The girl is dying as Dexter watches.

He can tell without examining her closely that her injuries are severe. The wounds on her back will leave scars, as will the marks on her wrists and ankles. Cuts and tears left raw and untreated, dried blood and bruises on her dirty flesh. How long has it been since she was given food, water, anything but a filthy t-shirt, now nothing more than a rag, and a hard floor to sleep on? And then finally, the cruel, cold promise of death.

Electrocuted in a barrel full of formaldehyde, preserved at the bottom of a swamp. No one would have found the body. Boyd would have made sure of that.

Dexter did not like to dwell on what else had most likely happened to the girl during her stay in Boyd's attic. How long? Weeks, probably. He knew what men like that - men like him - did to women like her.

Maybe if he had a better understanding of sex he would also want to do that to a woman. Maybe he would even enjoy it.

Probably not.

Rather unbidden, the image forms in his mind, of Rita, of the way she used to touch him. He finds himself thinking about her warm hands, and of the smell of her on his skin. The way she wore her hair. He wonders if he misses her. He thinks he does, but he can't be sure.

He thinks about the night he found her like it's a series of pictures in someone's photo album. Some of the images aren't things that are part of his memory but things he's imagined. Rita in the bathtub. Rita dead. Rita dying. Rita screaming, bleeding, as the blade slices into the inside of her thigh. Harrison crying because he doesn't understand.

He thinks about the blood.

So much blood.

He looks back at the girl on the table, lying there so still on her back. Such a familiar situation. And yet so unfamiliar. And from some dark, sacred corner of his mind, where Rita's blood shines brightly on the white bathroom tile, it calls to him.

He had to get rid of her.

He could dump her somewhere, while she was unconscious. Lay her down and walk away, make sure his prints were nowhere at the scene. What became of her then was not his business. Maybe he could leave her by the side of the road for someone else to find. Someone would have to come along eventually, some good samaritan, someone with the heart to care. Whatever she told them, whatever she chose to remember about the man who'd killed her kidnapper and set her free would not be enough to lead them back to him, would come across as the vague and distorted ramblings of a traumatized victim.

But you won't be sure, a voice pulls at the back of his mind, nags at him. You can't be.

There's only one way to be sure.

No one would know.

It would not be as if he were responsible for her death. It was Boyd who'd done this to her, after all. Not him. After what's happened to her, death would be a mercy. It would be like putting down a wounded animal.

But he's not used to giving out mercy.

And he doesn't kill innocents.

He doesn't.

The young woman whimpers in her slumber, and, as if curious, he finds himself standing above her, looking down at her as if she were a foreign object invading his space. And she is. This was supposed to be Boyd's room. Private, tidy, intimate. It was all supposed to be so perfect, so right. It was supposed to make things right.

But it hadn't. It had made them worse. Things weren't right at all, and he didn't know if they ever would be again.

And now there was her.

Again she mumbles something incoherently, jerks a hand to her face as if to ward off the demons that aren't really there. Feverish, obviously, and too weak. Much too weak to last very long.

Who was she? Where did she come from? Did she have a name, a home, friends and family, people who loved her and cared about what happened to her?

Of course she did. Not that he should care. He didn't know why he would bother.

Certainly he doesn't care.

And even if he did, he reasons, he can't do anything for her. Disturbingly Apathetic Dexter couldn't even do anything to help his own dear wife as she lay dead in a bathtub. Couldn't even muster up the tears to mourn her like a real person should.

In the strange, hollow days and nights that had followed Rita's funeral, with the five of them squeezed into the narrow space of Deb's apartment, he'd tried to replay that night in his mind, tried to imagine himself differently, weeping over her body in melodramatic fashion, the way he thinks she would have wanted him to act.

He thinks if he were normal, he would have wanted that, too.

No, don't think about Rita. Back to the problem at hand. Back to the girl. The witness.

Her hair is blond, like Rita's (There you go again). Dirty, yes, and in serious need of a comb-through. She is so dirty that he doesn't like to come too near her.

At least he could clean her wounds up a bit.

Dearly Destructive Dexter. Saving things just isn't in his job description. Maybe this once, however, he can play the role. He's played so many other roles, but rarely have they been the heroic ones, the nice ones, the ones that get you the applause.

He isn't a prince, and he doesn't think he is handsome, so that leaves that one out.

But he's always been good at slaying monsters.