"You love him."
The statement hung in the oppressively hot air. Justin had no idea what had precipitated it, or even why Mark would say anything about...well, anything. Justin and Mark had exchanged few words previously, and they were all about a case. Justin would never have a reason to come to Mark's well-appointed squat unless it was for a case; he hadn't even known that he and Luther were still in contact.
"Sorry?" Justin accepted the tea Mark had been holding out: strong and milky with one sugar. He took a sip, frowning. At the look on Mark's face he shook his head. "Tea's fine, I was more frowning at what you said."
"Well, you do. Love him, that is."
"I think you're getting respect and a healthy dose of professional fear confused with love," Justin replied, but shrugged. "Love him like family. We're close."
Mark nodded. "Everyone fears and respects him, but we also all trust him. Against our better judgement, sometimes."
Justin couldn't help but agree, and he finished his tea with Mark in silence.
Luther didn't bite his nails; they were flat white chiclets at the end of his broad, wide fingers. However, Justin would watch him bite the skin around his thumbs when he was thinking.
"That girl ain't much older than what, eight?" Luther asked, pulling his thumb away from his mouth. "And she methodically picked off one classmate at a time, like she's been doing this for a long time."
The girl, a small and pretty girl with ginger ringlets and wide green-blue eyes, sat in a room with her harried and prematurely grey mother, colouring. She had killed four classmates. This wasn't a case, really, but Luther just wanted to understand why. The girl, named Delanie Mills from Stratford, East London, had refused to speak to anyone.
Luther had a plan. "You talk to her," he said to Justin, finally.
"She hasn't spoken to anyone on the team, boss," Justin replied. "What makes you think she's gonna wanna talk to me?"
Luther had a way of staring at Justin, appraising and cataloguing every bit of him it seemed: every scratch of his jaw, every crack of every knuckle, every blink. There was an unnatural stillness in the way Luther stared at Justin, but Justin never asked him to stop.
"Just go talk to her."
Justin sat in the room with Delanie and her mother, and watched her drawing butterflies with strange designs on their wings. "Hello, Delanie," Justin began, and Delanie stopped colouring to look at him.
"Hello. What's your name?"
Delanie's mother gasped involuntarily, and Justin lifted a hand to keep her saying anything.
"My name is Justin."
"Hello Justin." She looked down at the picture she had been drawing. "Do you like my butterflies?"
Justin had to remind himself that this girl had killed four of her classmates, in four distinctly horrible ways. "Yes. You are very talented."
Delanie gazed at the picture, almost critically. "You can have it when I'm finished."
"Thank you," Justin said, and something told him to flick on his recorder. "I'm going to record this conversation, all right, Delanie?"
Delanie just nodded, picking up a purple crayon. Delanie's mother cradled her terrible cup of coffee and watched her daughter fearfully. "Vanessa was mean. She tore off all the heads off my dolls and never said sorry."
Vanessa Peters, Delanie's first victim, had been stabbed in both eyes with a pen and found in her back garden's swing.
Justin just nodded. Delanie picked up a blue crayon, drawing clouds. "I am not allowed to write with pens and pencils anymore," she continued, not looking at Justin or her mother.
"Luke hit me very hard," she continued, colouring in her clouds. "I pushed him and he fell."
Lucas Green had been pushed from the school's roof, though it had never been established how Delanie and he had gotten to the roof.
Delanie's mother had gone pale, staring at her daughter. Justin would have loved to be psychic just then, just to hear her thoughts as she tried to reconcile what she knew of her daughter and the words coming out of her mouth.
Justin leaned on the table, and Delanie looked up at him sharply, narrowing her eyes. "You don't like my drawings really."
"Of course I do. Do you have any others?"
Delanie handed over her papers and Justin shuffled through them. They were all normal eight-year-old girl drawings, with horses and birds and butterflies. He turned them over one by one, trying to find something that would give some insight into what made Delanie kill, but he couldn't. He didn't quite know what to think of that.
"Taylor made fun of my dress one day and I didn't like that at all. I thought she was my best friend."
Justin folded his hands over the pictures. Taylor Prince had been pushed in front of a bus and had gotten caught under the front wheel. Justin's stomach nearly recoiled as he recalled the scene. The bus driver was distraught beyond words. Justin had stared at the bloody mess of bones, skin and muscle and had thought of the time he had hit a dog on a drive to Wiltshire.
"And what about Hannah, Delanie?" Justin asked, his voice quiet.
Delanie looked up and smirked. "Oh, her? I don't know, I just thought I'd like to hurt her very badly."
Hannah's skull had been bashed in on the playground, after being pushed and slammed repeatedly into the school wall.
Justin finished up the interview and looked at Delanie's mother. "I've got everything I need. Someone will be with you to discuss your child's case further."
Luther was standing outside of the door when Justin closed it behind him, slumping against it. "See, I told you you could do it."
John just nodded, ignoring the swell of pride somewhere under his left pectoral. "Yeah, thanks boss," he muttered, pushing past him, their arms brushing against each other.
Justin pretended not to notice, his head down as he returned to his office.