Murphy sat back and rubbed his eyes, as though that would enable him to see the kid across the table in a new light. Hard to believe this skinny, preppy streak of piss could rip a man to pieces with his bare hands but hey, here we are.
Hard but not impossible.
“Come on, kid. Save us both a lot of time and effort. It’ll go easier on you if you co-operate. Make your confession. You killed that guy; time to admit it.”
Beside the kid, a lawyer shook his head and put a finger to his lips.
“Kid?” Murphy prompted. “We got the guy’s blood on your hands.”
The kid looked at his lap where his hands, clean now, were wrapped the one over the other. He looked up and met the detective’s gaze.
“I already told you, I was walking past the alley when some guy rushed out, knocked me over and ran off. That must have been how I got the blood on me and – there’s – this.”
He uncovered his hand and held it up. Murphy took in the intricate design: a mountain of gaping, grinning skulls, with a sword at the summit.
“Nice ink,” he said flatly. “Where’d you get it?”
“I – don’t remember.”
“Drunken night out, was it? Wake up next day with a headache and a bunch of regrets?”
“No – no, I – don’t drink. I’d never seen it before until your officers cleaned me up. It was there. Under the blood.”
Murphy’s eyes darted to the lawyer, whose pursed lips suggested the kid might be going for an insanity plea.
“That tattoo looks pretty old to me, kid. Some of the lines are smudged and faded.”
It was true – but at the top of the pile, several of the skulls were sharp and pristine as if they had been recently added.
“I keep telling you, I don’t know how I got it. It just – showed up.”
The lawyer leaned toward his client and murmured something the kid apparently didn’t like hearing. In a flash, the kid leaped to his feet, his tattooed hand seized the lawyer’s throat and crushed his windpipe. He discarded the body; the lawyer’s chin struck the table on its way to the floor. Murphy was quick to react: he sprang back, drawing his gun.
“You better stay back, kid. Don’t make things no worse for you.”
Uniformed cops burst in. They grabbed the kid’s arms but he kicked out, knocking Murphy’s gun across the room.
“Your turn now, detective,” the kid cried out as he was dragged away. “It’s your turn now!”
Murphy stooped to pick up his gun and was startled to see the kid’s tattoo blossom on the back of his hand, like blood seeping through a bandage. At the top of the pile grinned another newly-added skull.