America’s most-read, most-watched, and most-beloved serial killer—Dexter Morgan—is back.
Dexter Morgan is not your average serial killer. He enjoys his day job as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Police Department… but he lives for his nighttime hobby of hunting other killers. Dexter is therefore not pleased to discover that someone is shadowing him, observing him, and copying his methods. Dexter is not one to tolerate displeasure… in fact, he has a knack for extricating himself from trouble in his own pleasurable way.
Like the previous five best-selling novels in the Dexter series, Double Dexter showcases the witty, macabre originality that has propelled Jeff Lindsay to international success. Double Dexter is raucously entertaining… full of smart suspense and dark laughs.
IT WAS FULL DARK OUT NOW AND THE FIRST RUSH OF THE FREE night air roared into my lungs and out through my veins, calling my name with a thundering whisper of welcome and urging me on into the purring darkness, and we hurried to the car to ride away to happiness. But as we opened the car door and put one foot in, some small acid niggle twitched at our coattails and we paused; something was not right, and the frigid glee of our purpose slid off our back and onto the pavement like old snakeskin. Something was not right. I looked around me in the hot and humid Miami night. The neighborhood was just as it had always been; no sudden threat had sprung from the row of one-story houses with their toy-littered yards. There was nothing moving on our street, no one lurking in the shadows of the hedge, no rogue helicopter swooping down to strafe me—nothing. But still I heard that nagging trill of doubt. I took in a slow lungful of air through my nose. There was nothing to smell beyond the mingled odors of cooking, the tang of distant rainfall, the whiff of rotting vegetation that always lurked in the South Florida night. So what was wrong? What had set the tinny little alarm bells to clattering when I was finally out the door and free? I saw nothing, heard nothing, smelled nothing, felt nothing—but I had learned to trust the pesky whisper of warning, and I stood there unmoving, unbreathing, straining for an answer.
And then a low row of dark clouds rumbled open overhead and revealed a small slice of silvery moon—a tiny, inadequate moon, a moon of no consequence at all, and we breathed out all the doubt. Of course—we were used to riding out into the wicked gleam of a
full and bloated moon, slicing and slashing to the open-throated sound track of a big round choir in the sky. There was no such beacon overhead tonight, and it didn’t seem right somehow to gallop off into glee without it. But tonight was a special session, an impromptu raid into a mostly moonless evening, and in any case it must be done, would be done—but done as a solo cantata this time, a cascade of single notes without a backup singer. This small and wimpish quarter-moon was far too young to warble, but we could do very well without it, just this once. And we felt the bright and chilly purpose close back around us; there was no lurking danger, only an absence of moon. There was no reason to pause, no reason to wait, and every reason to ride away into the velvet dark of a Bonus Evening. We climb into the driver’s seat of the car and start the engine. It is no more than a five-minute drive back to the neighborhood of the moldering apartment building and the small crummy house. We drive past it slowly and carefully, looking for any sign that things are not as they should be, and we find none. The street is empty now. The one streetlight half a block away flickers off and on, casting a dim blue glow rather than any real brightness. Other than that the only light in this tiny-mooned night comes from the windows of the apartment building, a matching purple halo from each window, a dozen televisions all tuned to the pointless, empty, idiotic unreality of the same reality show, everyone watching in vacuous lockstep as true reality cruises slowly past outside licking its chops.
The dirty little house shows one faint light in a front window halfcovered with vines, and the old Honda is still there, tucked into the shadows. We drive past and circle halfway around the block and park in the darkness beneath a huge banyan tree. We get out, lock the car, and stand for just a moment, sniffing the breeze of this very dark and suddenly wonderful night. A light wind moves the leaves in the tree overhead, and far off on the horizon, lightning flickers in a huge black pillow of clouds. A siren wails in the distance, and a
little closer a dog barks. But near at hand nothing stirs and we take a deep and cooling breath of the shadowy night air and let our awareness slide out and around us, feeling the stillness and the lack of any lurking danger. All is right, all is ready, all is just what it should be, and we can wait no longer. It is time. Slowly, carefully, casually, we slip our small gym bag over one shoulder and walk back to the crumbling house, just an ordinary guy coming home from the bus stop. Halfway down the block, a large old car lurches around the corner and for just a second its headlights light us up. It seems to hesitate for half a second, leaving us uncomfortably illuminated, and we pause, blinking in the unwanted light. Then there is the sudden bang of a backfire from the car, accompanied by a strange rattling sound as a piston knocks in unison with a loose bumper, and the car speeds up and rolls past us harmlessly and disappears around the corner up ahead. It is quiet once more and there is no other sign of life in this fine dark night.
