/ Language: English / Genre:thriller

The Bone Collector

Jeffery Deaver

Once the nation's foremost criminologist and the ex-head of NYPD forensics, quadriplegic Lincoln Rhyme abandons his forced retirement and joins forces with rookie cop Amelia Sachs to track down a vicious serial killer.

Jeffery Deaver

The Bone Collector

The first book in the Lincoln Rhyme series, 1997

For my family,

Dee, Danny, Julie, Ethel

and Nelson

Apples don’t fall far

And for Diana too.

I . KING FOR A DAY

The present in New York is so powerful

that the past is lost.

– JOHN JAY CHAPMAN

ONE

Friday, 10:30 p.m., to Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

SHE WANTED ONLY TO SLEEP.

The plane had touched down two hours late and there’d been a marathon wait for the luggage. And then the car service had messed up; the limo’d left an hour ago. So now they were waiting for a cab.

She stood in the line of passengers, her lean body listing against the weight of her laptop computer. John rattled on about interest rates and new ways of restructuring the deal but all she could think was: Friday night, 10:30. I wanna pull on my sweats and hit the hay.

Gazing at the endless stream of Yellow Cabs. Something about the color and the similarity of the cars reminded her of insects. And she shivered with the creepy-crawly feeling she remembered from her childhood in the mountains when she and her brother’d find a gut-killed badger or kick over a red-ant nest and gaze at the wet mass of squirming bodies and legs.

T.J. Colfax shuffled forward as the cab pulled up and squealed to a stop.

The cabbie popped the trunk but stayed in the car. They had to load their own luggage, which ticked John off. He was used to people doing things for him. Tammie Jean didn’t care; she was still occasionally surprised to find that she had a secretary to type and file for her. She tossed her suitcase in, closed the trunk and climbed inside.

John got in after her, slammed the door and mopped his pudgy face and balding scalp as if the effort of pitching his suit-bag in the trunk had exhausted him.

“First stop East Seventy-second,” John muttered through the divider.

“Then the Upper West Side,” T.J. added. The Plexiglas between the front and back seats was badly scuffed and she could hardly see the driver.

The cab shot away from the curb and was soon cruising down the expressway toward Manhattan.

“Look,” John said, “that’s why all the crowds.”

He was pointing at a billboard welcoming delegates to the UN peace conference, which was starting on Monday. There were going to be ten thousand visitors in town. T.J. gazed up at the billboard – blacks and whites and Asians, waving and smiling. There was something wrong about the artwork, though. The proportions and the colors were off. And the faces all seemed pasty.

T.J. muttered, “Body snatchers.”

They sped along the broad expressway, which glared an uneasy yellow under the highway lights. Past the old Navy Yard, past the Brooklyn piers.

John finally stopped talking and pulled out his Texas Instruments, started crunching some numbers. T.J. sat back in the seat, looking at the steamy sidewalks and sullen faces of people sitting on the brownstone stoops overlooking the highway. They seemed half-comatose in the heat.

It was hot in the cab too and T.J. reached for the button to lower the window. She wasn’t surprised to find that it didn’t work. She reached across John. His was broken too. It was then that she noticed that the door locks were missing.

The door handles too.

Her hand slid over the door, feeling for the nub of the handle. Nothing – it was as if someone had cut it off with a hacksaw.

“What?” John asked.

“Well, the doors… How do we open them?”

John was looking from one to the other when the sign for the Midtown Tunnel came and went.

“Hey!” John rapped on the divider. “You missed the turn. Where’re you going?”

“Maybe he’s going to take the Queensboro,” T.J. suggested. The bridge meant a longer route but avoided the tunnel’s toll. She sat forward and tapped on the Plexiglas, using her ring.

“Are you taking the bridge?”

He ignored them.

“Hey!”

And a moment later they sped past the Queensboro turnoff.

“Shit,” John cried. “Where’re you taking us? Harlem. I’ll bet he’s taking us to Harlem.”

T.J. looked out the window. A car was moving parallel to them, passing slowly. She banged on the window hard.

“Help!” she shouted. “Please…”

The car’s driver glanced at her once, then again, frowning. He slowed and pulled behind them but with a hard jolt the cab skidded down an exit ramp into Queens, turned into an alley and sped through a deserted warehouse district. They must’ve been going sixty miles an hour.

“What’re you doing?”

T.J. banged on the divider. “Slow down. Where are? -”

“Oh, God, no,” John muttered. “Look.”

The driver had pulled on a ski mask.

“What do you want?” T.J. shouted.

“Money? We’ll give you money.”

Still, silence from the front of the cab.

T.J. ripped open her Targus bag and pulled out her black laptop. She reared back and slammed the corner of the computer into the window. The glass held though the sound of the bang seemed to scare the hell out of the driver. The cab swerved and nearly hit the brick wall of the building they were speeding past.

“Money! How much? I can give you a lot of money!” John sputtered, tears dripping down his fat cheeks.

T.J. rammed the window again with the laptop. The screen flew off under the force of the blow but the window remained intact.

She tried once more and the body of the computer split open and fell from her hands.

“Oh, shit…”

They both pitched forward “violently as the cab skidded to a stop in a dingy, unlit cul-de-sac.

The driver climbed out of the cab, a small pistol in his hand.

“Please, no,” she pleaded.

He walked to the back of the cab and leaned down, peering into the greasy glass. He stood there for a long time, as she and John scooted backwards, against the opposite door, their sweating bodies pressed together.

The driver cupped his hands against the glare from the streetlights and looked at them closely.

A sudden crack resonated through the air, and T.J. flinched. John gave a short scream.

In the distance, behind the driver, the sky filled with red and blue fiery streaks. More pops and whistles. He turned and gazed up as a huge, orange spider spread over the city.

Fireworks, T.J. recalled reading in the Times. A present from the mayor and the UN secretary-general for the conference delegates, welcoming them to the greatest city on earth.

The driver turned back to the cab. With a loud snap he pulled up on the latch and slowly opened the door.

The call was anonymous. As usual.

So there was no way of checking back to see which vacant lot the RP meant. Central had radioed, “He said Thirty-seven near Eleven. That’s all.”

Reporting parties weren’t known for Triple A directions to crime scenes.

Already sweating though it was just nine in the morning, Amelia Sachs pushed through a stand of tall grass. She was walking the strip search – what the Crime Scene people called it – an S-shaped pattern. Nothing. She bent her head to the speaker/mike pinned to her navy-blue uniform blouse.

“Portable 5885. Can’t find anything, Central. You have a further-to?”

Through crisp static the dispatcher replied, “Nothing more on location, 5885. But one thing… the RP said he hoped the vic was dead. K.”

“Say again, Central.”

“The RP said he hoped the victim was dead. For his sake. K.”

“K.”

Hoped the vic was dead?

Sachs struggled over a wilted chain-link and searched another empty lot. Nothing.

She wanted to quit. Call in a 10-90, unfounded report, and go back to the Deuce, which was her regular beat. Her knees hurt and she was hot as stew in this lousy August weather. She wanted to slip into the Port Authority, hang with the kids and have a tall can of Arizona iced tea. Then, at 11:30 – just a couple of hours away – she’d clean out her locker at Midtown South and head downtown for the training session.

But she didn’t – couldn’t – blow off the call. She kept going: along the hot sidewalk, through the gap between two abandoned tenements, through another vegetation-filled field.

Her long index finger pushed into her flattop uniform cap, through the layers of long red hair piled high on her head. She scratched compulsively then reached up underneath the cap and scratched some more. Sweat ran down her forehead and tickled and she dug into her eyebrow too.

Thinking: My last two hours on the street. I can live with it.

As Sachs stepped farther into the brush she felt the first uneasiness of the morning.

Somebody’s watching me.

The hot wind rustled the dry brush and cars and trucks sped noisily to and from the Lincoln Tunnel. She thought what Patrol officers often did: This city is so damn loud somebody could come up right behind me, knife-range away, and I’d never know it.

Or line up iron sights on my back…

She spun around quickly.

Nothing but leaves and rusting machinery and trash.

Climbing a pile of stones, wincing. Amelia Sachs, thirty-one – a mere thirty-one, her mother would say – was plagued by arthritis. Inherited from her grandfather as clearly as she’d received her mother’s willowy build and her father’s good looks and career (the red hair was anybody’s guess). Another jolt of pain as she eased through a tall curtain of dying bushes. She was fortunate to stop herself one pace from a sheer thirty-foot drop.

Below her was a gloomy canyon – cut deep into the bedrock of the West Side. Through it ran the Amtrak roadbed for trains bound north.

She squinted, looking at the floor of the canyon, not far from the railroad bed.

What is that?

A circle of overturned earth, a small tree branch sticking out of the top? It looked like -

Oh, my good Lord…

She shivered at the sight. Felt the nausea rise, prickling her skin like a wave of flame. She managed to step on that tiny part inside her that wanted to turn away and pretend she hadn’t seen this.

He hoped the victim was dead. For his sake.

She ran toward an iron ladder that led down from the sidewalk to the roadbed. She reached for the railing but stopped just in time. Shit. The perp might’ve escaped this way. If she touched it she might screw up any prints he’d left. Okay, we do it the hard way. Breathing deeply to dull the pain in her joints, she began climbing down the rock face itself, slipping her issue shoes – polished like silver for the first day of her new assignment – into crevices cut in the stone. She jumped the last four feet to the roadbed and ran to the grave.

“Oh, man…”

It wasn’t a branch sticking out of the ground; it was a hand. The body’d been buried vertical and the dirt piled on until just the forearm, wrist and hand protruded. She stared at the ring finger; all the flesh had been whittled away and a woman’s diamond cocktail ring had been replaced on the bloody, stripped bone.

Sachs dropped to her knees and began to dig.

Dirt flying under her dog-paddling hands, she noticed that the uncut fingers were splayed, stretched beyond where they could normally bend. Which told her that the vic had been alive when the last shovelful of dirt was spooned onto the face.

And maybe still was.

Sachs dug furiously into the loosely packed earth, cutting her hand on a bottle shard, her dark blood mixing into the darker earth. And then she came to the hair and a forehead below it, a cyanotic bluish-gray from the lack of oxygen. Digging further until she could see the dull eyes and the mouth, which had twisted into a horrible grin as the vic had tried in the last few seconds to stay above the rising tide of black earth.

It wasn’t a woman. Despite the ring. He was a heavy-set man in his fifties. As dead as the soil he floated in.

Backing away, she couldn’t take her eyes off his and nearly stumbled over a railroad track. She could think of absolutely nothing for a full minute. Except what it must’ve been like to die that way.

Then: Come on, honey. You got yourself a homicide crime scene and you’re first officer.

You know what to do.

ADAPT

A is for Arrest a known perp.

D is for Detain material witnesses and suspects.

A is for Assess the crime scene.

P is for…

What was P again?

She lowered her head to the mike. “Portable 5885 to Central. Further-to. I’ve got a 10-29 by the train tracks at Three-eight and Eleven. Homicide, K. Need detectives, CS, bus and tour doctor. K.”

“Roger, 5885. Perp in custody, K?”

“No perp.”

“Five-eight-eight-five, K.”

Sachs stared at the finger, the one whittled down to the bone. The incongruous ring. The eyes. And the grin… oh, that fucking grin. A shudder ripped through her body. Amelia Sachs had swum among snakes in summer-camp rivers and had boasted truthfully she’d have no problem bungee-jumping from a hundred-foot bridge. But let her think of confinement… think of being trapped, immobile, and the panic attack’d grab her like an electric shock. Which was why Sachs walked fast when she walked and why she drove cars like light itself.

When you move they can’t getcha…

She heard a sound and cocked her head.

A rumble, deep, getting louder.

Scraps of paper blowing along the roadbed of the tracks. Dust dervishes swirling about her like angry ghosts.

Then a low wail…

Five-foot-nine Patrol Officer Amelia Sachs found herself facing down a thirty-ton Amtrak locomotive, the red, white and blue slab of steel approaching at a determined ten miles an hour.

“Hold up, there!” she shouted.

The engineer ignored her.

Sachs jogged onto the roadbed and planted herself right in the middle of the track, spread her stance and waved her arms, signaling him to stop. The locomotive squealed to a halt. The engineer stuck his head out the window.

“You can’t go through here,” she told him.

He asked her what she meant. She thought he looked woefully young to be driving such a big train.

“It’s a crime scene. Please shut off the engine.”

“Lady, I don’t see any crimes.”

But Sachs wasn’t listening. She was looking up at a gap in the chain-link on the west side of the train viaduct, at the top, near Eleventh Avenue.

That would have been one way to get the body here without being seen – parking on Eleventh and dragging the body through the narrow alley to the cliff. On Thirty-seventh, the cross street, he could be spotted from two dozen apartment windows.

“That train, sir. Just leave it right there.”

“I can’t leave it here.”

“Please shut off the engine.”

“We don’t shut off the engines of trains like this. They run all the time.”

“And call the dispatcher. Or somebody. Have them stop the southbound trains too.”

“We can’t do that.”

“Now, sir. I’ve got the number of that vehicle of yours.”

“Vehicle?”

“I’d suggest you do it immediately,” Sachs barked.

“What’re you going to do, lady? Gimme a ticket?”

But Amelia Sachs was once again climbing back up the stone walls, her poor joints creaking, her lips tasting limestone dust, clay and her own sweat. She jogged to the alley she’d noticed from the roadbed and then turned around, studying Eleventh Avenue and the Javits Center across it. The hall was bustling with crowds – spectators and press. A huge banner proclaimed, Welcome UN Delegates! But earlier this morning, when the street was deserted, the perp could easily have found a parking space along here and carried the body to the tracks undetected. Sachs strode to Eleventh, surveyed the six-lane avenue, which was jammed with traffic.

Let’s do it.

She waded into the sea of cars and trucks and stopped the northbound lanes cold. Several drivers tried end runs and she had to issue two citations and finally drag trash cans out into the middle of the street as a barricade to make sure the good residents did their civic duty.

Sachs had finally remembered the next of the first officer’s ADAPT rules.

P is for Protect the crime scene.

The sound of angry horns began to fill the hazy morning sky, soon supplemented by the drivers’ angrier shouts. A short time later she heard the sirens join the cacophony as the first of the emergency vehicles arrived.

Forty minutes later, the scene was swarming with uniforms and investigators, dozens of them – a lot more than a hit in Hell’s Kitchen, however gruesome the cause of death, seemed to warrant. But, Sachs learned from another cop, this was a hot case, a media groper – the vic was one of two passengers who’d arrived at JFK last night, gotten into a cab and headed for the city. They’d never arrived at their homes.

“CNN’s watching,” the uniform whispered.

So Amelia Sachs wasn’t surprised to see blond Vince Peretti, chief of the Central Investigation and Resource Division, which oversaw the-crime scene unit, climb over the top of the embankment and pause as he brushed dust from his thousand-dollar suit.

She was, however, surprised to see him notice her and gesture her over, a faint smile on his clean-cut face. It occurred to her she was about to receive a nod of gratitude for her Cliffhanger routine. Saved the fingerprints on that ladder, boys. Maybe even a commendation. In the last hour of the last day of Patrol. Going out in a blaze of glory.

He looked her up and down. “Patrolwoman, you’re no rookie, are you? I’m safe in making that assumption.”

“I’m sorry, sir?”

“You’re not a rookie, I assume.”

She wasn’t, not technically, though she had only three years’ service under her belt, unlike most of the other Patrol officers her age; they had nine or ten years in. Sachs had foundered for a few years before attending the academy. “I’m not sure what you’re asking.”

He looked exasperated and the smile vanished. “You were first officer?”

“Yessir.”

“Why’d you close down Eleventh Avenue? What were you thinking of?”

She looked along the broad street, which was still blocked by her trash-can barricade. She’d gotten used to the honking but realized now it was really quite loud; the line of cars extended for miles.

“Sir, the first officer’s job is to arrest a perp, detain any witnesses, protect -”

“I know the ADAPT rule, officer. You closed the street to protect the crime scene?”

“Yessir. I didn’t think the perp would park on the cross street. He could be seen too easily from those apartments. See, there? Eleventh seemed like a better choice.”

“Well, it was a wrong choice. There were no footprints on that side of the tracks, and two sets going to the ladder that leads up to Thirty-seven.”

“I closed Thirty-seven too.”

“That’s my point. That’s all that needed to be closed. And the train?” he asked. “Why’d you stop that?”

“Well, sir. I thought that a train going through the scene might disturb evidence. Or something.”

“Or something, officer?”

“I didn’t express myself very well, sir. I meant -”

“What about Newark Airport?”

“Yessir.” She looked around for help. There were officers nearby but they were busily ignoring the dressing-down. “What exactly about Newark?”

“Why didn’t you shut that down too?”

Oh, wonderful. A schoolmarm. Her Julia Roberts lips grew taut but she said reasonably, “Sir, in my judgment, it seemed likely that -”

“The New York Thruway would’ve been a good choice too. And the Jersey Pike and Long Island Expressway. I-70, all the way to St. Louis. Those are likely means of escape.”

She lowered her head slightly and stared back at Peretti. The two of them were exactly the same height, though his heels were higher.

“I’ve gotten calls from the commissioner,” he continued, “the head of the Port Authority, the UN secretary-general’s office, the head of that expo -”. He nodded toward the Javits Center. “We’ve fucked up the conference schedule, a U.S. senator’s speech and traffic on the entire West Side. The train tracks were fifty feet from the vic and the street you closed was a good two hundred feet away and thirty above. I mean, even Hurricane Eva didn’t fuck up Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor like this.”

“I just thought -”

Peretti smiled. Because Sachs was a beautiful woman – her “foundering” before attending the academy had involved steady assignments for the Chantelle Modeling Agency on Madison Avenue – the cop chose to forgive her.

“Patrolwoman Sachs” – he glanced at the name tag on her chest, flattened chastely by the American Body Armor vest – “an object lesson. Crime scene work is a balance. It’d be nice if we could cordon off the whole city after every homicide and detain about three million people. But we can’t do that. I say this constructively. For your edification.”

“Actually, sir,” she said brusquely, “I’m transferring out of Patrol. Effective as of noon today.”

He nodded, smiled cheerfully. “Then, enough said. But for the record, it was your decision to stop the train and close the street.”

“Yessir, it was,” she said smartly. “No mistake about that.”

He jotted this into a black watchbook with slashing strokes of his sweaty pen.

Oh, please…

“Now, remove those garbage cans. You direct traffic until the street’s clear again. You hear me?”

Without a yessir or nosir or any other acknowledgment she wandered to Eleventh Avenue and slowly began removing the garbage cans. Every single driver who passed her scowled or muttered something. Sachs glanced at her watch.

An hour to go.

I can live with it.

TWO

WITH A TERSE FLUTTER OF WINGS the peregrine dropped onto the window ledge. The light outside, mid-morning, was brilliant and the air looked fiercely hot.

“There you are,” the man whispered. Then cocked his head at the sound of the buzzer of the door downstairs.

“Is that him?” he shouted toward the stairs. “Is it?”

Lincoln Rhyme heard nothing in response and turned back to the window. The bird’s head swiveled, a fast, jerky movement that the falcon nevertheless made elegant. Rhyme observed that its talons were bloody. A piece of yellow flesh dangled from the black nutshell beak. It extended a short neck and eased to the nest in movements reminiscent not of a bird’s but a snake’s. The falcon dropped the meat into the upturned mouth of the fuzzy blue hatchling. I’m looking, Rhyme thought, at the only living creature in New York City with no predator. Except maybe God Himself.

He heard the footsteps come up the stairs slowly.

“Was that him?” he asked Thom.

The young man answered, “No.”

“Who was it? The doorbell rang, didn’t it?”

Thom’s eyes went to the window. “The bird’s back. Look, bloodstains on your windowsill. Can you see them?”

The female falcon inched into view. Blue-gray like a fish, iridescent. Her head scanned the sky.

“They’re always together. Do they mate for life?” Thom wondered aloud. “Like geese?”

Rhyme’s eyes returned to Thom, who was bent forward at his trim, youthful waist, gazing at the nest through the spattered window.

“Who was it?” Rhyme repeated. The young man was stalling now and it irritated Rhyme.

“A visitor.”

“A visitor? Ha.” Rhyme snorted. He tried to recall when his last visitor had been here. It must have been three months ago. Who’d it been? That reporter maybe or some distant cousin. Well, Peter Taylor, one of Rhyme’s spinal cord specialists. And Blaine had been here several times. But she of course was not a vis-i-tor.

“It’s freezing,” Thom complained. His reaction was to open the window. Immediate gratification. Youth.

“Don’t open the window,” Rhyme ordered. “And tell me who the hell’s here.”

“It’s freezing.”

“You’ll disturb the bird. You can turn the air conditioner down. I’ll turn it down.”

“We were here first,” Thom said, further lifting the huge pane of window. “The birds moved in with full knowledge of you.” The falcons glanced toward the noise, glaring. But then they always glared. They remained on the ledge, lording over their domain of anemic ginkgo trees and alternate-side-of-the-street parkers.

Rhyme repeated. “Who is it?”

“Lon Sellitto.”

“Lon?”

What was he doing here?

Thom examined the room. “The place is a mess.”

Rhyme didn’t like the fuss of cleaning. He didn’t like the bustle, the noise of the vacuum – which he found particularly irritating. He was content here, as it was. This room, which he called his office, was on the second floor of his gothic townhouse on the Upper West Side of the city, overlooking Central Park. The room was large, twenty-by-twenty, and virtually every one of those feet was occupied. Sometimes he closed his eyes, playing a game, and tried to detect the smell of the different objects in the room here. The thousands of books and magazines, the Tower of Pisa stacks of photocopies, the hot transistors of the TV, the dust-frosted lightbulbs, the cork bulletin boards. Vinyl, peroxide, latex, upholstery.

Three different kinds of single-malt Scotch.

Falcon shit.

“I don’t want to see him. Tell him I’m busy.”

“And a young cop. Ernie Banks. No, he was a baseball player, right? You really should let me clean. You never notice how filthy someplace is till people come to call.”

“Come to call? My, that sounds quaint. Victorian. How does this sound? Tell ’em to get the hell out. How’s that for fin-de-siècle etiquette?”

A mess…

Thom was speaking of the room but Rhyme supposed he meant his boss too.

Rhyme’s hair was black and thick as a twenty-year-old’s – though he was twice that age – but the strands were wild and bushy, desperately in need of a wash and cut. His face sprouted a dirty-looking three days’ growth of black beard and he’d wakened with an incessant tickle in his ear, which meant that those hairs needed trimming as well. Rhyme’s nails were long, finger and toe, and he’d been wearing the same clothes for a week – polka-dotted pajamas, god-awful ugly. His eyes were narrow, deep brown, and set in a face that Blaine had told him on a number of occasions, passionate and otherwise, was handsome.

“They want to talk to you,” Thom continued. “They say it’s very important.”

“Well, bully for them.”

“You haven’t seen Lon for nearly a year.”

“Why does that mean I want to see him now? Have you scared off the bird? I’ll be pissed if you have.”

“It’s important, Lincoln.”

Very important, I recall you saying. Where’s that doctor? He might’ve called. I was dozing earlier. And you were out.”

“You’ve been awake since six a.m.”

“No.” He paused. “I woke up, yes. But then I dozed off. I was sound asleep. Did you check messages?”

Thom said, “Yes. Nothing from him.”

“He said he’d be here midmorning.”

“And it’s just past eleven. Maybe we’ll hold off notifying air-sea rescue. What do you say?”

“Have you been on the phone?” Rhyme asked abruptly. “Maybe he tried to call while you were on.”

“I was talking to -”

“Did I say anything?” Rhyme asked. “Now you’re angry. I didn’t say you shouldn’t be making phone calls. You can do that. You’ve always been able to do that. My point is just that he might’ve called while you were on the line.”

“No, your point this morning is to be a shit.”

“There you go. You know, they have this thing – call waiting. You can get two calls at once. I wish we had that. What does my old friend Lon want? And his friend the baseball player?”

“Ask them.”

“I’m asking you.”

“They want to see you. That’s all I know.”

“About something vay-ree im-por-tant.”

“ Lincoln.” Thom sighed. The good-looking young man ran his hand through his blond hair. He wore tan slacks and a white shirt, with a blue floral tie, immaculately knotted. When he’d hired Thom a year ago Rhyme had said he could wear jeans and T-shirts if he wanted. But he’d been dressed impeccably every day since. Rhyme didn’t know why it contributed to the decision to keep the young man on, but it had. None of Thom’s predecessors had lasted more than six weeks. The number of those who quit was exactly equal to the firees.

“All right, what did you tell them?”

“I told them to give me a few minutes to make sure you were decent then they could come up. Briefly.”

“You did that. Without asking me. Thank you very much.”

Thom retreated a few steps and called down the narrow stairway to the first floor, “Come on, gentlemen.”

“They told you something, didn’t they?” Rhyme said. “You’re holding out on me.”

Thom didn’t answer and Rhyme watched the two men approach. As they entered the room Rhyme spoke first. He said to Thom, “Close the curtain. You’ve already upset the birds way too much.”

Which really meant only that he’d had enough of the sputtering sunlight.

Mute.

With the foul, sticky tape on her mouth she couldn’t speak a word and that made her feel more helpless than the metal handcuffs tight on her wrists. Than the grip of his short, strong fingers on her biceps.

The taxi driver, still in his ski mask, led her down the grimy, wet corridor, past rows of ducts and piping. They were in the basement of an office building. She had no idea where.

If I could talk to him…

T.J. Colfax was a player, the bitch of Morgan Stanley’s third floor. A negotiator.

Money? You want money? I’ll get you money, lots of it, boy. Bushels. She thought this a dozen times, trying to catch his eye, as if she could actually force the words into his thoughts.

Pleeeeeeeease, she begged silently, and began thinking about the mechanics of cashing in her 401(k) and giving him her retirement fund. Oh, please…

She remembered last night: The man turning back from the fireworks, dragging them from the cab, handcuffing them. He’d thrown them into the trunk and they’d begun driving again. First over rough cobblestones and broken asphalt then smooth roads then rough again. She heard the whir of wheels on a bridge. More turns, more rough roads. Finally, the cab stopped and the driver got out and seemed to open a gate or some doors. He drove into a garage, she thought. All the sounds of the city were cut off and the car’s bubbling exhaust rose in volume, reverberating off close walls.

Then the cab trunk opened and the man pulled her out. He yanked the diamond ring off her finger and pocketed it. Then he led her past walls of spooky faces, faded paintings of blank eyes staring at her, a butcher, a devil, three sorrowful children – painted on the crumbling plaster. Dragged her down into a moldy basement and dumped her on the floor. He clopped upstairs, leaving her in the dark, surrounded by a sickening smell – rotting flesh, garbage. There she’d lain for hours, sleeping a little, crying a lot. She’d wakened abruptly at a loud sound. A sharp explosion. Nearby. Then more troubled sleep.

A half hour ago he’d come for her again. Led her to the trunk and they’d driven for another twenty minutes. Here. Wherever here was.

They now walked into a dim basement room. In the center was a thick black pipe; he handcuffed her to it then gripped her feet and pulled them out straight in front of her, propping her in a sitting position. He crouched and tied her legs together with thin rope – it took several minutes; he was wearing leather gloves. Then he rose and gazed at her for a long moment, bent down and tore her blouse open. He walked around behind her and she gasped, feeling his hands on her shoulders, probing, squeezing her shoulder blades.

Crying, pleading through the tape.

Knowing what was coming.

The hands moved down, along her arms, and then under them and around the front of her body. But he didn’t touch her breasts. No, as the hands spidered across her skin they seemed to be searching for her ribs. He prodded them and stroked. T.J. shivered and tried to pull away. He gripped her tight and caressed some more, pressing hard, feeling the give of the bone.

He stood. She heard receding footsteps. For a long moment there was silence except for the groans of air conditioners and elevators. Then she barked a frightened grunt at a sound right behind her. A repetitive noise. Wsssh. Wsssh. Very familiar but something she couldn’t place. She tried to turn to see what he was doing but couldn’t. What was it? Listening to the rhythmic sound, over and over and over. It took her right back to her mother’s house.

Wsssh. Wsssh.

Saturday morning in the small bungalow in Bedford, Tennessee. It was the only day her mother didn’t work and she devoted most of it to housecleaning. T.J. would wake up to a hot sun and stumble downstairs to help her. Wsssh. As she cried at this memory she listened to the sound and wondered why on earth he was sweeping the floor and with such careful, precise strokes of the broom.

He saw surprise and discomfort on their faces.

Something you don’t find very often with New York City homicide cops.

Lon Sellitto and young Banks (Jerry, not Ernie) sat where Rhyme gestured with his bush-crowned head: twin dusty, uncomfortable rattan chairs.

Rhyme had changed considerably since Sellitto had last been here and the detective didn’t hide his shock very well. Banks had no benchmark against which to judge what he was seeing but he was shocked nonetheless. The sloppy room, the vagrant gazing at them suspiciously. The smell too certainly – the visceral aroma surrounding the creature Lincoln Rhyme now was.

He immensely regretted letting them up.

“Why didn’t you call first, Lon?”

“You would’ve told us not to come.”

True.

Thom crested the stairs and Rhyme preempted him. “No, Thom, we won’t be needing you.” He’d remembered that the young man always asked guests if they wanted something to drink or eat.

Such a goddamn Martha Stewart.

Silence for a moment. Large, rumpled Sellitto – a twenty-year vet – glanced down into a box beside the bed and started to speak. Whatever he’d been about to say was cut off by the sight of disposable adult diapers.

Jerry Banks said, “I read your book, sir.” The young cop had a bad hand when it came to shaving, lots of nicks. And what a charming cowlick in his hair! My good Lord, he can’t be more than twelve. The more worn the world gets, Rhyme reflected, the younger its inhabitants seem to be.

“Which one?”

“Well, your crime scene manual, of course. But I meant the picture book. The one a couple years ago.”

“There were words too. It was mostly words, in fact. Did you read them?”

“Oh, well, sure,” Banks’ said quickly.

A huge stack of remaindered volumes of The Scenes of the Crime sat against one wall of his room.

“I didn’t know you and Lon were friends,” Banks added.

“Ah, Lon didn’t trot out the yearbook? Show you the pictures? Strip his sleeve and show his scars and say these wounds I had with Lincoln Rhyme?”

Sellitto wasn’t smiling. Well, I can give him even less to smile about if he likes. The senior detective was digging through his attaché case. And what does he have in there?

“How long were you partnered?” Banks asked, making conversation.

“There’s a verb for you,” Rhyme said. And looked at the clock.

“We weren’t partners,” Sellitto said. “I was Homicide, he was head of IRD.”

“Oh,” Banks said, even more impressed. Running the Central Investigation and Resource Division was one of the most prestigious jobs in the department.

“Yeah,” Rhyme said, looking out the window, as if his doctor might be arriving via falcon. “The two musketeers.”

In a patient voice, which infuriated Rhyme, Sellitto said, “Seven years, off and on, we worked together.”

“And good years they were,” Rhyme intoned.

Thom scowled but Sellitto missed the irony. Or more likely ignored it. He said, “We have a problem, Lincoln. We need some help.”

Snap. The stack of papers landed on the bedside table.

“Some help?” The laugh exploded from the narrow nose Elaine had always suspected was the product of a surgeon’s vision though it was not. She also thought his lips were too perfect (Add a scar, she’d once joked and during one of their fights she nearly had). And why, he wondered, does her voluptuous apparition keep rising today? He’d wakened thinking about his ex and had felt compelled to write her a letter, which was on the computer screen at that moment. He now saved the document on the disk. Silence filled the room as he entered the commands with a single finger.

“ Lincoln?” Sellitto asked.

“Yessir. Some help. From me. I heard.”

Banks kept an inappropriate smile on his face while he shuffled his butt uneasily in the chair.

“I’ve got an appointment in, well, any minute now,” Rhyme said.

“An appointment.”

“A doctor.”

“Really?” Banks asked, probably to murder the silence that loomed again.

Sellitto, not sure where the conversation was going, asked, “And how’ve you been?”

Banks and Sellitto hadn’t asked about his health when they’d arrived. It was a question people tended to avoid when they saw Lincoln Rhyme. The answer risked being a very complicated, and almost certainly an unpleasant, one.

He said simply, “I’ve been fine, thanks. And you? Betty?”

“We’re divorced,” Sellitto said quickly.

“Really?”

“She got the house and I got half a kid.” The chunky cop said this with forced cheer, as if he’d used the line before, and Rhyme supposed there was a painful story behind the breakup. One he had no desire to hear. Still, he wasn’t surprised that the marriage had tanked. Sellitto was a workhorse. He was one of the hundred or so first-grade detectives on the force and had been for years – he got the grade when they were handed out for merit not just time served. He’d worked close to eighty hours a week. Rhyme hadn’t even known he was married for the first few months they’d worked together.

“Where you living now?” Rhyme asked, hoping a nice social conversation would tucker them out and send them on their way.

“ Brooklyn. The Heights. I walk to work sometimes. You know those diets I was always on? The trick’s not dieting. It’s exercise.”

He didn’t look any fatter or thinner than the Lon Sellitto of three and a half years ago. Or the Sellitto of fifteen years ago for that matter.

“So,” collegiate Banks said, “a doctor, you were saying. For a…”

“A new form of treatment?” Rhyme finished the dwindling question. “Exactly.”

“Good luck.”

“Thank you so much.”

It was 11:36 a.m. Well past midmorning. Tardiness is inexcusable in a man of medicine.

He watched Banks’s eyes twice scan his legs. He caught the pimply boy a second time and wasn’t surprised to see the detective blush.

“So,” Rhyme said. “I’m afraid I don’t really have time to help you.”

“But he’s not here yet, right, the doctor?” asked Lon Sellitto in the same bulletproof tone he’d used to puncture homicide suspects’ cover stories.

Thom appeared at the doorway with a coffeepot.

Prick, Rhyme mouthed.

“ Lincoln forgot to offer you gentlemen something.”

“Thom treats me like a child.”

“If the bootie fits,” the aide retorted.

“All right,” Rhyme snapped. “Have some coffee. I’ll have some mother’s milk.”

“Too early,” Thom said. “The bar isn’t open.” And weathered Rhyme’s glowering face quite well.

Again Banks’s eyes browsed Rhyme’s body. Maybe he’d been expecting just skin and bones. But the atrophying had stopped not long after the accident and his first physical therapists had exhausted him with exercise. Thom too, who may have been a prick at times and an old mother hen at others, was a damn good PT. He put Rhyme through passive ROM exercises every day. Taking meticulous notes on the goniometry – measurements of the range of motion that he applied to each joint in Rhyme’s body. Carefully checking the spasticity as he kept the arms and legs in a constant cycle of abduction and adduction. ROM work wasn’t a miracle but it built up some tone, cut down on debilitating contractures and kept the blood flowing. For someone whose muscular activities had been limited to his shoulders, head and left ring finger for three and a half years, Lincoln Rhyme wasn’t in such bad shape.

The young detective looked away from the complicated black ECU control sitting by Rhyme’s finger, hardwired to another controller, sprouting conduit and cables, which ran to the computer and a wall panel.

A quad’s life is wires, a therapist had told Rhyme a long time ago. The rich ones, at least. The lucky ones.

Sellitto said, “There was a murder early this morning on the West Side.”

“We’ve had reports of some homeless men and women disappearing over the past month,” Banks said. “At first we thought it might be one of them. But it wasn’t,” he added dramatically. “The vic was one of those people last night.”

Rhyme trained a blank expression on the young man with the dotted face. “Those people?”

“He doesn’t watch the news,” Thom said. “If you’re talking about the kidnapping he hasn’t heard.”

“You don’t watch the news?” Sellitto laughed. “You’re the SOB read four papers a day and recorded the local news to watch when he got home. Blaine told me you called her Katie Couric one night when you were making love.”

“I only read literature now,” Rhyme said pompously, and falsely.

Thom added, “Literature is news that stays news.”

Rhyme ignored him.

Sellitto said, “Man and woman coming back from business on the Coast. Got into a Yellow Cab at JFK. Never made it home.”

“There was a report about eleven-thirty. This cab was driving down the BQE in Queens. White male and female passenger in the back seat. Looked like they were trying to break a window out. Pounding on the glass. Nobody got tags or medallion.”

“This witness – who saw the cab. Any look at the driver?”

“No.”

“The woman passenger?”

“No sign of her.”

Eleven forty-one. Rhyme was furious with Dr. William Berger. “Nasty business,” he muttered absently.

Sellitto exhaled long and loud.

“Go on, go on,” Rhyme said.

“He was wearing her ring,” Banks said.

Who was wearing what?”

“The vic. They found this morning. He was wearing the woman’s ring. The other passenger’s.”

“You’re sure it was hers?”

“Had her initials inside.”

“So you’ve got an unsub,” Rhyme continued, “who wants you to know he’s got the woman and she’s still alive.”

“What’s an unsub?” Thom asked.

When Rhyme ignored him Sellitto said, “Unknown subject.”

“But you know how he got it to fit?” Banks asked, a little wide-eyed for Rhyme’s taste. “Her ring?”

“I give up.”

“Cut the skin off the guy’s finger. All of it. Down to the bone.”

Rhyme gave a faint smile. “Ah, he’s a smart one, isn’t he?”

“Why’s that smart?”

“To make sure nobody came by and took the ring. It was bloody, right?”

“A mess.”

“Hard to see the ring in the first place. Then AIDS, hepatitis. Even if somebody noticed, a lot of folks’d take a pass on that trophy. What’s her name, Lon?”

The older detective nodded to his partner, who flipped open his watchbook.

“Tammie Jean Colfax. She goes by T.J. Twenty-eight. Works for Morgan Stanley.”

Rhyme observed that Banks too wore a ring. A school ring of some sort. The boy was too polished to be just a high-school and academy grad. No whiff of army about him. Wouldn’t be surprised if the jewelry bore the name Yale. A homicide detective? What was the world coming to?

The young cop cupped his coffee in hands that shook sporadically. With a minuscule gesture of his own ring finger on the Everest & Jennings ECU panel, to which his left hand was strapped, Rhyme clicked through several settings, turning the AC down. He tended not to waste controls on things like heating and air-conditioning; he reserved it for necessities like lights, the computer and his page-turning frame. But when the room got too cold his nose ran. And that’s fucking torture for a quad.

“No ransom note?” Rhyme asked.

“Nothing.”

“You’re the case officer?” Rhyme asked Sellitto.

“Under Jim Polling. Yeah. And we want you to review the CS report.”

Another laugh. “Me? I haven’t looked at a crime scene report in three years. What could I possibly tell you?”

“You could tell us tons, Linc.”

“Who’s head of IRD now?”

“Vince Peretti.”

“The congressman’s boy,” Rhyme recalled. “Have him review it.”

A moment’s hesitation. “We’d rather have you.”

“Who’s we?”

“The chief. Yours truly.”

“And how,” Rhyme asked, smiling like a schoolgirl, “does Captain Peretti feel about this vote of no confidence?”

