He glanced back where I was pointing, then his eyes flicked, very quickly, back to me. "What about it?"
I just looked at him.
He shrugged. "Yeah, it's bad. You've seen bad before."
I lowered my head so I was staring at the golden faucet. "I took a month off, Zerbrowski. Thought I needed a vacation, and I did, but maybe a month wasn't enough."
"What are you saying?"
I looked up into the mirror, and my face was almost ghost pale, my eyes standing out like black holes in my face, the remaining eyeliner making my eyes larger, more compelling, more lost than they should have been. What I wanted to say was I don't know if I want to do this anymore, but what I said out loud, was, "I thought the bedroom scene was bad, but this is worse."
I started to take a deep breath, but remembered in time about the smell, and took a shallow breath, which wasn't nearly as soothing to my psyche but better for my stomach. "I'll be okay."
He didn't argue with me, because Zerbrowski treated me by guy rules most of the time. If a guy says he'll be okay, you just take him at his word, even if you don't believe it. The only exception is when lives are at stake, then the guy code can be broken, but the man that you broke it with will probably never forgive you.
I straightened up, hands still death-gripping the sink. I blinked into the mirror a couple of times, then went back for the far room. I could do this. I had to do this. I had to be able to see what was there, and think about it logically. It was an awful thing to ask of myself. I'd finally acknowledged that. Acknowledged that seeing things like what lay in the next room were soul-destroying. Acknowledged and moved on.
I was back in the bathroom door. Zerbrowski had come with me, though, standing just behind me. There really wasn't room to stand in the doorway together, not comfortably.
I looked at the room, at the walls with their coating of blood and gore. "How many people were killed in here?"
"Why?" he asked.
"Don't be coy, Zerbrowski, I don't have the patience for it today."
"Why?" he asked again, and this time there was a note of defensiveness in his voice.
I glanced back at him. "What is your problem?"
He didn't point at the carnage. In fact for a second, or two, I thought he was going to tell me to mind my own business, but he didn't. "If Dolph said why, you'd just answer him, not argue with him."
I sighed. "Dolph's shoes hard to fill?" I asked.
"No, but I'm damned tired of repeating myself when I know that nobody makes Dolph f**king repeat himself."
I looked up at him and felt a smile creep across my face. "Well, actually, I make Dolph repeat himself, too."
He smiled. "Alright, alright, maybe you do, but you are such a f**king pain in the ass, Anita."
"It's a talent," I said.
We stood in the doorway and smiled at each other. Nothing had changed in that small horror chamber. There wasn't a drop less of blood, or an inch less of gory bits plastered to the walls, but we both felt better.
"Now," I said, still smiling, "how many people were killed in the bathroom."
His smile slid into a full grin. "Why do you ask?"
"You bastard," I said.
He wiggled his eyebrows above the rims of his glasses. "Not what my mom says, though you're not the first to speculate."
I half laughed and knew that I'd lost. "Because, Zerbrowski, there are only two full walls in that room, both of them are so thick with blood and heavier bits that it's like two kills, one at one wall, one at the other."
"What about the bathtub?" he asked.
"The water's pale. I've never seen anyone bled out in a bathtub, so I don't know if the water would be this pale, or if it would be darker. But my gut tells me that no one was bled out in the tub. They may have been killed in the tub, but most of the blood is on the floor and walls."
"You sure about that?"
"No, like I said, I've never seen anyone bled out in a bathtub before, but I'm also wondering why the tub is so full, almost to the brim. You can't fill most tubs that full; they've got that little hole that stops it from overflowing. This one is so full that you couldn't even step into it without sloshing water all over the floor."
He watched my face while I talked, then his gaze slid away to look into the room beyond, then to the clean section of floor we were standing on.
"I'm right about at least two people being killed, aren't I?"
He had control of his expression now, and met my gaze. "Maybe."
I sighed, but it was more frustration now. "Look, I've worked with Dolph for years, and I like him. I respect his work methods, but damn it, Zerbrowski, you don't have to play it as close to the chest as he does. I've always hated playing twenty f**king questions. Let's try something new and different. I ask questions, you answer them."
He almost smiled. "Maybe."
I fought an urge to yell. I spoke very calmly, very quietly. "At least two people were killed, slaughtered against the walls." I forced myself to turn back and look at the two walls in question again. Now that I had another human being to talk to, and he'd made me a little angry, I could think again. The walls weren't literally painted with blood. There were spots where the tile showed through, but the tile was a medium brown color, so that at first it looked worse than it was, and God knew, it was bad enough.
I turned back to Zerbrowski. "Okay, two kills one against each wall. Or at least they were sliced open, up, whatever, against each wall." I looked at the tub again. "Are there bits of bodies in the tub?"
"Dolph would make you go fish."
I stared up at him. "Maybe, probably. But you're not Dolph, and I'm not in the mood."
"We left the bits in there special for you, Anita. No joke." He held up his hands. "You're our monster expert, and if this isn't a monster, I don't know what is."
He had me there. "It's a monster, Zerbrowski, but is it a human monster, or something else? That's the sixty-four-billion-dollar question."
"I thought it was sixty-four-thousand-dollar question," he said.
"Inflation," I said. "Do you at least have any long gloves, or something?"
"No long gloves on me," he said.
"I f**king hate you," I said.
"Not the first to say it today," he said, and he seemed tired again.
"I am going to track blood all over hell and back."
He fished under the sink and retrieved a garbage bag. "Put the booties in here before you step out of the room."
"What can I possibly learn by fishing around in that mess?"
"Probably not a goddamned thing," he said.
I shook my head. "Then why should I do it?"
"Because we held the scene for you. We didn't drag that damn tub, just in case we spoiled some arcane piece of monster shit, that you would have noticed, and we would have thrown away."
"Arcane," I said, "what, Katie been reading the big grown-up books to you again?"
He smiled. "The faster you do this, the sooner we can all get the hell out of here."
"I'm not stalling," I said, even as I knew I was.
"Yeah, you are, and I don't blame you."
I looked into the next room, then back at Zerbrowski. "If I don't find some really nifty clue, I am so going to kick your ass."
He grinned. "Only if you can catch me."
I shook my head, took a shallow breath, and stepped over that last bit of doorway.
The blood closed up around the plastic bootie, not quite to the top of it, not quite rolling over onto my shoe, but close. Even through the plastic, through my shoe, I could feel that the blood was cool. Not cold, but cool. I wasn't sure if it was my imagination or not. I didn't think I should have been able to feel the blood through the bootie and my shoe. But it felt like I could. Sometimes my imagination is not an asset at a crime scene.
I slid my foot forward, one hand still on the door frame. I wasn't sure that the plastic booties would be slippery in this much liquid on a tile floor, but I so didn't want to find out the hard way. There were two things I didn't want to do in this room. One, was fall on my ass in the pool of blood, two, was put my hand in the bathtub. I had to do the second, but I would be damned if I did the first.
I eased my feet forward, slowly, cautiously, and kept my fingers on the doorjamb as long as possible. Actually the room wasn't that large, and it wasn't that big a reach between the door and the tub. I got a death grip on the edge of the tub with my glove-covered hands, and when I had both my feet planted as steady as I could get them, I looked down at the water.