We stroll on and no one sees our perfect imitation of normal strolling, no one anywhere close is watching anything but the TV, and each step brings us closer to joy. We can feel the rising tide of wanting it, needing it, knowing it will be soon, and we very carefully keep our steps from showing our eagerness as we approach the house and stroll past it and into the darkness of the giant hedge that hides the Honda and now hides us. And here we pause, looking out from our near-invisible spot beside the rusting car, and we think. We have wanted this so very much and now we are here and we will do it and nothing can stop that but—this is different. It is not just the lack of a moon that makes us hesitate and stand in the shadows and stare thoughtfully at the awful little cottage. And it is no sudden change of heart or twinge of conscience or any kind of doubt in the heartless, conscience-less darkness of our purpose. No. It is this: There are two people inside and we want only one. We need to, we must, we
will, take and tape our Witness and do to him all the many wonderful things that we have waited too long to do to him but— That second person. A. The ex-wife. What do we do with her? We cannot leave her to watch and then tell. But to tumble her away, too, into the long forever night is against the Code of Harry, against all the very reasonable well-deserved Wickedness we have always done and hope to always do. This is unearned, unsanctioned, messy, collateral damage. It is wrong, we cannot— but we must. But we can’t— We take a deep relaxing breath. Of course we must. There is no other way. We will tell her we are very sorry, and we will make it quick for her, but we must, just this one very naughty and regrettable time, we absolutely must. And so we will. We look carefully at the house, making sure that all is right. One minute, then two, we do nothing at all except stand and wait and watch, trickling all our senses out into the street around us, the small yard of this dingy little house, watching and waiting for any slight sign that we are being watched, and there is nothing. We are alone in a world of dark longing that will very soon burst out into bliss and carry us along to the happy and necessary ending of this oh-so-lovely night. Three minutes, five—there is no sign of danger, and we can wait no more. And we take one more cool and steadying breath and then we slide deeper into the shadows of the hedge, stalking back toward the fence that blocks the backyard. A quick and silent vault over the fence, a momentary pause to be absolutely sure that we are unobserved, and then we are cat-footing along the side of the house. Nothing can possibly see us except from the two small windows, one of them up high on the wall and made of pebbled glass, a bathroom. The other window is small and cranked open six inches and we stop a few feet away from it and look inside.
There is a faint glow of light showing in this window, coming from some interior room, but there is no sound and no sign of any living thing. We open our bag, take out our gloves, and pull them
on. We are ready, and we move on past the window and into the backyard. The back edge of the yard is completely blocked by a fence that is overgrown with young bamboo. The shoots are slim, but already ten feet tall, and we cannot be seen from this side either and we breathe easier. On the back side of the house a little brick patio nudges up against a sliding glass door. Grass grows up shin-high between the bricks, and a rusted round grill is pushed to one edge, missing one wheel and tilting drunkenly over. Again we pause, staring into the house through the glass of the sliding door. Nothing moves inside, and a first gray finger of doubt pokes into our ribs; is anyone home? Have we come so far and been so very ready, all for nothing? Slowly, carefully, we move closer onto the bricks and then up to the sliding glass door, where we wait, looking and listening and sniffing the air for anything at all—and there is nothing. We put a hand on the metal rim of the door and push with carefully increasing pressure; the door moves. We slide it open an inch, six inches, two feet, taking half a minute to make sure there is no sound and no reaction from inside. Three feet open and we stop and wait one more cautious moment and again there is nothing and so we slip in through the door and tug it closed behind us. We stand in a kitchen: a rusted refrigerator in the corner next to an old stove, a cracked Formica counter with a cupboard above it, a stained and dirty sink with a dripping faucet. The room is unlit, but through a doorway in the far wall we can see a faint gleam of light in the next room. A whispered tickle of warning begins to prickle up our spine and we know there is something there, something in that room in the light. And now all of our focus is forward, into that next room, and the nylon noose is in our hand as we glide slowly across the floor toward the light with a near-drool of anticipation and the glee surges up inside at the thought of what now must come as we stalk silently to the doorway and look