Sellitto stood and paced through the room, glancing down at the stacks of magazines. Forensic Science Review. Harding & Boyle Scientific Equipment Company catalog. The New Scotland Yard Forensic Investigation Annual. American College of Forensic Examiners Journal. Report of the American Society of Crime Lab Directors. CRC Press Forensics. Journal of the International Institute of Forensic Science.

“Look at them,” Rhyme said. “The subscriptions lapsed ages ago. And they’re all dusty.”

Everything in here’s fucking dusty, Linc. Why don’t you get off your lazy ass and clean this pigsty up?”

Banks looked horrified. Rhyme squelched the burst of laughter that felt alien inside him. His guard had slipped and irritation had dissolved into amusement. He momentarily regretted that he and Sellitto had drifted apart. Then he shot the feeling dead. He grumbled, “I can’t help you. Sorry.”

“We’ve got the peace conference starting on Monday. We -”

“What conference?”

“At the UN. Ambassadors, heads of state. There’ll be ten thousand dignitaries in town. You heard about that thing in London two days ago?”

“Thing?” Rhyme repeated caustically.

“Somebody tried to bomb the hotel where UNESCO was meeting. The mayor’s scared shitless somebody’s going to move on the conference here. He doesn’t want ugly Post headlines.”

“There’s also the little problem,” Rhyme said astringently, “that Miss Tammie Jean might not be enjoying her trip home either.”

“Jerry, tell him some details. Whet his appetite.”

Banks turned his attention from Rhyme’s legs to his bed, which was – Rhyme readily admitted – by far the more interesting of the two. Especially the control panel. It looked like something off the space shuttle and cost just about as much. “Ten hours after they’re snatched we find the male passenger – John Ulbrecht – shot and buried alive in the Amtrak roadbed near Thirty-seventh and Eleventh. Well, we find him dead. He’d been buried alive. Bullet was a.32.” Banks looked up and added, “The Honda Accord of slugs.”

Meaning there’d be no wily deductions about the unsub from exotic weaponry. This Banks seems smart, Rhyme thought, and all he suffers from is youth, which he might or might not outgrow. Lincoln Rhyme believed he himself had never been young.

“Rifling on the slug?” Rhyme asked.

“Six lands and grooves, left twist.”

“So he’s got himself a Colt,” Rhyme said and glanced over the crime scene diagram again.

“You said 'he,'” the young detective continued. “Actually it’s 'they.'”

“What?”

“Unsubs. There’re two of them. There were two sets of footprints between the grave and the base of an iron ladder leading up to the street,” Banks said, pointing to the CS diagram.

“Any prints on the ladder?”

“None. It was wiped. Did a good job of it. The footprints go to the grave and back to the ladder. Anyway, there had to be two of ’em to schlepp the vic. He weighed over two hundred pounds. One man couldn’t’ve done it.”

“Keep going.”

“They got him to the grave, dropped him in, shot him and buried him, went back to the ladder, climbed it and vanished.”

“Shot him in the grave?” Rhyme inquired.

“Yep. There was no blood trail anywhere around the ladder or the path to the grave.”

Rhyme found himself mildly interested. But he said, “What do you need me for?”

Sellitto grinned ragged yellow teeth. “We got ourselves a mystery, Linc. A buncha PE that doesn’t make any fucking sense at all.”

“So?” It was a rare crime scene when every bit of physical evidence made sense.

“Naw, this is real weird. Read the report. Please. I’ll put it here. How’s this thing work?” Sellitto looked at Thom, who fitted the report in the page-turning frame.

“I don’t have time, Lon,” Rhyme protested.

“That’s quite a contraption,” Banks offered, looking at the frame. Rhyme didn’t respond. He glanced at the first page then read it carefully. Moved his ring finger a precise millimeter to the left. A rubber wand turned the page.

Reading. Thinking: Well, this is odd.

“Who was in charge of the scene?”

“Peretti himself. When he heard the vic was one of the taxi people he came down and took over.”

Rhyme continued to read. For a minute the unimaginative words of cop writing held his interest. Then the doorbell rang and his heart galloped with a great shudder. His eyes slipped to Thom. They were cold and made clear that the time for banter was over. Thom nodded and went downstairs immediately.

All thoughts of cabdrivers and PE and kidnapped bankers vanished from the sweeping mind of Lincoln Rhyme.

“It’s Dr. Berger,” Thom announced over the intercom.

At last. At long last.

“Well, I’m sorry, Lon. I’ll have to ask you to leave. It was good seeing you again.” A smile. “Interesting case, this one is.”

Sellitto hesitated then rose. “But will you read through the report, Lincoln? Tell us what you think?”

Rhyme said, “You bet,” then leaned his head back against the pillow. Quads like Rhyme, who had full head-and-neck movement, could activate a dozen controls just by three-dimensional movements of the head. But Rhyme shunned headrests. There were so few sensuous pleasures left to him that he was unwilling to abdicate the comfort of nestling his head against his two-hundred-dollar down pillow. The visitors had tired him out. Not even noon, and all he wanted to do was sleep. His neck muscles throbbed in agony.

When Sellitto and Banks were at the door Rhyme said, “Lon, wait.”

The detective turned.

“One thing you should know. You’ve only found half the crime scene. The important one is the other one – the primary scene. His house. That’s where he’ll be. And it’ll be hard as hell to find.”

“Why do you think there’s another scene?”

“Because he didn’t shoot the vic at the grave. He shot him there – at the primary scene. And that’s probably where he’s got the woman. It’ll be underground or in a very deserted part of the city. Or both… Because, Banks” – Rhyme preempted the young detective’s question – “he wouldn’t risk shooting someone and holding a captive there unless it was quiet and private.”

“Maybe he used a silencer.”

“No traces of rubber or cotton baffling on the slug,” Rhyme snapped.

“But how could the man’ve been shot there?” Banks countered. “I mean, there wasn’t any blood spatter at the scene.”

“I assume the victim was shot in the face,” Rhyme announced.

“Well, yes,” Banks answered, putting a stupid smile on his own. “How’d you know?”

“Very painful, very incapacitating, very little blood with a.32. Rarely lethal if you miss the brain. With the vic in that shape the unsub could lead him around wherever he wanted. I say unsub singular because there’s only one of them.”

A pause. “But… there were two sets of prints,” Banks nearly whispered, as if he were defusing a land mine.

Rhyme sighed. “The soles’re identical. They were left by the same man making the trip twice. To fool us. And the prints going north are the same depth as the prints going south. So he wasn’t carrying a two-hundred-pound load one way and not the other. Was the vic barefoot?”

Banks flipped through his notes. “Socks.”

“Okay, then the perp was wearing the vic’s shoes for his clever little stroll to the ladder and back.”

“If he didn’t come down the ladder how did he get to the grave?”

“He led the man along the train tracks themselves. Probably from the north.”

“There’re no other ladders to the roadbed for blocks in either direction.”

“But there are tunnels running parallel to the tracks,” Rhyme continued. “They hook up with the basements of some of the old warehouses along Eleventh Avenue. A gangster during Prohibition – Owney Madden – had them dug so he could slip shipments of bootleg whisky onto New York Central trains going up to Albany and Bridgeport.”

“But why not just bury the vic near the tunnel? Why risk being seen schlepping the guy all the way to the overpass?”

Impatient now. “You do get what he’s telling us, don’t you?”

Banks started to speak then shook his head.

“He had to put the body where it’d be seen,” Rhyme said. “He needed someone to find it. That’s why he left the hand in the air. He’s waving at us. To get our attention. Sorry, you may have only one unsub but he’s plenty smart enough for two. There’s an access door to a tunnel somewhere nearby. Get down there and dust it for prints. There won’t be any. But you’ll have to do it just the same. The press, you know. When the story starts coming out… Well, good luck, gentlemen. Now, you’ll have to excuse me. Lon?”

“Yes?”

“Don’t forget about the primary crime scene. Whatever happens, you’ll have to find it. And fast.”

“Thanks, Linc. Just read the report.”

Rhyme said of course he would and observed that they believed the lie. Completely.

THREE

HE HAD THE BEST BEDSIDE MANNER Rhyme had ever encountered. And if anyone had had experience with bedside manners it was Lincoln Rhyme. He’d once calculated he’d seen seventy-eight degreed, card-carrying doctors in the past three and a half years.

“Nice view,” Berger said, gazing out the window.

“Isn’t it? Beautiful.”

Though because of the height of the bed Rhyme could see nothing except a hazy sky sizzling over Central Park. That – and the birds – had been the essence of his view since he’d moved here from his last rehab hospital two and half years ago. He kept the shades drawn most of the time.

Thom was busy rolling his boss – the maneuver helped keep his lungs clear – and then catheterizing Rhyme’s bladder, which had to be done every five or six hours. After spinal cord trauma, sphincters can be stuck open or they can be stuck closed. Rhyme was fortunate that his got jammed closed – fortunate, that is, provided someone was around to open up the uncooperative little tube with a catheter and K-Y jelly four times a day.

Dr. Berger observed this procedure clinically and Rhyme paid no heed to the lack of privacy. One of the first things crips get over is modesty. While there’s sometimes a halfhearted effort at draping – shrouding the body when cleaning, evacuating and examining – serious crips, real crips, macho crips don’t care. At Rhyme’s first rehab center, after a patient had gone to a party or been on a date the night before, all the wardmates would wheel over to his bed to check the patient’s urine output, which was the barometer of how successful the outing had been. One time Rhyme earned his fellow crips’ undying admiration by registering a staggering 1430 cc’s.

He said to Berger, “Check out the ledge, doctor. I have my own guardian angels.”

“Well. Hawks?”

“Peregrine falcons. Usually they nest higher. I don’t know why they picked me to live with.”

Berger glanced at the birds then turned away from the window, let the curtain fall back. The aviary didn’t interest him. He wasn’t a large man but he looked fit, a runner, Rhyme guessed. He seemed to be in his late forties but the black hair didn’t have a trace of gray in it and he was as good-looking as any news anchor. “That’s quite a bed.”

“You like it?”

The bed was a Clinitron, a huge rectangular slab. It was an air-fluidized support bed and contained nearly a ton of silicone-coated glass beads. Pressurized air flowed through the beads, which supported Rhyme’s body. If he had been able to feel, it would have felt as if he was floating.

Berger was sipping the coffee that Rhyme had ordered Thom to fetch and that the young man had brought, rolling his eyes, whispering, “Aren’t we suddenly social?” before retreating.

The doctor asked Rhyme, “You were a policeman, you were telling me.”

“Yes. I was head of forensics for the NYPD.”

“Were you shot?”

“Nope. Searching a crime scene. Some workmen’d found a body at a subway-stop construction site. It was a young patrolman who’d disappeared six months before – we had a serial killer shooting cops. I got a request to work the case personally and when I was searching it a beam collapsed. I was buried for about four hours.”

“Someone was actually going around murdering policemen?”

“Killed three and wounded another one. The perp was a cop himself. Dan Shepherd. A sergeant working Patrol.”

Berger glanced at the pink scar on Rhyme’s neck. The telltale insignia of quadriplegia – the entrance wound for the ventilator tube that remains embedded in the throat for months after the accident. Sometimes for years, sometimes forever. But Rhyme had – thanks to his own mulish nature and his therapists’ herculean efforts – weaned himself off the ventilator. He now had a pair of lungs on him that he bet could keep him underwater for five minutes.

“So, a cervical trauma.”

“C4.”

“Ah, yes.”

C4 is the demilitarized zone of spinal cord injuries. An SCI above the fourth cervical vertebra might very well have killed him. Below C4 he would have regained some use of his arms and hands, if not his legs. But trauma to the infamous fourth kept him alive though virtually a total quadriplegic. He’d lost the use of his legs and arms. His abdominal and intercostal muscles were mostly gone and he was breathing primarily from his diaphragm. He could move his head and neck, his shoulders slightly. The only fluke was that the crushing oak beam had spared a single, minuscule strand of motor neuron. Which allowed him to move his left ring finger.

Rhyme spared the doctor the soap opera of the year following the accident. The month of skull traction: tongs gripping holes drilled into his head and pulling his spine straight. Twelve weeks of the halo device – the plastic bib and steel scaffolding around his head to keep the neck immobile. To keep his lungs pumping, a large ventilator for a year then a phrenic nerve stimulator. The catheters. The surgery. The paralytic ileus, the stress ulcers, hypotension and bradycardia, bedsores turning into decubitus ulcers, contractures as the muscle tissue began to shrink and threatened to steal away the precious mobility of his finger, the infuriating phantom pain – burns and aches in extremities that could feel no sensation.

He did, however, tell Berger about the latest wrinkle. “Autonomic dysreflexia.”

The problem had been occurring more often recently. Pounding heartbeat, off-the-charts blood pressure, raging headaches. It could be brought on by something as simple as constipation. He explained that nothing could be done to prevent it except avoiding stress and physical constriction.

Rhyme’s SCI specialist, Dr. Peter Taylor, had become concerned with the frequency of the attacks. The last one – a month ago – was so severe that Taylor ’d given Thom instructions in how to treat the condition without waiting for medical help and insisted that the aide program the doctor’s number into the phone’s speed dialer. Taylor had warned that a severe enough bout could lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Berger took in the facts with some sympathy then said, “Before I got into my present line I specialized in geriatric orthopedics. Mostly hip and joint replacements. I don’t know much neurology. What about chances for recovery?”

“None, the condition’s permanent,” Rhyme said, perhaps a little too quickly. He added, “You understand my problem, don’t you, doctor?”

“I think so. But I’d like to hear it in your words.”

Shaking his head to clear a renegade strand of hair, Rhyme said, “Everyone has the right to kill himself.”

Berger said, “I think I’d disagree with that. In most societies you may have the power but not the right. There’s a difference.”

Rhyme exhaled a bitter laugh. “I’m not much of a philosopher. But I don’t even have the power. That’s why I need you.”

Lincoln Rhyme had asked four doctors to kill him. They’d all refused. He’d said, okay, he’d do it himself and simply stopped eating. But the process of wasting himself to death became pure torture. It left him violently stomach-sick and racked with unbearable headaches. He couldn’t sleep. So he’d given up on that and, during the course of a hugely awkward conversation, asked Thom to kill him. The young man had grown tearful – the only time he’d shown that much emotion – and said he wished he could. He’d sit by and watch Rhyme die, he’d refuse to revive him. But he wouldn’t actually kill him.

Then, a miracle. If you could call it that.

After The Scenes of the Crime had come out, reporters had appeared to interview him. One article – in The New York Times – contained this stark quotation from author Rhyme:

“No, I’m not planning any more books. The fact is, my next big project is killing myself. It’s quite a challenge. I’ve been looking for someone to help me for the past six months.”

That screeching-stop line got the attention of the NYPD counseling service and several people from Rhyme’s past, most notably Blaine (who told him he was nuts to consider it, he had to quit thinking only about himself – just like when they’d been together – and, now that she was here, she thought she should mention that she was remarrying).

The quotation also caught the attention of William Berger, who’d called unexpectedly one night from Seattle. After a few moments of pleasant conversation Berger explained that he’d read the article about Rhyme. Then a hollow pause and he’d asked, “Ever hear of the Lethe Society?”

Rhyme had. It was a pro-euthanasia group he’d been trying to track down for months. It was far more aggressive than Safe Passage or the Hemlock Society. “Our volunteers are wanted for questioning in dozens of assisted suicides throughout the country,” Berger explained. “We have to keep a low profile.”

He said he wanted to follow up on Rhyme’s request. Berger refused to act quickly and they’d had several conversations over the past seven or eight months. Today was their first meeting.

“There’s no way you can pass, by yourself?”

Pass

“Short of Gene Harrod’s approach, no. And even that’s a little iffy.”

Harrod was young man in Boston, a quad, who decided he wanted to kill himself. Unable to find anyone to help him he finally committed suicide the only way he was able to. With the little control he had he set a fire in his apartment and when it was blazing drove his wheelchair into it, setting himself aflame. He died of third-degree burns.

The case was often raised by right-to-deathers as an example of the tragedy that anti-euthanasia laws can cause.

Berger was familiar with the case and shook his head sympathetically. “No, that’s no way for anyone to die.” He assayed Rhyme’s body, the wires, the control panels. “What are your mechanical skills?”

Rhyme explained about the ECUs – the E &J controller that his ring finger operated, the sip-and-puff control for his mouth, the chin joysticks, and the computer dictation unit that could type out words on the screen as he spoke them.

“But everything has to be set up by someone else?” Berger asked. “For instance, someone would have to go to the store, buy a gun, mount it, rig the trigger and hook it up to your controller?”

“Yes.”

Making that person guilty of a conspiracy to commit murder, as well as manslaughter.

“What about your equipment?” Rhyme asked. “It’s effective?”

“Equipment?”

“What you use? To, uhm, do the deed?”

“It’s very effective. I’ve never had a patient complain.”

Rhyme blinked and Berger laughed. Rhyme joined him. If you can’t laugh about death what can you laugh about?

“Take a look.”

“You have it with you?” Hope blossomed in Rhyme’s heart. It was the first time he’d felt that warm sensation in years.

The doctor opened his attaché case and – rather ceremonially, Rhyme thought – set out a bottle of brandy. A small bottle of pills. A plastic bag and a rubber band.

“What’s the drug?”

“Seconal. Nobody prescribes it anymore. In the old days suicide was a lot easier. These babies’d do the trick, no question. Now, it’s almost impossible to kill yourself with modern tranquilizers. Halcion, Librium, Dalmane, Xanax… You may sleep for a long time but you’re going to wake up eventually.”

“And the bag?”

“Ah, the bag.” Berger picked it up. “That’s the emblem of the Lethe Society. Unofficially, of course – it’s not like we have a logo. If the pills and the brandy aren’t enough then we use the bag. Over the head, with a rubber band around the neck. We add a little ice inside because it gets pretty hot after a few minutes.”

Rhyme couldn’t take his eyes off the trio of implements. The bag, thick plastic, like a painter’s drop cloth. The brandy was cheap, he observed, and the drugs generic.

“This’s a nice house,” Berger said, looking around. “ Central Park West… Do you live on disability?”

“Some. I’ve also done consulting for the police and the FBI. After the accident… the construction company that was doing the excavating settled for three million. They swore there was no liability but there’s apparently a rule of law that a quadriplegic automatically wins any lawsuits against construction companies, no matter who was at fault. At least if the plaintiff comes to court and drools.”

“And you wrote that book, right?”

“I get some money from that. Not a lot. It was a ‘better-seller.’ Not a best-seller.”

Berger picked up a copy of The Scenes of the Crime, flipped through it. “Famous crime scenes. Look at all this.” He laughed. “There are, what, forty, fifty scenes?”

“Fifty-one.”

Rhyme had revisited – in his mind and imagination, since he’d written it after the accident – as many old crime scenes in New York City as he could recall. Some solved, some not. He’d written about the Old Brewery, the notorious tenement in Five Points, where thirteen unrelated murders were recorded on a single night in 1839. About Charles Aubridge Deacon, who murdered his mother on July 13, 1863, during the Civil War draft riots, claiming former slaves had killed her and fueling the rampage against blacks. About architect Stanford White’s love-triangle murder atop the original Madison Square Garden and about Judge Crater’s disappearance. About George Metesky, the mad bomber of the ’50s, and Murph the Surf, who boosted the Star of India diamond.

“Nineteenth-century building supplies, underground streams, butler’s schools,” Berger recited, flipping through the book, “gay baths, Chinatown whorehouses, Russian Orthodox churches… How d’you learn all this about the city?”

Rhyme shrugged. In his years as head of IRD he’d studied as much about the city as he had about forensics. Its history, politics, geology, sociology, infrastructure. He said, “Criminalistics doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The more you know about your environment, the better you can apply -”

Just as he heard the enthusiasm creep into his voice he stopped abruptly.

Furious with himself that he’d been foxed so easily.

“Nice try, Dr. Berger,” Rhyme said stiffly.

“Ah, come on. Call me Bill. Please.”

Rhyme wasn’t going to be derailed. “I’ve heard it before. Take a big, clean, smooth piece of paper and write down all the reasons why I should kill myself. And then take another big, clean smooth piece of paper and write all the reasons why I shouldn’t. Words like productive, useful, interesting, challenging come to mind. Big words. Ten-dollar words. They don’t mean shit to me. Besides, I couldn’t pick up a fucking pencil to save my soul.”

“ Lincoln,” Berger continued kindly, “I have to make sure you’re the appropriate candidate for the program.”

“'Candidate'? 'Program'? Ah, the tyranny of euphemism,” Rhyme said bitterly. “Doctor, I’ve made up my mind. I’d like to do it today. Now, as a matter of fact.”

“Why today?”

Rhyme’s eyes had returned to the bottles and the bag. He whispered, “Why not? What’s today? August twenty-third? That’s as good a day to die as any.”

The doctor tapped his narrow lips. “I have to spend some time talking to you, Lincoln. If I’m convinced that you really want to go ahead -”

“I do,” Rhyme said, noting as he often did how weak our words sound without the body gestures to accompany them. He wanted desperately to lay his hand on Berger’s arm or lift his palms beseechingly.

Without asking if he could, Berger pulled out a packet of Marlboros and lit a cigarette. He took a folding metal ashtray from his pocket and opened it up. Crossed his thin legs. He looked like a foppish frat boy at an Ivy League smoker. “ Lincoln, you understand the problem here, don’t you?”

Sure, he understood. It was the very reason why Berger was here and why one of Rhyme’s own doctors hadn’t “done the deed.” Hastening an inevitable death was one thing; nearly one-third of practicing doctors who treated terminal patients had prescribed or administered fatal doses of drugs. Most prosecutors turned a blind eye toward them unless a doctor flaunted it – like Kevorkian.

But a quad? A hemi? A para? A crip? Oh, that was different. Lincoln Rhyme was forty years old. He’d been weaned off the ventilator. Barring some insidious gene in the Rhyme stock, there was no medical reason why he couldn’t live to eighty.

Berger added, “Let me be blunt, Lincoln. I also have to be sure this isn’t a setup.”

“Setup?”

“Prosecutors. I’ve been entrapped before.”

Rhyme laughed. “The New York attorney general’s a busy man. He’s not going to wire a crip to bag himself a euthanasist.”

Glancing absently at the crime scene report.

… ten feet southwest of victim, found in a cluster on a small pile of white sand: a ball of fiber, approximately six centimeters in diameter, off-white in color. The fiber was sampled in the energy-dispersive X-ray unit and found to consist of A2B5(Si, Al)8O22(OH)2. No source was indicated and the fibers could not be individuated. Sample sent to FBI PERT office for analysis.

“I just have to be careful,” Berger continued. “This is my whole professional” life now. I gave up orthopedics completely. Anyway, it’s more than a job. I’ve decided to devote my life to helping others end theirs.”

Adjacent to this fiber, approximately three inches away were found two scraps of paper. One was common newsprint, with the words “three p.m.” printed in Times Roman type, in ink consistent with that used in commercial newspapers. The other scrap appeared to be the corner of a page from a book with the page number “ 823” printed on it. The typeface was Garamond and the paper was calendared. ALS and subsequent ninhydrin analysis reveal no latent friction-ridge prints on either… Individuation was not possible.

Several things nagged Rhyme. The fiber, for one. Why hadn’t Peretti caught on as to what it was? It was so obvious. And why was this PE – the newspaper scraps and the fiber – all clustered together? Something was wrong here.

“ Lincoln?”

“Sorry.”

“I was saying… You’re not a burn victim in unbearable pain. You’re not homeless. You’ve got money, you’ve got talent. Your police consulting… that helps a lot of people. If you want one, you could have a, yes, productive life ahead of you. A long life.”

“Long, yes. That’s the problem. A long life.” He was tired of being on good behavior. He snapped, “But I don’t want a long life. It’s as simple as that.”

Berger said slowly, “If there’s the slightest chance you might’ve regretted your decision, well, see, I’m the one who’d have to live with it. Not you.”

“Who’s ever certain about something like this?”

Eyes slipping back to the report.

An iron bolt was found on top of the scraps of paper. It was a hex bolt, head-stamped with the letters “CE.“ Two inches long, clockwise twist, 15/16” in diameter.

“I’ve got a busy schedule for the next few days,” Berger said, looking at his watch. It was a Rolex; well, death has always been lucrative. “Let’s take an hour or so now. Talk for a while, then have a cooling-off day and I’ll come back.”

Something was nagging at Rhyme. An infuriating itch – the curse of all quads – though in this case it was an intellectual itch. The kind that had plagued Rhyme all his life.

“Say, doctor, I wonder if you could do me a favor. That report there. Could you flip through it? See if you could find a picture of a bolt.”

Berger hesitated. “A picture?”

“A Polaroid. It’ll be glued in somewhere toward the back. The turning frame takes too long.”

Berger lifted the report out of the frame and turned the pages for Rhyme.

“There. Stop.”

As he gazed at the photo a twinge of urgency pricked at him. Oh, not here, not now. Please, no.

“I’m sorry, could you flip back to the page where we were?”

Berger did.

Rhyme said nothing and read carefully.

The paper scraps…

Three p.m… page 823.

Rhyme’s heart was pounding, sweat popped out on his head. He heard a frantic buzzing in his ears.

Here’s a headline for the tabloids. MAN DIES DURING TALK WITH DEATH DOC…

Berger blinked. “ Lincoln? Are you all right?” The man’s canny eyes examined Rhyme carefully.

As casually as he could, Rhyme said, “You know, doctor, I’m sorry. But there’s something I’ve got to take care of.”

Berger nodded slowly, uncertainly. “Affairs aren’t in order after all?”

Smiling. Nonchalant. “I’m just wondering if I could ask you to come back in a few hours.”

Careful here. If he senses purpose he’ll mark you down non-suicidal, take his bottles and his plastic bag and fly back to Starbucks land.

Opening a date book, Berger said, “The rest of the day isn’t good. Then tomorrow… No. I’m afraid Monday’s the earliest. Day after tomorrow.”

Rhyme hesitated. Lord… His soul’s desire was finally within his grasp, what he’d dreamed of every day for the past year. Yes or no?

Decide.

Finally, Rhyme heard himself say, “All right. Monday.” Plastering a hopeless smile on his face.

“What exactly’s the problem?”

“A man I used to work with. He asked for some advice. I wasn’t paying as much attention to it as I should have. I have to call him.”

No, it wasn’t dysreflexia at all – or an anxiety attack.

Lincoln Rhyme was feeling something he hadn’t felt in years. He was in one big fucking hurry.

“Could I ask you to send Thom up here? I think he’s downstairs in the kitchen.”

“Yes, of course. I’d be happy to.”

Rhyme could see something odd in Berger’s eyes. What was it? Caution? Maybe. It almost seemed like disappointment. But there was no time to think about it now. As the doctor’s footsteps receded down the stairs Rhyme shouted in a booming baritone, “Thom? Thom!”

“What?” the young man’s voice called.

“Call Lon. Get him back here. Now!”

Rhyme glanced at the clock. It was after noon. They had less than three hours.

FOUR

“THE CRIME SCENE WAS STAGED,” Lincoln Rhyme said.

Lon Sellitto had tossed his jacket off, revealing a savagely wrinkled shirt. He now leaned back, arms crossed, against a table strewn with papers and books.

Jerry Banks was back too and his pale-blue eyes were on Rhyme’s; the bed and its control panel no longer interested him.

Sellitto frowned. “But what story’s the unsub tryin’ to sell us?”

At crime scenes, especially homicides, perps often monkeyed with PE to lead investigators astray. Some were clever about it but most weren’t. Like the husband who beat his wife to death then tried to make it look like a robbery – though he only thought to steal her jewelry, leaving his gold bracelets and diamond pinkie ring on his dresser.

“That’s what’s so interesting,” Rhyme continued. “It’s not about what happened, Lon. It’s what’s going to happen.”

Sellitto the skeptic asked, “What makes you think so?”

“The scraps of paper. They mean three o’clock today.”

“Today?”

“Look!” Nodding toward the report, an impatient jerk of his head.

“That one scrap says three p.m.,” Banks pointed out. “But the other’s a page number. Why do you think it means today?”

“It’s not a page number.” Rhyme lifted an eyebrow. They still didn’t get it. “Logic! The only reason to leave clues was to tell us something. If that’s the case then 823 has to be something more than just a page number because there’s no clue as to what book it’s from. Well, if it’s not a page number what is it?”

Silence.

Exasperated, Rhyme snapped, “It’s a date! Eight twenty-three. August twenty-third. Something’s going to happen at three p.m. today. Now, the ball of fiber? It’s asbestos.”

“Asbestos?” Sellitto asked.

“In the report? The formula? It’s hornblende. Silicon dioxide. That is asbestos. Why Peretti sent it to the FBI is beyond me. So. We have asbestos on a railbed where there shouldn’t be any. And we’ve got an iron bolt with decaying oxidation on the head but none on the threads. That means it’s been bolted someplace for a long time and just recently removed.”

“Maybe it was overturned in the dirt,” Banks offered. “When he was digging the grave?”

Rhyme said, “No. In Midtown the bedrock’s close to the surface, which means so are the aquifers. All the soil from Thirty-fourth Street up to Harlem contains enough moisture to oxidize iron within a few days. It’d be completely rusted, not just the head, if it’d been buried. No, it was unbolted from someplace, carried to the scene and left there. And that sand… Come on, what’s white sand doing on a train roadbed in Midtown Manhattan? The soil composition there is loam, silt, granite, hardpan and soft clay.”

Banks started to speak but Rhyme cut him off abruptly. “And what were these things doing all clustered together? Oh, he’s telling us something, our unsub. You bet he is. Banks, what about the access door?”

“You were right,” the young man said. “They found one about a hundred feet north of the grave. Broken open from the inside. You were also right about the prints. Zip. And no tire tracks or trace evidence either.”

A lock of dirty asbestos, a bolt, a torn newspaper…

“The scene?” Rhyme asked. “Intact?”

“Released.”

Lincoln Rhyme, the crip with the killer lungs, exhaled a loud hiss of air, disgusted. “Who made that mistake?”

“I don’t know,” Sellitto said lamely. “Watch commander probably.”

It was Peretti, Rhyme understood. “Then you’re stuck with what you’ve got.”

Whatever clues as to who the kidnapper was and what he had in mind were either in the report or gone forever, trampled under the feet of cops and spectators and railroad workers. Spadework – canvassing the neighborhood around the scene, interviewing witnesses, cultivating leads, traditional detective work – was done leisurely. But crime scenes themselves had to be worked “like mad lightning,” Rhyme would command his officers in IRD. And he’d fired more than a few CSU techs who hadn’t moved fast enough for his taste.

“Peretti ran the scene himself?” he asked.

“Peretti and a full complement.”

“Full complement?” Rhyme asked wryly. “What’s a full complement?”

Sellitto looked at Banks, who said, “Four techs from Photo, four from Latents. Eight searchers. ME tour doctor.”

Eight crime scene searchers?”

There’s a bell curve in processing a crime scene. Two officers are considered the most efficient for a single homicide. By yourself you can miss things; three and up you tend to miss more things. Lincoln Rhyme had always searched scenes alone. He let the Latents people do the print work and Photo do the snap-shooting and videoing. But he always walked the grid by himself.

Peretti. Rhyme had hired the young man, son of a wealthy politico, six, seven years ago and he’d proved a good, by-the-book CS detective. Crime Scene is considered a plum and there’s always a long waiting list to get into the unit. Rhyme took perverse pleasure in thinning the ranks of applicants by offering them a look at the family album – a collection of particularly gruesome crime-scene photos. Some officers would blanch, some would snicker. Some handed the book back, eyebrows raised, as if asking, So what? And those were the ones that Lincoln Rhyme would hire. Peretti’d been one of them.

Sellitto had asked a question. Rhyme found the detective looking at him. He repeated, “You’ll work with us on this, won’t you, Lincoln?”

“Work with you?” He coughed a laugh. “I can’t, Lon. No. I’m just spitting out a few ideas for you. You’ve got it. Run with it. Thom, get me Berger.” He was now regretting the decision to postpone his tête-à-tête with the death doctor. Maybe it wasn’t too late. He couldn’t bear the thought of waiting another day or two for his passing. And Monday… He didn’t want to die on Monday. It seemed common.

“Say please.”

“Thom!”

“All right,” the young aide said, hands raised in surrender.

Rhyme glanced at the spot on his bedside table where the bottle, the pills and the plastic bag had sat – so very close, but like everything else in this life wholly out of Lincoln Rhyme’s reach.

Sellitto made a phone call, cocked his head as the call was answered. He identified himself. The clock on the wall clicked to twelve-thirty.

“Yessir.” The detective’s voice sank into a respectful whisper. The mayor, Rhyme guessed. “About the kidnapping at Kennedy. I’ve been talking to Lincoln Rhyme… Yessir, he has some thoughts on it.” The detective wandered to the window, staring blankly at the falcon and trying to explain the inexplicable to the man running the most mysterious city on earth. He hung up and turned to Rhyme.

“He and the chief both want you, Linc. They asked specifically. Wilson himself.”

Rhyme laughed. “Lon, look around the room. Look at me! Does it seem like I could run a case?”

“Not a normal case, no. But this isn’t a very normal one now, is it?”

“I’m sorry. I just don’t have time. That doctor. The treatment. Thom, did you call him?”

“Haven’t yet. Will in just a minute.”

“Now! Do it now!”

Thom looked at Sellitto. Walked to the door, stepped outside. Rhyme knew he wasn’t going to call. Bugger the world.

Banks touched a dot of razor scar and blurted, “Just give us some thoughts. Please. This unsub, you said he -”

Sellitto waved him silent. He kept his eyes on Rhyme.

Oh, you prick, Rhyme thought. The old silence. How we hate it and hurry to fill it. How many witnesses and suspects had caved under hot, thick silences just like this. Well, he and Sellitto had been a good team. Rhyme knew evidence and Lon Sellitto knew people.

The two musketeers. And if there was a third it was the purity of unsmiling science.

The detective’s eyes dipped to the crime scene report. “ Lincoln. What do you think’s going to happen today at three?”

“I don’t have any idea,” Rhyme pronounced.

“Don’tcha?”

Cheap, Lon. I’ll get you for that.

Finally, Rhyme said. “He’s going to kill her – the woman in the taxi. And in some real bad way, I guarantee you. Something that’ll rival getting buried alive.”

“Jesus,” Thom whispered from the doorway.

Why couldn’t they just leave him alone? Would it do any good to tell them about the agony he felt in his neck and shoulders? Or about the phantom pain – far weaker and far eerier – roaming through his alien body? About the exhaustion he felt from the daily struggle to do, well, everything? About the most overwhelming fatigue of all – from having to rely on someone else?

Maybe he could tell them about the mosquito that’d gotten into the room last night and strafed his head for an hour; Rhyme grew dizzy with fatigue nodding it away until the insect finally landed on his ear, where Rhyme let it stab him – since that was a place he could rub against the pillow for relief from the itch.

Sellitto lifted an eyebrow.

“Today,” Rhyme sighed. “One day. That’s it.”

“Thanks, Linc. We owe you.” Sellitto pulled up a chair next to the bed. Nodded Banks to do the same, “Now. Gimme your thoughts. What’s this asshole’s game?”

Rhyme said, “Not so fast. I don’t work alone.”

“Fair enough. Who d’you want on board?”

“A tech from IRD. Whoever’s the best in the lab. I want him here with the basic equipment. And we better get some tactical boys. Emergency Services. Oh, and I want some phones,” Rhyme instructed, glancing at the Scotch on his dresser. He remembered the brandy Berger had in his kit. No way was he going out on cheap crap like that. His Final Exit number would be courtesy of either sixteen-year-old Lagavulin or opulent Macallan aged for decades. Or – why not? – both.

Banks pulled out his own cellular phone. “What kind of lines? Just -”

“Landlines.”

“In here?”

“Of course not,” Rhyme barked.

Sellitto said, “He means he wants people to make calls. From the Big Building.”

“Oh.”

“Call downtown,” Sellitto ordered. “Have ’em give us three or four dispatchers.”

“Lon,” Rhyme asked, “who’s doing the spadework on the death this morning?”

Banks stifled a laugh. “The Hardy Boys.”

A glare from Rhyme took the smile off his face. “Detectives Bedding and Saul, sir,” the boy added quickly.

But then Sellitto grinned too. “The Hardy Boys. Everybody calls ’ em that. You don’t know ’em, Linc. They’re from the Homicide Task Force downtown.”

“They look kind of alike is the thing,” Banks explained. “And, well, their delivery is a little funny.”

“I don’t want comedians.”

“No, they’re good,” Sellitto said. “The best canvassers we got. You know that beast ’napped that eight-year-old girl in Queens last year? Bedding and Saul did the canvass. Interviewed the entire ’hood – took twenty-two hundred statements. It was ’causa them we saved her. When we heard the vic this morning was the passenger from JFK, Chief Wilson himself put ’em on board.”

“What’re they doing now?”

“Witnesses mostly. Around the train tracks. And sniffing around about the driver and the cab.”

Rhyme yelled to Thom in the hallway, “Did you call Berger? No, of course you didn’t. The word ‘insubordination’ mean anything to you? At least make yourself useful. Bring that crime scene report closer and start turning the pages.” He nodded toward the turning frame. “That damn thing’s an Edsel.”

“Aren’t we in a sunny mood today?” the aide spat back.

“Hold it up higher. I’m getting glare.”

He read for a minute. Then looked up.

Sellitto was on the phone but Rhyme interrupted him. “Whatever happens at three today, if we can find where he’s talking about, it’s going to be a crime scene. I’ll need someone to work it.”

“Good,” Sellitto said. “I’ll call Peretti. Toss him a bone. I know his nose’ll be out of joint ’cause we’re tiptoeing around him.”

Rhyme grunted. “Did I ask for Peretti?”

“But he’s the IRD golden boy,” Banks said.

“I don’t want him,” Rhyme muttered. “There’s somebody else I want.”

Sellitto and Banks exchanged glances. The older detective smiled, brushing pointlessly at his wrinkled shirt. “Whoever you want, Linc, you got him. Remember, you’re king for a day.”

Staring at the dim eye.

T.J. Colfax, dark-haired refugee from the hills of Eastern Tennessee, NYU Business School grad, quick-as-a-whip currency trader, had just swum out of a deep dream. Her tangled hair stuck to her cheeks, sweat crawling in veins down her face and neck and chest.

She found herself looking into the black eye – a hole in a rusty pipe, about six inches across, from which a small access plate had been removed.

She sucked mildewy air through her nose – her mouth was still taped shut. Tasting plastic, the hot adhesive. Bitter.

And John? she wondered. Where was he? Refusing to think about the loud crack she’d heard last night in the basement. She’d grown up in Eastern Tennessee and knew what gunshots sounded like.

Please, she prayed for her boss. Let him be all right.

Stay calm, she raged to herself. You fucking start to cry again, you remember what happened. In the basement, after the gunshot, she’d lost it completely, breaking down, sobbing in panic, and had nearly suffocated.

Right. Calm.

Look at the black eye in the pipe. Pretend it’s winking at you. The eye of your guardian angel.

