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Already the flies were swarming. Four hours on the hot pavement of South Boston had baked the pulverized flesh, releasing the chemical equivalent of a dinner bell, and the air was alive with buzzing flies. Though what remained of the torso was now covered with a sheet, there was still much exposed tissue for scavengers to feast on. Bits of gray matter and other unidentifiable parts were dispersed in a radius of thirty feet along the street. A skull fragment had landed in a second-story flower box, and clumps of tissue adhered to parked cars.
Detective Jane Rizzoli had always possessed a strong stomach,
but even she had to pause, eyes closed, fists clenched, angry at herself for this moment of weakness. Don't lose it. Don't lose it. She was the only female detective in the Boston P.D.
homicide unit, and she knew that the pitiless spotlight was always trained on her. Every mistake, every triumph, would be noted by all. Her partner, Barry Frost, had already tossed up his breakfast in humiliatingly public view, and he was now sitting with his head on his knees in their air-conditioned vehicle, waiting for his stomach to settle. She could not afford to fall victim to nausea. She was the most visible law enforcement officer on the scene, and from the other side of the police tape the public stood watching, registering every move she made, every detail of her appearance. She knew she looked younger than her age of thirty-four, and she was self-conscious about maintaining an air of authority. What she lacked in height she compensated for with her direct gaze, her squared shoulders. She had learned the art of dominating a scene, if only through sheer intensity.
But this heat was sapping her resolve. She had started off dressed in her usual blazer and slacks and with her hair neatly combed. Now the blazer was off, her blouse was wrinkled, and the humidity had frizzed her dark hair into unruly coils. She felt assaulted on all fronts by the smells, the flies, and the piercing sunlight. There was too much to focus on all at once. And all those eyes were watching her.
Loud voices drew her attention. A man in a dress shirt and tie was trying to argue his way past a patrolman.
"Look, I gotta get to a sales conference, okay? I'm an hour late as it is. But you've got your goddamn police tape wrapped around my car, and now you're saying I can't drive it? It's my own friggin' car!"
"It's a crime scene, sir."
"It's an accident!"
"We haven't determined that yet."
"Does it take you guys all day to figure it out? Why don't you listen to us? The whole neighborhood heard it happen!"
Rizzoli approached the man, whose face was glazed with sweat. It was eleven-thirty and the sun, near its zenith, shone down like a glaring eye.
"What, exactly, did you hear, sir?" she asked.
He snorted. "Same thing everyone else did."
"A loud bang."
"Yeah. Around seven-thirty. I was just getting outta the shower. Looked out my window, and there he was, lying on the sidewalk. You can see it's a bad corner. Asshole drivers come flying around it like bats outta hell. Must've been a truck hit him."
"Did you see a truck?"
"Hear a truck?"
"And you didn't see a car, either?"
"Car, truck." He shrugged. "It's still a hit-and-run."
It was the same story, repeated half a dozen times by the man's neighbors. Sometime between seven-fifteen and seven-thirty
A.M., there'd been a loud bang in the street. No one actually saw the event. They had simply heard the noise and found the man's body. Rizzoli had already considered, and rejected,
the possibility that he was a jumper. This was a neighborhood of two-story buildings, nothing tall enough to explain such catastrophic damage to a jumper's body. Nor did she see any evidence of an explosion as the cause of this much anatomical disintegration.
"Hey, can I get my car out now?" the man said. "It's that green Ford."
"That one with the brains splattered on the trunk?"
"What do you think?" she snapped, and walked away to join the medical examiner, who was crouched in the middle of the road, studying the asphalt. "People on this street are jerks," said
Rizzoli. "No one gives a damn about the victim. No one knows who he is, either."
Dr. Ashford Tierney didn't look up at her but just kept staring at the road. Beneath sparse strands of silver hair, his scalp glistened with sweat. Dr. Tierney seemed older and more weary than she had ever seen him. Now, as he tried to rise, he reached out in a silent request for assistance. She took his hand and she could feel, transmitted through that hand, the creak of tired bones and arthritic joints. He was an old southern gentleman, a native of Georgia, and he'd never warmed to Rizzoli's Boston bluntness, just as she had never warmed to his formality. The only thing they had in common was the human remains that passed across Dr. Tierney's autopsy table. But as she helped him to his feet, she was saddened by his frailty and reminded of her own grandfather, whose favorite grandchild she had been, perhaps because he'd recognized himself in her pride, her tenaciousness.
