Police Sgt. Lou Boldt heads a special task force within Seattle’s homicide bureau. His job: find and stop the Cross Killer, a twisted, perverse serial murderer who has eluded police for six months and paralyzed the city. But when a body washes up on the shore of Puget Sound, Boldt thinks the killer has finally made a mistake. This body shows some of the work of the Cross Killer—but a job badly botched. Did this woman die while trying to escape? Did she knowingly jump in the water to preserve a clue? And is she now desperately trying to tell Boldt something? With the help of the alluring Daphne Matthews, a police psychologist, Boldt must piece together the complex puzzle.
From the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of the Chris Klick series and the Walt Fleming series, this thriller reveals “an authentic feeling for police investigation and forensic medicine, and a remarkable insight and understanding of the motivations of the criminal mind” (Publishers Weekly).
“Pearson has done well at putting together the grueling steps in an investigation . . . His characters are believable, and it’s an enjoyable entertainment.” —Chicago Tribune
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About the Author
Hometown:St. Louis, Missouri
Date of Birth:March 13, 1953
Place of Birth:Glen Cove, New York
Education:Kansas University, B.A., Brown University
Read an Excerpt
As he stepped off the jetway, Lou Boldt spotted the child held in the woman's arms, a keen sense of expectation in the young blue eyes as they briefly caught his own. The child attempted to kick loose from her mother, who set the girl down, allowing her to run to greet her father, a rather average-looking executive-type a few people back. It was symbolic to Lou Boldt that the child should pass him by. He felt as if everyone, everything were passing him by, taking no notice. Perhaps it was his own fault. Yes, perhaps he was invisible. Perhaps what he wanted was to be unseen and left alone.
He heard the child giggle and found himself tempted to turn around. He loved the musical sound of a child laughing. Was there anything more beautiful? Anything more missing from his life?
But right now the child didn't matter.
The killings had started again; that was all that mattered. He maneuvered his way through the arriving passengers, his mind elsewhere, eyes trained toward the floor as he absentmindedly watched the colorless toes of his scuffed shoes.
He didn't want to believe it was the work of the same man. He had consumed the better part of the short flight from Portland to Seattle struggling with the thought, trying to convince himself it could not be. The killings had ended with that horrible scene in the courtroom. He had suffered through that incident — the whole city had suffered — and that had been the end of it. But nothing is ever that simple, he now thought, waiting for the line at the escalator to move.
He broke free of the line and, carrying his hanging bag effortlessly, charged down the stairs instead, drawing looks from those to his right who descended silently, their curled fingers gripping the fat black rubber rail for support. There was no rail for Boldt to grasp, nothing automatic about the job before him. Again, he found himself eyeing the dull toes of his shoes in order to avoid a disastrous and embarrassing fall, and he thought he should have them shined.
In the men's room he caught sight of himself in the mirror and realized he looked older than his thirty-nine years. This case was taking its toll. His whole act needed a shine, not just the shoes. The age of his suit reflected a detective's salary; he had spilled coffee onto his new tie — when and where, he had no idea; he had missed a spot shaving, eager to catch the first flight out of Portland; his face was pale and gaunt. And if the sun represented enthusiasm and energy, then he thought his spirit pale as well: he felt tired, nearly exhausted. He splashed some cold water onto his face, then discovered there were no paper towels. He resorted to rubbing his face briskly in the noisy jet of a hot-air dryer, lukewarm air that smelled like urinal deodorizers. The stream of forced air stirred his thin sandy hair into a rooster crown, but Boldt didn't notice.
He wanted to be at the crime scene. Now. Precious hours had been lost. He had no desire to be standing at the curb waiting to be picked up. He, better than most, understood the importance of the crime scene, and the need to get there quickly. Any disturbance at the crime scene could throw him off. He worried that some of the evidence had already been disturbed, its value negated, the site made stale. It gives you the advantage, he thought, looking into the dizzying sea of unfamiliar faces of the hundreds of people swarming the sidewalk, wondering: Are you still out there somewhere? Not fully believing it.