T.J. sat on the floor, surrounded by a hundred pipes and ducts and snakes of conduit and wires. Hotter than her brother’s diner, hotter than the back seat of Jule Whelan’s Nova ten years ago. Water dripped, stalactites drooped from the ancient girders above her head. A half-dozen tiny yellow bulbs were the only illumination. Above her head – directly above – was a sign. She couldn’t read it clearly, though she caught the red border. At the end of whatever the message might have been was a fat exclamation point.

She struggled once more but the cuffs held her tight, pinching against the bone. From her throat rose a desperate cry, an animal’s cry. But the thick tape on her mouth and the insistent churning of machinery swallowed up the sound; no one could’ve heard her.

The black eye continued to stare. You’ll save me, won’t you? she thought.

Suddenly the silence was broken by a clanging slam, an iron bell, far away. Like a ship’s door slamming shut. The noise came from the hole in the pipe. From her friendly eye.

She jerked the cuffs against the pipe and tried to stand. But she couldn’t move more than a few inches.

Okay, don’t panic. Just relax. You’ll be all right.

It was then that she happened to see the sign above her head. In her jockeying for slack she’d straightened up slightly and moved her head to the side. This gave her an oblique view of the words.

Oh, no. Oh, Jesus in my heart…

The tears began again.

She imagined her mother, her hair pulled back from her round face, wearing her cornflower-blue housedress, whispering, “Be all raht, honey love. Doan’ you worry.”

But she didn’t believe the words.

She believed what the sign said.

Extreme Danger! Superheated steam under High Pressure. Do not remove plate from pipe. Call Consolidated Edison for access. Extreme danger!

The black eye gaped at her, the eye that opened into the heart of the steam pipe. It stared directly at the pink flesh of her chest. From somewhere deep inside the pipe came another clink of metal on metal, workers hammering, tightening old joints.

As Tammie Jean Colfax cried and cried she heard another clink. Then a distant groan, very faint. And it seemed to her, through her tears, that the black eye finally winked.

FIVE

“HERE’S THE SITUATION,” Lincoln Rhyme announced. “We’ve got a kidnap victim and a three p.m. deadline.”

“No ransom demands” – Sellitto supplemented Rhyme’s synopsis, then turned aside to answer his chirping phone. “Jerry,” Rhyme said to Banks, “brief them about the scene this morning.”

There were more people hovering in Lincoln Rhyme’s dark room than in recent memory. Oh, after the accident friends had sometimes stopped by unannounced (the odds were pretty good that Rhyme’d be home of course) but he’d discouraged that. And he’d stopped returning phone calls too, growing more and more reclusive, drifting into solitude. He’d spend his hours writing his book and, when he was uninspired to write another one, reading. And when that grew tedious there were rental movies and pay-per-view and music. And then he’d given up TV and the stereo and spent hours staring at the art prints the aide had dutifully taped up on the wall opposite the bed. Finally they too had come down.

Solitude.

It was all he craved, and oh how he missed it now.

Pacing, looking tense, was compact Jim Polling. Lon Sellitto was the case officer but an incident like this needed a captain on board and Polling had volunteered for the job. The case was a time bomb and could nuke careers in a heartbeat so the chief and the dep coms were happy to have him intercept the flak. They’d be practicing the fine art of distancing and when the Beta-cams rolled their press conferences would be peppered with words like delegated and assigned and taking the advice of and they’d be fast to glance at Polling when it came time to field the hardball questions. Rhyme couldn’t imagine why any cop in the world would volunteer to head up a case like this one.

Polling was an odd one. The little man had pummeled his way through Midtown North Precinct as one of the city’s most successful, and notorious, homicide detectives. Known for his bad temper, he’d gotten into serious trouble when he’d killed an unarmed suspect. But he’d managed, amazingly, to pull his career together by getting a conviction in the Shepherd case – the cop-serial-killer case, the one in which Rhyme’d been injured. Promoted to captain after that very public collar, Polling went through one of those embarrassing midlife changes – giving up blue jeans and Sears suits for Brooks Brothers (today he wore navy-blue Calvin Klein casual) – and began his dogged climb toward a plush corner office high in One Police Plaza.

Another officer leaned against a nearby table. Crew-cut, rangy Bo Haumann was a captain and head of the Emergency Services Unit. NYPD’s SWAT team.

Banks finished his synopsis just as Sellitto pushed disconnect and folded his phone. “The Hardy Boys.”

“Anything more on the cab?” Polling asked.

“Nothing. They’re still beating bushes.”

“Any sign she was fucking somebody she shouldn’t’ve been?” Polling asked. “Maybe a psycho boyfriend?”

“Naw, no boyfriends. Just dated a few guys casually. No stalkers, it looks like.”

“And still no ransom calls?” Rhyme asked.

“No.”

The doorbell rang. Thom went to answer it.

Rhyme looked toward the approaching voices.

A moment later the aide escorted a uniformed police officer up the stairs. She appeared very young from a distance but as she drew closer he could see she was probably thirty or so. She was tall and had that sullen, equine beauty of women gazing out from the pages of fashion magazines.

We see others as we see ourselves and since the accident Lincoln Rhyme rarely thought of people in terms of their bodies. He observed her height, trim hips, fiery red hair. Somebody else’d weigh those features and say, What a knockout. But for Rhyme that thought didn’t occur to him. What did register was the look in her eyes.

Not the surprise – obviously, nobody’d warned he was a crip – but something else. An expression he’d never seen before. It was as if his condition was putting her at ease. The exact opposite of how most people reacted. As she walked into the room she was relaxing.

“Officer Sachs?” Rhyme asked.

“Yessir,” she said, catching herself just as she was about to extend a hand. “Detective Rhyme.”

Sellitto introduced her to Polling and Haumann. She’d know about the latter two, by reputation if nothing else, and now her eyes grew cautious once more.

She took in the room, the dust, the gloominess. Glanced at one of the art posters. It was partially unrolled, lying under a table. Nighthawks, by Edward Hopper. The lonely people in a diner late at night. That one had been the last to come down.

Rhyme briefly explained about the 3:00 p.m. deadline. Sachs nodded calmly but Rhyme could see the flicker of what? – fear? disgust? – in her eyes.

Jerry Banks, fingers encumbered by a class ring but not a wedding band, was attracted immediately by the lamp of her beauty and offered her a particular smile. But Sachs’s single glance in response made clear that no matches were being made here. And probably never would be.

Polling said, “Maybe it’s a trap. We find the place he’s leading us to, walk in and there’s a bomb.”

“I doubt it,” Sellitto said, shrugging, “why go to all this trouble? If you want to kill cops all you gotta do is find one and fucking shoot him.”

Awkward silence for a moment as Polling looked quickly from Sellitto to Rhyme. The collective thought registered that it was on the Shepherd case that Rhyme had been injured.

But faux pas meant nothing to Lincoln Rhyme. He continued, “I agree with Lon. But I’d tell any Search and Surveillance or HRT teams to keep an eye out for ambush. Our boy seems to be writing his own rules.”

Sachs looked again at the poster of the Hopper painting. Rhyme followed her gaze. Maybe the people in the diner really weren’t lonely, he reflected. Come to think of it, they all looked pretty damn content.

“We’ve got two types of physical evidence here,” Rhyme continued. “Standard PE. What the unsub didn’t mean to leave behind. Hair, fibers, fingerprints, maybe blood, shoeprints. If we can find enough of it – and if we’re lucky – that’ll lead us to the primary crime scene. That’s where he lives.”

“Or his hidey-hole,” Sellitto offered. “Something temporary.”

“A safe house?” Rhyme mused, nodding. “Bet you’re right, Lon. He needs someplace to operate out of.” He continued, “Then there’s the planted evidence. Apart from the scraps of paper – which tell us the time and date – we’ve got the bolt, the wad of asbestos and the sand.”

“A fucking scavenger hunt,” Haumann growled and ran a hand through his slick buzz cut. He looked just like the drill sergeant Rhyme recalled he’d been.

“So I can tell the brass there’s a chance of getting the vic in time?” Polling asked.

“I think so, yes.”

The captain made a call and wandered to the corner of the room as he talked. When he hung up he grunted, “The mayor. The chiefs with ’im. There’s gonna be a press conference in an hour and I gotta be there to make sure their dicks’re in their pants and their flies’re zipped. Anything more I can tell the big boys?”

Sellitto glanced at Rhyme, who shook his head.

“Not yet,” the detective said.

Polling gave Sellitto his cellular phone number and left, literally jogging out the door.

A moment later a skinny, balding man in his thirties ambled up the stairs. Mel Cooper was as goofy-looking as ever, the nerdy neighbor in a sitcom. He was followed by two younger cops carrying a steamer trunk and two suitcases that seemed to weigh a thousand pounds each. The officers deposited their heavy loads and left.

“Mel.”

“Detective.” Cooper walked up to Rhyme and gripped his useless right hand. The only physical contact today with any of his guests, Rhyme noted. He and Cooper had worked together for years. With degrees in organic chemistry, math and physics, Cooper was an expert both in identification – friction-ridge prints, DNA and forensic reconstruction – and in PE analysis.

“How’s the world’s foremost criminalist?” Cooper asked him.

Rhyme scoffed good-naturedly. The title had been bestowed on him by the press some years ago, after the surprising news that the FBI had selected him – a city cop – as adviser in putting together PERT, their Physical Evidence Response Team. Not satisfied with “forensic scientist” or “forensic specialist,” reporters dubbed Rhyme a “criminalist.”

The word had actually been around for years, first applied in the United States to the legendary Paul Leland Kirk, who ran the UC Berkeley School of Criminology. The school, the first in the country, had been founded by the even more legendary Chief August Vollmer. The handle had recently become chic, and when techs around the country sidled up to blondes at cocktail parties now they described themselves as criminalists, not forensic scientists.

“Everybody’s nightmare,” Cooper said, “you get into a cab and turns out there’s a psycho behind the wheel. And the whole world’s watching the Big Apple ’causa that conference. Wondered if they might not bring you out of retirement for this one.”

“How’s your mother?” Rhyme asked.

“Still complaining about every ache and pain. Still healthier than me.”

Cooper lived with the elderly woman in the Queens bungalow where he’d been born. His passion was ballroom dancing – the tango his specialty. Cop gossip being what it is, there’d been speculation around IRD as to the man’s sexual preference. Rhyme had had no interest in his employees’ personal lives but had been as surprised as everyone else to finally meet Greta, Cooper’s steady girlfriend, a stunning Scandinavian who taught advanced mathematics at Columbia.

Cooper opened the large trunk, which was padded with velvet. He lifted out parts for three large microscopes and began assembling them.

“Oh, house current.” He glanced at the outlets, disappointed. He pushed his metal-rimmed glasses up on his nose.

“That’s because it’s a house, Mel.”

“I assumed you lived in a lab. Wouldn’t have been surprised.”

Rhyme stared at the instruments, gray and black, battered. Similar to the ones he’d lived with for over fifteen years. A standard compound microscope, a phase-contrast ’scope, and a polarized-light model. Cooper opened the suitcases, which contained a Mr. Wizard assortment of bottles and jars and scientific instruments. In a flash, words came back to Rhyme, words that had once been part of his daily vocabulary. EDTA vacuum blood-collection tubes, acetic acid, orthotolidine, luminol reagent, Magna-Brush, Ruhemann’s purple phenomenon…

The skinny man looked around the room. “Looks just like your office used to, Lincoln. How do you find anything? Say, I need some room here.”

“Thom.” Rhyme moved his head toward the least cluttered table. They moved aside magazines and papers and books, revealing a tabletop Rhyme had not seen in a year.

Sellitto gazed at the crime scene report. “Whatta we call the unsub? We don’t have a case number yet.”

Rhyme glanced at Banks. “Pick a number. Any number.”

Banks suggested, “The page number. Well, the date, I mean.”

“Unsub 823. Good as any.”

Sellitto jotted this on the report.

“Uhm, excuse me? Detective Rhyme?”

It was the patrolwoman who’d spoken. Rhyme turned to her.

“I was supposed to be at the Big Building at noon.” Coptalk for One Police Plaza.

“Officer Sachs…” He’d forgotten about her momentarily. “You were first officer this morning? At that homicide by the railroad tracks.”

“That’s right, I took the call.” When she spoke, she spoke to Thom.

“I’m here, officer,” Rhyme reminded sternly, barely controlling his temper. “Over here.” It infuriated him when people talked to him through others, through healthy people.

Her head swiveled quickly and he saw the lesson had been learned. “Yessir,” she said, a soft tone in her voice but ice in her eyes.

“I’m decommissioned. Just call me Lincoln.”

“Would you just get it over with, please?”

“How’s that?” he asked.

“The reason why you brought me here. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. If you want a written apology I’ll do it. Only, I’m late for my new assignment and I haven’t had a chance to call my commander.”

“Apology?” Rhyme asked.

“The thing is, I didn’t have any real crime scene experience. I was sort of flying by the seat of my pants.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Stopping the trains and closing Eleventh Avenue. It was my fault the senator missed his speech in New Jersey and that some of the senior UN people didn’t make it in from Newark Airport in time for their meetings.”

Rhyme was chuckling. “Do you know who I am?”

“Well, I’ve heard of you of course. I thought you…”

“Were dead?” Rhyme asked.

“No. I didn’t mean that.” Though she had. She continued quickly, “We all used your book in the academy. But we don’t hear about you. Personally, I mean…” She looked up at the wall and said stiffly, “In my judgment, as first officer, I thought it was best to stop the train and close the street to protect the scene. And that’s what I did. Sir.”

“Call me Lincoln. And you’re…”

“I -”

“Your first name?”

“Amelia.”

“Amelia. After the aviatrix?”

“Nosir. A family name.”

“Amelia, I don’t want an apology. You were right and Vince Peretti was wrong.”

Sellitto stirred at this indiscretion but Lincoln Rhyme didn’t care. He was, after all, one of the few people in the world who could stay flat on his ass when the president of the United States himself walked into the room. He continued, “Peretti worked the scene like the mayor was looking over his shoulder and that’s the A-number-one way to screw it up. He had too many people, he was dead wrong to let the trains and traffic move and he should never have released the scene as early as he did. If we’d kept the tracks secure, who knows, we might’ve just found a credit card receipt with a name on it. Or a big beautiful thumbprint.”

“That may be,” Sellitto said delicately. “But let’s just keep it to ourselves.” Giving silent orders, his eyes swiveling toward Sachs and Cooper and young Jerry Banks.

Rhyme snorted an irreverent laugh. Then turned back to Sachs, whom he caught, like Banks that morning, staring at his legs and body under the apricot-colored blanket. He said to her, “I asked you here to work the next crime scene for us.”

“What?” No speaking through interpreters this time.

“Work for us,” he said shortly. “The next crime scene.”

“But” – she laughed – “I’m not IRD. I’m Patrol. I’ve never done CS work.”

“This is an unusual case. As Detective Sellitto himself’ll tell you. It’s real weird. Right, Lon? True, if it was a classic scene, I wouldn’t want you. But we need a fresh pair of eyes on this one.”

She glanced at Sellitto, who said nothing. “I just… I’d be no good at it. I’m sure.”

“All right,” Rhyme said patiently. “The truth?”

She nodded.

“I need somebody who’s got the balls to stop a train in its tracks to protect a scene and to put up with the heat afterwards.”

“Thank you for the opportunity, sir. Lincoln. But -”

Rhyme said shortly, “Lon.”

“Officer,” the detective grunted to Sachs, “you’re not being given any options here. You’ve been assigned to this case to assist at the crime scene.”

“Sir, I have to protest. I’m transferring out of Patrol. Today. I’ve got a medical transfer. Effective an hour ago.”

“Medical?” Rhyme inquired.

She hesitated, glancing unwilling at his legs again. “I have arthritis.”

“Do you?” Rhyme asked.

“Chronic arthritis.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

She continued quickly, “I only took that call this morning because someone was home sick. I didn’t plan on it.”

“Yes, well, I had other plans too,” Lincoln Rhyme said. “Now, let’s look at some evidence.”

SIX

“THE BOLT.”

Remembering the classic crime scene rule: Analyze the most unusual evidence first.

Thom turned the plastic bag over and over in his hands as Rhyme studied the metal rod, half rusted, half not. Dull. Worn.

“You’re sure about the prints? You tried small-particle reagent? That’s the best for PE exposed to the elements.”

“Yup,” Mel Cooper confirmed.

“Thom,” Rhyme ordered, “get this hair out of my eyes! Comb it back. I told you to comb it back this morning.”

The aide sighed and brushed at the tangled black strands. “Watch it,” he whispered ominously to his boss and Rhyme jerked his head dismissively, mussing his hair further. Amelia Sachs sat sullenly in the corner. Her legs rested under the chair in a sprinter’s starting position and, sure enough, she looked like she was just waiting for the gun.

Rhyme turned back to the bolt.

When he headed IRD, Rhyme had started assembling databases. Like the federal auto-paint-chip index or the BATF’s tobacco files. He’d set up a bullet-standards file, fibers, cloth, tires, shoes, tools, motor oil, transmission fluid. He’d spent hundreds of hours compiling lists, indexed and cross-referenced.

Even during Rhyme’s obsessive tenure, though, IRD had never gotten around to cataloging hardware. He wondered why not and he was angry at himself for not taking the time to do it and angrier still at Vince Peretti for not thinking of it either.

“We need to call every bolt manufacturer and jobber in the Northeast. No, in the country. Ask if they make a model like this and who they sell to. Fax a description and picture of the bolt to our dispatchers at Communications.”

“Hell, there could be a million of them,” Banks said. “Every Ace Hardware and Sears in the country.”

“I don’t think so,” Rhyme responded. “It’s got to be a viable clue. He wouldn’t have left it if it was useless. There’s a limited source of these bolts. I bet you.”

Sellitto made a call and looked up a few minutes later. “I’ve got you dispatchers, Lincoln. Four of them. Where do we get a list of manufacturers?”

“Get a patrolman down to Forty-second Street,” Rhyme replied. “Public Library. They have corporate directories there. Until we get one, have the dispatchers start working through the Business-to-Business Yellow Pages.”

Sellitto repeated this into the phone.

Rhyme glanced at the clock. It was one-thirty.

“Now, the asbestos.”

For an instant, the word glowed in his mind. He felt a jolt – in places where no jolts could be felt. What was familiar about asbestos? Something he’d read or heard about – recently, it seemed, though Lincoln Rhyme no longer trusted his sense of time. When you lie on your back frozen in place month after month after month, time slows to near-death. He might be thinking of something he’d read two years ago.

“What do we know about asbestos?” he mused. No one answered but that didn’t matter; he answered himself. As he preferred to do anyway. Asbestos was a complex molecule, silicate polymer. It doesn’t burn because, like glass, it’s already oxidized.

When he’d run crime scenes of old murders – working with forensic anthropologists and odontologists – Rhyme often found himself in asbestos-insulated buildings. He remembered the peculiar taste of the face masks they’d had to wear during the excavation. In fact, he now recalled, it’d been during an asbestos-removal cleanup at the City Hall subway stop three and a half years ago that crews found the body of one of the policemen murdered by Dan Shepherd dumped in a generator room. As Rhyme had bent down over it slowly to lift a fiber from the officer’s light-blue blouse, he’d heard the crack and groan of the oak beam. The mask had probably saved him from choking to death on the dust and dirt that caved in around him.

“Maybe he’s got her at a cleanup site,” Sellitto said.

“Could be,” Rhyme agreed.

Sellitto ordered his young assistant, “Call EPA and city Environmental. Find out if there’re any sites where cleanup’s going on right now.”

The detective made the call.

“Bo,” Rhyme asked Haumann, “you have teams to deploy?”

“Ready to roll,” the ESU commander confirmed. “Though I gotta tell you, we’ve got over half the force tied up with this UN thing. They’re on loan to the Secret Service and UN security.”

“Got some EPA info here.” Banks gestured to Haumann and they retired to a corner of the room. They moved aside several stacks of books. As Haumann unfurled one of ESU’s tactical maps of New York something clattered to the floor.

Banks jumped. “Jesus.”

From the angle where he lay, Rhyme couldn’t see what had fallen. Haumann hesitated then bent down and retrieved the bleached piece of spinal column and replaced it on the table.

Rhyme felt several pairs of eyes on him but he said nothing about the bone. Haumann leaned over the map, as Banks, on the phone, fed him information about asbestos-cleanup sites. The commander marked them in grease pencil. There appeared to be a lot of them, scattered all over the five boroughs of the city. It was discouraging.

“We have to narrow it down more. Let’s see, the sand,” Rhyme said to Cooper. “’Scope it. Tell me what you think.”

Sellitto handed the evidence envelope to the tech, who poured the contents out onto an enamel examination tray. The glistening powder left a small cloud of dust. There was also a stone, worn smooth, which slid into the center of the pile.

Lincoln Rhyme’s throat caught. Not at what he saw – he didn’t yet know what he was looking at – but at the flawed nerve impulse that shot from his brain and died halfway to his useless right arm, urging it to grab a pencil and to probe. The first time in a year or so he’d felt that urge. It nearly brought tears into his eyes and his only solace was the memory of the tiny bottle of Seconal and the plastic bag that Dr. Berger carried with him – images that hovered like a saving angel over the room.

He cleared his throat. “Print it!”

“What?” Cooper asked.

“The stone.”

Sellitto looked at him inquiringly.

“The rock doesn’t belong there,” Rhyme said. “Apples and oranges. I want to know why. Print it.”

Using porcelain-tipped forceps, Cooper picked up the stone and examined it. He slipped on goggles and hit the rock with a beam from a PoliLight – a power pack the size of a car battery with a light wand attached.

“Nothing,” Cooper said.

“VMD?”

Vacuum metal deposition is the Cadillac of techniques for raising latent prints on nonporous surfaces. It evaporates gold or zinc in a vacuum chamber containing the object to be tested; the metal coats the latent print, making the whorls and peaks very visible.

But Cooper didn’t have a VMD with him.

“What do you have?” asked Rhyme, not pleased.

“ Sudan black, stabilized physical developer, iodine, amido black, DFO and gentian violet, Magna-Brush.”

He’d also brought ninhydrin for raising prints on porous surfaces and a Super Glue frame for smooth surfaces. Rhyme recalled the stunning news that had swept the forensic community some years ago: A technician working in a U.S. Army forensic lab in Japan had used Super Glue to fix a broken camera and found to his amazement that the fumes from the adhesive raised latent fingerprints better than most chemicals made for that purpose.

This was the method Cooper now used. With forceps he set the rock in a small glass box and put a dab of glue on the hot plate inside. A few minutes later he lifted the rock out.

“We’ve got something,” he said. He dusted it with long-wavelength UV powder and hit it with the beam from the PoliLight wand. A print was clearly visible. Dead center. Cooper photographed it with Polaroid CU- 5, a 1:1 camera. He showed the picture to Rhyme.

“Hold it closer.” Rhyme squinted as he examined it. “Yes! He rolled it.”

Rolling prints – rocking a finger onto a surface – produced an impression different from one made by picking up an object. It was a subtle difference – in the width of the friction ridges at various points on the pattern – but one that Rhyme now recognized clearly.

“And look, what’s that?” he mused. “That line.” There was a faint crescent mark above the print itself.

“It looks almost like -”

“Yep,” Rhyme said, “her fingernail. You wouldn’t normally get that. But I’ll bet he tipped the stone just to make sure it got picked up. It left an oil impression. Like a friction ridge.”

“Why would he do that?” Sachs asked.

Once more miffed that nobody seemed to be picking up these points as fast as he was, Rhyme explained tersely, “He’s telling us two things. First, he’s making sure we know the victim’s a woman. In case we didn’t make the connection between her and the body this morning.”

“Why do that?” Banks asked.

“To up the ante,” Rhyme said. “Make us sweat more. He’s let us know there’s a woman at risk. He’s valuated the victims – just like we all do – even though we claim we don’t.” Rhyme happened to glance at Sachs’s hands. He was surprised to see that, for such a beautiful woman, her fingers were a mess. Four ended in fleshy Band-Aids and several others were chewed to the quick. The cuticle of one was caked with brown blood. He noticed too the red inflammation of the skin beneath her eyebrows, from plucking them, he assumed. And a scratch mark beside her ear. All self-destructive habits. There’re a million ways to do yourself in besides pills and Armagnac.

Rhyme announced, “The other thing he’s telling us I already warned you about. He knows evidence. He’s saying, Don’t bother with regular forensic PE. I won’t be leaving any. That’s what he thinks of course. But we’ll find something. You bet we will.” Suddenly Rhyme frowned. “The map! We need the map. Thom!”

The aide blurted, “What map?”

“You know what map I mean.”

Thom sighed. “Not a clue, Lincoln.”

Glancing out the window and speaking half to himself, Rhyme mused, “The railroad underpass, the bootleg tunnels and access doors, the asbestos – those’re all old. He likes historical New York. I want the Randel map.”

“Which is where?”

“The research files for my book. Where else?”

Thom dug through folders and pulled out a photocopy of a long, horizontal map of Manhattan. “This?”

“That, yes!”

It was the Randel Survey, drawn in 1811 for the commissioners of the city to plan out the grid of streets in Manhattan. The map had been printed horizontally, with Battery Park, south, to the left and Harlem, north, to the right. Laid out this way, the island resembled the body of a dog leaping, its narrow head lifted for an attack.

“Pin it up there. Good.”

As the aide did, Rhyme blurted, “Thom, we’re going to deputize you. Give him a shiny badge or something, Lon.”

“ Lincoln,” he muttered.

“We need you. Come on. Haven’t you always wanted to be Sam Spade or Kojak?”

“Only Judy Garland,” the aide replied.

“Jessica Fletcher then! You’ll be writing the profile. Come on now, get out that Mont Blanc you’re always letting stick vainly out of your shirt pocket.”

The young man rolled his eyes as he lifted his Parker pen and took a dusty yellow pad from a stack under one of the tables.

“No, I’ve got a better idea,” Rhyme announced. “Put up one of those posters. Those art posters. Tape it up backwards and write on the back in marker. Write big now. So I can see it.”

Thom selected a Monet lily pads and mounted it to the wall.

“On the top,” the criminalist ordered, “write ‘Unsub 823.’ Then four columns. ‘Appearance. Residence. Vehicle. Other.’ Beautiful. Now, let’s start. What do we know about him?”

Sellitto said, “Vehicle… He’s got a Yellow Cab.”

“Right. And under ‘Other’ add that he knows CS – crime scene – procedures.”

“Which,” Sellitto added, “maybe means he’s had his turn in the barrel.”

“How’s that?” Thom asked.

“He might have a record,” the detective explained.

Banks said, “Should we add that he’s armed with a.32 Colt?”

“Fuck yes,” his boss confirmed.

Rhyme contributed, “And he knows FRs…”

“What?” Thom asked.

“Friction ridges – fingerprints. That’s what they are, you know, ridges on our hands and feet to give us traction. And put down that he’s probably working out of a safe house. Good job, Thom. Look at him. He’s a born law enforcer.”

Thom glowered and stepped away from the wall, brushing at his shirt, which had picked up a stringy cobweb from the wall.

“There we go, folks,” Sellitto said. “Our first look at Mr. 823.”

Rhyme turned to Mel Cooper. “Now, the sand. What can we tell about it?”

Cooper lifted the goggles onto his pale forehead. He poured a sample onto a slide and slipped it under the polarized-light ’scope. He adjusted dials.

“Hmm. This is curious. No birefringence.”

Polarizing microscopes show birefringence – the double refraction of crystals and fibers and some other materials. Seashore sand birefringes dramatically.

“So it isn’t sand,” Rhyme muttered. “It’s something ground up… Can you individuate it?”

Individuation… The goal of the criminalist. Most physical evidence can be identified. But even if you know what it is there are usually hundreds or thousands of sources it might have come from. Individuated evidence is something that could have come from only one source or a very limited number of sources. A fingerprint, a DNA profile, a paint chip that fits into a missing spot on the perp’s car like a jigsaw-puzzle piece.

“Maybe,” the tech responded, “if I can figure out what it is.”

“Ground glass?” Rhyme suggested.

Glass is essentially melted sand but the glassmaking process alters the crystalline structure. You don’t get birefringence with ground glass. Cooper examined the sample closely.

“No, I don’t think it’s glass. I don’t know what it is. I wish I had an EDX here.”

A popular crime lab tool was a scanning electron microscope married to an energy-dispersive X-ray unit; it determined what elements were in trace samples found at crime scenes.

“Get him one,” Rhyme ordered Sellitto, then looked around the room. “We need more equipment. I want a vacuum metal fingerprint unit too. And a GC-MS.” A gas Chromatograph broke down substances into their component elements, and mass photospectrometry used light to identify each one of them. These instruments let criminalists test an unknown sample as small as one millionth of a gram and compare it against a database of a hundred thousand known substances, cataloged by identity and name brand.

Sellitto phoned the wish list in to the CSU lab.

“But we can’t wait for the fancy toys, Mel. You’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way. Tell me more about our phony sand.”

“It’s mixed with a little dirt. There’s loam, flecks of quartz, feldspar and mica. But minimal leaf and decomposed-plant fragments. Flecks here of what could be bentonite.”

“Bentonite.” Rhyme was pleased. “That’s a volcanic ash that builders use in slurry when they’re digging foundations in watery areas of the city where the bedrock’s deep. It prevents cave-ins. So we’re looking for a developed area that’s on or near the water, probably south of Thirty-fourth Street. North of that the bedrock’s much closer to the surface and they don’t need slurry.”

Cooper moved the slide. “If I had to guess, I’d say this is mostly calcium. Wait, something fibrous here.”

The knob turned and Rhyme would’ve paid anything to be looking through that eyepiece. Flashed back to all the evenings he’d spent with his face pressed against the gray sponge rubber, watching fibers or flecks of humus or blood cells or metal shavings swim into and out of focus.

“Here’s something else. A larger granule. Three layers. One similar to horn, then two layers of calcium. Slightly different colors. The other one’s translucent.”

“Three layers?” Rhyme spat out angrily. “Hell, it’s a seashell!” He felt furious with himself. He should have thought of that.

“Yep, that’s it.” Cooper was nodding. “Oyster, I think.”

The oyster beds around the city were mostly off the coasts of Long Island and New Jersey. Rhyme had hoped that the unsub would limit the geographic area of the search to Manhattan – where the victim that morning was found. He muttered, “If he’s opening up the whole metro area the search’ll be hopeless.”

Cooper said, “I’m looking at something else. I think it’s lime. But very old. Granular.”

“Concrete maybe?” Rhyme suggested.

“Possibly. Yes.

“I don’t get the shells then,” Cooper added reflectively. “Around New York the oyster beds’re full of vegetation and mud. This is mixed with concrete and there’s virtually no vegetable matter at all.”

Rhyme barked suddenly: “Edges! What are the edges of the shell like, Mel?”

The tech gazed into the eyepiece. “Fractured, not worn. This’s been pulverized by dry pressure. Not eroded by water.”

Rhyme’s eyes slipped over the Randel map, scanning right and left. Focusing on the leaping dog’s rump.

“Got it!” he cried.

In 1913 F. W. Woolworth built the sixty-story structure that still bears his name, terra-cotta-clad, covered with gargoyles and Gothic sculpture. For sixteen years it was the world’s tallest building. Because the bedrock in that part of Manhattan was more than a hundred feet below Broadway, workmen had to dig deep shafts to anchor the building. It wasn’t long after the groundbreaking that workmen discovered the remains of Manhattan industrialist Talbott Soames, who’d been kidnapped in 1906. The man’s body was found buried in a thick bed of what looked like white sand but was really ground oyster shells, a fact the tabloids had a hey-day with, noting the obese tycoon’s obsession with rich food. The shells were so common along the lower eastern tip of Manhattan they’d been used for landfill. They were what had given Pearl Street its name.

“She’s downtown somewhere,” Rhyme announced. “Probably the east side. And maybe near Pearl. She’ll be underground, about five to fifteen feet down. Maybe a construction site, maybe a basement. An old building or tunnel.”

“Cross-check the EPA diagram, Jerry,” Sellitto instructed. “Where they’re doing asbestos cleanup.”

“Along Pearl? Nothing.” The young officer held up the map he and Haumann were working from. “There’re three-dozen cleanup sites – in Midtown, Harlem and the Bronx. But nothing downtown.”

“Asbestos… asbestos…” Rhyme mused again. What was so familiar about it?

It was 2:05 p.m.

“Bo, we’ve got to move. Get your people down there and start a search. All the buildings along Pearl Street. Water Street too.”

“Man,” the cop sighed, “that’s beaucoup buildings.” He started for the door.

Rhyme said to Sellitto, “Lon, you better go too. This’s going to be a photo finish. They’ll need all the searchers they can get. Amelia, I want you down there too.”

“Look, I’ve been thinking -”

“Officer,” Sellitto snapped, “you got your orders.”

A faint glower crossed her beautiful face.

Rhyme said to Cooper, “Mel, you drive over here in a bus?”

“An RRV,” he answered.

The city’s big crime scene buses were large vans – filled with instruments and evidence-collection supplies, better equipped than the entire labs of many small towns. But when Rhyme was running IRD he’d ordered smaller crime scene vehicles – station wagons basically – containing the essential collection-and-analysis equipment. The Rapid Response Vehicles looked placid but Rhyme had bullied Transportation into getting them fitted with turbocharged Police Interceptor engines. They often beat Patrol’s squad cars to the scene; on more than one occasion the first officer was a seasoned crime scene tech. Which is every prosecutor’s dream.

“Give Amelia the keys.”

Cooper handed them to Sachs, who stared briefly at Rhyme then wheeled and hurried down the stairs. Even her footsteps sounded angry.

“All right, Lon. What’s on your mind?”

Sellitto glanced at the empty hallway and walked up close to Rhyme. “You really want P.D. for this?”

“P.D.?”

“I mean her. Sachs. P.D.’s a nickname.”

“For what?”

“Don’t say it around her. Ticks her off. Her dad was a beat cop for forty years. So they call her the Portable’s Daughter.”

“You don’t think I should’ve picked her?”

“Naw, I don’t. Why d’you want her?”

“Because she climbed down a thirty-foot embankment so she wouldn’t contaminate the scene. She closed a major avenue and an Amtrak line. That’s initiative.”

“Come on, Linc. I know a dozen CS cops’d do something like that.”

“Well, she’s the one I wanted.” And Rhyme gave Sellitto a grave look, reminding him, subtly but without debate, what the terms of this bargain had been.

“All I’ll say is,” the detective muttered, “I just talked to Polling. Peretti’s fucking outa joint about being flanked and if – no, I’ll say when – the brass finds out somebody from Patrol’s walking the grid at the scene, there’ll be fucking trouble.”

“Probably,” Rhyme said softly, gazing at the profile poster, “but I have a feeling that’s going to be the least of our trouble today.”

And let his weary head ease back into the thick down pillow.

SEVEN

THE STATION WAGON RACED toward the dark, sooty canyons of Wall Street, downtown New York.

Amelia Sachs’s fingers danced lightly on the steering wheel as she tried to imagine where T.J. Colfax might be held captive. Finding her seemed hopeless. The approaching financial district had never looked so enormous, so full of alleys, so filled with manholes and doorways and buildings peppered with black windows.

So many places to hide a hostage.

In her mind she saw the hand sticking out of the grave beside the railroad tracks. The diamond ring sitting on the bloody bone of a finger. Sachs recognized the type of jewelry. She called them consolation rings – the sort lonely rich girls bought themselves. The sort she’d be wearing if she were rich.

Speeding south, dodging bicycle messengers and cabs.

Even on this glaring afternoon, under a choked sun, this was a spooky part of town. The buildings cast grim shadows and were coated with grime dark as dried blood.

Sachs took a turn at forty, skidding on the spongy asphalt, and punched the pedal to bring the station wagon back up to sixty.

Excellent engine, she thought. And decided to see how well the wagon handled at seventy.

Years before, while her old man slept – he worked the three-to-eleven watch usually – teenage Amie Sachs would palm the keys to his Camaro and tell her mother Rose she was going shopping, did she want anything from the Fort Hamilton pork store? And before her mother could say, “No, but you take the train, you’re not driving,” the girl would disappear out the door, fire up the car and race west.

UNSUB 823:

Appearance

Residence

Prob. has safe house

Vehicle

Yellow Cab

Other

knows CS proc.

•possibly has record

•knows FR prints

•gun =.32 Colt

Coming home three hours later, pork-less, Amie would sneak up the stairs to be confronted by a mother frantic and angry, who – to her daughter’s amusement – would lecture her about the risks of getting pregnant and how that would ruin her chances to use her beautiful face to make a million dollars at modeling. And when finally the woman learned that her daughter wasn’t sleeping around but was merely driving a hundred mph on Long Island highways, she grew frantic and angry and would lecture the girl about smashing up her beautiful face and ruining her chances to make a million dollars at modeling.

Things grew even worse when she got her driver’s license.

Sachs now sliced between two double-parked trucks, hoping that neither a passenger nor a driver would open his door. In a Doppler whisper she was past them.

When you move they can’t getcha…

Lon Sellitto kneaded his rotund face with blunt fingertips and paid no attention to the Indy 500 driving. He talked with his partner about the case like an accountant discussing a balance sheet. As for Banks, though, he was no longer stealing infatuated glances at Sachs’s eyes and lips and had taken to checking the speedometer every minute or so.

They skidded in a frantic turn past the Brooklyn Bridge. She thought again of the woman captive, picturing T.J.’s long, elegant nails, while she tapped her own picked fingers on the wheel. She saw again in her mind the image that refused to go away: the white birch branch of a hand, sticking up out of the moist grave. The single bloody bone.

“He’s kind of loony,” she blurted suddenly, to change the direction of her thoughts.

“Who?” Sellitto asked.

“Rhyme.”

Banks added, “Ask me, he looks like Howard Hughes’s kid brother.”

“Yeah, well, that surprised me,” the older detective admitted. “Wasn’t looking too good. Used to be a handsome guy. But, well, you know. After what he’s been through. How come if you drive like this, Sachs, you’re a portable?”

“Where I got assigned. They didn’t ask, they told me.” Just like you did, she reflected. “Was he really as good as that?”

“Rhyme? Better. Most CSU guys in New York handle two hundred bodies a year. Tops. Rhyme did double that. Even when he was running IRD. Take Peretti, he’s a good man but he gets out once every two weeks or so and only on media cases. You’re not hearing this from me, officer.”

“Nosir.”

“But Rhyme’d run the scenes himself. And when he wasn’t running scenes he’d be out walking around.”

“Doing what?”

“Just walking around. Looking at stuff. He walked miles. All over the city. Buying things, picking up things, collecting things.”

“What kinds of things?”

“Evidence standards. Dirt, food, magazines, hubcaps, shoes, medical books, drugs, plants… You name it, he’d find it and catalog it. You know – so when some PE came in he’d have a better idea where the perp might’ve been or what he’d been doing. You’d page him and he’d be in Harlem or the Lower East Side or Hell’s Kitchen.”

“Police in his blood?”

“Naw. Father was some kind of scientist at a national laboratory or something.”

“Is that what Rhyme studied? Science?”

“Yeah. Went to school at Champaign-Urbana, got a coupla fancy degrees. Chemistry and history. Which I have no idea why. His folks’re gone since I knew him, that’d be, hell, coming on fifteen years now. And he doesn’t have any brothers or sisters. He grew up in Illinois. That’s why the name, Lincoln.”