carefully around the doorframe and into the next room at what is waiting in that one small halo of light and we pause and peek into the room and— Everything stops. No breath, no thought, no movement. Nothing but stunned and automatic denial. This can’t be. It just can’t. No way, not here, not now, not this— we are not seeing this, not at all, we can’t be seeing any such thing; it’s impossible, wrong, not in the script— But there it is. It does not move and it does not change and it is what it certainly is: It is a table under a single dim hanging bulb. An old and unremarkable metal table from some thrift shop, with a chipped white finish. And spread across the tabletop in neat bundles is something that used to be a human being. The body has been carefully sliced and sectioned and stacked into orderly piles and it is all so very perfect and exactly as it should be and it spins me into an unreal moment of totally familiar and totally impossible comfort because I know just what it is—but it cannot possibly be that and I look and I look and it still is that, exactly that. It is a body prepared for disposal after a long and lovely session with a knife and a need and it is familiar and comforting for the simplest of all possible reasons because this is precisely the way I do it myself. And that is not possible because I did not do it and there is no one else in the world who does it exactly the same way, not even my brother, Brian, but it is there and I blink at it and look again and it is still there and it has not changed.
And it is so impossible and so nightmare perfectly just what I was going to do that I cannot stop myself from stepping toward it through the doorway, pulled closer as if it was a giant magnet too strong to resist, and I move in without breath and without seeing anything else, step toward the thing that cannot be there even though it so clearly is: one step, two steps— And on the far side of the table something steps toward me out
of shadow and without a thought I whip out my knife and I jump forward at this new menace— And it jumps forward at me with a knife in its hand. And I crouch and freeze with my blade raised high— And it crouches and freezes with its blade raised high. And in an endless moment of total disoriented teeth-bared panic I look and I blink and I see it blink back.… I slowly uncoil myself and stand up straight and stare and it does exactly as I do. It cannot do anything else … … because it is my reflection in a large, full-length mirror. It is me standing there looking back at me standing there looking back — Once more I am frozen, unable to think or blink or do anything but stare at the image in the mirror, because this cannot be an accident, any more than the perfectly arranged body on the table is an accident. The mirror has been set up in this precise spot to do exactly what it has done and now here I am looking at me looking back at me over a body that only I could have done like that and I am almost certain I did not do it but there it is and I do not know what to do or what to think. So I stand there in a dim tiny cone of unfeeling impossibility and I stare at something that someone has set up just for me—just so I will find it and do exactly what I am doing, which is nothing but looking at it and trying not to believe that it can be at all what it truly is. And slowly, finally, one skittery little thought nudges up through the dumb muck that has poured all through my brain and it squeals at me just loud enough for me to hear it and I blink, take one shaky breath, and let the thought speak to me. Who did this?
It is a good start, this tiny little thought, good enough to get one more thought to follow it up through the mist. Only my brother, Brian, knows my technique well enough to do this. For one
flickering moment I wonder if he did; he still wanted to have some brotherly playtime with me. Could this be a small nudge in Dexter’s ribs to encourage me? But even as I think it I know that it is not possible. Brian would ask, he would urge, he would wheedle—but he would never do this. And other than Brian, there is no one else in the world who has seen my work and lived … … except my Witness, of course. That one unknown Shadow who had seen me with Valentine and blogged his way to the head of my list, the self-same maddening blatherer I had come here to turn into an exact match of what I was looking at now. And as much as it made no sense, it had to be him that had done this. He had arranged this body in my pattern and placed a mirror on the far side of it, and there could be no other explanation, but that led to one more very urgent question: Why? I have no answer. I can still only think that this is impossible and yet it is out of the hypothetical and into the here and now and I am looking at it and it is as real as the knife in my hand. And I take one more slow and helpless step toward it, as if I could make it all go away if I could just get close enough—and on the far side of the table, the other me takes a step forward and I jerk to a stop again and look at me looking back at me.