Had the wrong man died in that courtroom? Was it possible? He scanned the faces in the crowd, as if someone might provide him with the answers, but of course as a homicide detective, people looked to him for the answers, not the other way around. He was considered the expert. He was the one who had been invited to Portland to speak at a criminology seminar. His topic: Methodology in the Murder Investigation: The Victim Speaks.
In any case, he knew he was ultimately responsible. He would have to catch the killer.
If the killer existed.
* * *
A two-door Ford double-parked at the curb, its wipers fighting back the drizzle. The driver waved Boldt into the passenger seat. Recognizing the man, Boldt hesitated briefly, bent at the waist, staring from the sidewalk. When things start going against you, he thought, they get going in a big way. When the killings start up again, they send Kramer to pick you up. Wonderful.
Boldt pushed his hanging bag into the front seat, climbed in, slammed the door, and brushed the tiny silver droplets of rainwater from the wrinkled sleeves of his sports jacket, avoiding eye contact with Kramer. No sense in starting this off on the wrong foot. The two men sat in silence. Kramer switched on the wipers and put the car in gear and pulled out into traffic. The radio was tuned to a Muzak station. Boldt leaned over and switched it off. Kramer adjusted his tie and checked the outside mirror. The tires whined against the wet pavement. The wiper on Boldt's side only served to blur the windshield. He looked down and brushed at the stain on his tie.
"You mind?" Kramer complained, elbowing the hanging bag. Boldt tossed it into the backseat. Kramer switched the radio back on. "I'm driving," he explained. "Music helps me relax."
Boldt sighed and laid his head back on the headrest, closing his eyes. The Muzak annoyed him and Kramer knew it. Boldt was a jazz pianist by hobby, formerly by profession — it had helped pay his way through college — and this insipid dribble from the car speaker was as obnoxious to him as a hot dog to a gourmet. Kramer knew it all right. It was lifeless, uninspired, and Boldt realized how perfectly suited it was to Kramer. The two went together like Roy and Trigger.
"How certain are we?" Boldt finally asked. It was the question he had been intentionally avoiding. "About the killings, I mean."
"You don't have to sound happy about it."
Kramer toyed with the rearview mirror.
"I didn't make the assignments," Lou Boldt reminded, knowing what was bothering Kramer.
"You want to head out there straight away?"
"Is that the plan?"
"You're the one who makes the plans, right?" Kramer sounded like a five-year-old.
It was a blatant exaggeration. Lieutenant Shoswitz headed the Special Task Force. Kramer and Boldt were sergeants of equal rank assigned to Shoswitz. Each oversaw several pairs of homicide detectives — Kramer from a desk, Boldt from the field. Therein lay the difference, and to Kramer it was obviously an unforgivable slight. He held it against Boldt, despite the fact that neither of them had had anything to do with the command structure within the task force. The captain had issued the assignments in early May, following the second murder and the resulting flood of national press. One article had claimed that Seattle had logged more serial murders in the last decade than any U.S. city — a statement Lou Boldt questioned. As a result of those assignments, the prestigious job — the fieldwork — belonged to Boldt. Now early October, it seemed like years to both men.
"You're as important to this thing as I am. We both know that." Boldt had not made this kind of overture in weeks. But this latest killing meant they could be starting over, so he figured it was worth a try.
Kramer said nothing, softened momentarily by Boldt's attempt. He made a face, changed lanes and accelerated. The Ford sped down the slick highway, frenzied wipers fighting backwash from a semitruck. The Muzak droned from the speaker. Boldt said, "I would think you'd be happy. I'm the one the press will tear apart. Not you." Boldt knew how important the press was to Kramer. The man was always being quoted in the newspapers. It seemed to give him a sense of purpose, a sense of power.
"The press maybe, not the department. Shoswitz is still convinced you're the one who can solve this thing. I won't pretend I didn't try to get our assignments switched — you'll hear about it anyway. You bet I did. But Shoswitz wouldn't have anything to do with it. He said 'the batting order was all set' and there was no use 'changing the infield.' He talks about you like you're some kind of boy wonder."