She wanted to ask if he was, or had been, married but didn’t. She settled for: “Is he really that much of a…”

“You can say it, officer.”

“A shit?”

Banks laughed.

Sellitto said, “My ma had this expression. She said somebody was ‘of a mind.’ Well, that describes Rhyme. He’s of a mind. One time this dumb-ass tech sprayed luminol – that’s a blood reagent – on a fingerprint, instead of ninhydrin. Ruined the print. Rhyme fired him on the spot. Another time a cop took a leak at a scene and flushed the toilet. Man, Rhyme went ballistic, told him to get his ass down to the basement and bring back whatever was in the sewer trap.” Sellitto laughed. “The cop, he had rank, he said, ‘I’m not doing that, I’m a lieutenant.’ And Rhyme said, ‘Got news. You’re a plumber now.’ I could go on and on. Fuck, officer, you doing eighty?”

They streaked past the Big Building and she thought, achingly, That’s where I oughta be right now. Meeting fellow information officers, sitting through the training session, soaking up the air-conditioning.

She steered expertly around a taxi that was oozing through a red light.

Jesus, this is hot. Dust hot, stink hot, gas hot. The ugly hours of the city. Tempers spurted like gray water shooting from hydrants up in Harlem. Two Christmases ago, she and her boyfriend had an abbreviated holiday celebration – from 11:00 p.m. to midnight, the only mutual free time their watches allowed – in the four-degree night. She and Nick, sitting at Rockefeller Center, outside, near the skating rink, drinking coffee and brandy. They’d agreed they’d rather have a week of cold than a single hot August day.

Finally, streaking down Pearl she spotted Haumann’s command post. Leaving eight-foot skid marks, Sachs put the RRV into a slot between his car and an EMS bus.

“Damn, you drive good.” Sellitto climbed out. For some reason Sachs was delighted to notice Jerry Banks’s sweaty fingerprints remained prominently on the window when he pushed the rear door open.

EMS officers and Patrol uniforms were everywhere, fifty or sixty of them. And more were on their way. It seemed as if the entire attention of Police Plaza was focused on downtown New York. Sachs found herself thinking idly that if anybody wanted to try an assassination or to take over Gracie Mansion or a consulate, this’d be the time to do it.

Haumann trotted up to the station wagon. He said to Sellitto, “We’re doing door-to-door, seeing about construction along Pearl. Nobody knows anything about asbestos work and nobody’s heard any calls for help.”

Sachs started to climb out but Haumann said, “No, officer. Your orders’re to stay here with the CS vehicle.”

She got out anyway.

“Yessir. Who exactly said that?”

“Detective Rhyme. I just talked to him. You’re supposed to call in to Central when you’re at the CP.”

Haumann was walking away. Sellitto and Banks hurried toward the command post.

“Detective Sellitto,” Sachs called.

He turned. She said, “Excuse me, detective. The thing is, who’s my watch commander? Who’m I reporting to?”

He said shortly, “You’re reporting to Rhyme.”

She laughed. “But I can’t be reporting to him.”

Sellitto gazed at her blankly.

“I mean, aren’t there liability issues or something? Jurisdiction? He’s a civilian. I need somebody, a shield, to report to.”

Sellitto said evenly, “Officer, listen up. We’re all reporting to Lincoln Rhyme. I don’t care whether he’s a civilian or he’s the chief or he’s the fucking Caped Crusader. Got that?”

“But -”

“You wanna complain, do it in writing and do it tomorrow.”

And he was gone. Sachs stared after him for a moment then returned to the front seat of the wagon and called in to Central that she was 10-84 at the scene. Awaiting instructions.

She laughed grimly as the woman reported, “Ten-four, Portable 5885. Be advised. Detective Rhyme will be in touch shortly, K.”

Detective Rhyme.

“Ten-four, K,” Sachs responded and looked in the back of the wagon, wondering idly what was in the black suitcases.

Two-forty p.m.

The phone rang in Rhyme’s townhouse. Thom answered. “It’s a dispatcher from headquarters.”

“Put ’em through.”

The speakerphone burst to life. “Detective Rhyme, you don’t remember me but I worked at IRD when you were there. Civilian. Did phone detail then. Emma Rollins.”

“Of course. How’re the youngsters, Emma?” Rhyme had a memory of a large, cheerful black woman, supporting five children with two jobs. He recalled her blunt finger stabbing buttons so hard she once actually broke one of the government-issue phones.

“Jeremy’s starting college in a couple weeks and Dora’s still acting, or she thinks she is. The little ones’re doing just fine.”

“Lon Sellitto recruited you, did he?”

“Nosir. I heard you were working on the case and I booted some child back to 911. Emma’s taking this job, I told her.”

“What’ve you got for us?”

“We’re working out of a directory of companies making bolts. And a book that lists places wholesaling them. Here’s what we found. It was the letters did it. The ones stamped on the bolt. The CE. They’re made special for Con Ed.”

Hell. Of course.

“They’re marked that way because they’re a different size than most bolts this company sells – fifteen-sixteenths of an inch, and a lot more threads than most other bolts. That’d be Michigan Tool and Die in Detroit. They use ’em in old pipes only in New York. Ones made sixty, seventy years ago. The way the parts of the pipe fit together they have to be real close seals. Fit closer’n a bride and groom on their wedding night’s what the man told me. Trying to make me blush.”

“Emma, I love you. You stay on call, will you?”

“You bet I will.”

“Thom!” Rhyme shouted. “This phone isn’t going to work. I need to make calls myself. That voice-activation thing in the computer. Can I use it?”

“You never ordered it.”

“I didn’t?”

“No.”

“Well, I need it.”

“Well, we don’t have it.”

“Do something. I want to be able to make calls.”

“I think there’s a manual ECU somewhere.” Thom dug through a box against the wall. He found a small electronic console and plugged one end into the phone and the other into a stalk control that mounted next to Rhyme’s cheek.

“That’s too awkward!”

“Well, it’s all we’ve got. If we’d hooked up the infrared above your eyebrow like I suggested, you could’ve been making phone-sex calls for the past two years.”

“Too many fucking wires,” Rhyme spat out.

His neck spasmed suddenly and knocked the controller out of reach. “Fuck.”

Suddenly this minute task – not to mention their mission – seemed impossible to Lincoln Rhyme. He was exhausted, his neck hurt, his head. His eyes particularly. They stung and – this was more painful to him – he felt a chip of urge to rub the backs of his fingers across his closed lids. A tiny gesture of relief, something the rest of the world did every day.

Thom replaced the joystick. Rhyme summoned patience from somewhere and asked his aide, “How does it work?”

“There’s the screen. See it on the controller? Just move the stick till it’s on a number, wait one second and it’s programmed in. Then do the next number the same way. When you’ve got all seven, push the stick here to dial.”

He snapped, “It’s not working.”

“Just practice.”

“We don’t have time!”

Thom snarled, “I’ve been answering the phone for you way too long.”

“All right,” Rhyme said, lowering his voice – his way of apology. “I’ll practice later. Could you please get me Con Ed? And I need to speak to a supervisor.”

The rope hurt and the cuffs hurt but it was the noise that scared her the most.

Tammie Jean Colfax felt all the sweat in her body run down her face and chest and arms as she struggled to saw the handcuff links back and forth on the rusty bolt. Her wrists were numb but it seemed to her that she was wearing through some of the chain.

She paused, exhausted, and twitched her arms this way and that to keep a cramp at bay. She listened again. It was, she thought, the sound of workmen tightening bolts and hammering parts into place. Final taps of hammers. She imagined they were just finishing up their job on the pipe and thinking of going home.

Don’t go, she cried to herself. Don’t leave me. As long as the men were there, working, she was safe.

A final bang, then ringing silence.

Git on outa thayr, girl. G’on.

Mamma…

T.J. cried for several minutes, thinking of her family back in Eastern Tennessee. Her nostrils clogged but as she began to choke she blew her nose violently, felt an explosion of tears and mucus. Then she was breathing again. It gave her confidence. Strength. She began to saw once more.

“I appreciate the urgency, detective. But I don’t know how I can help you. We use bolts all over the city. Oil lines, gas lines…”

“All right,” Rhyme said tersely and asked the Con Ed supervisor at the company’s headquarters on Fourteenth Street, “Do you insulate wiring with asbestos?”

A hesitation.

“We’ve cleaned up ninety percent of that,” the woman said defensively. “Ninety- five.”

People could be so irritating. “I understand that. I just need to know if there’s still any asbestos used for insulation.”

“No,” she said adamantly. “Well, never for electricity. Just the steam and that’s the smallest percentage of our service.”

Steam!

It was the least-known and the scariest of the city’s utilities. Con Ed heated water to 1,000 degrees then shot it through a hundred-mile network of pipes running under Manhattan. The blistering steam itself was superheated – about 380 degrees – and rocketed through the city at seventy-five miles an hour.

Rhyme now recalled an article in the paper. “Didn’t you have a break in the line last week?”

“Yessir. But there was no asbestos leak. That site had been cleaned years ago.”

“But there is asbestos around some of your pipes in the system downtown?”

She hesitated. “Well…”

“Where was the break?” Rhyme continued quickly.

“Broadway. A block north of Chambers.”

“Wasn’t there an article in the Times about it?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. Yes.”

“And did the article mention asbestos?”

“It did,” she admitted, “but it just said that in the past asbestos contamination’d been a problem.”

“The pipe that broke, was it… does it cross Pearl Street farther south?”

“Well, let me see. Yes, it does. At Hanover Street. On the north side.”

He pictured T.J. Colfax, the woman with the thin fingers and long nails, about to die.

“And the steam’s going back on at three?”

“That’s right. Any minute now.”

“It can’t!” Rhyme shouted. “Somebody’s tampered with the line. You can’t turn that steam back on!”

Cooper looked up uneasily from his microscope.

The supervisor said, “Well, I don’t know…”

Rhyme barked to Thom, “Call Lon, tell him she’s in a basement at Hanover and Pearl. The north side.” He told him about the steam. “Get the fire department there too. Heat-protective outfits.”

Rhyme shouted into the speakerphone. “Call the work crews! Now! They can’t turn that steam back on. They can’t!” He repeated the words absently, detesting his exquisite imagination, which showed, in an endless loop, the woman’s flesh growing pink then red then splitting apart under the fierce clouds of sputtering white steam.

In the station wagon the radio crackled. It was three minutes to three by Sachs’s watch. She answered the call.

“Portable 5885, K-”

“Forget the officialese, Amelia,” Rhyme said. “We don’t have time.”

“I -”

“We think we know where she is. Hanover and Pearl.”

She glanced over her shoulder and saw dozens of ESU officers running flat-out toward an old building.

“Do you want me to -”

“They’ll look for her. You have to get ready to work the scene.”

“But I can help -”

“No. I want you to go to the back of the station wagon. There’s a suitcase in it labeled zero two. Take it with you. And in a small black case there’s a PoliLight. You saw one in my room. Mel was using it. Take that too. In the suitcase marked zero three you’ll find a headset and stalk mike. Plug it into your Motorola and get over to the building where the officers are. Call me back when you’re rigged. Channel thirty-seven. I’ll be on a landline but you’ll be patched through to me.”

Channel thirty-seven. The special ops citywide frequency. The priority frequency.

“What? -” she asked. But the dead radio did not respond.

She had a long black halogen flashlight on her utility belt so she left the bulky twelve-volter in the back of the wagon and grabbed the PoliLight and the heavy suitcase. It must have weighed fifty pounds. Just what my damn joints need. She adjusted her grip and, teeth clamped together against the pain, hurried toward the intersection.

Sellitto, breathless, ran to the building. Banks joined them.

“You hear?” the older detective asked. Sachs nodded.

“This is it?” she asked.

Sellitto nodded toward the alley. “He had to take her in this way. The lobby’s got a guard station.” They now trotted down the shadowy, cobblestoned canyon, steaming hot, smelling of piss and garbage. Battered blue Dumpsters sat nearby.

“There,” Sellitto shouted. “Those doors.”

The cops fanned out, running. Three of the four doors were locked tight from the inside.

The fourth had been jimmied open and was now chained shut. The chain and lock were new.

“This’s it!” Sellitto reached for the door, hesitated. Thinking probably about fingerprints. Then he grabbed the handle and yanked. It opened a few inches but the chain held tight. He sent three of the uniforms around to the front to get into the basement from the inside. One cop worked a cobblestone loose from the alley floor and began pounding on the door handle. A half-dozen blows, a dozen. He winced as his hand struck the door; blood gushed from a torn finger.

A fireman ran up with a Halligan tool – a combination pickax and crowbar. He rammed the end into the chain and ripped the padlock open. Sellitto looked at Sachs expectantly. She gazed back.

“Well, go, officer!” he barked.

“What?”

“Didn’t he tell you?”

“Who?”

“Rhyme.”

Hell, she’d forgotten to plug in the headset. She fumbled it, finally got it plugged in. Heard: “Amelia, where -”

“I’m here.”

“Are you at the building?”

“Yes.”

“Go inside. They shut the steam off but I don’t know if it was in time. Take a medic and one ESU trooper. Go to the boiler room. You’ll probably see her right away, the Colfax woman. Walk to her but not directly, not in a straight line from the door to her. I don’t want you to disturb any footprints he might’ve left. Understand?”

“Yes.” She nodded emphatically, not thinking that he couldn’t see her. Gesturing the medic and an Emergency Services trooper after her, Sachs stepped forward into the murky corridor, shadows everywhere, the groan of machinery, dripping water.

“Amelia,” Rhyme said.

“Yes.”

“We were talking about ambush before. From what I know about him now I don’t think that’s the case. He’s not there, Amelia. That would be illogical. But keep your shooting hand free.”

Illogical.

“Okay.”

“Now go! Fast.”

EIGHT

A MURKY CAVERN. HOT, BLACK, DAMP.

The three of them moved quickly down the filthy hallway toward the only doorway Sachs could see. A sign said BOILER ROOM. She was behind the ESU officer, who wore full body armor and helmet. The medic was in the rear.

Her right knuckles and shoulder throbbed from the weight of the suitcase. She shifted it to her left hand, nearly dropped it and readjusted her grip. They continued to the door.

There, the SWAT officer pushed inside and swung his machine gun around the dimly lit room. A flashlight was attached to the barrel and it cast a line of pale light in the shreds of steam. Sachs smelled moisture, mold. And another scent, loathsome.

Click. “Amelia?” The staticky burst of Rhyme’s voice scared the absolute hell out of her. “Where are you, Amelia?”

With a shaking hand she turned down the volume.

“Inside,” she gasped.

“Is she alive?”

Sachs rocked on her feet, staring at the sight. She squinted, not sure at first what she was seeing. Then she understood.

“Oh, no.” Whispering. Feeling the nausea.

The sickening boiled-meat smell wafted around her. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Neither was the sight of the woman’s skin, bright red, almost orange, peeling off in huge scales. The face completely stripped of skin. No, what brought the dread home was the angle of TJ Colfax’s body, the impossible twisting of her limbs and torso as she’d tried to get away from the spray of ravaging heat.

He hoped the vic was dead. For his sake…

“Is she alive?” Rhyme repeated.

“No,” Sachs whispered. “I don’t see how… No.”

“Is the room secure?”

Sachs glanced at the officer, who’d heard the transmission and nodded.

“Scene secure.”

Rhyme told her, “I want the ESU trooper out then you and the medic go check on her.”

Sachs gagged once on the smell and forced herself to control the reflex. She and the medic walked in an oblique path to the pipe. He bent unemotionally forward and felt the woman’s neck. He shook his head.

“Amelia?” Rhyme asked.

Her second body in the line of duty. Both in one day.

The medic said, “DCDS.”

Sachs nodded, said formally into the mike, “We have a deceased, confirmed dead at the scene.”

“Scalded to death?” Rhyme asked.

“Looks like it.”

“Tied to the wall?”

“A pipe. Handcuffed, hands behind. Feet tied with clothesline. Duct-tape gag. He opened the steam pipe. She was only a couple of feet from it. God.”

Rhyme continued, “Back the medic out the way you came. To the door. Watch where you put your feet.”

She did this, staring at the body. How could the skin be so red? Like a boiled crab shell.

“All right, Amelia. You’re going to work the scene. Open the suitcase.”

She said nothing. Kept staring.

“Amelia, are you at the door?… Amelia?”

“What?” she shouted.

“Are you at the door?”

His voice was so fucking calm. So different from the snide, demanding voice of the man she remembered in the bedroom. Calm… and something else. She didn’t know what.

“Yes, I’m at the door. You know, this is crazy.”

“Utterly insane,” Rhyme agreed, almost cheerfully. “Is the suitcase open?”

She flipped up the lid and glanced inside. Pliers and forceps, a flex mirror on a handle, cotton balls, eyedroppers, pinking sheers, pipettes, spatulas, scalpels…

What is all this?

… a Dustbuster, cheesecloth, envelopes, sifting screens, brushes, scissors, plastic and paper bags, metal cans, bottles – 5 percent nitric acid, ninhydrin, silicone, iodide, friction-ridge-printing supplies.

Impossible. Into the mike she said, “I don’t think you believed me, detective. I really don’t know anything about CS work.”

Eyes on the woman’s ruined body. Water dripped off her peeled nose. A bit of white – bone – showed through the cheek. And her face was drawn into an anguished grin. Just like the vic that morning.

“I believed you, Amelia,” he said dismissively. “Now, the case is open?” He was calm and he sounded… what? Yes, that was the tone. Seductive. He sounds like a lover.

I hate him, she thought. It’s wrong to hate a cripple. But I fucking hate him.

“You’re in the basement, right?”

“Yessir.”

“Listen, you’ve got to call me Lincoln. We’re going to know each other very well by the time this is over.”

Which is gonna be about sixty minutes, tops.

“You’ll find some rubber bands in the suitcase, if I’m not mistaken.”

“I see some.”

“Put them around your shoes. Where the ball of your foot is. If there’s any confusion as to footprints you’ll know which ones are yours.”

“Okay, done.”

“Take some evidence bags and envelopes. Put a dozen of each in your pocket. Can you use chopsticks?”

“What did you say?”

“You live in the city, right? You ever go to Mott Street? For General Tsao’s chicken? Cold noodles with sesame paste?”

Her gorge rose at the talk of food. She refused to glance at the woman dangling in front of her.

“I can use chopsticks,” she said icily.

“Look in the suitcase. I’m not sure you’ll find them. They kept them there when I was running scenes.”

“I don’t see any.”

“Well, you’ll find some pencils. Put those in your pocket. Now you’re going to walk a grid. Cover every inch. Are you ready?”

“Yes.”

“First tell me what you see.”

“One big room. Maybe twenty by thirty. Full of rusted pipes. Cracked concrete floor. Walls’re brick. Mold.”

“Any boxes? Anything on the floor?”

“No, it’s empty. Except for the pipes, oil tanks, the boiler. There’s the sand – the shells, a pile of it spilling out of a crack in the wall. And there’s some gray stuff too -”

“'Stuff'?” he jumped. “I don’t recognize that word. What’s 'stuff'?”

A burst of anger tore through her. She calmed and said, “It’s the asbestos but not wadded up like this morning. It’s in crumbling sheets.”

“Good. Now, the first sweep. You’re looking for footprints and any staged clues that he’s left for us.”

“You think he left more?”

“Oh, I’ll betcha,” Rhyme said. “Put on the goggles and use the PoliLight. Keep it low. Grid the room. Every inch. Get going. You know how to walk a grid?”

“Yes.”

“How?”

She bristled. “I don’t need to be tested.”

“Ah, humor me. How?”

“Back and forth in one direction, then back and forth in the perpendicular direction.”

“Each step, no more than one foot in length.”

She hadn’t known that. “I know,” she said.

“Go ahead.”

The PoliLight flashed on with an eerie, otherworldly glow. She knew it was something called an ALS – alternative light source – and that it made fingerprints and semen and blood and some shoeprints fluoresce. The brilliant bile-green light made shadows dance and jump and more than once she nearly drew down on a dark form that turned out to be a mere phantom of darkness.

“Amelia?” Rhyme’s voice was sharp. She jumped again.

“Yes? What?”

“Do you see any footprints?”

She continued to stare at the floor. “I, uh, no. I see streaks in the dust. Or something.” She cringed at the careless word. But Rhyme, unlike Peretti that morning, paid no attention. He said, “So. He swept up afterwards.”

She was surprised. “Yeah, that’s it! Broom marks. How’d you know?”

Rhyme laughed – a jarring sound to Sachs in this rank tomb – and he said, “He was smart enough to cover his tracks this morning; no reason to stop now. Oh, he’s good, this boy is. But we’re good too. Keep going.”

Sachs bent over, her joints on fire, and began the search. She covered every square foot of the floor. “Nothing here. Nothing at all.”

He picked up on the note of finality in her voice. “You’ve only just started, Amelia. Crime scenes are three-dimensional. Remember that. What you mean is there’s nothing on the floor. Now search the walls. Start with the spot farthest away from the steam and cover every inch.”

She slowly circled the horrible marionette in the center of the room. She thought of a Maypole game she’d played at some Brooklyn street feast when she was six or seven, as her father proudly took home movies. Circling slowly. It was an empty room and yet there were a thousand different places to search.

Hopeless… Impossible.

But it wasn’t. On a ledge, about six feet above the floor, she found the next set of clues. She barked a fast laugh. “Got something here.”

“In a cluster?”

“Yes. A big splinter of dark wood.”

“Chopsticks.”

“What?” she asked.

“The pencils. Use them to pick it up. Is it wet?”

“Everything in here’s wet.”

“Sure, it would be. The steam. Put it in a paper evidence bag. Plastic keeps the moisture in and in this heat bacteria’ll destroy the trace evidence. What else is there?” he asked eagerly.

“It’s, I don’t know, hairs, I think. Short, trimmed. A little pile of them.”

“Loose or attached to skin?”

“Loose.”

“There’s a role of two-inch tape in the suitcase. 3M. Pick them up with that.”

Sachs lifted most of the hairs, placed them in a paper envelope. She studied the ledge around the hairs. “I see some stains. Looks like rust or blood.” She thought to hit the spot with the PoliLight. “They’re fluorescing.”

“Can you do a presumptive blood test?”

“No.”

“Let’s just assume it’s blood. Could it be the victim’s?”

“Doesn’t seem to be. It’s too far away and there’s no trail to her body.”

“Does it lead anywhere?”

“Looks like it. To a brick in the wall. It’s loose. No prints on it. I’m going to move it aside. I – oh, Jesus!” Sachs gasped and stumbled back a foot or two, nearly fell.

“What?” Rhyme asked.

She eased forward, staring in disbelief.

“Amelia. Talk to me.”

“It’s a bone. A bloody bone.”

“Human?”

“I don’t know,” she answered. “How would I…? I don’t know.”

“Recent kill?”

“Looks like it. About two inches long and two in diameter. There’s blood and flesh on it. It’s been sawn off. Jesus. Who the fuck’d do something -”

“Don’t get rattled.”

“What if he got it from another victim?”

“Then we better find ’im pretty damn soon, Amelia. Bag it. Plastic for the bone.”

As she did this, he asked, “Any other staged clues?” He sounded concerned.

“No.”

“That’s all? Hairs, a bone and a splinter of wood. He’s not making it very easy, is he?”

“Should I bring it back to your… office?”

Rhyme was laughing. “He’d like us to call it quits. But no. We’re not through yet. Let’s find out a little more about Unsub 823.”

“But there’s nothing here.”

“Oh, yes there is, Amelia. There’s his address and his phone number and his description and his hopes and aspirations. They’re all around you.”

She was furious at his professor’s tone and remained silent.

“You have the flashlight?”

“I’ve got my issue halogen -”

“No,” he grumbled. “Issue lights are too narrow. You need the twelve-volt broad beam.”

“Well, I didn’t bring it,” she snapped. “Should I go back and get it?”

“No time. Check out the pipes.”

She searched for ten minutes, climbing up to the ceiling, and with the powerful light she illuminated spots that perhaps hadn’t been lit in fifty years. “No, I don’t see a thing.”

“Go back to the door. Hurry.”

She hesitated and returned.

“Okay, I’m here.”

“Now. Close your eyes. What do you smell?”

“Smell? Did you say smell?” Was he crazy?

“Always smell the air at a crime scene. It can tell you a hundred things.”

She kept her eyes wide and breathed in. She said, “Well, I don’t know what I smell.”

“That’s not an acceptable answer.”

She exhaled in exasperation and hoped the hiss was coming through his telephone loud and clear. She jammed her lids closed, inhaled, fought the nausea again. “Mold, mustiness. The smell of hot water from the steam.”

“You don’t know where it’s from. Just describe it.”

“Hot water. The woman’s perfume.”

“Are you sure it’s hers?”

“Well, no.”

“Are you wearing any?”

“No.”

“How ’bout aftershave? The medic? The ESU officer?”

“I don’t think so. No.”

“Describe it.”

“Dry. Like gin.”

“Take a guess, man’s aftershave or woman’s perfume.”

What had Nick worn? Arrid Extra Dry.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Man’s.”

“Walk to the body.”

She glanced once at the pipe then down to the floor.

“I -”

“Do it,” Lincoln Rhyme said.

She did. The peeling skin was like black-and-red birch.

“Smell her neck.”

“It’s all… I mean, there isn’t much skin left.”

“I’m sorry, Amelia, but you have to do it. We have to see if it’s her perfume.”

She did, inhaled. Gagged, nearly vomited.

I’m going to puke, she thought. Just like Nick and me that night at Pancho’s, done in by those damn frozen daiquiris. Two hard-ass cops, swigging down sissy drinks with blue plastic swordfish swimming in them.

“Do you smell the perfume?”

Here it comes… Gagging again.

No. No! She closed her eyes, concentrated on her aching joints. The most painful one – her knee. And, miraculously, the wave of nausea passed. “It’s not her perfume.”

“Good. So maybe our boy’s vain enough to wear a lot of aftershave. That could be a social-class indicator. Or maybe he wants to cover up some other smell he might’ve left. Garlic, cigars, fish, Whisky. We’ll have to see. Now, Amelia, listen carefully.”

“What?”

“I want you to be him.”

Oh. Psychoshit. Just what I need.

“I really don’t think we have time for this.”

“There’s never enough time in crime scene work,” Rhyme continued soothingly. “But that doesn’t stop us. Just get into his head. You’ve been thinking the way we think. I want you to think the way he does.”

“Well, how do I do that?”

“Use your imagination. That’s why God gave us one. Now, you’re him. You’ve got her cuffed and gagged. You take her into the room there. You cuff her to the pipe. You scare her. You’re enjoying this.”

“How do you know he’s enjoying it?”

You’re enjoying it. Not him. How do I know? Because nobody goes to this much trouble to do something they don’t enjoy. Now, you know your way around. You’ve been here before.”

“Why d’you think that?”

“You had to check it out earlier – to find a deserted place with a feeder pipe from the steam system. And to get the clues he left by the train tracks.”

Sachs was mesmerized by his fluid, low voice. She forgot completely that his body was destroyed. “Oh. Right.”

“You take the steam-pipe cover off. What are you thinking?”

“I don’t know. That I want to get it over with. Get out.”

But the words were hardly out of her mouth before she thought: Wrong. And she wasn’t surprised when she heard Rhyme’s tongue click in her headset. “Do you really?” he asked.

“No. I want to make it last.”

“Yes! I think that’s exactly what you want. You’re thinking about what the steam will do to her. What else do you feel?”

“I…”

A thought formed in her mind, vague. She saw the woman struggling to free herself. Saw something else… some one else. Him, she thought. Unsub 823. But what about him? She was close to understanding. What… what? But suddenly the thought vanished. Gone.

“I don’t know,” she whispered.

“Do you feel any urgency? Or are you pretty cool about what you’re doing?”

“I’m in a hurry. I have to leave. The cops could be here at any minute. But I still…”

“What?”

“Shhhh,” she ordered, and scanned the room again, looking for whatever had put the seed of the vanished thought in her mind.

The room was swimming, a black, starry night. Swirls of darkness and distant, jaundiced lights. Lord, don’t let me faint!

Maybe he -

There! That’s it. Sachs’s eyes were following the steam pipe. She was looking at another access plate in a shadowy alcove of the room. It would have been a better hiding place for the girl – you couldn’t see it from the doorway if you were walking past – and the second plate had only four bolts on it, not eight, like the one he chose.

Why not that pipe?

Then she understood.

“He doesn’t want… I don’t want to leave just yet because I want to keep an eye on her.”

“Why do you think that?” he inquired, echoing her own words just moments before.

“There’s another pipe I could’ve chained her to but I picked the one that was in the open.”

“So you could see her?”

“I think so.”

“Why?”

“Maybe to make sure she can’t get away. Maybe to make sure the gag’s tight… I don’t know.”

“Good, Amelia. But what does it mean? How can we use that fact?”

Sachs looked around the room for the place where he’d have the best view of the girl without being seen. It turned out to be a shadowy spot between two large heating-oil tanks.

“Yes!” she said excitedly, looking at the floor. “He was here.” Forgetting the role-playing. “He swept up.”

She scanned the area with the bile glow of the PoliLight wand.

“No footprints,” she said, disappointed. But as she lifted the light to shut it off, a smudge glowed on one of the tanks.

“I’ve got a print!” she announced.

“A print?”

“You get a better view of the girl if you lean forward and support yourself on a tank. That’s what he did, I’m sure. Only, it’s weird, Lincoln. It’s… deformed. His hand.” She shivered looking at the monstrous palm.

“In the suitcase there’s an aerosol bottle labeled DFO. It’s a fluorescent stain. Spray that on the print, hit the PoliLight and shoot the image with the one-to-one Polaroid.”

She told him when she’d finished this and he said, “Now Dust-bust the floor between the tanks. If we’re lucky he scratched off a hair or chewed a fingernail.”

My habits, Sachs thought. It was one of the things that had finally ruined her modeling career – the bloody nail, the worried eyebrow. She’d tried and tried and tried to stop. Finally gave up, discouraged, bewildered that a tiny habit could change the direction of your life so dramatically.

“Bag the vacuum filter.”

“In paper?”

“Yes, paper. Now, the body, Amelia.”

“What?”

“Well, you’ve got to process the body.”

Her heart sank. Somebody else, please. Have somebody else do it. She said, “Not until the ME’s finished. That’s the rule.”

“No rules today, Amelia. We’re making up our own. The medical examiner’ll get her after us.”

Sachs approached the woman.

“You know the routine?”

“Yes.” She stepped close to the destroyed body.

Then froze. Hands inches from the victim’s skin.

I can’t do it. She shuddered. Told herself to keep going. But she couldn’t; the muscles weren’t responding.

“Sachs? You there?”

She couldn’t answer.

I can’t do this… It was as simple as that. Impossible. I can’t.

“Sachs?”

And then she looked into herself and, somehow, saw her father, in uniform, stooping low on the hot, pitted sidewalk of West Forty-second Street, sliding his arm around a scabby drunk to help him home. Then was seeing her Nick as he laughed and drank beer in a Bronx tavern with a hijacker who’d kill him in a second if he knew the young cop was working undercover. The two men in her life, doing what they had to do.

“Amelia?”

These two images bobbed in her thoughts, and why they calmed her, or where that calm came from, she couldn’t begin to guess. “I’m here,” she said to Lincoln Rhyme and went about her business as she’d been taught. Taking the nail scrapings, combing the hair – pubic and head. Telling Rhyme what she did as she did it.

Ignoring the dull orbs of eyes…

Ignoring the crimson flesh.

Trying to ignore the smell.

“Get her clothing,” Rhyme said. “Cut off everything. Put a sheet of newsprint under them first to pick up any trace that falls off.”

“Should I check the pockets?”

“No, we’ll do that here. Wrap them up in the paper.”

Sachs cut the blouse and skirt off, the panties. She reached out for what she thought was the woman’s bra, dangling from her chest. It felt curious, disintegrating in her fingers. Then, like a slap she realized what she held and she gave a short scream. It wasn’t cloth, it was skin.

“Amelia? Are you all right?”

“Yes!” she gasped. “I’m fine.”

“Describe the restraints.”

“Duct tape for the gag, -two inches wide. Standard-issue cuffs for hands, clothesline for the feet.”

“PoliLight her body. He might’ve touched her with his bare hands. Look for prints.”

She did. “Nothing.”

“Okay. Now cut the clothesline – but not through the knot. Bag it. In plastic.”

Sachs did. Then Rhyme said, “We need the cuffs.”

“Okay. I’ve got a cuff key.”

“No, Amelia. Don’t open them.”

“What?”

“The cuff lock mechanism is one of the best ways to pick up trace from the perp.”

“Well, how’m I supposed to get them off without a key?” She laughed.

“There’s a razor saw in the suitcase.”

“You want me to cut off the cuffs?”

There was a pause. Rhyme said, “No, not the cuffs, Amelia.”

“Well, what do you want me to… Oh, you can’t be serious. Her hands?”

“You have to.” He was irritated at her reluctance.

Okay, that’s it. Sellitto and Polling’ve picked a nutcase for a partner. Maybe their careers’re tanking but I’m not going down with them.

“Forget it.”

“Amelia, it’s just another way to collect evidence.”

Why did he sound so reasonable? She thought desperately for excuses. “They’ll get blood all over them if I cut -”

“Her heart’s not beating. Besides,” he added like a TV chef, “the blood’ll be cooked into a solid.”

The gorge rising again.

“Go on, Amelia. Go to the suitcase. Get the saw. In the lid.” He added a frosty, “Please.”

“Why’d you have me scrape under her nails? I could’ve just brought you back her hands!”

“Amelia, we need the cuffs. We have to open them here and we can’t wait for the ME. It has to be done.”

She walked back to the doorway. Unsnapped the thongs, lifted the wicked-looking saw from the case. She stared at the woman, frozen in her tortured pose in the center of the vile room.

“Amelia? Amelia?”

Outside, the sky was still clogged with stagnant, yellow air and the buildings nearby were covered with soot like charred bones. But Sachs had never been so glad to be out in the city air as now. The CU suitcase in one hand, the razor saw in the other, the headset dangling dead around her neck. Sachs ignored the huge crowd of cops and spectators staring at her and walked straight toward the station wagon.

As she passed Sellitto she handed him the saw without pausing, practically tossed it to him. “If he wants it done that badly tell him he can damn well walk down here and do it himself.”

II . LOCARD’S PRINCIPLE

In real life, you only get one shot

at the homicide crime scene.

– VERNON J. GEBERTH,

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER (RET.)

NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT

NINE

Saturday, 4:00 p.m., to Saturday, 10:15 p.m.

“I’VE GOT MYSELF INTO A SITUATION HERE, SIR.”

The man across the desk looked like a TV show’s idea of a big-city deputy police commissioner. Which happened to be his rank. White hair, a temperate jowl, gold-rimmed glasses, posture to die for.

“Now what’s the problem, officer?”

Dep Com Randolph C. Eckert looked down his long nose with a gaze that Sachs recognized immediately; his nod to equality was to be as stern with the female officers as with the male ones.

“I’ve got a complaint, sir,” she said stiffly. “You heard about that taxi kidnapping case?”

He nodded. “Ah, has that got the city in double dutch.”

She believed that was a schoolchild’s game of jump rope but wouldn’t presume to correct a deputy commissioner.

“That damn UN conference,” he continued, “and the whole world’s watching. It’s unfair. People don’t talk about crime in Washington. Or Detroit. Well, Detroit they do. Say, Chicago. Never. No, it’s New York that people thump on. Richmond, Virginia, had more murders per capita than we did last year. I looked it up. And I’d rather parachute unarmed into Central Harlem than drive windows-up through South East D.C. any day.”

“Yessir.”

“Understand they found that girl dead. It was on all the news. Those reporters.”

“Downtown. Just now.”

“Now that’s a pity.”

“Yessir.”

“They just killed her? Like that? No ransom demand or anything?”

“I didn’t hear about any ransom.”

“What’s this complaint?”

“I was first officer in a related homicide this morning.”

“You’re Patrol?” Eckert asked.

“I was Patrol. I was supposed to be transferring to Public Affairs today at noon. For a training session.” She lifted her hands, tipped with flesh-colored Band-Aids, and dropped them in her lap. “But they shanghaied me.”

“Who?”

“Detective Lon Sellitto, sir. And Captain Haumann. And Lincoln Rhyme.”

“Rhyme?”

“Yessir.”

“Not the fellow was in charge of IRD a few years ago?”

“Yessir. That’s him.”

“I thought he was dead.”

Egos like that will never die.

“Very much alive, sir.”

The dep com was looking out his window. “He’s not on the force anymore. What’s he doing involved in this?”

“Consultant, I guess. It’s Lon Sellitto’s case. Captain Polling’s overseeing it. I’ve been waiting for this reassignment for eight months. But they’ve got me working crime scene. I’ve never done crime scene. It doesn’t make any sense and frankly I resent being assigned to a job I’ve had no training for.”

“Crime scene?”

“Rhyme ordered me to run the whole scene. By myself.”

Eckert didn’t understand this. The words weren’t registering. “Why is a civilian ordering uniformed officers to do anything?”

“My point, sir.” She set the hook. “I mean, I’ll help up to a point. But I’m just not prepared to dismember victims…”

“What?”

She blinked as if surprised he hadn’t heard. She explained about the handcuffs.

“Lord in heaven, what the hell’re they thinking of? Pardon my French. Don’t they know the whole country’s watching? It’s been on CNN all day, this kidnapping. Cutting off her hands? Say, you’re Herman Sachs’s daughter.”

“That’s right.”

“Good officer. Excellent officer. I gave him one of his commendations. The man was what a beat cop ought to be. Midtown South, right?”

“Hell’s Kitchen. My beat.”

My former beat.

“Herman Sachs probably prevented more crime than the entire detective division solves in a year. Just calming everything down, you know.”

“That was Pop. Sure.”

“Her hands?” Eckert snorted. “The girl’s family’ll sue us. As soon as they find out about it. They sue us for everything. There’s a rapist suing us now ’cause he got shot in the leg coming at an officer with a knife. His lawyer’s got this theory he’s calling the ‘least deadly alternative.’ Instead of shooting, we’re supposed to taze them or use Mace. Or ask them politely, I don’t know. I better give the chief and the mayor a heads-up on this one. I’ll make some calls, officer.” He looked at a wall clock. It was a little after four. “Your watch over for the day?”

“I have to report back to Lincoln Rhyme’s house. That’s where we’re working out of.” She thought of the hacksaw. She said coolly, “His bedroom really. That’s our CP.”

“A civilian’s bedroom is your command post?”

“I’d appreciate anything you can do, sir. I’ve waited a long time for that transfer.”

“Cut her hands off. My good Lord.”

She stood and walked to the door and out into one of the corridors that would soon be her new assignment. The feeling of relief took only a little longer to arrive than she’d expected.

He stood at the bottle-glass window, watching a pack of wild dogs prowl though the lot across the street.

He was on the first floor of this old building, a marble-clad Federal dating to the early 1800s. Surrounded by vacant lots and tenements – some abandoned, some occupied by paying tenants though most by squatters – this old mansion had been empty for years.

