
He examined the knife in his grip. "That would ruin the surprise."
Wasn't much of a surprise. I had seen my neighbor from the apartment next door looking for her lost, and now never to be found, dog.
I set my work bag on the couch. "So that's why Mary's looking for her dog."
Brian frowned. "Annoying mutt anyway. Always barking. Never shut up."
I shook my head. "What happened to keeping a low profile? She could have seen you. All for what? A cheap thrill?"
He admired his reflection in the metal for a minute before looking sideways at me.
He showed me his teeth. "Worth it."
He was beyond reason now, I could tell. At this point, all he wanted to do was set the world on fire and watch it burn. I knew this would happen. Had to happen. I overestimated his self-control. I thought he could wait just a little while longer while I scanned through potential suspects. That self-preservation would kick in before he would snap.
I was wrong. So very wrong.
I watched him chop the dog meat into neat pieces with a tight frown. I wondered if the blood upset him since he was used to draining the body first before the eventual sectioning. Spatter covered my sink in a thick coat of red. That was going to take a lot of bleach to clean out.
"I'm not eating that." Serial killer I may be, but dog eater I am not.
He looked up at me. "In some countries, dog is considered a delicacy."
I gave him a look.
He laughed again. "Ease up, Dex. There's some steaks and beer in the fridge. You just need to heat it up. You didn't honestly think I'd eat dog meat, did you? It's not exactly to my tastes."
I chose not to comment on what exactly was to his tastes did what he said and took out the food, heating up the steaks in the microwave. Then, I turned to him with the full intention of some kind of lecture in mind. He looked back at me with an expectant, but amused smile. The kind that made my throat go dry and the words freeze on my tongue. What could I possibly say that would get through to him? I had overlooked one very clear and important fact.
He wasn't me.
It was the one thing that separated us. The Code. He didn't have a Code to filter the hunger. To bring it under control. He took what he wanted, when he wanted. The Need was too much for him, consuming all other thoughts.
We stood, facing each other for a few seconds. Dead eyes to dead eyes. I could see the remnants of his last kill, though smaller than his usual preferences, flickering in his eyes. Not a hint of guilt in his expression. A true sociopath in every way. As I looked into his dark gaze, I could imagine what it was like. Hungering for weeks without so much as a chopped limb to keep him occupied. To hear that bark outside the apartment window and feel the bloodlust flowing through his veins. A starving wolf coming upon a baby deer. His Dark Passenger crooning juicy, crimson thoughts in his ear. The eventual snap.
Did I know how he felt?
That all-consuming desire when I had heard our neighbor's dog, Buddy, barking when my foster mother was still sick with cancer and couldn't sleep. Back before the Need was controlled by the Code. How satisfying and logical it would be to just snuff out its life. How very easy it was to give into my Dark Passenger without a second thought. The thrill of being able to cut something open after years of playing it out in my head. The wonderful sensation of feeling something, finally, after so many years of being empty.
Yes, I knew exactly how he felt.
And it brought me to a decision.
After we ate, an expectant but comfortable silence between us, I went to my bedroom closet. I could feel Brian's eyes on me all the way there. Because we both knew I only kept one kind of thing in there. I brought out a long, black bag. The same bag that he begged me to open two weeks ago.
I could hear his intake of breath.
I turned to him. His eyes were wide. I felt a small surge of pride that this time, I was the one to throw the great Ice Truck Killer off balance.
His eyes went from me to the bag and back. His jaw was clenched, his eyes darker. "You mean…?"
We smiled. "Tonight's the night."