"Hardly," Boldt groaned.
"You don't have to tell me that," replied Kramer. "He said the Jergensen thing was everyone's fault. Mostly the press. I heard him arguing on your behalf with the captain. Said it was you who suggested tighter security at the omnibus hearing. Claimed you'd been making noise about that for a couple years now. That true?"
Boldt felt cornered. "Yeah," he huffed, annoyed that Kramer could make him feel bad about being right.
"Shit," Kramer spit out under his breath, and pressed down on the accelerator. The speeding made Boldt nervous. He chewed down a Tums, and strapped on his seat belt. This angered Kramer all the more. He drove faster. "So Jergensen gets shot and killed for something he didn't do."
"We can't be sure of that," Boldt corrected.
"Certainly looks that way. You and I both know we didn't have much of anything on Jergensen. If Daphne hadn't leaked that report, Jergensen would probably still be alive. Just plain bad luck that he fit the description of the killer so well."
"It wasn't Daffy's fault. It was the FBI's BSU profile. A number of us had access to it. Yourself included. Any one of us could have passed it to the press. Whoever did, got a man killed, and I guarantee you it wasn't Daffy."
"You're always defending her. Why would that be? Why would a happily married man like you always come to her rescue?"
Boldt glared at the man and sat up stiffly. "You're lucky we're doing seventy on a wet highway, Kramer."
"Always the tough cop, huh, Boldt? I don't buy it. Not from you. I buy the image of the fag jazz musician a lot easier."
Boldt took hold of the volume knob and turned the radio off. He turned so hard that he accidentally broke off the knob. He stared at it in his hand. Kramer whined, "That's coming off your paycheck, not mine."
Boldt grimaced. Children's games. Kramer always brought out the worst in him. He rubbed his gut. It had given him hell since August. For the last few weeks there had been blood in his stool. And now he had Jergensen's death on his conscience. The man had stolen a television set — for all Boldt knew that was the full extent of his crime. That was why they all had been at the hearing. Any connection beyond that had been speculation by a hungry press.
Kramer pulled the car into the middle lane and slowed down. The drizzle had let up. He switched the wipers to intermittent.
The windshield in front of Boldt grew even more blurry. It made him nauseous. "We're all to blame for Jergensen."
"And now this," Kramer said.
"Yes," agreed Boldt, nodding his head slowly. "Now this."CHAPTER 2
N.W. Seventy-fourth Street, three blocks from Green Lake, was quiet, narrow, and steep, lined with tightly packed houses, some of which had been converted into apartments. They passed a tiny island in the center of the intersection that served to slow traffic. Cars were parked on the left side only. Electrical wires tangled overhead in a spider web of black. Boldt wished the wires ran underground. They were an eyesore.
"That it?" Boldt asked. They parked in front of a light green two- story house with a driveway on the left.
"Take it slow. Give me the first officer report."
Kramer paraphrased, "Victim's name: Cheryl Croy. She didn't show up at work and didn't call in sick. She's a legal assistant — an executive secretary. Two co-workers, a Gail Lumbard, another secretary, and a Richard Rice, a paralegal, came by to have a look around. That was five fifty-five P.M., Monday. They observed the victim's car parked in the carport and approached the back door, which they found locked. The front door was locked as well. They circled the house, whereupon Rice observed an open window in the back. By standing on a trash can he was able to reach the window. He smelled what he regarded as possible decomposition. He did not touch the window or frame. Lumbard placed the phone call from down by the lake. A patrol arrived shortly thereafter and took statements from both Lumbard and Rice. Because the location was close to Green Lake and because of the previous killings, the first officer had the good sense not to go inside, but to call in Homicide. Our people arrived and established a crime scene that included the entire property. They observed two other open windows, both on the second story." Kramer referred to the photocopies of the reports. "One on the north side of the house, one on the east."
"How far were the windows opened?"
"It doesn't say. I wasn't here."
Boldt made a note to himself. "You said the co-workers came by on Monday?" Kramer nodded. "What was your weather on Monday?"