The bone collector took the piece of emery paper in his hand once more and continued to rub. He looked down at his handiwork. Then out the window again.

His hands, in their circular motion, precise. The tiny scrap of sandpaper whispering, shhhhh, shhhhh… Like a mother hushing her child.

A decade ago, the days of promise in New York, some crazy artist had moved in here. He’d filled the dank, two-story place with broken and rusting antiques. Wrought-iron grilles, hunks of crown molding and framed squares of spidered stained glass, scabby columns. Some of the artist’s work remained on the walls. Frescoes on the old plaster: murals, never completed, of workers, children, angst-ridden lovers. Round, emotionless faces – the man’s motif – stared blankly, as if the souls had been nipped out of their smooth bodies.

The painter was never very successful, even after the most ironclad of marketing ideas – his own suicide – and the bank foreclosed on the building several years ago.

Shhhhh…

The bone collector had stumbled across the place last year and he’d known immediately that this was home. The desolation of the neighborhood was certainly important to him – it was obviously practical. But there was another appeal, more personal: the lot across the street. During some excavation several years ago a backhoe had unearthed a load of human bones. It turned out this had been one of the city’s old cemeteries. Newspaper articles about it suggested the graves might contain the remains not only of Federal and Colonial New Yorkers but Manate and Lenape Indians as well.

He now set aside what he’d been smoothing with the emery paper – a carpal, the delicate palm bone – and picked up the wrist, which he’d carefully detached from the radius and ulna last night just before leaving for Kennedy Airport to collect the first victims. It had been drying for over a week and most of the flesh was gone but it still took some effort to separate the elaborate cluster of bones. They snapped apart with faint plops, like fish breaking the surface of a lake.

Oh, the constables, they were a lot better than he’d anticipated. He’d been watching them search along Pearl Street, wondering if they’d ever figure out where he’d left the woman from the airport. Astonished when they suddenly ran toward the right building. He’d guessed it would take two or three victims until they got a feel for the clues. They hadn’t saved her of course. But they might have. A minute or two earlier would have made all the difference.

As with so much in life.

The navicular, the lunate, the hamate, the capitate… the bones, intertwined like a Greek puzzle ring, came apart under his strong fingers. He picked bits of flesh and tendon off them. He selected the greater multiangulum – at the base of where the thumb had once been – and began to sand once more.

Shhhhh, shhhhhhh.

The bone collector squinted as he looked outside and imagined he saw a man standing beside one of the old graves. It must have been his imagination because the man wore a bowler hat and was dressed in mustard-colored gabardine. He rested some dark roses beside the tombstone and then turned away from it, dodging the horses and carriages on his way to the elegantly arched bridge over the Collect Pond outlet at Canal Street. Who’d he been visiting? Parents? A brother? Family who’d died of consumption or in one of the terrible influenza epidemics that’d been ravaging the city recently -

Recently?

No, not recently of course. A hundred years ago – that’s what he meant.

He squinted and looked again. No sign of the carriages or the horses. Or the man with the bowler hat. Though they’d seemed as real as flesh and blood.

However real they are.

Shhhhh, shhhhhh.

It was intruding again, the past. He was seeing things that’d happened before, that had happened then, as if they were now. He could control it. He knew he could.

But as he gazed out the window he realized that of course there was no before or after. Not for him. He drifted back and forth through time, a day, five years, a hundred years or two, like a dried leaf on a windy day.

He looked at his watch. It was time to leave.

Setting the bone on the mantel, he washed his hands carefully – like a surgeon. Then for five minutes he ran a pet-hair roller over his clothes to pick up any bone dust or dirt or body hairs that might lead the constables to him.

He walked into the carriage house past the half-finished painting of a moon-faced butcher in a bloody white apron. The bone collector started to get into the taxi but then changed his mind. Unpredictability is the best defense. This time he’d take the carriage… the sedan, the Ford. He started it, he drove into the street, closed and locked the garage door behind him.

No before or after…

As he passed the cemetery the pack of dogs glanced up at the Ford then returned to scuffling through the brush, looking for rats and nosing madly for water in the unbearable heat.

No then or now…

He took the ski mask and gloves from his pocket, set them on the seat beside him as he sped out of the old neighborhood. The bone collector was going hunting.

TEN

SOMETHING HAD CHANGED ABOUT THE ROOM but she couldn’t quite decide what.

Lincoln Rhyme saw it in her eyes.

“We missed you, Amelia,” he said coyly. “Errands?”

She looked away from him. “Apparently nobody’d told my new commander I wouldn’t be showing up for work today. I thought somebody ought to.”

“Ah, yes.”

She was gazing at the wall, slowly figuring it out. In addition to the basic instruments that Mel Cooper had brought with him, there was now a scanning electron microscope fitted with the X-ray unit, notation and hot-stage ’scope setups for testing glass, a comparison microscope, a density-gradient tube for soil testing and a hundred beakers, jars and bottles of chemicals.

And in the middle of the room, Cooper’s pride – the computerized gas Chromatograph and mass spectrometer. Along with another computer, on-line with Cooper’s own terminal at the IRD lab.

Sachs stepped over the thick cables snaking downstairs – house current worked, yes, but the amperage was too taxed for the bedroom outlets alone. And in that slight sidestep, an elegant, practiced maneuver, Rhyme observed how truly beautiful she was. Certainly the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen in the police department ranks.

For a brief instant he found her immeasurably appealing. People said that sex was all in the mind and Rhyme knew that this was true. Cutting the cord didn’t stop the urge. He remembered, still with a faint crunch of horror, a night six months after the accident. He and Blaine had tried. Just to see what happened, they’d disclaimed, trying to be casual. No big deal.

But it had been a big deal. Sex is a messy business to start with and when you add catheters and bags to the equation you need a lot of stamina and humor and a better foundation than they’d had. Mostly, though, what killed the moment, and killed it fast, was her face. He saw in Elaine Chapman Rhyme’s tough, game smile that she was doing it from pity and that stabbed him in the heart. He filed for divorce two weeks later. Elaine had protested but she signed the papers on the first go-round.

Sellitto and Banks had returned and were organizing the evidence Sachs had collected. She looked on, mildly interested.

Rhyme said to her, “The Latents Unit only found eight other recent partials and they belong to the two maintenance men in the building.”

“Oh.”

He nodded broadly. “Only eight!”

“He’s complimenting you,” Thom explained. “Enjoy it. That’s the most you’ll ever get out of him.”

“No translations needed, please and thank you, Thom.”

She responded, “I’m happy I could help.” Pleasant as could be.

Well, what was this? Rhyme had fully expected her to storm into his room and fling the evidence bags onto his bed. Maybe the saw itself or even the plastic bag containing the vic’s severed hands. He’d been looking forward to a real knock-down, drag-out; people rarely take the gloves off when they fight with a crip. He’d been thinking of that look in her eyes when she’d met him, perhaps evidence of some ambiguous kinship between them.

But no, he saw now he was wrong. Amelia Sachs was like everybody else – patting him on the head and looking for the nearest exit.

With a snap, his heart turned to ice. When he spoke it was to a cobweb high on the far wall. “We’ve been talking about the deadline for the next victim, officer. There doesn’t seem to be specific time.”

“What we think,” Sellitto continued, “whatever this prick’s got planned for the next one is something ongoing. He doesn’t know exactly when the time of death will be. Lincoln thought maybe he’s buried some poor SOB someplace where there’s not much air.”

Sachs’s eye narrowed slightly at this. Rhyme noticed it. Burial alive. If you’ve got to have a phobia, that’s as good as any.

They were interrupted by two men in gray suits who climbed the stairs and walked into the bedroom as if they lived here.

“We knocked,” one of them said.

“We rang the bell,” said the other.

“No answer.”

They were in their forties, one taller than the other but both with the same sandy-colored hair. They bore identical smiles and before the Brooklyn drawl destroyed the image Rhyme had thought: Hayseed farm boys. One had an honest-to-God dusting of freckles along the bridge of his pale nose.

“Gentlemen.”

Sellitto introduced the Hardy Boys: Detectives Bedding and Saul, the spadework team. Their skill was canvassing – interviewing people who live near a crime scene for wits and leads. It was a fine art but one that Rhyme had never learned, had no desire to. He was content to unearth hard facts and hand them off to officers like these, who, armed with the data, became living lie detectors who could shred perps’ best cover stories. Neither of them seemed to think it was the least bit weird to be reporting to a bedridden civilian.

Saul, the taller of them, the frecklee, said, “We’ve found thirty-six -”

“- eight, if you count a couple of crack-heads. Which he doesn’t. I do.”

“- subjects. Interviewed all of them. Haven’t had much luck.”

“Most of ’em blind, deaf, amnesiacs. You know, the usual.”

“No sign of the taxi. Combed the West Side. Zero. Zip.”

Bedding: “But tell them the good news.”

“We found a wit.”

“A witness?” Banks asked eagerly. “Fan-tastic.”

Rhyme, considerably less enthusiastic, said, “Go on.”

“ 'Round the TOD this morning at the train tracks.”

“He saw a man walk down Eleventh Avenue, turn -”

“ 'Suddenly,' he said,” added no-freckle Bedding.

“- and go through an alley that led to the train underpass. He just stood there for a while -”

“Looking down.”

Rhyme was troubled by this. “That doesn’t sound like our boy. He’s too smart to risk being seen like that.”

“But -” Saul continued, raising a finger and glancing at his partner.

“There was only one window in the whole ’hood you could see the place from.”

“Which is where our wit happened to be standing.”

“Up early, bless his heart.”

Before he remembered he was angry with her Rhyme asked, “Well, Amelia, how’s it feel?”

“I’m sorry?” Her attention returned from the window.

“To be right,” Rhyme said. “You pegged Eleventh Avenue. Not Thirty-seventh.”

She didn’t know how to respond but Rhyme turned immediately back to the twins. “Description?”

“Our wit couldn’t say much.”

“Was on the sauce. Already.”

“He said it was a smallish guy. No hair color. Race -”

“Probably white.”

“Wearing?” Rhyme asked.

“Something dark. Best he could say.”

“And doing what?” Sellitto asked.

“I quote. ‘He just like stood there, looking down. I thought he gonna jump. You know, in front of a train. Looked at his watch a couple times.’ ”

“And then finally left. Said he kept looking around. Like he didn’t want to be seen.”

What had he been doing? Rhyme wondered. Watching the victim die? Or was this before he planted the body, checking to see if the roadbed was deserted?

Sellitto asked, “Walked or drove?”

“Walked. We checked every parking lot -”

“And garage.”

“- in the neighborhood. But that’s near the convention center so you got parking coming out your ears. There’re so many lots the attendants stand in the street with orange flags and wave cars in.”

“And 'causa the expo half of them were full by seven. We got a list of about nine hundred tags.”

Sellitto shook his head. “Follow up on it -”

“It’s delegated,” said Bedding.

“- but I betcha this’s one unsub who ain’t putting cars in lots,” the detective continued. “Or getting parking tickets.”

Rhyme nodded his agreement and asked, “The building at Pearl Street?”

One, or both, of the twins said, “That’s next on our list. We’re on our way.”

Rhyme caught Sachs checking her watch, which sat on her white wrist near her ruddy fingers. He instructed Thom to add these new characteristics of the unsub to the profile chart.

“You want to interview that guy?” Banks asked. “The one by the railroad?”

“No. I don’t trust witnesses,” Rhyme said bombastically. “I want to get back to work.” He glanced at Mel Cooper. “Hairs, blood, bone, and a sliver of wood. The bone first,” Rhyme instructed.

Morgen

Young Monelle Gerger opened her eyes and slowly sat up in the sagging bed. In her two years in east Greenwich Village she’d never gotten used to morning.

Her round, twenty-one-year-old body eased forward and she got a blast of unrelenting August sunlight in her bleary eyes. “Mein Gott…”

She’d left the club at five, home at six, made love with Brian until seven…

What time was it now?

Early morning, she was sure.

She squinted at the clock. Oh. Four-thirty in the afternoon.

Not so früh morgens after all.

Coffee or laundry?

It was around this time of day that she’d wander over to Dojo’s for a veggie-burger breakfast and three cups of their tough coffee. There she’d meet people she knew, clubbies like herself – downtown people.

But she’d let a lot of things go lately, the domestic things. And so now she pulled on two baggy T-shirts to hide her chubby figure and jeans, hung five or six chains around her neck and grabbed the laundry basket, tossed the Wisk onto it.

Monelle undid the three dead bolts barring the door. She hefted the laundry basket and walked down the dark staircase of the residence hall. At the basement level she paused.

Irgend was stimmt hier nicht.

Feeling uneasy, Monelle looked around the deserted stairway, the murky corridors.

What’s different?

The light, that’s it! The bulbs in the hall’re burned out. No – she looked closely – they were missing. Fucking kids’ll steal anything. She’d moved in here, the Deutsche Haus – because it was supposedly a haven for German artists and musicians. It turned out to be just another filthy, way-overpriced East Village walkup, like all the other tenements around here. The only difference was that she could bitch to the manager in her native tongue.

She continued through the basement door into the incinerator room, which was so dark she had to grope her way along the wall to make sure she didn’t trip over the junk on the floor.

Pushing open the door, she stepped into the corridor that led to the laundry room.

A shuffling. A skitter.

She turned quickly and saw nothing but motionless shadows. All she heard was the sound of traffic, the groans of an old, old building.

Through the dimness. Past stacks of boxes and discarded chairs and tables. Under wires caked with greasy dust. Monelle continued toward the laundry room. No bulbs here either. She was uneasy, recalling something that hadn’t occurred to her for years. Walking with her father down a narrow alley off Lange Strasse, near the Obermain Brücke, on their way to the zoo. She must have been five or six. Her father had suddenly gripped her by the shoulder and pointed to the bridge and told her matter-of-factly that a hungry troll lived underneath it. When they crossed it on their way home, he warned, they’d have to walk quickly. She now felt a ripple of panic rise up her spine to her crew-cut blond hair.

Stupid. Trolls…

She continued down the dank corridor, listening to the humming of some electrical equipment. Far off she heard a song by the feuding brothers in Oasis.

The laundry room was dark.

Well, if those bulbs were gone, that was it. She’d go upstairs, and pound on Herr Neischen’s door until he came running. She’d given him hell for the broken latches on the front and back doors and for the beer-guzzling kids he never kicked off the front stoop. She’d give him hell for the missing bulbs too.

She reached inside and flicked the switch.

Brilliant white light. Three large bulbs glowed like suns, revealing a room that was filthy but empty. Monelle strode up to the bank of four machines and dumped the whites in one, the colors in the next. She counted out quarters, dropped them into slots and shoved the levers forward.

Nothing.

Monelle jiggled the lever. Then hit the machine itself. No response.

“Shit. This gottverdammte building.”

Then she saw the power cord. Some idiot had unplugged the machines. She knew who. Neischen had a twelve-year-old son who was responsible for most of the carnage around the building. When she’d complained about something last year the little shit’d tried to kick her.

She picked up the cord and crouched, reaching behind the machine to find the outlet. She plugged it in.

And felt the man’s breath on her neck.

“Nein!”

He was sandwiched between the wall and the back of the washer. Barking a fast scream, she caught a glimpse of ski mask and dark clothes then his hand clamped down on her arm like an animal’s jaws. She was off balance and he easily jerked her forward. She tumbled to the floor, hitting her face on the rough concrete, and swallowed the scream forming in her throat.

He was on her in an instant, pinning her arms to the concrete, slapping a piece of thick gray tape over her mouth.

Hilfe!

Nein, bitte nicht.

Bitte nicht.

He wasn’t large but he was strong. He easily rolled her over onto her stomach and she heard the ratcheting of the handcuffs closing on her wrists.

Then he stood up. For a long moment, no sound but the drip of water, the rasp of Monelle’s breath, the click of a small motor somewhere in the basement.

Waiting for the hands to touch her body, to tear off her clothes. She heard him walk to the doorway to make sure they were alone.

Oh, he had complete privacy, she knew, furious with herself; she was one of the few residents who used the laundry room. Most of them avoided it because it was so deserted, so close to the back doors and windows, so far away from help.

He returned and rolled her over onto her back. Whispered something she couldn’t make out. Then: “Hanna.”

Hanna? It’s a mistake! He thinks I’m somebody else. She shook her head broadly, trying to make him understand this.

But then, looking at his eyes, she stopped. Even though he wore a ski mask, it was clear that something was wrong. He was upset. He scanned her body, shaking his head. He closed his gloved fingers around her big arms. Squeezed her thick shoulders, grabbed a pinch of fat. She shivered in pain.

That’s what she saw: disappointment. He’d caught her and now he wasn’t sure he wanted her after all.

He reached into his pocket and slowly withdrew his hand. The click of the knife opening was like an electric shock. It started a jag of sobbing.

Nein, nein, nein!

A hiss of breath escaped from his teeth like wind through winter trees. He crouched over her, debating.

“Hanna,” he whispered. “What am I going to do?”

Then, suddenly, he made a decision. He put the knife away and yanked her to her feet then led her out to the corridor and through the rear door – the one with the broken lock she’d been hounding Herr Neischen for weeks to fix.

ELEVEN

A CRIMINALIST IS A RENAISSANCE MAN.

He’s got to know botany, geology, ballistics, medicine, chemistry, literature, engineering. If he knows facts – that ash with a high strontium content probably came from a highway flare, that faca is Portuguese for “knife,” that Ethiopian diners use no utensils and eat with their right hands exclusively, that a slug with five land-and-groove rifling marks, right twist, could not have been fired by a Colt pistol – if he knows these things he may just make the connection that places an unsub at the crime scene.

One subject all criminalists know is anatomy. And this was certainly a specialty of Lincoln Rhyme’s, for he had spent the past three and a half years enmeshed in the quirky logic of bone and nerve.

He now glanced at the evidence bag from the steam room, dangling in Jerry Banks’s hand, and announced, “Leg bone. Not human. So it’s not from the next vic.”

It was a ring of bone about two inches around, sawn through evenly. There was blood in the tracks left by the saw blade.

“A medium-sized animal,” Rhyme continued. “Large dog, sheep, goat. It’d support, I’d guess, a hundred to a hundred fifty pounds of weight. Let’s make sure the blood’s from an animal though. Still could be the vic’s.”

Perps had been known to beat or stab people to death with bones. Rhyme himself had had three such cases; the weapons had been a beef knuckle bone, a deer’s leg bone, and in one disturbing case the victim’s own ulna.

Mel Cooper ran a gel-diffusion test for blood origin. “We’ll have to wait a bit for the results,” he explained apologetically.

UNSUB 823

Appearance

•Caucasian male, slight build

•Dark clothing

Residence

•Prob. has safe house

Vehicle

•Yellow Cab

Other

•knows CS proc.

•possibly has record

•knows FR prints

•gun =.32 Colt

“Amelia,” Rhyme said, “maybe you could help us here. Use the eye loupe and look the bone over carefully. Tell us what you see.”

“Not the microscope?” she asked. He thought she’d protest but she stepped forward to the bone, peered at it with curiosity.

“Too much magnification,” Rhyme explained.

She put on the goggles and bent over the white enamel tray. Cooper turned on a gooseneck lamp.

“The cutting marks,” Rhyme said. “Is it hacked up or are they even?”

“They’re pretty even.”

“A power saw.”

Rhyme wondered if the animal had been alive when he’d done this.

“See anything unusual?”

She pored over the bone for a moment, muttered, “I don’t know. I don’t think so. It just looks like a hunk of bone.”

It was then that Thom walked past and glanced at the tray. “That’s your clue? That’s funny.”

“Funny,” Rhyme said. “Funny?”

Sellitto asked, “You got a theory?”

“No theory.” He bent down and smelled it. “It’s osso bucco.”

“What?”

“Veal shank. I made it for you once, Lincoln. Osso bucco. Braised veal shank.” He looked at Sachs and grimaced. “He said it needed more salt.”

“Goddamn!” Sellitto cried. “He bought it at a grocery store!”

“If we’re lucky,” Rhyme said, “he bought it at his grocery store.”

Cooper confirmed that the precipitin test showed negative for human blood on the samples Sachs had collected. “Probably bovine,” he said.

“But what’s he trying to tell us?” Banks asked.

Rhyme had no idea. “Let’s keep going. Oh, anything on the chain and padlock?”

Cooper glanced at the hardware in a crisp plastic bag. “Nobody name-stamps chain anymore. So we’re out of luck there. The lock’s a Secure-Pro middle-of-the-line model. It isn’t very secure and definitely not professional. How long d’it take to break it?”

“Three whole seconds,” Sellitto said.

“See. No serial numbers and it’s sold in every hardware and variety store in the country.”

“Key or combination?” Rhyme asked.

“Combination.”

“Call the manufacturer. Ask them if we take it apart and reconstruct the combination from the tumblers, will that tell us which shipment it was in and where it went to?”

Banks whistled. “Man, that’s a long shot.”

Rhyme’s glare sent a ferocious blush across his face. “And the enthusiasm in your voice, detective, tells me you’re just the one to handle the job.”

“Yessir” – the young man held up his cellular phone defensively – “I’m on it.”

Rhyme asked, “Is that blood on the chain?”

Sellitto said, “One of our boys. Cut himself pretty bad trying to break the lock off.”

“So it’s contaminated.” Rhyme scowled.

“He was trying to save her,” Sachs said to him.

“I understand. That was good of him. It’s still contaminated.” Rhyme glanced back at the table beside Cooper. “Prints?”

Cooper said he’d checked it and found only Sellitto’s print on the links.

“All right, the splinter of wood Amelia found. Check for prints.”

“I did,” Sachs said quickly. “At the scene.”

P.D., Rhyme reflected. She didn’t seem to be the nickname sort. Beautiful people rarely were.

“Let’s try the heavy guns, just to be sure,” Rhyme said and instructed Cooper, “Use DFO or ninhydrin. Then hit it with the nit-yag.”

“The what?” Banks asked.

“A neodymium:yttrium aluminum garnet laser.”

The tech spritzed the splinter with liquid from a plastic spray bottle and trained the laser beam on the wood.

He slipped on tinted goggles and examined it carefully. “Nothing.”

He shut off the light and examined the splinter closely. It was about six inches long, dark wood. There were black smears on it, like tar, and it was impregnated with dirt. He held it with forceps.

“I know Lincoln likes the chopstick approach,” Cooper said, “but I always ask for a fork when I go to Ming Wa ’s.”

“You could be crushing the cells,” the criminalist grumbled.

“I could be but I’m not,” Cooper responded.

“What kind of wood?” Rhyme wondered. “Want to run a spodogram?”

“No, it’s oak. No question.”

“Saw or plane marks?” Rhyme leaned forward. Suddenly his neck spasmed and the cramp that bolted through the muscles was unbearable. He gasped, closed his eyes and twisted his neck, stretching. He felt Thom’s strong hands massaging the muscles. The pain finally faded.

“ Lincoln?” Sellitto asked. “You okay?”

Rhyme breathed deeply. “Fine. It’s nothing.”

“Here.” Cooper brought the piece of wood over to the bed, lowered the magnifying goggles over Rhyme’s eyes.

Rhyme examined the specimen. “Cut in the direction of the grain with a frame saw. There’re big variations in the cuts. So I’d guess it was a post or beam milled over a hundred years ago. Steam saw probably. Hold it closer, Mel. I want to smell it.”

He held the splinter under Rhyme’s nose.

“Creosote – coal-tar distillation. Used for weather-proofing wood before lumber companies started pressure-treating. Piers, docks, railroad ties.”

“Maybe we’ve got a train buff here,” Sellitto said. “Remember the tracks this morning.”

“Could be.” Rhyme ordered, “Check for cellular compression, Mel.”

The tech examined the splinter under the compound microscope. “It’s compressed all right. But with the grain. Not against it. Not a railroad tie. This is from a post or column. Weight-bearing.”

A bone… an old wooden post…

“I see dirt embedded in the wood. That tell us anything?”

Cooper set a large pad of newsprint on the table, tore the cover off. He held the splinter over the pad and brushed some dirt from cracks in the wood. He examined the speckles lying on the white paper – a reverse constellation.

“You have enough for a density-gradient test?” Rhyme asked.

In a D-G test, dirt is poured into a tube containing liquids of different specific gravities. The soil separates and each particle hangs suspended according to its own gravity. Rhyme had established a very extensive library of density-gradient profiles for dirt from all over the five boroughs. Unfortunately the test only worked with a fair amount of soil; Cooper didn’t think they had enough. “We could try it but we’d have to use the entire sample. And if it didn’t work we wouldn’t have anything left for other tests.”

Rhyme instructed him to do a visual then analyze it in the GC-MS – the chromatograph-spectrometer.

The technician brushed some dirt onto a slide. He gazed at it for a few minutes under the compound microscope. “This is strange, Lincoln. It’s topsoil. With an unusually high level of vegetation in it. But it’s in a curious form. Very deteriorated, very decomposed.” He looked up and Rhyme noticed the dark lines under his eyes from the eyepieces. He remembered that after hours of lab work the marks were quite pronounced and that occasionally a forensic tech would emerge from the IRD lab only to be greeted by a chorus of Rocky Raccoon.

“Burn it,” Rhyme ordered.

Cooper mounted a sample in the GC-MS unit. The machine rumbled to life and there was a hiss. “A minute or two.”

“While we’re waiting,” Rhyme said, “the bone… I keep wondering about the bone. ’Scope it, Mel.”

Cooper carefully set the bone onto the examination stage of the compound microscope. He went over it carefully. “Whoa, got something here.”

“What?”

“Very small. Transparent. Hand me the hemostat,” Cooper said to Sachs, nodding at a pair of gripper tweezers. She handed them to him and he carefully probed in the marrow of the bone. He lifted something out.

“A tiny piece of regenerated cellulose,” Cooper announced.

“Cellophane,” Rhyme said. “Tell me more.”

“Stretch and pinch marks. I’d say he didn’t leave it intentionally; there are no cut edges. It’s not inconsistent with heavy-duty cello,” Cooper said.

“ 'Not inconsistent.' ” Rhyme scowled. “I don’t like his hedges.”

“We have to hedge, Lincoln,” Cooper said cheerfully.

“ 'Associate with.' 'Suggest.' I particularly hate 'not inconsistent.' ”

“Very versatile,” Cooper said. “The boldest I’ll be is that it’s probably commercial butcher or grocery store cellophane. Not Saran Wrap. Definitely not generic-brand wrap.”

Jerry Banks walked inside from the hallway. “Bad news. The Secure-Pro company doesn’t keep any records on combinations. A machine sets them at random.”

“Ah.”

“But interesting… they said they get calls from the police all the time about their products and you’re the first one who’s ever thought of tracing a lock through the combination.”

“How ‘interesting’ can it be if it’s a dead end?” Rhyme grumbled and turned to Mel Cooper, who was shaking his head as he stared at the GC-MS computer. “What?”

“Got that soil sample result. But I’m afraid the machine might be on the fritz. The nitrogen’s off the charts. We should run it again, use more sample this time.”

Rhyme instructed him to go ahead. His eyes turned back to the bone. “Mel, how recent was the kill?”

He examined some scrapings under the electron microscope.

“Minimal bacteria clusters. Bambi here was recently deceased, looks like. Or just out of the fridge about eight hours.”

“So our perp just bought it,” Rhyme said.

“Or a month ago and froze it,” Sellitto suggested.

“No,” Cooper said. “It hasn’t been frozen. There’s no evidence of tissue damage from ice crystals. And it hasn’t been refrigerated that long. It’s not desiccated; modern refrigerators dehydrate food.”

“It’s a good lead,” Rhyme said. “Let’s get to work on it.”

“ 'Get to work'?” Sachs laughed. “Are you saying we call up all the grocery stores in the city and find out who sold veal bones yesterday?”

“No,” Rhyme countered. “In the past two days.”

“You want the Hardy Boys?”

“Let them keep doing what they’re doing. Call Emma, downtown, if she’s still working. And if she isn’t get her back to the office with the other dispatchers and put them on overtime. Get her a list of every grocery chain in town. I’ll bet our boy isn’t buying groceries for a family of four so have Emma limit the list to customers buying five items or less.”

“Warrants?” Banks asked.

“Anybody balks, we’ll get a warrant,” Sellitto said. “But let’s try without. Who knows? Some citizens might actually cooperate. I’m told it happens.”

“But how are the stores going to know who bought veal shanks?” Sachs asked. She was no longer as aloof as she had been. There was an edge in her voice. Rhyme wondered if her frustration might be a symptom of what he himself had often felt – the burdensome weight of the evidence. The essential problem for the criminalist is not that there’s too little evidence but that there’s too much.

“Checkout scanners,” Rhyme said. “They record purchases on computer. For inventory and restocking. Go ahead, Banks. I see something just crossed your mind. Speak up. I won’t send you to Siberia this time.”

“Well, only the chains have scanners, sir,” the young detective offered. “There’re hundreds of independents and butcher shops that don’t.”

“Good point. But I think he wouldn’t go to a small shop. Anonymity’s important to him. He’ll be doing his buying at big stores. Impersonal.”

Sellitto called Communications and explained to Emma what they needed.

“Let’s get a polarized shot of the cellophane,” Rhyme said to Cooper.

The technician put the minuscule fragment in a polarizing ’scope, then fitted the Polaroid camera to the eyepiece and took a shot. It was a colorful picture, a rainbow with gray streaks through it. Rhyme examined it. This pattern told them nothing by itself but it could be compared with other cello samples to see if they came from a common source.

Rhyme had a thought. “Lon, get a dozen Emergency Service officers over here. On the double.”

“Here?” Sellitto asked.

“We’re going to put an operation together.”

“You’re sure about that?” the detective asked.

“Yes! I want them now.”

“All right.” He nodded to Banks, who made the call to Haumann.

“Now, what about the other planted clue – those hairs Amelia found?”

Cooper poked through them with a probe then mounted several in the phase-contrast microscope. This instrument shot two light sources at a single subject, the second beam delayed slightly – out of phase – so the sample was both illuminated and set off by shadow.

“It’s not human,” Cooper said. “I’ll tell you that right now. And they’re guard hairs, not down.”

Hairs from the animal’s coat, he meant.

“What kind? Dog?”

“Veal calf?” Banks suggested, once again youthfully enthusiastic.

“Check the scales,” Rhyme ordered. Meaning the microscopic flakes that make up the outer sheath of a strand of hair.

Cooper typed on his computer keyboard and a few seconds later thumbnail images of scaly rods popped onto the screen. “This is thanks to you, Lincoln. Remember the database?”

At IRD Rhyme had compiled a huge collection of micrographs of different types of hair. “I do, yes, Mel. But they were in three-ring binders when I saw ’ em last. How ’d you get them on the computer?”

“ScanMaster of course. JPEG compressed.”

Jay-peg? What was that? In a few years technology had soared beyond Rhyme. Amazing…

And as Cooper examined the images, Lincoln Rhyme wondered again what he’d been wondering all day – the question that kept floating to the surface: Why the clues? The human creature is so astonishing but count on it before anything else to be just that – a creature. A laughing animal, a dangerous one, a clever one, a scared one, but always acting for a reason – a motive that will move the beast toward its desires. Scientist Lincoln Rhyme didn’t believe in chance, or randomness, or frivolity. Even psychopaths had their own logic, twisted though it may have been, and he knew there was a reason Unsub 823 spoke to them only in this cryptic way.

Cooper called, “Got it. Rodent. Probably a rat. And the hairs were shaved off.”

“That’s a hell of a clue,” Banks said. “There’re a million rats in the city. That doesn’t pin down anyplace. What’s the point of telling us that?”

Sellitto closed his eyes momentarily and muttered something under his breath. Sachs didn’t notice the look. She glanced at Rhyme curiously. He was surprised that she hadn’t figured out what the kidnapper’s message was but he said nothing. He saw no reason to share this horrifying bit of knowledge with anyone else for the time being.

James Schneider’s seventh victim, or eighth, should you choose to number poor, angelic little Maggie O’Connor among them, was the wife of a hardworking immigrant, who had established the family’s modest habitation near Hester Street on the Lower East Side of the City.

It was thanks to the courage of this unfortunate woman that the constables and the police discovered the identity of the criminal. Hanna Goldschmidt was of German-Jewish extraction and was held in high esteem by the close-knit community in which she, her husband and their six children (one had died at birth) lived.

The bone collector drove through the streets slowly, careful to remain under the speed limit though he knew perfectly well that the traffic cops in New York wouldn’t stop you for something as minor as speeding.

He paused at a light and glanced up at another UN billboard. His eyes took in the bland, smiling faces – like the eerie faces painted on the walls of the mansion – and then looked beyond it, at the city around him. He was, occasionally, surprised to look up and find the buildings so massive, the stone cornices so high aloft, the glass so smooth, the cars so sleek, the people so scrubbed. The city he knew was dark, low, smoky, smelling of sweat and mud. Horses would trample you, roving gangs of hoodlums – some as young as ten or eleven – would knock you on the head with a shillelagh or sap and make off with your pocket watch and billfold… This was the bone collector’s city.

Sometimes, though, he found himself just like this – driving a spiffy silver Taurus XL along a smooth asphalt road, listening to WNYC and irritated, like all New Yorkers, when he missed a green light, wondering why the hell didn’t the city let you make right turns on red.

He cocked his head, heard several thumps from the trunk of the car. But there was so much ambient noise that no one would hear Hanna’s protests.

The light changed.

It is, of course, exceptional even in these enlightened times for a woman to venture forth into the city streets in the evening, unaccompanied by a gentleman; and in those days it was more exceptional still. Yet on this unfortunate night Hanna had no choice but to quit her abode for a brief time. Her youngest had a fever, and, with her husband praying devoutly at a nearby synagogue, she issued forth into the night to secure a poultice for the child’s fiery forehead. As she closed the door she said to her eldest daughter, -

“Lock tight the bolt behind me. I shall return soon.”

But, alas, she would not be true to those words. For only moments later she chanced to encounter James Schneider.

The bone collector looked around at the shabby streets here. This area – near where he’d buried the first victim – was Hell’s Kitchen, on the West Side of the city, once the bastion of Irish gangs, now populated more and more with young professionals, ad agencies, photo studios and stylish restaurants.

He smelled manure and wasn’t the least surprised when suddenly a horse reared in front of him.

Then he noticed that the animal wasn’t an apparition from the 1800s but was being hitched to one of the hansom cabs that cruised Central Park charging very twentieth-century fees. Their stables were located here.

He laughed to himself. Though it was a hollow sound.

One can only speculate as to what occurred, for there were no witnesses. But we can picture the horror all too clearly. The villain drew the struggling woman into an alley and stabbed her with a dagger, his cruel intent not to kill but to subdue, as was his wont. But such was the strength in good Mrs. Goldschmidt’s soul, thinking as she surely was of her fledglings back in the nest, that she surprised the monster by assaulting him ferociously: – she struck him repeatedly about the face and ripped hair from his head.

She freed herself momentarily and from her mouth issued an horrendous scream. The cowardly Schneider struck her several times more and fled.

The brave woman staggered to the sidewalk and collapsed, where she died in the arms of a constable who had responded to the alarm neighbors had raised.

This story appeared in a book, which was with the bone collector now, resting in his hip pocket. Crime in Old New York . He couldn’t explain his overwhelming attraction to the slim volume. If he had to describe his relation to this book he would have to say he was addicted to it. Seventy-five years old and still in remarkable shape, a bookbinding jewel. It was his good-luck charm and his talisman. He’d found it at a small branch of the public library and committed one of the few larcenies of his life by slipping it into his raincoat one day and strolling out of the building.

He’d read the chapter on Schneider a hundred times and virtually had it memorized.

Driving slowly. They were almost there.

When Hanna’s poor, weeping husband huddled over her lifeless body, he looked upon her face: – one last time before she was taken to the funeral home (for in the Jewish faith it is dictated that the dead must be interred as quickly as possible). And he noticed upon her porcelain cheek a bruise in the shape of a curious emblem. It was a round symbol and appeared to be a crescent moon and a cluster of what might be taken to be stars hovering over the same.

The constable exclaimed that this must have been an imprint made by the ring of the heinous butcher himself when he struck the poor victim. Detectives enlisted the aid of an artist and he sketched a picture of the impression. (The good reader is referred to plate XXII.) Rounds were made of jewelers in, the city, and several names and addresses were secured of men who had bought such rings in the recent past. Two of the gentlemen purchasing these rings were beyond suspicion, being as they were a deacon of a church and another a learned professor at a fine university. Yet the third was a man of whom the constables had long harbored suspicion of nefarious activity. To wit: – one James Schneider.

This gentleman had at one time been influential in several benevolent organizations in the city of Manhattan: the Consumptives’ Assistance League and the Pensioners’ Welfare Society, most notably. He had come under the eye of the constabulary when several elderly charges from said groups vanished not long after Schneider paid them calls. He was never charged with any offense but soon after the investigations, he dropped from sight.

In the aftermath of Hanna Goldschmidt’s heinous murder, a still search of the dubious haunts of the city revealed no abode where Schneider might be found. The constables posted broadsides throughout the down-town and River-front areas, setting forth the description of the villain, but he could not be apprehended; – a true tragedy, to be sure, in light of the carnage that was soon to befall the city at his vile hands.

The streets were clear. The bone collector drove into the alley. He opened the warehouse door and drove down a wooden ramp into a long tunnel.

After making sure the place was deserted, he walked to the back of the car. He opened the trunk and pulled Hanna out. She was fleshy, fat, like a bag of limp mulch. He grew angry again and he carried her roughly down another wide tunnel. Traffic from the West Side Highway sped over them. He listened to her wheezing and was just reaching out to loosen the gag when he felt her shudder and go completely limp. Gasping for breath with the effort of carrying her, he rested her on the floor of the tunnel and eased the tape off her mouth. Air dribbled in weakly. Had she just fainted? He listened to her heart. It seemed to be beating fine.

He cut the clothesline binding her ankles, leaned forward and whispered, “Hanna, kommen Sie mit mir mit, Hanna Goldschmidt…”

“Nein,” she muttered, her voice trailing to silence.

He leaned closer, lightly slapped her face. “Hanna, you must come with me.”

And she screamed: “Mein Name ist nicht Hanna.” Then kicked him square in the jaw.

A burst of yellow light flashed through his head and he leapt sideways two or three feet, trying to keep his balance. Hanna sprang up, raced blindly down a dark corridor. But he was after her fast. He tackled her before she’d gotten ten yards away. She fell hard; he did too, grunting as he lost his breath.

He lay on his side for a minute, consumed with pain, struggling to breathe, gripping her T-shirts as she thrashed. Lying on her back, hands still cuffed, the girl used the only weapon she had – one of her feet, which she lifted in the air and brought down hard onto his hand. A spike of pain shot through him and his glove flew off. She lifted her strong leg again and only her bad aim saved him from her heel, which slammed so hard into the ground it would’ve broken bones if she’d connected.

“So nicht!” he growled madly and grabbed her by the throat with his bare hand and squeezed until she squirmed and whined and then stopped squirming and whining. She trembled several times and went still.

