What was odd about the scene was that there was an implied coziness. Surely the killer had been sitting at the same table, talking comfortably. There was no evidence of this, however: no rings from a second glass on the table, no cigarette of another brand in the ashtray. This guy was thorough. A professional. The SBI would be combing the boat for evidence, but Grayson had a feeling their search would come up empty.
And the victim, Grayson discovered minutes later, had a fresh drug charge against him, so fresh it was from the day before. This dead guy was just out on bond from the yacht party raid, released late yesterday afternoon.
Grayson chewed his gum mechanically and tried to picture the scene. The dead guy had spent the night partying, and then had sat most of the day in a noisy jail waiting his turn before a magistrate. Surely he had been tired. Was he expecting a visitor? How long did they sit at the table and chat?
Unlike the first victim, this man did not travel alone. His two crew members had found him at breakfast time. Their story was that their skipper had been in a foul mood upon returning late yesterday evening, had cursed the system for detaining him, had eaten a light supper, and had warned them not to disturb him, because he was exhausted. As a result, the two had closed down a bar in Morehead City and had flopped in a nearby hotel until morning.
Now, they dogged Grayson as he moved about the yacht, swearing they knew nothing else, stinking of beer and cigarettes. Frankly, they were getting on his nerves and turning his stomach one more flop. When the short one whined again, “We didn’t do it. You believe us, don’t you?” Grayson stared him down and drawled, “Then, you won’t mind if I search your quarters, will you?’ He studiously looked over his notes to hide a grin at their panic. Guys probably had a stash of their own tucked away. But no knife with a medium-length, straight, thin blade, he would bet. They might have hefty working knives and maybe a long-blade fillet knife or two, but not the type of knife the coroner had said was used on the first victim.
When Grayson squatted down to inspect the blood-stained floor for tracks, a movement caught his eye. “Hello,” he murmured, “come here. Come on over here.” A young cat skittishly approached his extended hand, and he soon had it firmly in his left hand, rubbing it with his right, notebook tucked under his arm.
“And where did you come from, Sissy? Hmm? Do you belong here?”
The two crew members looked at him stupidly.
“Have you boys ever seen this cat?”
They shook their heads in unison.
“You sure? Maybe your boss picked it up on his way in yesterday?”
“Huh! Naw!” came from the boys.
“Uh-huh. Get her some food.” Grayson scratched the cat’s neck thoughtfully as he watched the two scramble to look in the refrigerator and behind doors, banging about.
They were clumsy and nervous, watching him over their shoulders as they spilled food and left compartment doors open. Whatever these two were hiding, it had nothing to do with the murders. Whoever had sat at the table with their boss and slit his throat in mid-sentence was smooth and efficient. Whoever the killer was, he would not be unsettled by the presence of a simple police officer.
Finally they produced ice cream in a saucer with wheat bread on the side. Now the odd detail from the first murder fell into place. There had been no cat food or dish in that yacht, either. Grayson had not wondered about that for long; for all he knew, the guy fed his cat caviar in a crystal bowl.
Now he clutched his first bit of concrete evidence, and it purred back at him. “So, you’re a little calling card, are you, Sissy? Too bad you can’t talk. But you know what? They’ve got all kinds of stuff on the internet nowadays. Maybe your daddy likes cats, hmm? Maybe he hates cats. Maybe his name is Cat. Maybe for once that computer will spit out some useful information. You reckon?” And he left the yacht and walked up the dock, not offering a comment to the forensic guys who were on their way in.
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