“And will you continue to listen if the first body he gives up is that of Daria Xiu?” His tone was abrasive, gritty with lack of sleep.
Daria Xiu, Sophia knew, was the reason a J had been pulled into this situation. The daughter of a powerful human businessman, she was theorized to have been Bonner’s final victim. “Yes,” she said, telling him one truth. “Bonner is deviant enough that our psychologists find him a worthwhile study subject.” Perhaps because the kind of deviancy exhibited by the Butcher of Park Avenue had once been exhibited by Psy in statistically high numbers . . . and was no longer being fully contained by Silence.
The Council thought the populace didn’t know, and perhaps they didn’t. But to Sophia, a J who’d spent her life steeped in the miasma of evil, the new shadows in the PsyNet had a texture she could almost feel—thick, oily, and beginning to riddle the fabric of the sprawling neural network with insidious efficiency.
“And you?” Max asked, watching her with a piercing focus that made her feel as if that quicksilver mind might uncover secrets she’d kept concealed for over two decades. “What about you?”
The otherness in her stirred, wanting to give him the unvarnished, deadly truth, but that was something she couldn’t ever share with a man who’d made Justice his life. “I’ll do my job.” Then she said something a perfect Psy never would have said. “We’ll bring them home. No one should have to spend eternity in the cold dark.”
Max watched Sophia Russo walk away with the civilian observers, unable to take his attention off her. It had been the eyes that had first slammed into him. River’s eyes, he’d thought as she walked in, she had River’s eyes. But he’d been wrong. Sophia’s eyes were darker, more dramatically blue-violet, so vivid he’d almost missed the lush softness of her mouth. Except he hadn’t.
And that was one hell of a kick to the teeth.
Because for all her curves and the tracery of scars that spoke of a violent past, she was Psy. Ice-cold and tied to a Council that had far more blood on its hands than Gerard Bonner ever would. Except . . . Her final words circled in his mind.
We’ll bring them home.
It had held the weight of a vow. Or maybe that’s what he’d wanted to hear.
Wrenching back his attention when she disappeared from view, he turned to Bart Reuben, the only other person who remained. “She wear the gloves all the time?” Thin black leather-synth, they’d covered everything below the cuffs of her shirt and suit jacket. It might have been because she had more serious scars on the backs of her hands—but Sophia Russo didn’t strike him as the kind of woman who’d hide behind such a shield.
“Yes. Every time I’ve seen her.” Frown lines marred the prosecutor’s forehead for a second, before he seemed to shake off whatever was bothering him. “She’s got an excellent record—never fumbled a retraction yet.”
“We saw at the trial that Bonner’s smart enough to f**k with his own memories,” Max said, watching as the prisoner was led from the interrogation room. The blue-eyed Butcher, the media’s murderous darling, stared out at the cameras until the door closed, his smile a silent taunt. “Even if his mind isn’t twisted at the core, he knows his pharmaceuticals—could’ve got his hands on something, deliberately dosed himself.”
“Wouldn’t put it past the bastard,” Bart said, the grooves around his mouth carved deep. “I’ll line up a couple of male Js for Bonner’s next little show.”
“Xiu have that much clout?” The trial of Gerard Bonner, scion of a blue-blooded Boston family and the most sadistic killer the state had seen in decades, would’ve qualified for a J at the trial stage but for the fact that his memories were close to impenetrable.
“Sociopaths,” one J had said to Max after testifying that he couldn’t retrieve anything usable from the accused’s mind, “don’t see the truth as others see it.”
“Give me an example,” Max had asked, frustrated that the killer who’d snuffed out so many young lives had managed to slither through another net.
“According to the memories in Bonner’s surface mind, Carissa White orgasmed as he stabbed her.”
Shaking off that sickening evidence of Bonner’s warped reality, he glanced at Bart, who’d paused to check an e-mail on his cell phone. “Xiu?” he prompted.
“Yeah, looks like he has some ‘friends’ in high-level Psy ranks. His company does a lot of business with them.” Putting away the phone, Bart began to gather up his papers. “But in this, he’s just a shattered father. Daria was his only child.”
“I know.” The face of each and every victim was imprinted on Max’s mind. Twenty-one-year-old Daria’s was a gap-toothed smile, masses of curly black hair, and skin the color of polished mahogany. She didn’t look anything like the other victims—unlike most killers of his pathology, Bonner hadn’t differentiated between white, black, Hispanic, Asian. It had only been age and a certain kind of beauty that drew him.
Which turned his thoughts back to the woman who’d stared unblinking into the face of a killer while Max forced himself to stand back, to watch. “She fits his victim profile—Ms. Russo.” Sophia Russo’s eyes, her scars, made her strikingly unique—a critical aspect of Bonner’s pathology. He’d targeted women who would never blend into a crowd—the violence spoken of by Sophia’s scars would, for him, be the icing on the cake. “Did you arrange that?” His hand tightened on a pen as he helped Bart clear the table.