When he listened to her heart the beating was very faint. No tricks this time. He snatched up his glove, pulled it on and dragged her back through the tunnel to the post. Bound her feet once more and put a new piece of tape on her mouth. As she came to, his hand was straying over her body. She gasped at first and shrank away as he caressed the flesh behind her ear. Her elbow, her jaw. There weren’t many other places he wanted to touch her. She was so padded… it disgusted him.

Yet beneath the skin… He gripped her leg firmly. Her wide eyes stared as he fumbled in his pocket and the knife appeared. Without a moment’s hesitation he cut through her skin down to the yellow-white bone. She screamed through the tape, a manic wail, and kicked hard but he held her tight. Enjoying this, Hanna? The girl sobbed and groaned loudly. So he had to lower his ear to her leg to hear the delicious sound of the tip of the blade scraping back and forth on the bone. Skrisssss.

Then he took her arm.

They locked eyes for a moment and she shook her head pathetically, begging in silence. His gaze dropped to her pudgy forearm and again the cut was deep. Her whole body went rigid with the pain. Another wild, muted scream. Again he lowered his head like a musician, listening to the sound of the blade scraping the ulna. Back and forth. Skrisssss, skrisssss… It was some moments later that he realized she’d fainted.

Finally he pried himself away and returned to the car. He planted the next clues then took the broom from the trunk and carefully swept over their footsteps. He drove up the ramp, parked, left the engine running and climbed out once more, carefully sweeping away the tire tracks.

He paused and looked back down the tunnel. Staring at her, just staring. Suddenly a rare smile crossed the bone collector’s lips. He was surprised that the first of the guests had already shown up. A dozen pairs of tiny red eyes, two dozen, then three… It seemed they were gazing at Hanna’s bloody flesh with curiosity… and what might have been hunger. Though that could have been his imagination; Lord knew, it was vivid enough.

TWELVE

MEL, GO THROUGH THE COLFAX WOMAN’S CLOTHES. Amelia, would you help him?”

She offered him another pleasant nod, the sort meant for polite society. Rhyme realized he was really quite angry with her.

At the tech’s direction she pulled on latex gloves, gently opened the clothing and ran a horsehair brush through the garments, above large sheets of clean newsprint. Tiny flecks fell out. Cooper picked them up on tape and examined them through the compound ’scope.

“Not much,” he reported. “The steam took care of most of the trace. I see a little soil. Not enough to D-G. Wait… Excellent. I’ve got a couple of fibers. Look at these…”

Well, I can’t, Rhyme thought angrily.

“Navy blue, acrylic-and-wool blend, I’d guess. It isn’t coarse enough to be carpet and it’s not lobed. So it’s clothing.”

“In this heat he’s not going to be wearing thick socks or a sweater. Ski mask?”

“That’d be my bet,” Cooper said.

Rhyme reflected, “So he’s serious about giving us a chance to save them. If he was bent on killing, it wouldn’t matter if they saw him or not.”

Sellitto added, “Also means the asshole thinks he can get away. Doesn’t have suicide on his mind. Might just give us some bargaining power if he’s got hostages when we nail him.”

“I like that optimism of yours, Lon,” Rhyme said.

Thom answered the buzzer and a moment later Jim Polling climbed the stairs, looking disheveled and harried. Well, shuttling between press conferences, the mayor’s office and the federal building would do that to you.

“Too bad about the trout,” Sellitto called to him. Then explained to Rhyme, “Jimmy here’s one of those real fishermen. Ties his own flies and everything. Me, I go out on a party boat with a six-pack and I’m happy.”

“We’ll nail this fucker then worry about the fish,” Polling said, helping himself to the coffee Thom had left by the window. He looked outside and blinked in surprise to find two large birds staring at him. He turned back to Rhyme and explained that because of the kidnapping he’d had to postpone a fishing trip to Vermont. Rhyme had never fished – never had the time or inclination for any hobbies – but he found he envied Polling. The serenity of fishing appealed to him. It was a sport you could practice in solitude. Crip sports tended to be in-your-face athletics. Competitive. Proving things to the world… and to yourself. Wheelchair basketball, tennis, marathons. Rhyme decided if he had to have a sport it’d be fishing. Though casting a line with a single finger was probably beyond modern technology.

Polling said, “The press is calling him a serial kidnapper.”

If the bootie fits, Rhyme reflected.

“And the mayor’s going nuts. Wants to call in the feds. I talked the chief into sitting tight on that one. But we can’t lose another vic.”

“We’ll do our best,” Rhyme said caustically.

Polling sipped the black coffee and stepped close to the bed. “You okay, Lincoln?”

Rhyme said, “Fine.”

Polling appraised him for a moment longer then nodded to Sellitto. “Brief me. We got another press conference in a half hour. You see the last one? Hear what that reporter asked? What did we think the vic’s family felt about her being scalded to death?”

Banks shook his head. “Man.”

“I nearly decked the fucker,” Polling said.

Three and a half years ago, Rhyme recalled, during the cop-killer investigation, the captain had smashed a news crew’s videocam when the reporter wondered if Polling was being too aggressive in his investigations just because the suspect, Dan Shepherd, was a member of the force.

Polling and Sellitto retired to a corner of Rhyme’s room and the detective filled him in. When the captain descended the stairs this time, Rhyme noticed, he wasn’t half as buoyant as he had been.

“Okay,” Cooper announced. “We’ve got a hair. It was in her pocket.”

“The whole shaft?” Rhyme asked, without much hope, and was not surprised when Cooper sighed. “Sorry. No bulb.”

Without a bulb attached, hair isn’t individuated evidence; it’s merely class evidence. You can’t run a DNA test and link it to a specific person. Still, it has good probative value. The famous Canadian Mounties study a few years ago concluded that if a hair found at the scene matches a suspect’s hair the odds are around 4,500 to 1 that he’s the one who left it. The problem with hair, though, is that you can’t deduce much about the person it belonged to. Sex is almost impossible to determine, and race can’t be reliably established. Age can be estimated only with infant hair. Color is deceptive because of wide pigmentation variations and cosmetic dyes, and since everybody loses dozens of hairs every day you can’t even tell if the suspect is going bald.

“Check it against the vic’s. Do a scale count and medulla pigmentation comparison,” Rhyme ordered.

A moment later Cooper looked up from the ’scope. “It’s not hers, the Colfax woman’s.”

“Description?” asked Rhyme.

“Light brown. No kink so I’d say not Negroid. Pigmentation suggests it’s not Mongoloid.”

“So Caucasian,” Rhyme said, nodding at the chart on the wall. “Confirms what the wit said. Head or body hair?”

“There’s little diameter variation and a uniform pigment distribution. It’s head hair.”

“Length?”

“Three centimeters.”

Thom asked if he should add to the profile that the kidnapper had brown hair.

Rhyme said no. “We’ll wait for some corroboration. Just write down that we know he wears a ski mask, navy blue. Fingernail scrapings, Mel?”

Cooper examined the trace but found nothing useful.

“The print you found. The one on the wall. Let’s take a look at it. Could you show it to me, Amelia?”

Sachs hesitated then carried the Polaroid over to him.

“Your monster,” Rhyme said. It was a large deformed palm, indeed grotesque, not with the elegant swirls and bifurcations of friction ridges but a mottled pattern of tiny lines.

“It’s a wonderful picture – you’re a virtual Edward Weston, Amelia. But unfortunately it’s not a hand. Those aren’t ridges. It’s a glove. Leather. Old. Right, Mel?”

The technician nodded.

“Thom, write down that he has an old pair of gloves.” Rhyme said to the others, “We’re starting to get some ideas about him. He’s not leaving his FR prints at the scene. But he is leaving glove prints. If we find the glove in his possession we can still place him at the scene. He’s smart. But not brilliant.”

Sachs asked, “And what do brilliant criminals wear?”

“Cotton-lined suede,” Rhyme said. Then asked, “Where’s the filter? From the vacuum?”

The technician emptied the cone filter – like one from a coffee-maker – onto a sheet of white paper.

Trace evidence…

DAs and reporters and juries loved obvious clues. Bloody gloves, knives, recently fired guns, love letters, semen and fingerprints. But Lincoln Rhyme’s favorite evidence was trace – the dust and effluence at crime scenes, so easily overlooked by perps.

But the vacuum had captured nothing helpful.

“All right,” Rhyme said, “let’s move on. Let’s look at the handcuffs.”

Sachs stiffened as Cooper opened the plastic bag and slid the cuffs out onto a sheet of newsprint. There was, as Rhyme had predicted, minimal blood. The tour doctor from the medical examiner’s office had done the honors with the razor saw, after an NYPD lawyer had faxed a release to the ME.

Cooper examined the cuffs carefully. “Boyd & Keller. Bottom of the line. No serial number.” He sprayed the chrome with DFO and hit the PoliLight. “No prints, just a smudge from the glove.”

“Let’s open them up.”

Cooper used a generic cuff key to click them open. With a lens-cleaning air puffer he blew into the mechanism.

“You’re still mad at me, Amelia,” Rhyme said. “About the hands.”

The question caught her off guard. “I wasn’t mad,” she said after a moment. “I thought it was unprofessional. What you were suggesting.”

“Do you know who Edmond Locard was?”

She shook her head.

“A Frenchman. Born in 1877. He founded the University of Lyons ’ Institute of Criminalistics. He came up with the one rule I lived by when I ran IRD. Locard’s Exchange Principle. He thought that whenever two human beings come into contact, something from one is exchanged to the other, and vice versa. Maybe dust, blood, skin cells, dirt, fibers, metallic residue. It might be tough to find exactly what’s been exchanged, and even harder to figure out what it means. But an exchange does occur – and because of that we can catch our unsubs.”

This bit of history didn’t interest her in the least.

“You’re lucky,” Mel Cooper said to Sachs, not looking up. “He was going to have you and the medic do a spot autopsy and examine the contents of her stomach.”

“It would’ve been helpful,” Rhyme said, avoiding her eyes.

“I talked him out of it,” Cooper said.

“Autopsy,” Sachs said, sighing, as if nothing about Rhyme could surprise her.

Why, she isn’t even here, he thought angrily. Her mind’s a thousand miles away.

“Ah,” Cooper said. “Found something. I think it’s a bit of the glove.”

Cooper mounted a fleck on the compound microscope. Examined it.

“Leather. Reddish-colored. Polished on one side.”

“Red, that’s good,” Sellitto said. To Sachs he explained, “The wilder their clothes, the easier it is to find the perp. They don’t teach you that at the academy, bet. Sometime I’ll tell you ’bout the time we collared Jimmy Plaid, from the Gambino crew. You remember that, Jerry?”

“You could spot those pants a mile away,” the young detective said.

Cooper continued, “The leather’s desiccated. Not much oil in the grain. You were right too about them being old.”

“What kind of animal?”

“I’d say kidskin. High quality.”

“If they were new it might mean he was rich,” Rhyme grumbled. “But since they’re old he might’ve found them on the street or bought them secondhand. No snappy deductions from 823’s accessorizing, looks like. Okay. Thom, just add to the profile that the gloves are reddish kidskin. What else do we have?”

“He wears aftershave,” Sachs reminded him.

“Forgot that. Good. Maybe to cover up another scent. Unsubs do that sometimes. Write it down, Thom. What did it smell like again, Amelia? You described it.”

“Dry. Like gin.”

“What about the clothesline?” Rhyme asked.

Cooper examined it. “I’ve seen this before. Plastic. Several dozen interior filaments composed of six to ten different plastic types and one – no, two – metallic filaments.”

“I want a manufacturer and source.”

Cooper shook his head. “Impossible. Too generic.”

“Damn,” Rhyme muttered. “And the knot?”

“Now that’s unusual. Very efficient. See how it loops around twice? PVC is the hardest cord to tie and this knot ain’t going anywhere.”

“They have a knot file downtown?”

“No.”

Inexcusable, he thought.

“Sir?”

Rhyme turned to Banks.

“I do some sailing…”

“Out of Westport,” Rhyme said.

“Well, as a matter of fact, yeah. How’d you know?”

If there were a forensic test for location of origin Jerry Banks would turn up positive for Connecticut. “Lucky guess.”

“It isn’t nautical. I don’t recognize it.”

“That’s good to know. Hang it up there.” Rhyme nodded toward the wall, next to the Polaroid of the cellophane and the Monet poster. “We’ll get to it later.”

The doorbell rang and Thom disappeared to answer it. Rhyme had a bad moment thinking that perhaps it was Dr. Berger returning to tell him he was no longer interested in helping him with their “project.”

But the heavy thud of boots told Rhyme who had come a-calling.

The Emergency Services officers, all large, all somber, dressed in combat gear, entered the room politely and nodded to Sellitto and Banks. They were men of action and Rhyme bet that behind the twenty still eyes were ten very bad reactions to the sight of a man laid up forever on his back.

“Gentlemen, you’ve heard about the kidnapping last night and the death of the victim this afternoon.” He continued through the affirmative muttering, “Our unsub has another victim. We have a lead in the case and I need you to hit locations around the city and secure evidence. Immediately and simultaneously. One man, one location.”

“You mean,” one mustachioed officer asked uncertainly, “no backup.”

“You won’t need it.”

“All due respect, sir, I’m not inclined to go into any tactical situation without backup. A partner at least.”

“I don’t think there’ll be any firefights. The targets are the major chain grocery stores in town.”

“Grocery stores?”

“Not every store. Just one of every chain. J &G’s, ShopRite, Food Warehouse…”

“What exactly are we going to do?”

“Buy veal shanks.”

“What?”

“One package at each store. I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to pay from your own pocket, gentlemen. But the city’ll reimburse you. Oh, and we need them ASAP.”

She lay on her side, immobile.

Her eyes had grown accustomed to the dimness of the old tunnel and she could see the little fuckers moving closer. One in particular she kept her eye on.

Monelle’s leg stung like a bitch but most of the pain was in her arm, from where he’d cut deep into her skin. Because it was cuffed behind her she couldn’t see the wound, didn’t know how much she’d bled. But it must have been a lot; she was very faint and could feel the sticky ooze all over her arms and side.

The sound of scratching – needlish claws on concrete. The gray-brown lumps rustling in the shadows. The rats continued to twitch their way toward her. There must have been a hundred of them.

She forced herself to stay completely still and kept her eyes on the big black one. Schwarzie, she called him. He was in the front, moving back and forth, studying her.

Monelle Gerger had been around the world twice by the time she was nineteen. She’d hitched through Sri Lanka and Cambodia and Pakistan. Through Nebraska, where women stared at her eyebrow rings and braless boobs with contempt. Through Iran, where men stared at her bare arms like dogs in heat. She’d slept in city parks in Guatemala City and spent three days with rebel forces in Nicaragua after getting lost on the way to a wildlife refuge.

But she’d never been so scared as now.

Mein Gott.

And what scared her the most was what she was about to do to herself.

One rat ran close, a small one, its brown body zipping forward, backing up, moving forward again a few inches. Rats were scary, she decided, because they were more like reptiles than rodents. “A snaky nose and snaky tail. And those fucking red eyes.

Behind him was Schwarzie, the size of a small cat. He rose up on his haunches and stared at what fascinated him. Watching. Waiting.

Then the little one attacked. Scurrying on his four needlish feet, ignoring her muffled scream, he darted fast and straight. Quick as a roach he tore a bite from her cut leg. The wound stung like fire. Monelle squealed – in pain, yes, but from anger too. I don’t fucking want you! She slammed her heel into his back with a dull crunch. He quivered once and lay still.

Another one raced up to her neck, ripped away a bite then leapt back, staring at her, twitching his nose as if he were running his tongue around his little rat mouth, savoring her flavor.

Dieser Schmerz

She shivered as the searing burn radiated from the bite. Dieser Schmerz! The pain! Monelle forced herself to lie still again.

The tiny attacker poised for another run but suddenly he twitched and turned away. Monelle saw why. Schwarzie was finally easing to the front of the pack. He was coming after what he wanted.

Good, good.

He was the one she’d been waiting for. Because he hadn’t seemed interested in the blood or her flesh; he’d padded up close twenty minutes before, fascinated by the silver tape across her mouth.

The smaller rat scurried back into the swarming bodies as Schwarzie eased forward, on his obscenely tiny feet. Paused. Then advanced again. Six feet, five.

Then three.

She remained completely still. Breathing as shallowly as she dared, afraid the inhalation would scare him off.

Schwarzie paused. Padded forward again. Then stopped. Two feet away from her head.

Don’t move a muscle.

His back was humped high and his lips kept retracting over his brown and yellow teeth. He moved another foot closer and stopped, eyes darting. Sat up, rubbed his clawed paws together, eased forward again.

Monelle Gerger played dead.

Another six inches. Vorwärts!

Come on!

Then he was at her face. She smelled garbage and oil on his body, feces, rotten meat. He sniffed and she felt the unbearable tickle of whiskers on her nose as his tiny teeth emerged from his mouth and began to chew the tape.

For five minutes he gnawed around her mouth. Once another rat scooted in, sank his teeth into her ankle. She closed her eyes to the pain and tried to ignore it. Schwarzie chased him away then stood in the shadows studying her.

Vorwärts, Schwarzie! Come on!

Slowly he padded back to her. Tears running down her cheek, Monelle reluctantly lowered her mouth to him.

Chewing, chewing…

Come on!

She felt his vile, hot breath in her mouth as he broke through the tape and began to rip off larger chunks of the shiny plastic. He pulled the pieces from his mouth and squeezed them greedily in his front claws.

Big enough now? she wondered.

It would have to be. She couldn’t take any more.

Slowly she lifted her head up, one millimeter at a time. Schwarzie blinked and leaned forward, curiously.

Monelle spread her jaws and heard the wonderful sound of the ripping tape. She sucked air deep into her lungs. She could breathe again!

And she could shout for help.

Bitte, helfen Sie mir! Please help me!”

Schwarzie backed away, startled by her ragged howl, dropping his precious silver tape. But he didn’t go very far. He stopped and turned back, rose on his pudgy haunches.

Ignoring his black, humped body she kicked the post she was tied to. Dust and dirt floated down like gray snow but the wood didn’t give a bit. She screamed until her throat burned.

Bitte. Help me!”

The sticky rush of traffic swallowed the sound.

Stillness for a moment. Then Schwarzie started toward her again. He wasn’t alone this time. The slimy pack followed his lead. Twitching, nervous. But drawn steadily by the tempting smell of her blood.

Bone and wood, wood and bone.

“Mel, what do you have there?” Rhyme was nodding toward the computer attached to the chromatograph- spectrometer. Cooper had once more retested the dirt they’d found in the splinter of wood.

“It’s still nitrogen-rich. Off the charts.”

Three separate tests, the results all the same. A diagnostic check of the unit showed it was working fine. Cooper reflected and said, “That much nitrogen – maybe a firearms or ammunition manufacturer.”

“That’d be Connecticut, not Manhattan.” Rhyme looked at the clock. 6:30. How fast time had raced past today. How slowly it had moved for the past three and a half years. He felt as if he’d been awake for days and days.

The young detective pored over the map of Manhattan, moving aside the pale vertebra that had fallen to the floor earlier.

The disk had been left here by Rhyme’s SCI specialist, Peter Taylor. An early appointment with the man. The doctor had examined him expertly then sat back in the rustling rattan chair and pulled something out of his pocket.

“Show-and-tell time,” the doctor had said.

Rhyme had glanced at Taylor ’s open hand.

“This’s a fourth cervical vertebra. Just like the one in your neck. The one that broke. See the little tails on the end?” The doctor turned it over and over for a moment then asked, “What do you think of when you see it?”

Rhyme respected Taylor – who didn’t treat him like a child or a moron or a major inconvenience – but that day he hadn’t been in the mood to play the inspiration game. He hadn’t answered.

Taylor continued anyway, “Some of my patients think it looks like a stingray. Some say it’s a spaceship. Or an airplane. Or a truck. Whenever I ask that question people usually compare it to something big. Nobody ever says, ‘Oh, a hunk of calcium and magnesium.’ See, they don’t like the idea that something so insignificant has made their lives pure hell.”

Rhyme had glanced back at the doctor skeptically but the placid, gray-haired medico was an old hand at SCI patients and he said kindly, “Don’t tune me out, Lincoln.”

Taylor had held the disk up close to Rhyme’s face. “You’re thinking it’s unfair this little thing causing you so much grief. But forget that. Forget it. I want you to remember what it was like before the accident. The good and bad in your life. Happiness, sadness… You can feel that again.” The doctor’s face had grown still. “But frankly all I see now is somebody who’s given up.”

Taylor had left the vertebra on the bedside table. Accidentally, it seemed. But then Rhyme realized the act was calculated. Over the past months while Rhyme was trying to decide whether or not to kill himself he’d stared at the tiny disk. It became an emblem for Taylor ’s argument – the pro-living argument. But in the end that side lost; the doctor’s words, as valid as they might be, couldn’t overcome the burden of pain and heartache and exhaustion Lincoln Rhyme felt day after day after day.

He now looked away from the disk – to Amelia Sachs – and said, “I want you to think about the scene again.”

“I told you everything I saw.”

“Not saw, I want to know what you felt.”

Rhyme remembered the thousands of times he’d run crime scenes. Sometimes a miracle would happen. He’d be looking around and somehow ideas about the unsub would come to him. He couldn’t explain how. The behaviorists talked about profiling as if they’d invented it. But criminalists had been profiling for hundreds of years. Walk the grid, walk where he’s walked, find what he’s left behind, figure out what he’s taken with him – and you’ll come away from the scene with a profile as clear as a portrait.

“Tell me,” he prodded. “What did you feel?”

“Uneasy. Tense. Hot.” She shrugged. “I don’t know. I really don’t. Sorry.”

If he’d been mobile Rhyme would have leapt from the bed, grabbed her shoulders and shaken her. Shouted: But you know what I’m talking about! I know you do. Why won’t you work with me?… Why are you ignoring me?

Then he understood something… That she was there, in the steamy basement. Hovering over T.J.’s ruined body. Smelling the vile smell. He saw it in the way her thumb flicked a bloody cuticle, he saw it in the way she maintained the no-man’s-land of politeness between the two of them. She detested being in that vile basement, and she hated him for reminding her that part of her was still there.

“You’re walking through the room,” he said.

“I really don’t think I can be any more help.”

“Play along,” he said, forcing his temper down. He smiled. “Tell me what you thought.”

Her face went still and she said, “It’s… just thoughts. Impressions everybody’d have.”

“But you were there. Everybody wasn’t. Tell us.”

“It was scary or something…” She seemed to regret the clumsy word.

Unprofessional.

“I felt -”

“Somebody watching you?” he asked.

This surprised her. “Yes. That’s exactly it.”

Rhyme had felt it himself. Many times. He’d felt it three and a half years ago, bending down over the decomposing body of the young policeman, picking a fiber off the uniform. He’d been positive that someone was nearby. But there was no one – just a large oak beam that chose that moment to groan and splinter and come crashing down on the fulcrum of Lincoln Rhyme’s fourth cervical vertebra with the weight of the earth.

“What else did you think, Amelia?”

She wasn’t resisting anymore. Her lips were relaxed, her eyes drifting over the curled Nighthawks poster – the diners, lonely or contentedly alone. She said, “Well, I remember saying to myself, ‘Man, this place is old.’ It was like those pictures you see of turn-of-the-century factories and things. And I -”

“Wait,” Rhyme barked. “Let’s think about that. Old…”

His eyes strayed to the Randel Survey map. He’d commented before on the unsub’s interest in historical New York. The building where T.J. Colfax had died was old too. And so was the tunnel for the railroad where they’d found the first body. The New York Central trains used to run aboveground. There’d been so many crossing fatalities that Eleventh Avenue had earned the name Death Avenue and the railroad had finally been forced to move the tracks belowground.

“And Pearl Street,” he mused to himself, “was a major byway in early New York. Why’s he so interested in old things?” He asked Sellitto, “Is Terry Dobyns still with us?”

“Oh, the shrink? Yeah. We worked a case last year. Come to think of it, he asked about you. Said he called you a couple times and you never -”

“Right, right, right,” Rhyme said. “Get him over here. I want his thoughts on 823’s patterns. Now, Amelia, what else did you think?”

She shrugged but far too nonchalantly. “Nothing.”

“No?”

And where did she keep her feelings? he wondered, recalling something Blaine had said once, seeing a gorgeous woman walking down Fifth Avenue: The more beautiful the package, the harder it is to unwrap.

“I don’t know… All right, I remember one thing I thought. But it doesn’t mean anything. It’s not, like a professional observation.”

Professional

It’s a bitch when you set your own standards, ain’t it, Amelia?

“Let’s hear it,” he said to her.

“When you were having me pretend to be him? And I found where he stood to look back at her?”

“Keep going.”

“Well, I thought…” For a moment it seemed that tears threatened to fill her beautiful eyes. They were iridescent blue, he noticed. Instantly she controlled herself. “I wondered, did she have a dog. The Colfax woman.”

“A dog? Why’d you wonder that?”

She hesitated a moment then said, “This friend of mine… a few years ago. We were talking about getting a dog when, well, if we moved in together. I always wanted one. A collie. It was funny. That was the kind my friend wanted too. Even before we knew each other.”

“A dog.” Rhyme’s heart popped like beetles on a summer screen door. “And?”

“I thought that woman -”

“T.J.,” Rhyme said.

“T.J.,” Sachs continued. “I just thought how sad it was – if she had any pets she wouldn’t be coming home to them and playing with them anymore. I didn’t think about her boyfriends or husbands. I thought about pets.”

“But why that thought? Dogs, pets. Why?”

“I don’t know why.”

Silence.

Finally she said, “I suppose seeing her tied up there… And I was thinking how he stood to the side to watch her. Just standing between the oil tanks. It was like he was watching an animal in a pen.”

Rhyme glanced at the sine waves on the GC-MS computer screen.

Animals…

Nitrogen…

“Shit!” Rhyme blurted.

Heads turned toward him.

“It’s shit.” Staring at the screen.

“Yes, of course!” Cooper said, replastering his strands of hair. “All the nitrogen. It’s manure. And it’s old manure at that.”

Suddenly Lincoln Rhyme had one of those moments he’d reflected on earlier. The thought just burst into his mind. The image was of lambs.

Sellitto asked, “Lincoln, you okay?”

A lamb, sauntering down the street.

It was like he was watching an animal

“Thom,” Sellitto was saying, “is he all right?”

in a pen.

Rhyme could picture the carefree animal. A bell around its neck, a dozen others behind.

“ Lincoln,” Thom said urgently. “You’re sweating. Are you all right?”

“Shhhhh,” the criminalist ordered.

He felt the tickle running down his face. Inspiration and heart failure; the symptoms are oddly similar. Think, think…

Bones, wooden posts and manure…

“Yes!” he whispered. A Judas lamb, leading the flock to slaughter.

“Stockyards,” Rhyme announced to the room. “She’s being held in a stockyard.”

THIRTEEN

“THERE ARE NO STOCKYARDS IN MANHATTAN.”

“The past, Lon,” Rhyme reminded him. “Old things turn him on. Get his juices flowing. We should think of old stockyards. The older the better.”

In researching his book, Rhyme had read about a murder that gentleman mobster Owney Madden was accused of committing: gunning down a rival bootlegger outside his Hell’s Kitchen townhouse. Madden was never convicted – not for this particular murder, at any rate. He took the stand and, in his melodious British-accented voice, lectured the courtroom about betrayal. “This entire case has been trumped up by my rivals, who are speaking lies about me. Your honor, do you know what they remind me of? In my neighborhood, in Hell’s Kitchen, the flocks of lambs were led through the streets from the stockyards to the slaughterhouses on Forty-second Street. And you know who led them? Not a dog, not a man. But one of theirs. A Judas lamb with a bell around its neck. He’d lead the flock up that ramp. But then he’d stop and the rest of them would go on inside. I’m an innocent lamb and those witnesses against me, they’re the Judases.”

Rhyme continued. “Call the library, Banks. They must have a historian.”

The young detective flipped open his cellular phone and called. His voice dropped a tone or two as he spoke. After he explained what they needed he stopped speaking and gazed at the map of the city.

“Well?” Rhyme asked.

“They’re finding someone. They’ve got -” He lowered his head as someone answered and the young man repeated his request. He started nodding and announced to the room, “I’ve got two locations… no, three.”

UNSUB 823

Appearance

•Caucasian male, slight build

•Dark clothing•Old gloves, reddish kidskin

•Aftershave; to cover up other scent?

•Ski mask? Navy blue?

Residence

•Prob. has safe house

Vehicle

•Yellow Cab

Other

•knows CS proc.

•possibly has record

•knows FR prints

•gun =.32 Colt

•Ties vics w/ unusual knots

•“Old” appeals to him

“Who is it?” Rhyme barked. “Who’re you talking to?”

“The curator of the city archives… He says there’ve been three major stockyard areas in Manhattan. One on the West Side, around Sixtieth Street… One in Harlem in the 1930s or ’40s. And on the Lower East Side during the Revolution.”

“We need addresses, Banks. Addresses!”

Listening.

“He’s not sure.”

“Why can’t he look it up? Tell him to look it up!”

Banks responded, “He heard you, sir… He says, in what? Look them up in what? They didn’t have Yellow Pages back then. He’s looking at old -”

“Demographic maps of commercial neighborhoods without street names,” Rhyme groused. “Obviously. Have him guess.”

“That’s what he’s doing. He’s guessing.”

Rhyme called, “Well, we need him to guess fast.”

Banks listened, nodding.

“What, what, what, what?”

“Around Sixtieth Street and Tenth,” the young officer said. A moment later: “ Lexington near the Harlem River… And then… where the Delancey farm was. Is that near Delancey Street? -”

“Of course it is. From Little Italy all the way to the East River. Lots of territory. Miles. Can’t he narrow it down?”

“Around Catherine Street. Lafayette… Walker. He’s not sure.”

“Near the courthouses,” Sellitto said and told Banks, “Get Haumann’s teams moving. Divide ’ em up. Hit all three neighborhoods.”

The young detective made the call, then looked up. “What now?”

“We wait,” Rhyme said.

Sellitto muttered, “I fucking hate waiting.”

Sachs asked Rhyme, “Can I use your phone?”

Rhyme nodded toward the one on his bedside table.

She hesitated. “You have one in there?” She pointed to the hallway.

Rhyme nodded.

With perfect posture she walked out of the bedroom. In the hallway mirror he could see her, solemn, making the precious phone call. Who? he wondered. Boyfriend, husband? Day-care center? Why had she hesitated before mentioning her “friend” when she told them about the collie? There was a story behind that, Rhyme bet.

Whomever she was calling wasn’t there. He noticed her eyes turn to dark-blue pebbles when there was no answer. She looked up and caught Rhyme gazing at her in the dusty glass. She turned her back. The phone slipped to the cradle and she returned to his room.

There was silence for a full five minutes. Rhyme lacked the mechanism most people have for bleeding off tension. He’d been a manic pacer when he was mobile, drove the officers in IRD crazy. Now, his eyes energetically scanned the Randel map of the city as Sachs dug beneath her Patrol cap and scratched at her scalp. Invisible Mel Cooper cataloged evidence, calm as a surgeon.

All but one of the people in the room jumped inordinately when Sellitto’s phone brayed. He listened; his face broke into a grin.

“Got it!” One of Haumann’s squads is at Eleventh and Sixtieth. They can hear a woman’s screams coming from somewhere around there. They dunno where for sure. They’re doing a door-to-door.”

“Get your running shoes on,” Rhyme ordered Sachs.

He saw her face sag. She glanced at Rhyme’s phone, as if it might be ringing with a reprieve call from the governor at any minute. Then a look at Sellitto, who was poring over the ESU tactical map of the West Side.

“Amelia,” Rhyme said, “we lost one. That’s too bad. But we don’t have to lose any more.”

“If you saw her,” she whispered. “If you only saw what he did to her -”

“Oh, but I have, Amelia,” he said evenly, his eyes relentless and challenging. “I’ve seen what happened to T.J. I’ve seen what happens to bodies left in hot trunks for a month. I’ve seen what a pound of C4 does to arms and legs and faces. I worked the Happy Land social club fire. Over eighty people burned to death. We took Polaroids of the vics’ faces, or what was left of them, for their families to identify – because there’s no way in hell a human being could walk past those rows of bodies and stay sane. Except us. We didn’t have any choice.” He inhaled against the excruciating pain that swept through his neck. “See, if you’re going to get by in this business, Amelia… If you’re going to get by in life, you’re going to have to learn to give up the dead.”

One by one the others in the room had stopped what they were doing and were looking at the two of them.

No pleasantries now from Amelia Sachs. No polite smiles. She tried for a moment to make her gaze cryptic. But it was transparent as glass. Her fury at him – out of proportion to his comment – roiled through her; her long face folded under the dark energy. She swept aside a lock of lazy red hair and snatched the headset from the table. At the top of the stairs she paused and looked at him with a withering glance, reminding Rhyme that there was nothing colder than a beautiful woman’s cold smile.

And for some reason he found himself thinking: Welcome back, Amelia.

“Whatcha got? You got goodies, you got a story, you got pictures?”

The Scruff sat in a bar on the East Side of Manhattan, Third Avenue – which is to the city what strip malls are to the ’burbs. This was a dingy tavern, soon to be rockin’ with Yuppies on the make. But now it was the refuge of badly dressed locals, eating suppers of questionable fish and limp salads.

The lean man, skin like knotty ebony, wore a very white shirt and a very green suit. He leaned closer to the Scruff. “You got news, you got secret codes, you got letters? You got shit?”

“Man. Ha.”

“You’re not laughing when you say ha,” said Fred Dellray, really D’Ellret but that had been generations ago. He was six foot four, rarely smiled despite the Jabberwocky banter, and was a star special agent in the Manhattan office of the FBI.

“No, man. I’m not laughing.”

“So what’ve you got?” Dellray squeezed the end of a cigarette, which perched over his left ear.

“It takes time, man.” The Scruff, a short man, scratched his greasy hair.

“But you ain’t got time. Time is precious, time is fleeing, and time is one thing You. Ain’t. Got.”

Dellray put his huge hand under the table, on which sat two coffees, and squeezed the Scruff’s thigh until he whined.

Six months ago the skinny little guy had been caught trying to sell automatic M-16s to a couple of right-wing crazies, who – whether they actually were or not – also happened to be undercover BATF agents.

The feds hadn’t wanted the Scruff himself of course, the greasy little wild-eyed thing. They wanted whoever was supplying the guns. ATF swam upstream a ways but no great busts were forthcoming and so they gave him to Dellray, the Bureau’s Numero Uno snitch handler, to see if he might be some use. So far, though, he’d proved to be just an irritating, mousy little skel who didn’t, apparently, have news, secret codes or even shit for the feds.

“The only way we’re dropping down a charge, any charge, is you give us something beautiful and sticky. Are we all together on that?”

“I don’t have nothing for youse guys right now is what I’m saying. Just now.”

“Not true, not true. You gotchaself somethin’. I can see it in your face. You’re knowing something, mon.”

A bus pulled up outside, with a hiss of brake air. A crowd of Pakistanis climbed from the open door.

“Man, that fucking UN conference,” the Scruff muttered, “what the fuck they coming here for? This city’s too crowded already. All them foreigners.”

“ ‘Fucking conference.’ You little skel, you little turd,” Dellray snapped. “Whatcha got against world peace?”

“Nothin’.”

“Now, tell me something good.”

“I don’t know nothin’ good.”

“Who you talking to here?” Dellray grinning devilishly. “I’m the Chameleon. I can smile’n be happy or I can frown and play squeezie.”

“No, man, no,” the Scruff squealed. “Shit, that hurts. Cut it out.”

The bartender looked over at them and a short glance from Dellray sent him back to polishing polished glasses.

“All right, maybe I know one thing. But I need help. I need -”

“Squeezie time again.”

“Fuck you, man. Just fuck you!”

“Oh, that’s mighty smart dialogue,” Dellray shot back. “You sound like in those bad movies, you know, the bad guy and the good guy finally meet. Like Stallone and somebody. And all they can say to each other is, ‘Fuck you, man.’ ‘No, fuck you.’ ‘No, fuck you.’ Now, you’re gonna tell me something useful. Are we all together on that?”

And just stared at the Scruff until he gave up.

“Okay, here’s what it is. I’m trusting you, man. I’m -”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatcha got?”

“I was talking to Jackie, you know Jackie?”

“I know Jackie.”

“An’ he was telling me.”

“What was he telling you?”

“He was telling me he heard anything anybody got coming in or going out this week, don’t do it the airports.”

“So what was coming in or going out? More 16s?”

“I told you, man, there wasn’t nothing I had. I’m telling you what Jackie -”

“Told you.”

“Right, man. Just in general, you know?” The Scruff turned big brown eyes on Dellray. “Would I lie to you?”

“Don’t ever lose your dignity,” the agent warned solemnly, pointing a stern finger at the Scruff’s chest. “Now what’s this about airports. Which one? Kennedy, La Guardia?”

“I don’t know. All I know is word’s up that somebody was gonna be at a airport here. Somebody who was pretty bad.”

“Gimme a name.”

“Don’t got a name.”

“Where’s Jackie?”

“Dunno. South Africa, I think. Maybe Liberia.”

“What’s all this mean?” Dellray squeezed his cigarette again.

“I guess just there was a chance something was going down, you know, so nobody should be having shipments coming in then.”

“You guess.” The Scruff cringed but Dellray wasn’t thinking about tormenting the little man any longer. He was hearing alarm bells: Jackie – an arms broker both Bureaus had known about for a year – might have heard something from one of his clients, soldiers in Africa and Central Europe and militia cells in America, about some terrorist hit at the airports. Dellray normally wouldn’t’ve thought anything about this, except for that kidnapping at JFK last night. He hadn’t paid much attention to it – it was NYPD’s case. But now he was also thinking about that botched fragging at the UNESCO meeting in London the other day.

“Yo boy dint tell you anything more?”

“No, man. Nothing more. Hey, I’m hungry. Can we eat somethin’?”

“Remember what I told you about dignity? Quit moaning.” Dellray stood up. “I gotta make a call.”

The RRV skidded to a stop on Sixtieth Street.

Sachs snagged the crime-scene suitcase, the PoliLight and the big twelve-volt flashlight.

“Did you get her in time?” Sachs called to an ESU trooper. “Is she all right?”

No one answered at first. Then she heard the screams.

“What’s going on?” she muttered, running breathless up to the large door, which had been battered in by Emergency Services. It opened onto a wide driveway that descended underneath an abandoned brick building. “She’s still there?”

“That’s right.”

“Why?” demanded a shocked Amelia Sachs.

“They told us not to go in.”

“Not to go in? She’s screaming. Can’t you hear her?”

An ESU cop said, “They told us to wait for you.”

They. No, not they at all. Lincoln Rhyme. That son of a bitch.

“We were supposed to find her,” the officer said. “You’re supposed to go in.”

She clicked the headset on. “Rhyme!” she barked. “Are you there?”

No answer… You goddamn coward.

Give up the dead… Sonofabitch! As furious as she’d been storming down the stairs in his townhouse a few minutes ago, she was twice as angry now.