She remembered helping him out of his easy chair,
how his stroke-numbed hand had rested like a claw on her arm.
Even men as fierce as Aldo Rizzoli are ground down by time to brittle bones and joints. She could see its effect in Dr. Tierney,
who wobbled in the heat as he took out his handkerchief and dabbed the sweat from his forehead.
"This is one doozy of a case to close out my career," he said.
"So tell me, are you coming to my retirement party, Detective?"
"Uh . . . what party?" said Rizzoli.
"The one you all are planning to surprise me with."
She sighed. Admitted, "Yeah, I'm coming."
"Ha. I always could get a straight answer from you. Is it next week?"
"Two weeks. And I didn't tell you, okay?"
"I'm glad you did." He looked down at the asphalt. "I don't much like surprises."
"So what do we have here, Doc? Hit-and-run?"
"This seems to be the point of impact."
Rizzoli looked down at the large splash of blood. Then she looked at the sheet-draped corpse, which was lying a good twelve feet away, on the sidewalk.
"You're saying he first hit the ground here, and then bounced way over there?" said Rizzoli.
"It would appear so."
"That's got to be a pretty big truck to cause this much splatter."
"Not a truck," was Tierney's enigmatic answer. He started walking along the road, eyes focused downward.
Rizzoli followed him, batting at swarms of flies. Tierney came to a stop about thirty feet away and pointed to a grayish clump on the curb.
"More brain matter," he noted.
"A truck didn't do this?" said Rizzoli.
"No. Or a car, either."
"What about the tire marks on the vic's shirt?"
Tierney straightened, his eyes scanning the street, the sidewalks,
the buildings. "Do you notice something quite interesting about this scene, Detective?"
"Apart from the fact there's a dead guy over there who's missing his brain?"
"Look at the point of impact." Tierney gestured toward the spot in the road where he'd been crouching earlier. "See the dispersal pattern of body parts?"
"Yeah. He splattered in all directions. Point of impact is at the center."
"It's a busy street," said Rizzoli. "Vehicles do come around that corner too fast. Plus, the vic has tire marks on his shirt."
"Let's go look at those marks again."
As they walked back to the corpse, they were joined by Barry
Frost, who had finally emerged from the car, looking wan and a little embarrassed.
"Man, oh man," he groaned.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"You think maybe I picked up the stomach flu or something?"
"Or something." She'd always liked Frost, had always appreciated his sunny and uncomplaining nature, and she hated to see his pride laid so low. She gave him a pat on the shoulder, a motherly smile. Frost seemed to invite mothering, even from the decidedly unmaternal Rizzoli. "I'll just pack you a barf bag next time," she offered.
"You know," he said, trailing after her, "I really do think it's just the flu. . . ."
They reached the torso. Tierney grunted as he squatted down, his joints protesting the latest insult, and lifted the disposable sheet. Frost blanched and retreated a step. Rizzoli fought the impulse to do the same.
The torso had broken into two parts, separated at the level of the umbilicus. The top half, wearing a beige cotton shirt,
stretched east to west. The bottom half, wearing blue jeans, lay north to south. The halves were connected by only a few strands of skin and muscle. The internal organs had spilled out and lay in a pulpified mass. The back half of the skull had shattered open, and the brain had been ejected.
"Young male, well nourished, appears to be of Hispanic or
Mediterranean origin, in his twenties to thirties," said Tierney.
"I see obvious fractures of the thoracic spine, ribs, clavicles, and skull."
"Couldn't a truck do this?" Rizzoli asked.
"It's certainly possible a truck could have caused massive injuries like these." He looked at Rizzoli, his pale-blue eyes chal-
lenging hers. "But no one heard or saw such a vehicle. Did they?"
"Unfortunately, no," she admitted.
Frost finally managed a comment. "You know, I don't think those are tire tracks on his shirt."
