“I know you,” said Doctor Piranha, cocking his head to one side and studying her. “You used to be Mirabelle Darcy, did you not?”
“What a queer thing to say,” she replied. “I still am Mirabelle Darcy, of course.”
He nodded. “My apologies. I sometimes forget that other people are real.”
Mirabelle frowned. “Another peculiar remark. You’re just full of them, aren’t you? So, how do you recognize me? We’ve never met before-- have we? You don’t look familiar, but it appears that you’ve had something done to your face. Very good work. Impossibly good, I’d almost say. Who did it?”
“You... You performed plastic surgery on yourself?”
He nodded. “When I was still a teenager.”
“Damn. It must have been painful.”
“I suppose it was. I ignored that part of it.”
“Ignored it,” Mirabelle repeated.
Piranha nodded again. “Blocked it out. I had to, otherwise my hands would have shaken, and I’d have made a hash of it. You’ve performed surgical procedures before, you know they require a calm and steady hand.”
“How do you know what I’ve done?”
He shrugged and smiled at her. It wasn’t much of a smile-- just an upward curling of the corners of his mouth. His strange, cold eyes did not participate.
“Okay,” Mirabelle said after almost a minute of the ghastly silent smile, “let’s just cut the bullshit, shall we? You know who I am, and I know who you are. And you know that I know. You haven’t killed me, and I don’t believe you intend to. You must know why I came here, what I want to talk about.”
“Joe,” he said flatly.
“Joseph Perrone,” Mirabelle said pointedly. “Your brother. Don’t worry, I’m the only one who knows that. What I don’t know is what you did to him.”
More silence. The smile had slipped away. Mirabelle forced herself to keep looking him in the eye. She was damned if she’d be the first one to look away. This went on for quite some time.
“Joe doesn’t know?” Piranha finally said.
“He does not. Nor will he ever, if I have anything to say about it.”
“It wouldn’t do him much good, would it?”
“It would destroy him.”
“You’re very brave, aren’t you?” Piranha said, apropos of nothing, or so it seemed to Mirabelle. She thought for a moment, then spoke:
“Are you kidding me? I’m scared shitless. Any sane person would be. I have broken into one of the most secure prisons in the world, and I’m in a room, alone, with the most dangerous man in the world. That’s what they call you. They say you can kill a person without even thinking about it.”
“And yet here you are.”
“And yet here I am. I’m not brave; I may just be stupid. But here I am.”
“You care about him.”
“That’s obvious. And I think you do too. Whatever you did to him, you thought it was for his own good. I figured that much out. But how do you know? How do you know that whatever you did won’t kill him in the long run, or screw him up in some way you can’t imagine? You’re a mean, ruthless sonofabitch, but something in you cares about your little brother. You ran some heavy risks to make sure he’d be all right. You played God with him is what you did, but I still think that whatever you use for a heart was more or less in the right place when you did it. And now I want to know what it was. I’m smart enough to understand it, don’t worry about that.”