Sachs glanced behind her and noticed a medic standing beside an EMS bus.

“You, come with me.”

He took a step forward and saw her draw her weapon. He stopped.

“Whoa, time out,” the medic said. “I don’t have to go in until the area’s secure.”

“Now! Move!” She spun around and he must have seen more muzzle than he wanted. He grimaced and hurried after her.

From underground they heard: “Aiiiii! Hilfe!” Then sobbing.

Jesus. Sachs started to run toward the looming doorway, twelve feet high, smoky blackness inside.

She heard in her head: You’re him, Amelia. What are you thinking?

Go away, she said silently.

But Lincoln Rhyme didn’t go away.

You’re a killer and a kidnapper, Amelia. Where would you walk, what would you touch?

Forget it! I’m going to save her. Hell with the crime scene…

“Mein Gott! Fleece! Some-von, pleece help!”

Go, Sachs shouted to herself. Sprint! He’s not in here. You’re safe. Get her, go…

She picked up the pace, her utility belt clanking as she ran. Then, twenty feet down the tunnel, she pulled up. Debating. She didn’t like which side won.

“Oh, fuck,” she spat out. She set down the suitcase and opened it up. She blurted to the medic, “You, what’s your name?”

The uneasy young man answered, “Tad Walsh. I mean, what’s going on?” He glanced down into the murk.

“Oh… Bitte, helfen Sie mir!”

“Cover me,” Sachs whispered.

“Cover you? Wait a minute, I don’t do that.”

“Take the gun, all right?”

“What’m I supposed to cover you from?”

Thrusting the automatic into his hand, she dropped to her knees. “Safety’s off. Be careful.”

She grabbed two rubber bands and slipped them over her shoes. Taking the pistol back she ordered him to do the same.

With unsteady hands he slipped the bands on.

“I’m just thinking -”

“Quiet. He could still be here.”

“Wait a minute now, ma’am,” the medic whispered. “This ain’t in my job description.”

“It’s not in mine either. Hold the light.” She handed him the flashlight.

“But if he’s here he’s probably gonna shoot at the light. I mean, that’s what I’d shoot at.”

“Then hold it up high. Over my shoulder. I’ll go in front. If anybody gets shot it’ll be me.”

“Then whatta I do?” Tad sounded like a teenager.

“I myself’d run like hell,” Sachs muttered. “Now follow me. And keep that beam steady.”

Lugging the black CS suitcase in her left hand, holding her weapon in front of her, she gazed at the floor as they moved into the darkness. She saw the familiar broom marks again, just like at the other scene.

“Bitte nicht, bitte nicht, bitte…” There was a brief scream, then silence.

“What the hell’s going on down there?” Tad whispered.

“Shhhh,” Sachs hissed.

They walked slowly. Sachs blew on her fingers gripping the Glock – to dry the slick sweat – and carefully eyed the random targets of wooden pillars, shadows and discarded machinery picked out by the flashlight held unsteadily in Tad’s hand.

She found no footprints.

Of course not. He’s smart.

But we’re smart too, she heard Lincoln Rhyme say in her thoughts. And she told him to shut up.

Slower now.

Five more feet. A pause. Then moving slowly forward. Trying to ignore the girl’s moans. She felt it again – that sensation of being watched, the slippery crawl of the iron sights tracking you. The body armor, she reflected, wouldn’t stop a full-metal jacket. Half the bad guys used Black Talons anyway – so a leg or arm shot would kill you just as efficiently as a chest hit. And a lot more painfully. Nick had told her how one of those bullets could open up a human body; one of his partners, hit by two of the vicious slugs, had died in his arms.

Above and behind…

Thinking of him, she remembered one night, lying against Nick’s solid chest, gazing at the silhouette of his handsome Italian face on her pillow as he told her about hostage-rescue entry – “Somebody inside wants to nail you when you go in they’ll do it from above and behind…”

“Shit.” She dropped to a crouch, spinning around and aiming the Glock toward the ceiling, ready to empty the entire clip.

“What?” Tad whispered, cowering. “What?”

The emptiness gaped at her.

“Nothing.” And breathed deeply, stood up.

“Don’t do that.”

There was a gurgling noise ahead of them.

“Jesus,” came Tad’s high voice again. “I hate this.”

This guy’s a pussy, she thought. I know that ’cause he’s saying everything I want to.

She stopped. “Shine the light up there. Ahead.”

“Oh, my everloving…”

Sachs finally understood the hairs she’d found at the last scene. She remembered the look that had passed between Sellitto and Rhyme. He’d known then what the unsub had planned. He’d known this was what was happening to her – and still he’d told ESU to wait. She hated him that much more.

In front of them a pudgy girl lolled on the floor, in a pool of blood. She glanced toward the light with glazed eyes and passed out. Just as a huge black rat – big as a housecat – crawled up onto her belly and moved toward the girl’s fleshy throat. It bared its dingy teeth to take a bite from the girl’s chin.

Sachs smoothly lifted the chunky black Glock, her left palm circling under the butt for support. She aimed carefully.

Shooting is breathing.

Inhale, out. Squeeze.

Sachs fired her weapon for the first time in the line of duty. Four shots. The huge black rat standing on the girl’s chest exploded. She hit one more on the floor behind and another one that, panicking, raced toward Sachs and the medic. The others vanished silently, fast as water on sand.

“Jesus,” the medic said. “You could’ve hit the girl.”

“From thirty feet?” Sachs snorted. “Not hardly.”

The radio burst to life and Haumann asked if they were under fire.

“Negative,” Sachs replied. “Just shooing a few rats.”

“Roger, K.”

She took the flashlight from the medic and shining it low, started forward.

“It’s all right, miss,” Sachs called. “You’ll be all right.”

The girl’s eyes opened, head flipping from side to side.

“Bitte, bitte…”

She was very pale. Her blue eyes clung to Sachs, as if she was afraid to look away. “Bitte, bitte… Pleece…” Her voice rose to a wild keening and she began to sob and thrash in terror as the medic pressed bandages on her wounds.

Sachs cradled her bloody blond head, whispering, “You’ll be all right, honey, you’ll be all right, you’ll be all right…”

FOURTEEN

THE OFFICE, HIGH ABOVE DOWNTOWN MANHATTAN, looked out over Jersey. The crap in the air made the sunset absolutely beautiful.

“We gotta.”

“We can’t.”

“Gotta,” Fred Dellray repeated and sipped his coffee – even worse than in the restaurant where the Scruff and he’d been sitting not long before. “Take it away from ’em. They’ll live with it.”

“It’s a local case,” responded the FBI’s assistant special agent in charge of the Manhattan office. The ASAC was a meticulous man who could never work undercover – because when you saw him you thought, Oh, look, an FBI agent.

“It’s not local. They’re treating it local. But it’s a big case.”

“We’re down eighty men because of the UN thing.”

“And this’s related to it,” Dellray said. “I’m positive.”

“Then we’ll tell UN Security. Let everybody… Oh, don’t give me that look.”

“UN Security? UN Security? Say, you ever heara the words oxy-moron?… Billy, you see that picture? Of the scene this morning? The hand comin’ outa the dirt, and all the skin cut offa that finger? That’s a sick fuck out there.”

“NYPD’s keeping us informed,” the ASAC said smartly. “We’ve got Behavioral on call if they want.”

“Oh, Jesus Christ on the merry cross. ‘Behavioral on call’? We gotta catch this ripper, Billy. Catch him. Not figger out his tick-tocky workings.”

“Tell me what your snitch said again.”

Dellray knew a crack in a rock when he saw one. Wasn’t going to let it seal up again. Rapid fire now: about the Scruff and Jackie in Johannesburg or Monrovia and the hushed word throughout the illicit arms trade that something was going down at a New York airport this week so stay clear. “It’s him,” Dellray said. “Gotta be.”

“NYPD’s got a task force together.”

“Not Anti-Terror. I made calls. Nobody at A-T there knows zippo about it. To NYPD it’s dead tourists equal bad public relations.’ I want this case, Billy.” And Fred Dellray said the one word he’d never uttered in his eight years of undercover work. “Please.”

“What grounds’re you talking?”

“Oh-oh, bullshit question,” Dellray said, stroking his index finger like a scolding teacher. “Lessee. We got ourselves that spiffy new anti-terrorism bill. But that’s not enough for you, you want jurisdiction? I’ll give you jurisdiction. A Port Authority felony. Kidnapping. I can fucking argue that this prick’s driving a taxi so he’s affecting interstate commerce. We don’t want to play those games, do we, Billy?”

“You’re not listening, Dellray. I can recite the U.S. Code in my sleep, thank you. I want to know if we’re going to take over, what we tell people and make everybody happy. ’Cause remember, after this unsub’s bagged and tagged we’re going to have to keep working with NYPD. I’m not going to send my big brother to beat up their big brother even though I can. Anytime I want. Lon Sellitto’s running the case and he’s a good man.”

“A lieutenant?” Dellray snorted. He tugged the cigarette out from behind his ear and held it under his nostrils for a moment.

“Jim Polling’s in charge.”

Dellray reared back with mock horror. “Polling? Little Adolph? The ‘You- have- the- right- to- remain- silent- ’cause- I’ma- hit- you- upside- the- motherfuckin’- head’ Polling? Him?”

The ASAC had no response for that. He said, “Sellitto’s good. A real workhorse. I’ve been with him on two OC task forces.”

“That unsub’s grabbing bodies right and left and this here boy’s betting he’s going to work his way up.”

“Meaning?”

“We got senators in town. We got congressmen, we got heads of state. I think these folk he’s grabbing now’re just for practice.”

You been talking to Behavioral and not telling me?”

“It’s what I smell.” Dellray couldn’t resist touching his lean nose.

The ASAC blew air from his clean-shaven federal agent cheeks. “Who’s the CI?”

Dellray had trouble thinking of the Scruff as a confidential informant, which sounded like something out of a Dashiell Hammett novel. Most CIs were skels, short for skeletons, meaning scrawny, disgusting little hustlers. Which fit the Scruff to a T.

“He’s a tick,” Dellray admitted. “But Jackie, this guy he heard it from’s solid.”

“I know you want it, Fred. I understand.” The ASAC said this with some sympathy. Because he knew exactly what was behind Dellray’s request.

Even as a boy in Brooklyn, Dellray had wanted to be a cop. It hadn’t mattered much to him what kind of cop as long as he could spend twenty-four hours a day doing it. But soon after joining the Bureau he found his calling – undercover work.

Teamed with his straight man and guardian angel Toby Dolittle, Dellray was responsible for sending a large number of perps away for a very long time – the sentences totaled close to a thousand years. (“They kin call us the Millennium Team, Toby-o,” he declared to his partner once.) The clue to Dellray’s success was his nickname: “the Chameleon.” Bestowed after – in the space of twenty-four hours – he played a brain-dead cluckhead in a Harlem crack house and a Haitian dignitary at a dinner in the Panamanian consulate, complete with diagonal red ribbon on his chest and impenetrable accent. The two of them were regularly loaned out to ATF or DEA and, occasionally, city police departments. Drugs and guns were their specialty though they had a minor in ’jacked merchandise.

The irony of undercover work is that the better you are, the earlier the retirement. Word gets around and the big boys, the perps worth going after, become harder to fox. Dolittle and Dellray found themselves working less in the field and more as handlers of informants and other undercover agents. And while it wasn’t Dellray’s first choice – nothing excited him like the street – it still got him out of the office more often than most SAs in the Bureau. It had never occurred to him to request a transfer.

Until two years ago – a warm April morning in New York. Dellray was just about to leave the office to catch a plane at La Guardia when he got a phone call from the assistant director of the Bureau in Washington. The FBI is a nest of hierarchy and Dellray couldn’t imagine why the big man himself was calling. Until he heard the AD’s somber voice break the news that Toby Dolittle, along with an assistant U.S. attorney from Manhattan, had been on the ground floor of the Oklahoma City, federal building that morning, preparing for the deposition session that Dellray himself was just about to depart for.

Their bodies were being flown back to New York the next day.

Which was the same day that Dellray put in the first of his RFT-2230 forms, requesting a transfer to the Bureau’s Anti-Terror Division.

The bombing had been the crime of crimes to Fred Dellray, who, when no one was looking, devoured books on politics and philosophy. He believed there was nothing essentially un-American about greed or lust – hey, those qualities were encouraged everywhere from Wall Street to Capitol Hill. And if people making a business of greed or lust sometimes stepped over the border of legality, Dellray was pleased to track them down – but he never did so with personal animosity. But to murder people for their beliefs – hell, to murder children before they even knew what they believed – my God, that was a stab at the heart of the country. Sitting in his two-room, sparsely furnished Brooklyn apartment after Toby’s funeral, Dellray decided that this was the kind of crime he wanted a crack at.

But unfortunately the Chameleon’s reputation preceded him. The Bureau’s best undercover agent was now their best handler, running agents and CIs throughout the East Coast. His bosses simply couldn’t afford to let him go to one of the more quiescent departments of the FBI. Dellray was a minor legend, personally responsible for some of the Bureau’s greatest recent successes. So it was with considerable regret that his persistent requests were turned down.

The ASAC was well aware of this history and he now added a sincere, “I wish I could help out, Fred. I’m sorry.”

But all Dellray heard in these words was the rock cracking a little further. And so the Chameleon pulled a persona off the rack and stared down his boss. He wished he still had his fake gold tooth. Street man Dellray was a tough hombre with one mother-fucker of a mean stare. And in that look was the unmistakable message anybody on the street would know instinctively: I done for you, now you do for me.

Finally the smarmy ASAC said lamely, “It’s just that we need something.”

“Somethin’?”

“A hook,” the ASAC said. “We don’t have a hook.”

A reason to take the case away from NYPD, he meant.

Politics, politics, polifuckingtics.

Dellray lowered his head but the eyes, brown as polish, didn’t waver a millimeter from the ASAC. “He cut the skin off that vic’s finger this morning, Billy. Clean down to the bone. Then buried him alive.”

Two scrubbed, federal-agent hands met beneath a crisp jaw. The ASAC said slowly, “Here’s a thought. There’s a deputy commissioner at NYPD. Name’s Eckert. You know him? He’s a friend of mine.”

The girl lay on her back on a stretcher, eyes closed, conscious but groggy. Still pale. An IV of glucose ran into her arm. Now that she’d been rehydrated she was coherent and surprisingly calm, all things considered.

Sachs walked back to the gates of hell and stood looking down into the black doorway. She clicked on the radio and called Lincoln Rhyme. This time he answered.

“How’s the scene look?” Rhyme asked casually.

Her answer was a curt: “We got her out. If you’re interested.”

“Ah, good. How is she?”

“Not good.”

“But alive, right.”

“Barely.”

“You’re upset because of the rats, aren’t you, Amelia?”

She didn’t answer.

“Because I didn’t let Bo’s men get her right away. Are you there, Amelia?”

“I’m here.”

“There are five contaminants of crime scenes,” Rhyme explained. She noticed he’d gone into his low, seductive tone again. “The weather, the victim’s family, the suspect, souvenir hunters. The last is the worst. Guess what it is?”

“You tell me.”

“Other cops. If I’d let ESU in they could’ve destroyed all the trace. You know how to handle a scene now. And I’ll bet you preserved everything just fine.”

Sachs needed to say, “I don’t think she’ll ever be the same after this. The rats were all over her.”

“Yes, I imagine they were. That’s their nature.”

Their nature…

“But five minutes or ten wasn’t going to make any difference. She -”

Click.

She shut off the radio and walked to Walsh, the medic.

“I want to interview her. Is she too groggy?”

“Not yet. We gave her locals – to stitch the lacerations and the bites. She’ll want some Demerol in a half hour or so.”

Sachs smiled and crouched down beside her. “Hi, how you doing?”

The girl, fat but very pretty, nodded.

“Can I ask you some questions?”

“Yes, pleece. I want you get him.”

Sellitto arrived and ambled up to them. He smiled down at the girl, who gazed at him blankly. He proffered a badge she had no interest in and identified himself.

“You all right, miss?”

The girl shrugged.

Sweating fiercely in the muggy heat, Sellitto nodded Sachs aside. “Polling been here?”

“Haven’t seen him. Maybe he’s at Lincoln’s.”

“No, I just called there. He’s gotta get to City Hall pronto.”

“What’s the problem?”

Sellitto lowered his voice, his doughy face twisted up. “A fuckup – our transmissions’re supposed to be secure. But those fucking reporters, somebody’s got an unscrambler or something. They heard we didn’t go in right away to get her.” He nodded toward the girl.

“Well, we didn’t,” Sachs said harshly. “Rhyme told ESU to wait until I got here.”

The detective winced. “Man, I hope they don’t have that on tape. We need Polling for damage control.” He nodded to the girl. “Interviewed her yet?”

“No. Just about to.” With some regret Sachs clicked on the radio and heard Rhyme’s urgent voice.

“… you there? This goddamn thing doesn’t -”

“I’m here,” Sachs said coolly.

“What happened?”

“Interference, I guess. I’m with the vic.”

The girl blinked at the exchange and Sachs smiled. “I’m not talking to myself.” Gestured toward the mike. “Police headquarters. What’s your name?”

“Monelle. Monelle Gerger.” She looked at her bitten arm, pulled up a dressing and examined a wound.

“Interview her fast,” Rhyme instructed, “then work the scene.”

Hand covering the microphone stalk, Sachs whispered fiercely to Sellitto, “This man is a pain in the ass to work for. Sir.”

“Humor him, officer.”

“Amelia!” Rhyme barked. “Answer me!”

“We’re interviewing her, all right?” she snapped.

Sellitto asked, “Can you tell us what happened?”

Monelle began to talk, a disjointed story about being in the laundry room of a residence hall in the East Village. He’d been hiding, waiting for her.

“What residence hall?” Sellitto asked.

“The Deutsche Haus. It’s, you know, mostly German expatriates and students.”

“What happened then?” Sellitto continued. Sachs noted that although the big detective appeared gruffer, more ornery than Rhyme, he was really the more compassionate of the two.

“He threwed me in the trunk of car and drove here.”

“Did you get a look at him?”

The woman closed her eyes. Sachs repeated the question and Monelle said she hadn’t; he was, as Rhyme had guessed, wearing a navy-blue ski mask.

Und gloves.”

“Describe them.”

They were dark. She didn’t remember what color.

“Any unusual characteristics? The kidnapper?”

“No. He was white. I could tell that.”

“Did you see the license plate of the taxi?” Sellitto asked.

“Was?” the girl asked, drifting into her native tongue.

“Did you see -”

Sachs jumped as Rhyme interrupted: “Das Nummernschild.”

Thinking: How the hell does he know all this? She repeated the word and the girl shook her head no then squinted. “What you mean, taxi?”

“Wasn’t he driving a Yellow Cab?”

“Taxicab? Nein. No. It was regular car.”

“Hear that, Lincoln?”

“Yup. Our boy’s got another set of wheels. And he put her in the trunk so it’s not a station wagon or hatchback.”

Sachs repeated this. The girl nodded. “Like a sedan.”

“Any idea of the make or color?” Sellitto continued.

Monelle answered, “Light, I think. Maybe silver or gray. Or that, you know, what is it? Light brown.”

“Beige?”

She nodded.

“Maybe beige,” Sachs added for Rhyme’s benefit.

Sellitto asked, “Was there anything in the trunk? Anything at all? Tools, clothes, suitcases?”

Monelle said there wasn’t. It was empty.

Rhyme had a question. “What did it smell like? The trunk.”

Sachs relayed the query.

“I don’t know.”

“Oil and grease?”

“No. It smelled… clean.”

“So maybe a new car,” Rhyme reflected.

Monelle dissolved into tears for a moment: Then shook her head. Sachs took her hand and, finally, she continued. “We drove for long time. Seemed like long time.”

“You’re doing fine, honey,” Sachs said.

Rhyme’s voice interrupted. “Tell her to strip.”

“What?”

“Take her clothes off.”

“I will not.”

“Have the medics give her a robe. We need her clothes, Amelia.”

“But,” Sachs whispered, “she’s crying.”

“Please,” Rhyme said urgently. “It’s important.”

Sellitto nodded and Sachs, tight-lipped, explained to the girl about the clothes and was surprised when Monelle nodded. She was, it turned out, eager to get out of the bloody garments anyway. Giving her privacy, Sellitto walked away, to confer with Bo Haumann. Monelle put on a gown the medic offered her and one of the plain-clothes detectives covered her with his sportscoat. Sachs bagged the jeans and T-shirts.

“Got them,” Sachs said into the radio.

“Now she’s got to walk the scene with you,” Rhyme said.

“What?”

“But make sure she’s behind you. So she doesn’t contaminate any PE.”

Sachs looked at the young woman, huddling on a gurney beside the two EMS buses.

“She’s in no shape to do that. He cut her. All the way to the bone. So she’d bleed and the rats’d get her.”

“Is she mobile?”

“Probably. But you know what she’s just been through?”

“She can give you the route they walked. She can tell you where he stood.”

“She’s going to the ER. She lost a lot of blood.”

A hesitation. He said pleasantly, “Just ask her.”

But his joviality was fake and Sachs heard just impatience. She could tell that Rhyme was a man who wasn’t used to coddling people, who didn’t have to. He was someone used to having his own way.

He persisted, “Just once around the grid.”

You can go fuck yourself, Lincoln Rhyme.

“It’s -”

“Important. I know.”

Nothing from the other end of the line.

She was looking at Monelle. Then she heard a voice, no, her voice say to the girl, “I’m going down there to look for evidence. Will you come with me?”

The girl’s eyes nailed Sachs deep in her heart. Tears burst. “No, no, no. I am not doing that. Bitte nicht, oh, bitte nicht…”

Sachs nodded, squeezed the woman’s arm. She began to speak into the mike, steeling herself for his reaction, but Rhyme surprised her by saying, “All right, Amelia. Let it go. Just ask her what happened when they arrived.”

The girl explained how she’d kicked him and escaped into an adjoining tunnel.

“I kick him again,” she said with some satisfaction. “Knock off his glove. Then he get all pissed and strangle me. He -”

“Without the glove on?” Rhyme blurted.

Sachs repeated the question and Monelle said, “Yes.”

“Prints, excellent!” Rhyme shouted, his voice distorting in the mike. “When did it happen? How long ago?”

Monelle guessed about an hour and a half.

“Hell,” Rhyme muttered. “Prints on skin last an hour, ninety minutes, tops. Can you print skin, Amelia?”

“I never have before.”

“Well, you’re about to. But fast. In the CS suitcase there’ll be a packet labeled Kromekote. Pull out a card.”

She found a stack of glossy five-by-seven cards, similar to photographic paper.

“Got it. Do I dust her neck?”

“No. Press the card, glossy side down, against her skin where she thinks he touched her. Press for about three seconds.”

Sachs did this, as Monelle stoically gazed at the sky. Then, as Rhyme instructed, she dusted the card with metallic powder, using a puffy Magna-Brush.

“Well?” Rhyme asked eagerly.

“It’s no good. A shape of a finger. But no visible ridges. Should I pitch it?”

“Never throw away anything at a crime scene, Sachs,” he lectured sternly. “Bring it back. I want to see it anyway.”

“One thing, I am thinking I forget,” said Monelle. “He touch me.”

“You mean he molested you?” Sachs asked gently. “Rape?”

“No, no. Not in a sex way. He touch my shoulder, face, behind my ear. Elbow. He squeezed me. I don’t know why.”

“You hear that, Lincoln? He touched her. But it didn’t seem like he was getting off on it.”

“Yes.”

Und… And one thing I am forgetting,” Monelle said. “He spoke German. Not good. Like he only study it in school. And he call me Hanna.”

“Called her what?”

“Hanna,” Sachs repeated into the mike. “Do you know why?” she asked the girl.

“No. But that’s all he call me. He seemed to like saying the name.”

“Did you get that, Lincoln?”

“Yes, I did. Now do the scene. Time’s awasting.”

As Sachs stood, Monelle suddenly reached up and gripped her wrist.

“Miss… Sachs. You are German?”

She smiled and answered, “A long time ago. A couple generations.”

Monelle nodded. She pressed Sachs’s palm to her cheek. “Vielen Dank. Thank you, Miss Sachs. Danke schön.”

FIFTEEN

THE THREE ESU HALOGENS CLICKED TO LIGHT, bringing an eerie tide of white glare to the grim tunnel.

Alone now at the scene Sachs gazed at the floor for a moment. Something had changed. What?

She drew her weapon again, dropped into a crouch. “He’s here,” she whispered, stepping behind one of the posts.

“What?” Rhyme asked.

“He’s come back. There were some dead rats here. They’re gone.”

She heard Rhyme’s laughter.

“What’s so funny?”

“No, Amelia. Their friends took the bodies away.”

“Their friends?”

“Had a case up in Harlem once. Dismembered, decomposed body. A lot of the bones were hidden in a big circle around the torso. The skull was in an oil drum, toes underneath piles of leaves… Had the borough in an uproar. The press was talking about Satanists, serial killers. Guess who the perp turned out to be?”

“No idea,” she said stiffly.

“The vic himself. It was a suicide. Raccoons, rats and squirrels made off with the remains. Like trophies. Nobody knows why but they love their souvenirs. Now, where are you?”

“At the foot of the ramp.”

“What do you see?”

“A wide tunnel. Two side tunnels, narrower. Flat ceiling, supported by wooden posts. The posts’re all battered and nicked. The floor’s old concrete, covered with dirt.”

UNSUB 823 (page 1 of 2)

Appearance

•Caucasian male, slight build

•Dark clothing•Old gloves, reddish kidskin

•Aftershave; to cover up other scent?

Residence

•Prob. has safe house

Vehicle

•Yellow Cab

•Recent model sedan

Other

•knows CS proc.

•possibly has record

•knows FR prints

•gun =.32 Colt

UNSUB 823 (page 2 of 2)

Appearance

•Ski mask? Navy blue?

•Gloves are dark

Residence

Vehicle

•Lt. gray, silver, beige

Other

•Ties vics w/ unusual knots

•“Old” appeals to him

•Called one vic “Hanna”

•Knows basic German

“And manure?”

“Looks like it. In the center, right in front of me’s the post she was tied to.”

“Windows?”

“None. No doors either.” She looked over the wide tunnel, the floor disappearing into a black universe a thousand miles away. She felt the crawl of hopelessness. “It’s too big! There’s too much space to cover.”

“Amelia, relax.”

“I’ll never find anything here.”

“I know it seems overwhelming. But just keep in mind that there’re only three types of PE that we’re concerned about. Objects, body materials and impressions. That’s all. It’s less daunting if you think of it that way.”

Easy for you to say.

“And the scene isn’t as big as it looks. Just concentrate on the places they walked. Go to the post.”

Sachs walked the path. Staring down.

The ESU lights were brilliant but they also made the shadows starker, revealing a dozen places the kidnapper could hide. A chill trickled down her spine. Stay close, Lincoln, she thought reluctantly. I’m pissed, sure, but I wanna hear you. Breathe or something.

She paused, shone the PoliLight over the ground.

“Is it all swept?” he asked.

“Yes. Just like before.”

The body armor chafed her breasts despite the sports bra and undershirt and as hot as it was outside it was unbearable down here. Her skin prickled and she felt a ravenous desire to scratch under her vest.

“I’m at the post.”

“Vacuum the area for trace.”

Sachs ran the Dustbuster. Hating the noise. It covered up any sound of approaching footsteps, guns cocking, knives being drawn. Involuntarily she looked behind her once, twice. Nearly dropped the vacuum as her hand strayed to her gun.

Sachs looked at the impression in the dust of where Monelle’s body had lain. I’m him. I’m dragging her along. She kicks me. I stumble

Monelle could have kicked in only one direction, away from the ramp. The unsub didn’t fall, she’d said. Which meant he must’ve landed on his feet. Sachs walked a yard or two into the gloom.

“Bingo!” Sachs shouted.

“What? Tell me?”

“Footprints. He missed a spot sweeping up.”

“Not hers?”

“No. She was wearing running shoes. These are smooth soles. Like dress shoes. Two good prints. We’ll know what size feet he’s got.”

“No, they won’t tell us that. Soles can be larger or smaller than the uppers. But it may tell us something. In the CS bag there’s an electrostatic printer. It’s a small box with a wand on it. There’ll be some sheets of acetate next to it. Separate the paper, lay the acetate on the print and run the wand over it.”

She found the device and made two images of the prints. Carefully slipped them into a paper envelope.

Sachs returned to the post. “And here’s a bit of straw from the broom.”

“From? -”

“Sorry,” Sachs said quickly. “We don’t know where it’s from. A bit of straw. I’m picking it up and bagging it.”

Getting good with these pencils. Hey, Lincoln, you son of a bitch, know what I’m doing to celebrate my permanent retirement from crime scene detail? I’m going out for Chinese.

The ESU halogens didn’t reach into the side tunnel where Monelle had run. Sachs paused at the day-night line then plunged forward into the shadows. The flashlight beam swept the floor in front of her.

“Talk to me, Amelia.”

“There isn’t much to see. He swept up here too. Jesus, he thinks of everything.”

“What do you see?”

“Just marks in the dust.”

I tackle her, I bring her down. I’m mad. Furious. I try to strangle her.

Sachs stared at the ground.

“Here’s something – knee prints! When he was strangling her he must have straddled her waist. He left knee prints and he missed them when he swept.”

“Electrostatic them.”

She did, quicker this time. Getting the hang of the equipment. She was slipping the print into the envelope when something caught her eye. Another mark in the dust.

What is that?

“ Lincoln… I’m looking at the spot where… it looks like the glove fell here. When they were struggling.”

She clicked on the PoliLight. And couldn’t believe what she saw.

“A print. I’ve got a fingerprint!”

“What?” Rhyme asked, incredulous. “It’s not hers?”

“Nope, couldn’t be. I can see the dust where she was lying. Her hands were cuffed the whole time. It’s where he picked up the glove. He probably thought he’d swept here but missed it. It’s a big, fat beautiful one!”

“Stain it, light it and shoot the son of a bitch on the one-to-one.”

It took her only two tries to get a crisp Polaroid. She felt like she’d found a hundred-dollar bill in the street.

“Vacuum the area and then go back to the post. Walk the grid,” he told her.

She slowly walked the floor, back and forth. One foot at a time.

“Don’t forget to look up,” he reminded her. “I once caught an unsub because of a single hair on the ceiling. He’d loaded a.357 round in a true.38 and the blowback pasted a hair from his hand on the crown molding.”

“I’m looking. It’s a tile ceiling. Dirty. Nothing else. Nowhere to stash anything. No ledges or doorways.”

“Where’re the staged clues?” he asked.

“I don’t see anything.”

Back and forth. Five minutes passed. Six, seven.

“Maybe he didn’t leave any this time,” Sachs suggested. “Maybe Monelle’s the last.”

“No,” Rhyme said with certainty.

Then behind one of the wooden pillars a flash caught her eye.

“Here’s something in the corner… Yep. Here they are.”

“Shoot it ’fore you touch it.”

She took a photograph and then picked up a wad of white cloth with the pencils. “Women’s underwear. Wet.”

“Semen?”

“I don’t know,” she said. Wondering if he was going to ask her to smell it.

Rhyme ordered, “Try the PoliLight. Proteins will fluoresce.”

She fetched the light, turned it on. It illuminated the cloth but the liquid didn’t glow. “No.”

“Bag it. In plastic. What else?” he asked eagerly.

“A leaf. Long, thin, pointed at one end.”

It had been cut sometime ago and was dry and turning brown.

She heard Rhyme sigh in frustration. “There’re about eight thousand varieties of deciduous vegetation in Manhattan,” he explained. “Not very helpful. What’s underneath the leaf?”

Why does he think there’s anything there?

But there was. A scrap of newsprint. Blank on one side, the other was printed with a drawing of the phases of the moon.

“The moon?” Rhyme mused. “Any prints? Spray it with ninhydrin and scan it fast with the light.”

A blast of the PoliLight revealed nothing.

“That’s all.”

Silence for a moment. “What’re the clues sitting on?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“You have to know.”

“Well, the ground,” she answered testily. “Dirt.” What else would they be sitting on?

“Is it like all the rest of the dirt around there?”

“Yes.” Then she looked closely. Hell, it was different. “Well, not exactly. It’s a different color.”

Was he always right?

Rhyme instructed, “Bag it. In paper.”

As she scooped up the grains he said, “Amelia?”

“Yeah?”

“He’s not there,” Rhyme said reassuringly.

“I guess.”

“I heard something in your voice.”

“I’m fine,” she said shortly. “I’m smelling the air. I smell blood. Mold and mildew. And the aftershave again.”

“The same as before?”

“Yes.”

“Where’s it coming from?”

Sniffing the air, Sachs walked in a spiral, the Maypole again, until she came to another wooden post.

“Here. It’s strongest right here.”

“What’s ‘here,’ Amelia? You’re my legs and my eyes, remember.”

“One of these wooden columns. Like the kind she was tied to. About fifteen feet away.”

“So he might have rested against it. Any prints?”

She sprayed it with ninhydrin and shone the light on it.

“No. But the smell’s very strong.”

“Sample a portion of the post where it’s the strongest. There’s a MotoTool in the case. Black. A portable drill. Take a sampling bit – it’s like a hollow drill bit – and mount it in the tool. There’s something called a chuck. It’s a -”

“I own a drill press,” she said tersely.

“Oh,” Rhyme said.

She drilled a piece of the post out, then flicked sweat from her forehead. “Bag it in plastic?” she asked. He told her yes. She felt faint, lowered her head and caught her breath. No fucking air in here.

“Anything else?” Rhyme asked.

“Nothing that I can see.”

“I’m proud of you, Amelia. Come on back and bring your treasures with you.”

SIXTEEN

CAREFUL,” RHYME BARKED.

“I’m an expert at this.”

“Is it new or old?”

“Shhh,” Thom said.

“Oh, for Christ’s sake. The blade, is it old or new?”

“Don’t breathe… Ah, there we go. Smooth as a baby’s butt.”

The procedure was not forensic but cosmetic.

Thom was giving Rhyme his first shave in a week. He had also washed his hair and combed it straight back.

A half hour before, waiting for Sachs and the evidence to arrive, Rhyme had sent Cooper out of the room while Thom slicked up a catheter with K-Y and wielded the tube. After that business had been completed Thom had looked at him and said, “You look like shit. You realize that?”

“I don’t care. Why would I care?”

Realizing suddenly that he did.

“How ’bout a shave?” the young man had asked.

“We don’t have time.”

Rhyme’s real concern was that if Dr. Berger saw him groomed he’d be less inclined to go ahead with the suicide. A disheveled patient is a despondent patient.

“And a wash.”

“No.”

“We’ve got company now, Lincoln,”

Finally Rhyme had grumbled, “All right.”

“And let’s lose those pajamas, what do you say?”

“There’s nothing wrong with them.”

But that meant all right too.

Now, scrubbed and shaved, dressed in jeans and a white shirt, Rhyme ignored the mirror his aide held in front of him.

“Take that away.”

“Remarkable improvement.”

Lincoln Rhyme snorted derisively. “I’m going for a walk until they get back,” he announced and settled his head back into the pillow. Mel Cooper turned to him with a perplexed expression.

“In his head,” Thom explained.

“Your head?”

“I imagine it,” Rhyme continued.

“That’s quite a trick,” Cooper said.

“I can walk through any neighborhood I want and never get mugged. Hike in the mountains and never get tired. Climb a mountain if I want. Go window-shopping on Fifth Avenue. Of course the things I see aren’t necessarily there. But so what? Neither are the stars.”

“How’s that?” Cooper asked.

“The starlight we see is thousands or millions of years old. By the time it gets to Earth the stars themselves’ve moved. They’re not where we see them.” Rhyme sighed as the exhaustion flooded over him. “I suppose some of them have already burned out and disappeared.” He closed his eyes.

“He’s making it harder.”

“Not necessarily,” Rhyme answered Lon Sellitto.

Sellitto, Banks and Sachs had just returned from the stockyard scene.

“Underwear, the moon and a plant,” cheerfully pessimistic Jerry Banks said. “That’s not exactly a road map.”

“Dirt too,” Rhyme reminded, ever appreciative of soil.

“Have any idea what they mean?” Sellitto asked.

“Not yet,” Rhyme said.

“Where’s Polling?” Sellitto muttered. “He still hasn’t answered his page.”

“Haven’t seen him,” Rhyme said.

A figure appeared in the doorway.

“As I live and breathe,” rumbled the stranger’s smooth baritone.

Rhyme nodded the lanky-man inside. He was somber-looking but his lean face suddenly cracked into a warm smile, as it tended to do at odd moments. Terry Dobyns was the sum total of the NYPD’s behavioral science department. He’d studied with the FBI behaviorists down at Quantico and had degrees in forensic science and psychology.

The psychologist loved opera and touch football and when Lincoln Rhyme had awakened in the hospital after the accident three and a half years ago Dobyns had been sitting beside him listening to Aïda on a Walkman. He’d then spent the next three hours conducting what turned out to be the first of many counseling sessions about Rhyme’s injury.

“Now what’s this I recall the textbooks sayin’ ’bout people who don’t return phone calls?”

“Analyze me later, Terry. You hear about our unsub?”

“A bit,” Dobyns said, looking Rhyme over. He wasn’t an M.D. but he knew physiology. “You all right, Lincoln? Looking a little peaked.”

“I’m getting a bit of a workout today,” Rhyme admitted. “And I could use a nap. You know what a lazy SOB I am.”

“Yeah, right. You’re the man’d call me at three in the morning with some question about a perp and couldn’t understand why I was in the sack. So what’s up? You fishin’ for a profile?”

“Whatever you can tell us’ll help.”

Sellitto briefed Dobyns, who – as Rhyme recalled from the days they worked together – never took notes but managed to retain everything he heard inside a head crowned with dark-red hair.

The psychologist paced in front of the wall chart, glancing up at it occasionally as he listened to the detective’s rumbling voice.

He held up a finger, interrupting Sellitto. “The victims, the victims… They’ve all been found underground. Buried, in a basement, in the stockyard tunnel.”

“Right,” Rhyme confirmed.

“Go on.”

Sellitto continued, explaining about the rescue of Monelle Gerger.

“Fine, all right,” Dobyns said absently. Then braked to a halt and turned to the wall again. He spread his legs and, hands on hips, gazed at the sparse facts about Unsub 823. “Tell me more about this idea of yours, Lincoln. That he likes old things.”

“I don’t know what to make of it. So far his clues have something to do with historical New York. Building materials from the turn of the century, the stockyards, the steam system.”

Dobyns stepped forward suddenly and tapped the profile. “Hanna. Tell me about Hanna.”

“Amelia?” Rhyme asked.

She told Dobyns how the unsub had referred to Monelle Gerger as Hanna for no apparent reason. “She said he seemed to like saying the name. And speaking to her in German.”

“And he took a bit of a chance to ’nap her, didn’t he?” Dobyns noted. “The cab, at the airport – that was safe for him. But hiding in a laundry room… He must’ve been real motivated to snatch somebody German.”

Dobyns twined some ruddy hair around a lengthy finger and flopped down in one of the squeaky rattan chairs, stretched his feet out in front of him.