Rizzoli focused on the black streaks across the front of the victim's shirt. With a gloved hand, she touched one of the smears, and looked at her finger. A smudge of black had transferred to her latex glove. She stared at it for a moment, processing this new information.
"You're right," she said. "It's not a tire track. It's grease."
She straightened and looked at the road. She saw no bloody tire marks, no auto debris. No pieces of glass or plastic that would have shattered on impact with a human body.
For a moment, no one spoke. They just looked at one another,
as the only possible explanation suddenly clicked into place. As if to confirm the theory, a jet roared overhead. Rizzoli squinted upward, to see a 747 glide past, on its landing approach to Logan International Airport, five miles to the north-east.
"Oh, Jesus," said Frost, shading his eyes against the sun.
"What a way to go. Please tell me he was already dead when he fell."
"There's a good chance of it," said Tierney. "I would guess his body slipped out as the wheels came down, on landing approach.
That's assuming it was an inbound flight."
"Well, yeah," said Rizzoli. "How many stowaways are trying to get out of the country?" She looked at the dead man's olive complexion. "So he's coming in on a plane, say, from South
"It would've been flying at an altitude of at least thirty thousand feet," said Tierney. "Wheel wells aren't pressurized. A
stowaway would be dealing with rapid decompression. Frostbite.
Even in high summer, the temperatures at those altitudes are freezing. A few hours under those conditions, he'd be hypothermic and unconscious from lack of oxygen. Or already crushed when the landing gear retracted on takeoff. A prolonged ride in the wheel well would probably finish him off."
Rizzoli's pager cut into the lecture. And a lecture it would surely turn into; Dr. Tierney was just beginning to hit his professorial stride. She glanced at the number on her beeper but did not recognize it. A Newton prefix. She reached for her cell phone and dialed.
"Detective Korsak," a man answered.
"This is Rizzoli. Did you page me?"
"You on a cell phone, Detective?"
"Can you get to a landline?"
"Not at the moment, no." She did not know who Detective
Korsak was, and she was anxious to cut this call short. "Why don't you tell me what this is about?"
A pause. She heard voices in the background and the crackle of a cop's walkie-talkie. "I'm at a scene out here in Newton," he said. "I think you should come out and see this."
"Are you requesting Boston P.D. assistance? Because I can refer you to someone else in our unit."
"I tried reaching Detective Moore, but they said he's on leave. That's why I'm calling you." Again he paused. And added,
with quiet significance: "It's about that case you and Moore headed up last summer. You know the one."
She fell silent. She knew exactly what he was referring to.
The memories of that investigation still haunted her, still surfaced in her nightmares.
"Go on," she said softly.
"You want the address?" he asked.
She took out her notepad.
A moment later, she hung up and turned her attention back to Dr. Tierney.
"I've seen similar injuries in sky divers whose parachutes fail to open," he said. "From that height, a falling body would reach terminal velocity. That's nearly two hundred feet per second. It's enough to cause the disintegration we see here."
"It's a hell of a price to pay to get to this country," said Frost.
Another jet roared overhead, its shadow swooping past like an eagle's.
Rizzoli gazed up at the sky. Imagined a body falling, tumbling a thousand feet. Thought of the cold air whistling past.
And then warmer air, as the ground spins ever closer.
She looked at the sheet-draped remains of a man who had dared to dream of a new world, a brighter future.
Welcome to America.
The Newton patrolman posted in front of the house was just a rookie, and he did not recognize Rizzoli. He stopped her at the perimeter of the police tape and addressed her with a brusque tone that matched his newly minted uniform. His name tag said: RIDGE.
"This is a crime scene, ma'am."
"I'm Detective Rizzoli, Boston P.D. Here to see Detective
She hadn't expected such a request, and she had to dig in her purse for her badge. In the city of Boston, just about every patrolman knew exactly who she was. One short drive out of her territory, into this well-heeled suburb, and suddenly she was reduced to fumbling for her badge. She held it right up to his nose.
He took one look and flushed. "I'm really sorry, ma'am. See,
there was this asshole reporter who talked her way past me just a few minutes ago. I wasn't gonna let that happen again."