"Off and on."
"How about Sunday night? When I left it was nice."
"Yeah. That's what I remember too. Real nice. Started raining about midnight I think."
"So the time of death is estimated between six and midnight on Sunday night," Boldt stated.
Kramer nodded somewhat childlike. "Because?"
"Because of the windows, right? She would have shut them."
He nodded again.
"And because all of the killings are in the evenings." Boldt rolled down his window. "How about the death scene?"
"Don't you want to go inside?" Kramer asked.
"In a minute." He reached out. "You want me to read it?"
"No, that's all right."
Boldt was trying to give Kramer a chance to participate in the fieldwork. He would have preferred to be here alone. At any rate, in a minute, he would be alone.
Kramer read from the next report and again paraphrased, "No ceiling lights on in the entire house. A night-light was operating in the master bath. Nothing from the neighbors, so far."
"Who'd you put on it?"
"Shoswitz assigned it to LaMoia. He entered the premises alone, to reduce the chance of disturbance. This is the cleanest scene we've had yet, Boldt. LaMoia did the initial report. Then Doc Dixon. Then Abrams." Dixon — whom Boldt called Dixie — chief pathologist and King County Medical Examiner, was a close friend of Boldt's, as was Chuck Abrams — Abe — the veteran I.D. technician. "Abrams dusted the place. He was real careful, as usual. LaMoia shot color photos and a videotape. He sketched a floor plan that shows all the angles the photographs were taken from. He filled out a VICAP report and a death-scene checklist while Doc Dixon examined the body." Kramer turned pages.
"Croy was found faceup on the bed, ligature around her neck, multiple stab wounds about the chest. A cross cut into her in the same way. Doc thinks he used a kitchen knife, like he did with the others. A piece of her nightgown is still around her neck, but the nightgown is missing."
"So he kept another souvenir," Boldt said.
"It's identical in every way. He tied her to the bed, strangled her, untied her, turned her over, and left his mark. It's him."
"Have we looked for the nightgown?"
"Thoroughly. Same program. Same guy. He took the nightgown with him. This guy's getting quite a collection. Maybe he'll open a boutique."
"Glass of milk, empty, by her bed. Last mail she had opened arrived Saturday. Monday's mail is still in the box. She had a Sunday paper in the kitchen. Fashion section by her bed. We didn't touch anything we didn't have to. Shoswitz says you can handle it however you want. No evidence of robbery. I.D. lifted traces of that same mud — an oil-gasoline mixture — from the front porch. This is what, the third time we've found it? Could be from an outboard motor, chain saw, weed eater. No way to tell. Last contact with victim not yet known, but believed to be a boyfriend — a guy named Marquette — on Friday night. We found some rolling papers in a stash box in the living room along with about a quarter ounce of smoke. No other paraphernalia. Japanese vibrator found in her bedside table. Pretty common unit, sold by mail order. No other evidence of any deviate sexual practices. That's about it."
"I.D. vacuumed the shit out of that place. Trace evidence is already at the crime lab. You're interested in the red fibers, I take it?"
"That's right." Several years back, in the name of efficiency, the police lab had been dismantled in favor of a state-budgeted crime lab. Its services were used jointly by the FBI, Police, and Fire — charges billed separately to each. The result was an often overworked, occasionally inefficient laboratory that analyzed evidence gleaned by SPD's I.D. technicians or the detectives themselves.
"If there were any we've got 'em. We took six separate bags, front and back doors inside and out, stairway, and several in the bedroom."
"Oh, there's one other thing," Kramer said, flipping back through the pages. Boldt looked over at him. Kramer had freckles and light green eyes and golden rust hair. He looked like something out of a Walt Disney movie. "LaMoia noticed a strange smell in the air. Medicinal. It was familiar to him but he couldn't place it. The bag boys Doc Dixon used mentioned the same thing. No one could place it."
"That's what they said."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Undercurrents"
Copyright © 2014 Ridley Pearson.
Excerpted by permission of RosettaBooks.
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