Bloody Genius (Virgil Flowers #12) - John Sandford
Barthelemy Quill led his companion through the murk and up the library stairs toward his personal study carrel. Though Quill was normally restrained to the point of rigor mortis, she could hear him breathing, quick breaths, excited. They’d been there before, and the woman found the experience both weird and interesting. She was a step behind him, and lower, and she reached out and stroked his thigh.
But at the top of the stairs, Quill put out a hand, pressing it back against her chest, and whispered, “Shh. There’s a light.”
The library was never entirely dark, not even in the middle of the night, but there’d never before been a moving light. She could see one now, no brighter than an iPhone, dancing like a ghost through the bookshelves.
Not a security guard. It was an iPhone, she thought. Not the flashlight, but the much weaker screen light.
Quill moved away from her and closer to the light—he was wearing gray dress slacks, a gray knit dress shirt, and a black sport coat, so he was basically invisible in the dark. The woman felt a chill crawl up her arms and she stepped sideways into the book stacks. She’d learned well the lesson of trusting her instincts about trouble. She turned a corner on one of the stacks and crouched, listening in the silence.
Then Quill’s voice: “Hey! Hey! Where’d you get . . . I’m calling the police! You stay right where you’re at.”
Then a wet Whack! And, after a second, another. Whack! The sound was heavy and violent, as if delivered with a crowbar. The whacks were followed by a couple of bumps. And not another word from Quill.
The woman crunched herself up, made herself smaller, opened her mouth wide to silence her breathing, a trick she’d learned in another life while taking singing lessons. Like Quill, she’d dressed in dark clothing, as their entry into the library was unauthorized and possibly illegal. Before this moment, that had added another thrill to their clandestine meetings.
Now . . .
Something terrible had happened, she thought. After the whacks and subsequent bumps, there was a deep silence, as though the iPhone user were listening.
That was followed by shuffling noises, more bumps, a door closed and a locked turned, and then the weak iPhone light reappeared. She never saw the person with the phone but kept her arms over her face and her head down: faces shine in the dark, and eyes are attracted to eyes. She heard light footsteps fading away, risked a look up and saw the iPhone light disappearing around the corner toward the stairs.
* * *
The killer was just as stunned. Quill had come out of nowhere, as the killer stood by the open carrel door, laptop in hand. Quill’s face had been twisted with anger. He’d shouted, “Hey! Hey!” and something else, then, “I’m calling the police!”
Quill’d turned away, and, without thinking, panicking, the killer had lifted the laptop computer and brought it down on Quill’s head.
After the first blow, Quill had said, “Ah!” and gone down, and his forehead had hit the edge of the carrel desk and his head had turned. His gray eyes jerked to the assailant, but had already begun to dim, as he sank to his hands and knees. The killer swung the notebook again and this time Quill went flat on the floor.
The DreamBook Power P87 made an excellent weapon, not because of its Intel Xeon i7 processor, or its 64 gigs of RAM, or its high-definition display, but because it weighed more than twelve pounds and had sharp corners.
By comparison, an Irwin Tools fiberglass-handled general purpose claw hammer, an otherwise excellent weapon, weighs only sixteen ounces, a pound.
* * *
When the killer sank the computer into the back of Quill’s head, the professor smacked the desk with his forehead, his head turned, and his eyes twisted toward his assailant, and he dropped to his hands and knees like a poleaxed ox, if oxen have hands and knees.
A blow followed, a downward chop like that of a guillotine blade. The later autopsy suggested the first blow had been sufficient enough to kill, if the assailant had been willing to wait a minute. He hadn’t.
The second impact certainly finished the job, and Quill lay sprawled across the floor and partially under the carrel desk, leaking both blood and cerebrospinal fluid. Quill never felt much pain, only an awareness of the blows and his beginning to fall. The lights went out, and he dropped into a darkness