"Is Korsak inside?"
She eyed the jumble of vehicles parked on the street, among them a white van with COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS,
OFFICE OF THE MEDICAL EXAMINER stenciled on the side.
"How many victims?" she asked.
"One. They're getting ready to move him out now."
The patrolman lifted the tape to let her pass into the front yard. Birds chirped and the air smelled like sweet grass. You're not in South Boston anymore, she thought. The landscaping was immaculate, with clipped boxwood hedges and a lawn that was bright Astro Turf green. She paused on the brick walkway and stared up at the roofline with its Tudor accents. Lord of the fake English manor was what came to mind. This was not a house,
nor a neighborhood, that an honest cop could ever afford.
"Some digs, huh?" Patrolman Ridge called out to her.
"What did this guy do for a living?"
"I hear he was some kind of surgeon."
Surgeon. For her, the word had special meaning, and the sound of it pierced her like an icy needle, chilling her even on this warm day. She looked at the front door and saw that the knob was sooty with fingerprint powder. She took a deep breath,
pulled on latex gloves, and slipped paper booties over her shoes.
Inside, she saw polished oak floors and a stairwell that rose to cathedral heights. A stained-glass window let in glowing lozenges of color.
She heard the whish-whish of paper shoe covers, and a bear of a man lumbered into the hallway. Though he was dressed in businesslike attire, with a neatly knotted tie, the effect was ruined by the twin continents of sweat staining his underarms. His shirtsleeves were rolled up, revealing beefy arms bristling with dark hair. "Rizzoli?" he asked.
"One and the same."
He came toward her, arm outstretched, then remembered he was wearing gloves and let his hand fall again. "Vince Korsak.
Sorry I couldn't say more over the phone, but everyone's got a scanner these days. Already had one reporter worm her way in here. What a bitch."
"So I heard."
"Look, I know you're probably wondering what the hell you're doing way out here. But I followed your work last year.
You know, the Surgeon killings. I thought you'd want to see this."
Her mouth had gone dry. "What've you got?"
"Vic's in the family room. Dr. Richard Yeager, age thirty-six.
Orthopedic surgeon. This is his residence."
She glanced up at the stained-glass window. "You Newton boys get the upscale homicides."
"Hey, Boston P.D. can have 'em all. This isn't supposed to happen out here. Especially weird shit like this."
Korsak led the way down the hall, into the family room. Rizzoli's first view was of brilliant sunlight flooding through a two-story wall of ground-to-ceiling windows. Despite the number of crime scene techs at work here, the room felt spacious and stark,
all white walls and gleaming wood floors.
And blood. No matter how many crime scenes she walked into, that first sight of blood always shocked her. A comet's tail of arterial splatter had shot across the wall and trickled down in streamers. The source of that blood, Dr. Richard Yeager, sat with his back propped up against the wall, his wrists bound behind him. He was wearing only boxer shorts, and his legs were stretched out in front of him, the ankles bound with duct tape.
His head lolled forward, obscuring her view of the wound that had released the fatal hemorrhage, but she did not need to see the slash to know that it had gone deep, to the carotid and the windpipe. She was already too familiar with the aftermath of such a wound, and she could read his final moments in the pattern of blood: the artery spurting, the lungs filling up, the victim aspirating through his severed windpipe. Drowning in his own blood. Exhaled tracheal spray had dried on his bare chest. Judging by his broad shoulders and his musculature, he had been physically fitsurely capable of fighting back against an attacker.
Yet he had died with head bowed, in a posture of obeisance.
The two morgue attendants had already brought in their stretcher and were standing by the body, considering how best to move a corpse that was frozen in rigor mortis.
"When the M.E. saw him at ten A.M.," said Korsak, "livor mortis was fixed, and he was in full rigor. She estimated the time of death somewhere between midnight and three A.M."
"Who found him?"
"His office nurse. When he didn't show up at the clinic this morning and he didn't answer his phone, she drove over to check on him. Found him around nine A.M. There's no sign of his wife."
Rizzoli looked at Korsak. "Wife?"
"Gail Yeager, age thirty-one. She's missing."
The chill Rizzoli had felt standing by the Yeagers' front door was back again. "An abduction?"