There I am; I, Dexter. I raise a hand to touch my face, but it is the hand with the knife and I stop halfway as the wicked blade comes near my dumbly gaping face and I just look at me. Still life with knife and numbskull. The two faces of me, Dexter the Demon and Dexter the Dope. The face looks strange to me, like it belongs to somebody else—but it is my face, the one I have been wearing all these years. I stare for a long moment, frozen by the sight of me as I really am, both of me, as if I could stare hard enough to make the two faces come together into one real person. I can’t, of course. I let the hand with the knife drop to my side once more and look down at the table, stupidly hoping that the
impossible thing there would be gone. But it is still there, still real, and still impossible. One more robot step forward and I am standing over it and looking down at what I have come to do and found already done. I stare at the disjointed leftovers, and for one idiot moment a tiny hope flutters up: Was it possible that this heap of flesh was not done by but instead done to my Shadow? Could someone else have somehow done the happy chore for me? I look for some clue, and from this close I can see that there are small flaws that I would never have been guilty of. And then I see a breast and I realize this is female, my Shadow is male, and the small spider-footed hope scurries away and dies. This is not my Shadow; this is someone else, and most likely his ex-wife. I move closer. Up close I can see that this is not real quality work; right there, the left hand, so messy at the wrist, hurried, chopped instead of cut with Dexter-neat skill. I reach toward it with the point of my knife and poke it to test its reality—and as I do I pause. I have been hearing a familiar sound this last minute and it is getting louder, and I can no longer ignore it, because it is a sound I know very well and one that I do not want to hear right now. It is the sound of a siren and it is absolutely coming closer. Once again I freeze into stupid unmoving thoughtlessness. A siren. Coming closer. To me. Here, now. To this dingy little house. Where I am standing above a chopped-up body. With a knife in my hand. And finally a great sick air-raid siren of alarm begins to shriek from the ramparts of Castle Dexter, rumbling up from its lowest, earth-trembling note of warning and rising to a shattering scream of panic, and we spin away from the impossibly sliced and stacked trash on the table and in one rabbit-blink of an eye we are out the sliding door and into the night. Without a pause for thought we slam into and over the back fence and windmill our arms at the bamboo, tunneling frantically through the springy shoots and falling out face-first, into the backyard of the house on the far side.
And we bounce up instantly and run at the full speed of complete panic,
slashing through the yard and into the street beyond just as an outside light comes on in the yard where we were lying only seconds ago. But we are gone now, safely away and out into the street, along a sidewalk that is just as dark and overgrown as we could wish, and we stroke down the screaming chorus of alarm and fear and force our legs to listen to the cool and soothing voice that says, Slow down; act normal. We have escaped. We do slow down, we do try to act normal, but the approaching siren is right there on the next street now, in front of the cottage, and its high-pitched call is winding down again to say that it has arrived, and so in spite of the wise interior words of advice to go slow, we walk a little faster than we should until we turn the corner and come back to our car where it waits beneath the banyan tree. And we slide gratefully into the driver’s seat and start the engine and drive slowly away from the small and crumbling house of horrors, slowly and carefully back toward the refuge of normal life. We don’t head straight home, though; we must try to think, and we must let the tremble leave the hands and the dry terror peel off from the mouth as the adrenaline fades away and we slowly morph back into something resembling a human shape before we head back to the company of real humans, and this takes much longer than it should. We drive south on U.S. 1, all the way down to Old Card Sound Road, trying to think and understand and make sense out of this surreal catastrophe of an evening—trying, and failing. Slowly the sick wet panic drains away, but the answers don’t flow in to take its place, and all the way home there is only one single thought repeating endlessly through my numb and shattered brain, one thought that tumbles and echoes through the dark stone halls of Dexter’s Dome.
And no answer rises up to greet this thought and so it ricochets around in brittle confusion and repeats itself endlessly and as I finally park my car in front of my house I find that my lips are moving and repeating this same stupid single thought: What just happened?