"I'm just saying she's missing."
Rizzoli stared at Richard Yeager, whose muscle-bound body had proved no match for Death. "Tell me about these people.
"Happy couple. That's what everyone says."
"That's what they always say."
"In this case, it does seem to be true. Only been married two years. Bought this house a year ago. She's an O.R. nurse at his hospital, so they had the same circle of friends, same work schedule."
"That's a lot of togetherness."
"Yeah, I know. It'd drive me bonkers if I had to hang around with my wife all day. But they seemed to get along fine. Last month, he took two whole weeks off, just to stay home with her after her mother died. How much you figure an orthopedic surgeon makes in two weeks, huh? Fifteen, twenty thousand bucks?
That's some expensive comfort he was giving her."
"She must have needed it."
Korsak shrugged. "Still."
"So you found no reason why she'd walk out on him."
"Much less whack him."
Rizzoli glanced at the family room windows. Trees and shrubbery blocked any view of neighboring houses. "You said the time of death was between midnight and three."
"Did the neighbors hear anything?"
"Folks to the left are in Paris. Ooh la la. Neighbors to the right slept soundly all night."
"Kitchen window. Screen pried off, used a glass cutter. Size eleven shoeprints in the flower bed. Same prints tracked blood in this room." He took out a handkerchief and wiped his moist forehead. Korsak was one of those unlucky individuals for whom no antiperspirant was powerful enough. Just in the few minutes they'd been conversing, the sweat stains in his shirt had spread.
"Okay, let's slide him away from the wall," one of the morgue attendants said. "Tip him onto the sheet."
"Watch the head! It's slipping!"
Rizzoli and Korsak fell silent as Dr. Yeager was laid sideways on a disposable sheet. Rigor mortis had stiffened the corpse into a ninety-degree angle, and the attendants debated how to arrange him on the stretcher, given his grotesque posture.
Rizzoli suddenly focused on a chip of white lying on the floor, where the body had been sitting. She crouched down to retrieve what appeared to be a tiny shard of china.
"Broken teacup," said Korsak.
"There was a teacup and saucer next to the victim. Looked like it fell off his lap or something. We've already packed it up for prints." He saw her puzzled look and he shrugged. "Don't ask me."
"Yeah. Ritual tea party for the dead guy."
She stared at the small chip of china lying in her gloved palm and considered what it meant. A knot had formed in her stomach.
A terrible sense of familiarity. A slashed throat. Duct tape bindings. Nocturnal entry through a window. The victim or victims surprised while asleep.
And a missing woman.
"Where's the bedroom?" she asked. Not wanting to see it.
Afraid to see it.
"Okay. This is what I wanted you to look at."
The hallway that led to the bedroom was hung with framed black-and-white photographs. Not the smiling-family poses that most houses displayed, but stark images of female nudes, the faces obscured or turned from the camera, the torsos anonymous.
A woman embracing a tree, smooth skin pressed against rough bark. A seated woman bent forward, her long hair cascading down between her bare thighs. A woman reaching for the sky, torso glistening with the sweat of vigorous exercise. Rizzoli paused to study a photo that had been knocked askew.
"These are all the same woman," she said.
"Looks like they had a kinky thing going, huh?"
She stared at Gail Yeager's finely toned body. "I don't think it's kinky at all. These are beautiful pictures."
"Yeah, whatever. Bedroom's in here." He pointed through the doorway.
She stopped at the threshold. Inside was a king-size bed, its covers thrown back, as though its occupants had been abruptly roused from sleep. On the shell-pink carpet, the nylon pile had been flattened in two separate swaths leading from the bed to the doorway.
Rizzoli said, softly, "They were both dragged from the bed."
Korsak nodded. "Our perp surprises them in bed. Somehow subdues them. Binds their wrists and ankles. Drags them across the carpet and into the hallway, where the wood floor begins."
She was baffled by the killer's actions. She imagined him standing where she was now, looking in at the sleeping couple.
A window high over the bed, uncurtained, would have spilled enough light to see which was the man and which the woman.
He would go to Dr. Yeager first. It was the logical thing to do, to control the man. Leave the woman for later. This much Rizzoli could envision. The approach, the initial attack. What she did not understand was what came next.
"Why move them?" she said. "Why not kill Dr. Yeager right here? What was the point of bringing them out of the bedroom?"
"I don't know." He pointed through the doorway. "It's all been photographed. You can go in."
Reluctantly she entered the room, avoiding the drag marks on the carpet, and crossed to the bed. She saw no blood on the sheets or the covers. On one pillow was a long blond strand
Mrs. Yeager's side of the bed, she thought. She turned to the dresser, where a framed photograph of the couple confirmed that Gail Yeager was indeed a blonde. A pretty one, too, with light-blue eyes and a dusting of freckles on deeply tanned skin.
Dr. Yeager had his arm draped around her shoulder and projected the brawny confidence of a man who knows he is physically imposing. Not a man who would one day end up dead in his underwear, his hands and feet bound.
"It's on the chair," said Korsak.
"Look at the chair."
She turned to face the corner of the room and saw an antique ladder-back chair. Lying on the seat was a folded nightgown.
Moving closer, she saw bright spatters of red staining the cream satin.
The hairs on the back of her neck were suddenly bristling,
and for a few seconds she forgot to breathe.
She reached down and lifted one corner of the garment. The underside of the fold was spattered as well.
"We don't know whose blood it is," said Korsak. "It could be
Dr. Yeager's; it could be the wife's."
"It was already stained before he folded it."
"But there's no other blood in this room. Which means it got splattered in the other room. Then he brought it into this bedroom. Folded it nice and neat. Placed it on that chair, like a little parting gift." Korsak paused. "Does that remind you of someone?"
She swallowed. "You know it does."
"This killer is copying your boy's old signature."
"No, this is different. This is all different. The Surgeon never attacked couples."
"The folded nightclothes. The duct tape. The victims surprised in bed."
"Warren Hoyt chose single women. Victims he could quickly subdue."
"But look at the similarities! I'm telling you, we've got a copycat. Some wacko who's been reading about the Surgeon."
Rizzoli was still staring at the nightgown, remembering other bedrooms, other scenes of death. It had happened during a summer of unbearable heat, like this one, when women slept with their windows open and a man named Warren Hoyt crept into their homes. He brought with him his dark fantasies and his scalpels, the instruments with which he performed his bloody rituals on victims who were awake and aware of every slice of his blade. She gazed at that nightgown, and a vision of Hoyt's utterly ordinary face sprang clearly to mind, a face that still surfaced in her nightmares.
But this is not his work. Warren Hoyt is safely locked away in a place he can't escape. I know, because I put the bastard there myself.
"The Boston Globe printed every juicy detail," said Korsak.
"Your boy even made it into the New York Times. Now this perp is reenacting it."
"No, your killer is doing things Hoyt never did. He drags this couple out of the bedroom, into another room. He props up the man in a sitting position, then slashes his neck. It's more like an execution. Or part of a ritual. Then there's the woman. He kills the husband, but what does he do with the wife?" She stopped,
suddenly remembering the shard of china on the floor. The broken teacup. Its significance blew through her like an icy wind.
Without a word, she walked out of the bedroom and returned to the family room. She looked at the wall where the corpse of
Dr. Yeager had been sitting. She looked down at the floor and began to pace a wider and wider circle, studying the spatters of blood on the wood.
"Rizzoli?" said Korsak.
She turned to the windows and squinted against the sunlight.
"It's too bright in here. And there's so much glass. We can't cover it all. We'll have to come back tonight."
"You thinking of using a Lumalite?"
"We'll need ultraviolet to see it."
"What are you looking for?"
She turned back to the wall. "Dr. Yeager was sitting there when he died. Our unknown subject dragged him from the bedroom.
Propped him up against that wall, and made him face the center of the room."
"Why was he placed there? Why go to all that trouble while the victim's still alive? There had to be a reason."
"He was put there to watch something. To be a witness to what happened in this room."
At last Korsak's face registered appalled comprehension. He stared at the wall, where Dr. Yeager had sat, an audience of one in a theater of horror.
"Oh, Jesus," he said.