“Okay, try this on for size. The underground… that’s the key. It tells me he’s somebody who’s hiding something and when I hear that I start thinking hysteria.”

“He’s not acting hysterical,” Sellitto said. “He’s pretty damn calm and calculating.”

“Not hysteria in that sense. It’s a category of mental disorders. The condition manifests when something traumatic happens in a patient’s life and the subconscious converts that trauma into something else. It’s an attempt to protect the patient. With traditional conversion hysteria you see physical symptoms – nausea, pain, paralysis. But I think here we’re dealing with a related problem. Dissociation – that’s what we call it when the reaction to the trauma affects the mind, not the physical body. Hysterical amnesia, fugue states. And multiple personalities.”

“Jekyll and Hyde?” Mel-Cooper played straight man this time, beating Banks to the punch.

“Well, I don’t think he’s got true multiple personalities,” Dobyns continued. “That’s a very rare diagnosis and the classic mult pers is young and has a lower IQ than your boy.” He nodded at the profile chart. “He’s slick and he’s smart. Clearly an organized offender.” Dobyns stared out the window for a moment. “This is interesting, Lincoln. I think your unsub pulls on his other personality when it suits him – when he wants to kill – and that’s important.”

“Why?”

“Two reasons. First, it tells us something about his main personality. He’s someone who’s been trained – maybe at his job, maybe his upbringing – to help people, not hurt them. A priest, a counselor, politician, social worker. And, two, I think it means he’s found himself a blueprint. If you can find out what it is, maybe you can get a lead to him.”

“What kind of blueprint?”

“He may have wanted to kill for a long time. But he didn’t act until he found himself a role model. Maybe from a book or movie. Or somebody he actually knows. It’s someone he can identify with, someone whose own crimes in effect give him permission to kill. Now, I’m going out on a limb here -”

“Climb,” Rhyme said. “Climb.”

“His obsession with history tells me that his personality is a character from the past.”

“Real life?”

“That I couldn’t say. Maybe fictional, maybe not. Hanna, whoever she is, figures in the story somewhere. Germany too. Or German Americans.”

“Any idea what might’ve set him off?”

“Freud felt it was caused by – what else? – sexual conflict at the Oedipal stage. Nowadays, the consensus is that developmental glitches’re only one cause – any trauma can trigger it. And it doesn’t have to be a single event. It could be a personality flaw, a long series of personal or professional disappointments. Hard to say.” His eyes glowed as they gazed at the profile. “But I sure hope you bag him alive, Lincoln. I’d love the chance to get him on the couch for a few hours.”

“Thom, are you writing this down?”

“Yes, bwana.”

“But one question,” Rhyme began.

Dobyns whirled around. “I’d say it’s the question, Lincoln: Why is he leaving the clues? Right?”

“Yep. Why the clues?”

“Think about what he’s done… He’s talking to you. Not rambling incoherently like Son of Sam or the Zodiac killer. He’s not schizophrenic. He’s communicating – in your language. The language of forensics. Why?” More pacing, eyes flipping over the chart. “All I can think of is that he wants to share the guilt. See, it’s hard for him to kill. It becomes easier if he makes us accomplices. If we don’t save the vics in time their deaths are partly our fault.”

“But that’s good, isn’t it?” Rhyme asked. “It means he’ll keep giving us clues that are solvable. Otherwise, if the puzzle’s too hard, he’s not sharing the burden.”

“Well, that’s true,” Dobyns said, smiling no longer. “But there’s another factor at work too.”

Sellitto supplied the answer. “Serial activity escalates.”

“Right,” Dobyns confirmed.

“How can he strike more often?” Banks muttered. “Every three hours isn’t fast enough?”

“Oh, he’ll find a way,” the psychologist continued. “Most likely, he’ll start targeting multiple victims.” The psychologist’s eyes narrowed. “Say, you all right, Lincoln?”

There were beads of sweat on the criminalist’s forehead and he’d been squinting his eyes hard. “Just tired. A lot of excitement for an old crip.”

“One last thing. The profile of the victims’s vital in serial crimes. But here we’ve got different sexes, ages and economic classes. All white but he’s been preying in a predominantly white pool so that’s not statistically significant. With what we know so far we can’t figure out why he’s taken these particular people. If you can, you might just get ahead of him.”

“Thanks, Terry,” Rhyme said. “Stick around for a while.”

“Sure, Lincoln. If you’d like.”

Then Rhyme ordered, “Let’s look at the PE from the stockyard scene. What’ve we got? The underwear?”

Mel Cooper assembled the bags that Sachs had brought back from the scene. He glanced at the one containing the underwear. “Katrina Fashion’s D’Amore line,” he announced. “One hundred percent cotton, elastic band. Cloth made in the U.S. They were cut and sewn in Taiwan.”

“You can tell that just by looking at them?” Sachs asked, incredulous.

“Naw, I was reading,” he answered, pointing at the label.

“Oh.”

The cops laughed.

“He’s telling us he’s got another woman then?” Sachs asked.

“Probably,” Rhyme said.

Cooper opened the bag. “Don’t know what the liquid is. I’ll do a Chromatograph.”

Rhyme asked Thom to hold up the scrap of paper with the phases of the moon on it. He studied it closely. A scrap like this was wonderful individuated evidence. You could fit it to the sheet it’d been torn from and link the two as closely as fingerprints. The problem here of course was that they had no original piece of paper. He wondered if they’d ever find it. The unsub might have destroyed it once he’d torn this bit out. Yet Lincoln Rhyme preferred to think not. He liked to picture it somewhere. Just waiting to be found. The way he always pictured source evidence: the automobile the paint chip had scraped off of, the finger that had lost the nail, the gun barrel that had discharged the rifled slug found in the victim’s body. These sources – always close to the unsub – took on personalities of their own in Rhyme’s mind. They could be imperious or cruel.

Or mysterious.

Phases of the moon.

Rhyme asked Dobyns if their unsub could be driven to act cyclically.

“No. The moon isn’t in a major phase right now. We’re four days past new.”

“So the moons mean something else.”

“If they’re even moons in the first place,” Sachs said. Pleased with herself, and rightly so, Rhyme thought. He said, “Good point, Amelia. Maybe he’s talking about circles. About ink. About paper. About geometry. The planetarium…”

Rhyme realized that she was staring at him. Maybe just realizing now that he’d shaved and his hair was combed, his clothes changed.

And what was her mood now? he wondered. Angry at him, or disengaged? He couldn’t tell. At the moment Amelia Sachs was as cryptic as Unsub 823.

The beeping of the fax machine sounded in the hallway. Thom went to get it and returned a moment later with two sheets of paper.

“It’s from Emma Rollins,” he announced. He held the sheets up for Rhyme to see.

“Our grocery scanner survey. Eleven stores in Manhattan sold veal shanks to customers buying fewer than five items in the last two days.” He started to write on the poster then glanced at Rhyme. “The names of the stores?”

“Of course. We’ll need them for cross-referencing later.”

Thom wrote them down on the profile chart.

B’way & 82nd,

ShopRite

B’way & 96th,

Anderson Foods

Greenwich & Bank,

ShopRite

2nd Ave., 72nd-73rd,

Grocery World

Battery Park City,

J &G’s Emporium

1709 2nd Ave.,

Anderson Foods

34th & Lex.,

Food Warehouse

8th Ave. & 24th,

ShopRite

Houston & Lafayette,

ShopRite

6th Ave. & Houston,

J &G’s Emporium

Greenwich & Franklin,

Grocery World

“That narrows it down,” Sachs said, “to the entire city.”

“Patience,” said restless Lincoln Rhyme.

Mel Cooper was examining the straw that Sachs had found. “Nothing unique here.” He tossed it aside.

“Is it new?” Rhyme asked. If it was they might cross-reference stores that had sold brooms and veal shanks on the same day.

But Cooper said, “Thought of that. It’s six months old or older.” He began shaking the trace evidence in the German girl’s clothing out over a piece of newsprint.

“Several things here,” he said, poring over the sheet. “Dirt.”

“Enough for a density-gradient?”

“Nope. Just dust really. Probably from the scene.”

Cooper looked over the rest of the effluence he’d brushed off the bloodstained clothing.

“Brick dust. Why’s there so much brick?”

“From the rats I shot. The wall was brick.”

“You shot them? At the scene?” Rhyme winced.

Sachs said defensively, “Well, yes. They were all over her.”

He was angry but he let it go. Adding just, “All kinds of contaminants from gunfire. Lead, arsenic, carbon, silver.”

“And here… another bit of reddish leather. From the glove. And… We’ve got another fiber. A different one.”

Criminalists love fibers. This was a tiny gray tuft barely visible to the naked eye.

“Excellent,” Rhyme announced. “And what else?”

“And here’s the photo of the scene,” Sachs said, “and the fingerprints. The one from her throat and from where he picked up the glove.” She held them up.

“Good,” Rhyme said, looking them over carefully.

There was a sheen of reluctant triumph on her face – the rush of winning, which is the flip side of hating yourself for being unprofessional.

Rhyme was studying the Polaroids of the prints when he heard footsteps on the stairs and Jim Polling arrived. He entered the room, did a double-take at the spiffed-up Lincoln Rhyme and strode to Sellitto.

“I was just at the scene,” he said. “You saved the vic. Great job, guys.” He nodded toward Sachs to show the noun included her too. “But the prick’s ’napped another one?”

“Or’s about to,” Rhyme muttered, gazing at the prints.

“We’re working on the clues right now,” Banks said.

“Jim, I’ve been trying to track you down,” Sellitto said. “I tried the mayor’s office.”

“I was with the chief. Had to fucking beg for some extra searchers. Got another fifty men pulled off UN security detail.”

“Captain, there’s something we got to talk about. We gotta problem. Something happened at the last scene…”

A voice as yet unheard from boomed through the room, “Problem? Who got a problem? We don’t got no problems here, do we? None ay-tall.”

Rhyme looked up at the tall, thin man in the doorway. He was jet black and wore a ridiculous green suit and shoes that shone like brown mirrors. Rhyme’s heart plummeted. “Dellray.”

“Lincoln Rhyme. New York’s own Ironside. Hey, Lon. And Jim Polling, how’s it hangin’, buddy?”

Behind Dellray were a half-dozen other men and a woman. Rhyme knew in a heartbeat why the federal agents were here. Dellray scanned the officers in the room, his attention alighting momentarily on Sachs then flying away.

“What do you want?” Polling asked.

Dellray said, “Haven’t you guessed, gemmuns. You’re outa business. We closin’ you up. Yessir. Just like a bookie.”

SEVENTEEN

ONE OF US.

That’s how Dellray was looking at Lincoln Rhyme as he walked around the bed. Some people did this. Paralysis was a club and they crashed the party with jokes, nods, winks. You know I love you, man, ’cause I’m makin’ funna you.

Lincoln Rhyme had learned that this attitude got tiring very, very quickly.

“Lookit that,” Dellray said, poking at the Clinitron, “That’s something outa Star Trek. Commander Riker, get your ass in the shuttle.”

“Go away, Dellray,” Polling said. “It’s our case.”

“And how’s dis here patient doing, Dr. Crusher?”

The captain was stepping forward, a rooster the lanky FBI agent towered over. “Dellray, you listening? Go away.”

“Man, I’ma get me one of those, Rhyme. Lay my ass down in it, watcha game. Seriously, Lincoln, how you doin’? Been a few years.”

“Did they knock?” Rhyme asked Thom.

“No, they didn’t knock.”

“You didn’t knock,” Rhyme said. “So may I suggest that you leave?”

“Gotta warrant,” Dellray murmured, flicking papers in his breast pocket.

Amelia Sachs’s right index fingernail worried her thumb, which was on the verge of bleeding.

Dellray looked around the room. He was clearly impressed at their impromptu lab but strangled the feeling fast. “We’re taking over. Sorry.”

In twenty years of policing, Rhyme had never seen a peremptory takeover like this.

UNSUB 823 (page 1 of 3)

Appearance

•Caucasian male, slight build

•Dark clothing

Residence

•Prob. has safe house

•Located near: B’way & 82nd,

Anderson Foods Greenwich & Bank, 34th & Lex,

Vehicle

•Yellow Cab

Other

•knows CS proc.

•possibly has record

•knows FR prints

•gun =.32 Colt

UNSUB 823 (page 2 of 3)

Appearance

•Old gloves, reddish kidskin

•Ski mask? Navy blue?

Residence

ShopRite 2nd Ave.or 72nd-73rd or B’way & 96th,

• Grocery World Battery Park City,

•J &G’s Emporium 1709 2nd Ave.,

•Food Warehouse 8th Ave. & 24th,

Vehicle

•Recent model sedan

Other

•Ties vics w/ unusual knots

•“Old” appeals to him

•Called one vic “Hanna”

•Knows basic German

UNSUB 823 (page 3 of 3)

Appearance

•Gloves are dark

Residence

•ShopRite Houston & Lafayette or 6th Ave. & Houston,

•J &G’s Emporium Greenwich & Franklin

Vehicle

•Lt. gray, silver, beige

Other

•Underground appeals to him

•Dual personalities

•Maybe priest, soc. worker, counselor

“Fuck this, Dellray,” Sellitto began, “you passed on the case.”

The agent swiveled his glossy black face around until he was looking down at the detective.

“Passed? Passed? I never got no ring-a-ling about it. D’jou call me?”

“No.”

“Then who dropped the dime?”

“Well…” Sellitto, surprised, glanced at Polling, who said, “You got an advisory. That’s all we’ve gotta send you.” On the defensive now too.

“An advisory. Yeah. And, hey, how ’xactly was that delivered? Would that have been by Pony Ex-press? Book-rate mail? Tell me, Jim, what’s the good of an overnight advisory when there’s an ongoing operation?”

Polling said, “We didn’t see the need.”

“We?” Dellray asked quickly. Like a surgeon spotting a microscopic tumor.

I didn’t see the need,” Polling snapped. “I told the mayor to keep it a local operation. We’ve got it under control. Now fuck off, Dellray.”

“And you thought you could wrap it up in time for the eleven o’clock news.”

Rhyme was startled when Polling shouted, “What we thought was none of your goddamn business. It’s our fucking case.” He knew about the captain’s legendary temper but he’d never seen it in action.

“Ac-tu-ally, it’s ou-ur fuck-ing case now.” Dellray strolled past the table that held Cooper’s equipment.

Rhyme said, “Don’t do this, Fred. We’re getting a handle on this guy. Work with us but don’t take it away. This unsub isn’t like anything you’ve ever seen.”

Dellray smiled. “Let’s see, what’s the latest I hear about this ‘fuck-ing’ case? That you’ve got a civvy doin’ the ’rensics.” The agent forewent a glance at the Clinitron bed. “You got a portable doing crime scene. You got soldiers out buying groceries.”

“Evidence standards, Frederick,” Rhyme reminded stridently. “That’s SOP.”

Dellray looked disappointed. “But ESU, Lincoln? All those taxpayer dollars. Then there’s cutting up people like Texas Chainsaw…”

How had that news got out? Everyone was sworn to secrecy on the dismemberment issue.

“And whatsis I hear ’bout Haumann’s boys found the vic but dint go in and save her right away? Channel Five had a Big Ear mike on it. Got her screaming for a good five minutes ’fore you sent somebody in.” He glanced at Sellitto with a wry grin. “Lon, my man, would that’ve been the problem you were just talking about?”

They’d come so far, Rhyme was thinking. They were getting a feel for him, starting to learn the unsub’s language. Starting to see him. With a burst of surprise he understood that he was once again doing what he loved. After all these years. And now somebody was going to take it away from him. Anger rippled inside him.

“Take the case, Fred,” Rhyme grumbled. “But don’t cut us out. Don’t do it.”

“You lost two vics,” Dellray reminded.

“We lost one,” Sellitto corrected, looking uneasily at Polling, who was still fuming. “Nothing we coulda done about the first. He was a calling card.”

Dobyns, arms crossed, merely observed the argument. But Jerry Banks leapt in. “We’ve got his routine down now. We aren’t going to lose any more.”

“You are if ESU’s gonna sit around listenin’ to vics scream their heads off.”

Sellitto said, “It was my -”

My decision,” Rhyme sang out. “Mine.”

“But you’re civvy, Lincoln. So it couldn’t have been your decision. It mighta been your suggestion. It mighta been your recommendation. But I don’t think it was your decision.”

Dellray’s attention had turned to Sachs again. His eyes on her, he said to Rhyme, “You told Peretti not to run the scene? That’s mighty curious, Lincoln. Why’d you go and do something like that?”

Rhyme said, “I’m better than he is.”

“Peretti’s not a happy boy scout. Nosir. He and I had a chin wag with Eckert.”

Eckert? The Dep Com? How was he involved?

And with one glance at Sachs, at the evasive blue eyes, framed by strands of mussed red hair, he knew how.

Rhyme nailed her with a look, which she promptly avoided, and he said to Dellray, “Let’s see… Peretti? Wasn’t he the one opened up traffic on the spot where the unsub’d stood to watch the first vic? Wasn’t he the one released the scene before we’d had a chance to pick up any serious trace? The scene my own Sachs here had the foresight to seal off. My Sachs had it right and Vince Peretti and everybody else had it wrong. Yes, she did.”

She was gazing at her thumb, a look that bespoke seeing a familiar sight, and slipped a Kleenex from her pocket, wrapped it around the bloody digit.

Dellray summarized, “You shoulda called us at the beginning.”

“Just get out,” Polling muttered. Something snapped in his eyes and his voice rose. “Get the hell out!” he screamed.

Even cool Dellray blinked and eased back as the spittle flew from the captain’s mouth.

Rhyme frowned at Polling. There was a chance they might salvage something of the case but not if Polling had a tantrum. “Jim…”

The captain ignored him. “Out!” he shouted again. “You are not taking over our case!” And startling everyone in the room, Polling leapt forward, grabbed the agent by his green lapels and shoved him against the wall. After a moment of stunned silence Dellray simply pushed the captain back with his fingertips and took out a cellular phone. He offered it to Polling.

“Call the mayor. Or Chief Wilson.”

Polling eased instinctively away from Dellray – a short man putting some distance between himself and a tall one. “You want the case, you fucking got it.” The captain strode to the stairs and then down them. The front door slammed.

“Jesus, Fred,” Sellitto said, “work with us. We can nail this scumbag.”

“We need the Bureau’s A-T,” said Dellray, now sounding like reason itself. “You’re not set up for the terrorist angle.”

“What terrorist angle?” Rhyme asked.

“The UN peace conference. Snitch o’ mine said word was up that something was gonna go down at the airport. Where he snatched the vics.”

“I wouldn’t profile him as a terrorist,” Dobyns said. “Whatever’s going on inside him’s psychologically motivated. It’s not ideological.”

“Well, fact is, Quantico and us’re pegging him one way. ’Preciate that you feel different. But this’s how we’re handling it.”

Rhyme gave up. Fatigue was spiriting him away. He wished Sellitto and his scar-faced assistant had never shown up this morning. He wished he’d never met Amelia Sachs. Wished he wasn’t wearing the ridiculous crisp white shirt, which felt stiff at his neck and felt like nothing below it.

He realized that Dellray was speaking to him.

“I’m sorry?” Rhyme cocked a muscular eyebrow.

Dellray asked, “I mean, couldn’t politics be a motive too?”

“Motive doesn’t interest me,” Rhyme said. “Evidence interests me.”

Dellray glanced again at Cooper’s table. “So. The case’s ours. We all together on that?”

“What’re our options?” Sellitto asked.

“You back us up with searchers. Or you can drop out altogether. That’s about all that’s left. We’ll take the PE now, you don’t mind.”

Banks hesitated.

“Give ’em it,” Sellitto ordered.

The young cop picked up the evidence bags from the most recent scene, slipped them into a large plastic bag. Dellray held his hands out. Banks glanced at the lean fingers and tossed the bag onto the table, walking back to the far side of the room – the cop side. Lincoln Rhyme was a demilitarized zone between them and Amelia Sachs stood riveted at the foot of Rhyme’s bed.

Dellray said to her, “Officer Sachs?”

After a pause, her eyes on Rhyme, she responded, “Yes?”

“Commissioner Eckert wants ya t’come with us for debriefing ’bout the crime scenes. He said something about starting your new assignment on Monday.”

She nodded.

Dellray turned to Rhyme and said sincerely, “Don’tcha worry, Lincoln. We’re gonna git him. Next you hear, his head gonna be on a stake at the gates to the city.”

He nodded to his fellow agents, who packed up the evidence and headed downstairs. From the hallway Dellray called to Sachs, “You coming, officer?”

She stood with her hands together, like a schoolgirl at a party she regretted she’d come to.

“In a minute.”

Dellray vanished down the stairs.

“Those pricks,” Banks muttered, flinging his watchbook onto the table. “Can you believe that?”

Sachs rocked on her heels.

“Better get going, Amelia,” Rhyme said. “Your carriage awaits.”

“Lincoln.” Walking closer to the bed.

“It’s all right,” he said. “You did what you had to do.”

“I have no business doing CS work,” she blurted. “I never wanted to.”

“And you won’t be doing it anymore. That works out well, doesn’t it?”

She started to walk to the door then turned and blurted, “You don’t care about anything but the evidence, do you?”

Sellitto and Banks stirred but she ignored them.

“Say, Thom, could you show Amelia out?”

Sachs continued, “This is all just a game to you, isn’t it? Monelle -”

“Who?”

Her eyes flared, “There! See? You don’t even remember her name. Monelle Gerger. The girl in the tunnel… she was just a part of the puzzle to you. There were rats crawling all over her and you said, ‘That’s their nature’? That’s their nature? She’s never going to be the same again and all you cared about was your precious evidence.”

“In living victims,” he droned, lecturing, “rodent wounds are always superficial. As soon as the first li’l critter drooled on her she needed rabies vaccine. What did a few more bites matter?”

“Why don’t we ask her opinion?” Sachs’s smile was different now. It had turned pernicious, like those of the nurses and therapy aides who hated crips. They walked around rehab wards with smiles like this. Well, he hadn’t been happy with the polite Amelia Sachs; he’d wanted the feisty one…

“Answer me something, Rhyme. Why did you really want me?”

“Thom, our guest has overstayed her welcome. Would you -?”

“Lincoln,” the aide began.

“Thom,” Rhyme snapped, “believe I asked you to do something.”

“Because I don’t know shit,” Sachs blurted. “That’s why! You didn’t want a real CS tech because then you wouldn’t be in charge. But me… you can send me here, send me there. I’ll do exactly what you want, and I won’t bitch and moan.”

“Ah, the troops mutiny…” Rhyme said, lifting his eyes to the ceiling.

“But I’m not one of the troops. I never wanted this in the first place.”

“I didn’t want it either. But here we are. In bed together. Well, one of us.” And he knew his cold smile was far, far icier than any she could muster.

“Why, you’re just a spoiled brat, Rhyme.”

“Hey, officer, time out here,” Sellitto barked.

But she kept going. “You can’t walk your crime scenes anymore and I’m sorry about that. But you’re risking an investigation just to massage your ego and I say fuck that.” She grabbed her Patrol hat and stormed out of the room.

He expected to hear a slamming door from downstairs, maybe breaking glass. But there was a faint click and then silence.

As Jerry Banks retrieved his watchbook and thumbed through it with more concentration than was needed, Sellitto said, “Lincoln, I’m sorry. I -”

“Nothing to it,” Rhyme said, yawning excessively in the false hope that it would calm his stinging heart. “Nothing at all.”

The cops stood beside the half-empty table for a few moments, difficult silence, then Cooper said, “Better get packed up.” He hefted a black ’scope case onto the table and began to unscrew an eyepiece with the loving care of a musician disassembling his saxophone.

“Well, Thom,” Rhyme said, “it’s after sunset. You know what that tells me? Bar’s open.”

Their war room was impressive. It beat Lincoln Rhyme’s bedroom hands down.

Half a floor at the federal building, three dozen agents, computers and electronic panels out of some Tom Clancy movie. The agents looked like lawyers or investment bankers. White shirts, ties. Crisp was the word that came to mind. And Amelia Sachs in the center, conspicuous in her navy-blue uniform, soiled with rat blood, dust and grainy shit from cattle dead a hundred years.

She was no longer shaking from her blowup with Rhyme and though her mind kept reeling with a hundred things she wanted to say, wished she had said, she forced herself to concentrate on what was happening around her.

A tall agent in an immaculate gray suit was conferring with Dellray – two large men, heads down, solemn. She believed he was the special agent in charge of the Manhattan office, Thomas Perkins, but she didn’t know for certain; a Patrol officer has as much contact with the FBI as a dry cleaner or insurance salesman does. He seemed humorless, efficient, and kept glancing at a large map of Manhattan pinned to the wall. Perkins nodded several times as Dellray briefed him then he stepped up to a fiberboard table filled with manila folders, looked over the agents and began to speak.

“If I could have your attention… I’ve just been in communication with the director and the AG in Washington. You’ve all heard about the Kennedy Airport unsub by now. It’s an unusual profile. Kidnapping, absent a sexual element, is rarely the basis for serial activity. In fact this’s the first unsub of the sort we’ve had in the Southern District. In light of the possible connection with the events at the UN this week we’re coordinating with headquarters, Quantico and the secretary-general’s office. We’ve been told to be completely proactive on this case. It’s getting prioritization at the highest level.”

The SAC glanced at Dellray, who said, “We’ve taken over the case from the NYPD but we’ll be using them for backup and person power. We have the crime scene officer here to brief us on the scenes.” Dellray sounded completely different here. Not a shred of Superfly.

“Have you vouchered the PE?” Perkins asked Sachs.

Sachs admitted that she hadn’t. “We were working on saving the vics.”

The SAC was troubled by this. At trial, otherwise solid cases tanked regularly because of slipups in recording the chain of custody of the physical evidence. It was the first thing the perps’ defense lawyers wailed on.

“Make sure you do that before you leave.”

“Yessir.”

What a look on Rhyme’s face when he guessed I bitched to Eckert and got them shut down. What a look…

My Sachs figured it out, my Sachs preserved the scene.

She worried a nail again. Stop it, she told herself, as she always did, and continued to dig into the flesh. The pain felt good. That’s what the therapists never understood.

The SAC said, “Agent Dellray? Could you brief the room as regards the approach we’ll be taking.”

Dellray looked from the SAC to the other agents and continued, “At this moment we have field agents hitting every major terrorist cell in the city and pursuing whatever leads we can find that’ll get us to the unsub’s residence. All CIs, all undercover agents. It’ll mean compromising some existing operations but we’ve decided it’s worth the risk.

“Our job here is to be rapid response. You’ll break out into groups of six agents each and be ready to move on any lead. You’ll have complete hostage-rescue and barricade-entry support.”

“Sir,” Sachs said.

Perkins looked up, frowning. Apparently one didn’t interrupt briefings until the approved Q &A break. “Yes, what is it, officer?”

“Well, I’m just wondering, sir. What about the victim?”

“Who, that German girl? You think we should interview her again?”

“No, sir. I meant the next victim.”

Perkins responded, “Oh, we’ll certainly stay cognizant of the fact that there may be other targets.”

Sachs continued, “He’s got one now.”

“He does?” The SAC glanced at Dellray, who shrugged. Perkins asked Sachs, “How do you know?”

“Well, I don’t exactly know, sir. But he left clues at the last scene and he wouldn’t’ve done that if he didn’t have another vic. Or was just about to snatch one.”

“Noted, officer,” the SAC continued. “We’re going to mobilize as fast as we can to make sure nothing happens to them.”

Dellray said to her, “We think it’s best to focus on the beast himself.”

“Detective Sachs -” Perkins began.

“I’m not a detective, sir. I’m assigned to Patrol.”

“Yes, well,” the SAC continued, looking at the stacks of files. “If you could just give us some of your bullet points, that would be helpful.”

Thirty agents watching her. Two women among them.

“Just tell us whatcha saw,” Dellray said, gripping an unlit cigarette between prominent teeth.

She gave them a synopsis of her searches of the crime scenes and the conclusions Rhyme and Terry Dobyns had come to. Most of the agents were troubled by the unsub’s curious MO.

“Like a goddamn game,” an agent muttered.

One asked if the clues had any political messages they could decipher.

“Well, sir, we really don’t think he’s a terrorist,” Sachs persisted.

Perkins turned his high-powered attention toward her. “Let me ask you, officer, you concede he’s smart, this unsub?”

“Very smart.”

“Couldn’t he be double-bluffing?”

“How do you mean?”

“You… I should say the NYPD’s thinking is that he’s just a nutcase. I mean, a criminal personality. But isn’t it possible he’s smart enough to make you think that. When something else’s going on.”

“Like what?”

“Take those clues he left. Couldn’t they be diversions?”

“No, sir, they’re directions,” Sachs said. “Leading us to the vics.”

“I understand that,” quick Thomas Perkins said. “But by doing that he’s also leading us away from other targets, right?”

She hadn’t considered that. “I suppose it’s possible.”

“And Chief Wilson’s been pulling men off UN security detail right and left to work the kidnapping. This unsub might be keeping everyone distracted, which leaves him free for his real mission.”

Sachs remembered that she’d had a similar thought herself earlier in the day, watching all the searchers along Pearl Street. “And that’d be the UN?”

“We think so,” Dellray said. “The perps behind the UNESCO bombing attempt in London might want to try again.”

Meaning Rhyme was going off in the completely wrong direction. It eased the weight of her guilt somewhat.

“Now, officer, could you itemize the evidence for us?” Perkins asked.

Dellray gave her an inventory sheet of everything she’d found and she went through it item by item. As she spoke Sachs was aware of bustling activity around her – some agents taking calls, some standing and whispering to other agents, some taking notes. But when, glancing down at the sheet, she added, “Then I picked up this fingerprint of his at the last scene,” she realized that the room had fallen utterly silent. She looked up. Every face in the office was staring at her in what could pass for shock – if federal agents were capable of that.

She glanced helplessly at Dellray, who cocked his head, “You saying you gotchaself a print?”

“Well, yes. His glove fell off in a struggle with the last vic and when he picked it up he brushed against the floor.”

“Where is it?” Dellray asked quickly.

“Jesus,” one agent called. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Well, I -”

“Find it, find it!” somebody else called.

A murmur ran through the room.

Her hands shaking, Sachs dug through the evidence bags and handed Dellray the Polaroid of the fingerprint. He held it up, looked carefully. Showed it to someone who, she guessed, was a friction-ridge expert. “Good,” the agent offered. “It’s definitely A-grade.”

Sachs knew that prints were rated A, B and C, the lower category being unacceptable to most law enforcement agencies. But whatever pride she felt in her evidence-gathering skills was crushed by their collective dismay that she hadn’t mentioned it before this.

Then everything started to happen at once. Dellray handed off to an agent who jogged to an elaborate computer in the corner of the office and rested the Polaroid on a large, curved bed of something called an Opti-Scan. Another agent turned on the computer and started typing in commands as Dellray snatched up the phone. He tapped his foot impatiently and then lowered his head as, somewhere, the call was answered.

“Ginnie, s’Dellray. This’s gonna be a true-blue pain but I needya to shut down all AFIS Northeast Region requests and give the one I’m sending priority… I got Perkins here. He’ll okay it and if that ain’t enough I’ll call the man in Washington himself… It’s the UN thing.”

Sachs knew the Bureau’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System was used by police departments throughout the country. That’s what Dellray would be braking to a halt at the moment.

The agent at the computer said, “It’s scanned. We’re transmitting now.”

“How long’s it gonna take?”

“Ten, fifteen minutes.”

Dellray pressed his dusty fingers together. “Please, please, please.”

All around her was a cyclone of activity. Sachs heard voices talking about weapons, helicopters, vehicles, anti-terror negotiators. Phone calls, clattering keyboards, maps unrolling, pistols being checked.

Perkins was on the phone, talking to the hostage-rescue people, or the director, or the mayor. Maybe the president. Who knew? Sachs said to Dellray, “I didn’t know the print was that big a deal.”

“S’always a big deal. Least, with AFIS now it is. Used to be you dusted for prints mostly for show. Let the vics and the press know you were doing something.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Naw, not a bit. Take New York City. You do a cold search – that’s when you don’t have any suspects – you do a cold search manually, it’d take a tech fifty years to go through all the print cards. No foolin’. An automated search? Fifteen minutes. Used to be you’d ID a suspect maybe two, three percent of the time. Now we’re running close to twenty, twenty-two percent. Oh, yup, prints’re golden. Dincha tell Rhyme about it?”

“He knew, sure.”

“And he didn’t get all hands on board? My oh my, the man’s slipping.”

“Say, officer,” SAC Perkins called, holding his hand over the phone, “I’ll ask you to complete those chain-of-custody cards now. I want to get the PE off to PERT.”

The Physical Evidence Response Team. Sachs remembered that Lincoln Rhyme had been the one the feds hired to help put it together.

“I’ll do that. Sure.”

“Mallory, Kemple, take that PE to an office and get our guest some COC cards. You have a pen, officer?”

“Yes, I do.”

She followed the two men into a small office, clicking her ballpoint nervously while they hunted down and returned with a pack of federal-issue chain-of-custody cards. She sat down and broke the package open.

The voice behind her was the hip Dellray, the persona that seemed the eagerest to break out. In the car on the way here someone had referred to him as the Chameleon and she was beginning to see why.

“We call Perkins the Big Dict. Nyup – not ‘dick’ like you’re thinking. ‘Dict’ like dictionary. But don’ worry over him. He’s smarter’n an agent sandwich. And better’n that he’s pulled strings all the way to D.C., which is where strings gotta be pulled in cases like this.” Dellray ran his cigarette beneath his nose as if it were a fine cigar. “You know, officer, you’re foxy smart doing whatch’re doing.”

“Which is?”

“Getting out of Major Crimes. You don’t want it.” The lean black face, glossy and wrinkled only about the eyes, seemed sincere for the first time since she’d met him. “Best thing you ever did, going into Public Affairs. You’ll do some good there and it won’t turn you to dust. That’s what happens, you bet. This job turns you to dust.”

One of the last victims of James Schneider’s mad compulsion, a young man named Ortega, had come to Manhattan from Mexico City, where political unrest (the much-heralded populist uprising, which had begun the year before) had made commerce difficult at best. Yet the ambitious entrepreneur had been in the city no more than one week when he vanished from sight. It was learned that he was last seen in front of a West Side tavern and authorities immediately suspected that he was yet another victim of Schneider’s. Sadly, this was discovered to be the case.

The bone collector cruised the streets for fifteen minutes around NYU, Washington Square. Plenty of people hanging out. But kids mostly. Students in summer school. Skateboarders. It was festive, weird. Singers, jugglers, acrobats. It reminded him of the “museums,” down on the Bowery, popular in the 1800s. They weren’t museums at all of course but arcades, teeming with burlesque shows, exhibits of freaks and daredevils, and vendors selling everything from French postcards to splinters of the True Cross.

He slowed once or twice but nobody wanted a cab, or could afford one. He turned south.

Schneider tied bricks to Señor Ortega’s feet and rolled him under a pier into the Hudson River so the foul water and the fish might reduce his body to mere bone. The corpse was found two weeks after he had vanished and so it was never known whether or not the unfortunate victim was alive or had full use of his senses when he was thrown into the drink. Yet it is suspected that this was so. For Schneider cruelly shortened the rope so that Señor Ortega’s face was inches below the surface of Davy Jones’s locker; – his hands undoubtedly thrashed madly about as he gazed upward at the air that would have been his salvation.

The bone collector saw a sickly young man standing by the curb. AIDS, he thought. But your bones are healthy – and so prominent. Your bones’ll last forever… The man didn’t want a cab and the taxi cruised past, the bone collector hungrily gazing at his thin frame in the rearview mirror.

He looked back to the street just in time to swerve around an elderly man who’d stepped off the curb, his thin arm raised to flag down the cab. The man leapt back, as best he could, and the cab skidded to a stop just past him.

The man opened the back door and leaned inside. “You should look where you’re going.” He said this instructionally. Not with anger.

“Sorry,” the bone collector muttered contritely.

The elderly man hesitated for a moment, looked up the street but saw no other taxis. He climbed in.

The door slammed shut.

Thinking: Old and thin. The skin would ride on his bones like silk.

“So, where to?” he called.

“East Side.”

“You got it,” he said as he pulled on the ski mask and spun the wheel sharply right. The cab sped west.

III . THE PORTABLE’S DAUGHTER

Overturn, overturn, overturn! is the maxim of New

York … The very bones of our ancestors are not

permitted to lie quiet a quarter of a century, and

one generation of men seem studious to remove all

relics of those which preceded them.

– PHILIP HONE,

MAYOR OF NEW YORK, DIARY, 1845

EIGHTEEN

Saturday, 10:15 p.m., to Sunday, 5:30 a.m.

“HIT ME AGAIN, LON.”

Rhyme drank through a straw, Sellitto from a glass. Both took the smoky liquor neat. The detective sank down in the squeaky rattan chair and Rhyme decided he looked a little like Peter Lorre in Casablanca.

Terry Dobyns was gone – after offering some acerbic psychological insights about narcissism and those employed by the federal government. Jerry Banks had left too. Mel Cooper continued to painstakingly disassemble and pack up his equipment.

“This is good, Lincoln.” Sellitto sipped his Scotch. “Goddamn. I can’t afford this shit. How old’s it?”

“I think that one’s twenty.”

The detective eyed the tawny liquor. “Hell, this was a woman, she’d be legal and then some.”

“Tell me something, Lon. Polling? That little tantrum of his. What was that all about?”

“Little Jimmy?” Sellitto laughed. “He’s in trouble now. He’s the one ran interference to take Peretti off the case and keep it out of the feds’ hands. Really went out on a limb. Asking for you too, that took some doing. There were noses outa joint over that. I don’t mean you personally. Just a civilian in on a hot case like this.”

“Polling asked for me? I thought it was the chief.”

“Yeah, but it was Polling put the bug in his ear in the first place. He called soon as he heard there’d been a taking and there was some bogus PE on the scene.”

And wanted me? Rhyme wondered. This was curious. Rhyme hadn’t had any contact with Polling over the past few years – not since the cop-killer case in which Rhyme had been hurt. It had been Polling who’d run the case and eventually collared Dan Shepherd.

“You seem surprised,” Sellitto said.

“That he asked for me? I am. We weren’t on the best of terms. Didn’t used to be anyway.”

“Why’s that?”

“I 14-43’d him.”

An NYPD complaint form.

“Five, six years ago, when he was a lieutenant, I found him interrogating a suspect right in the middle of a secure scene. Contaminated it. I blew my stack. Put in a report and it got cited at one of his IA reviews – the one where he popped the unarmed suspect.”

“Well, I guess all’s forgiven, ’cause he wanted you bad.”

“Lon, make a phone call for me, would you?”

“Sure.”

“No,” Thom said, lifting the phone out of the detective’s hand. “Make him do it himself.”

“I didn’t have time to learn how it works,” Rhyme said, nodding toward the dialing ECU Thom had hooked up earlier.

“You didn’t spend the time. Big difference. Who’re you calling?”

“Berger.”

“No, you’re not,” Thom said. “It’s late.”

“I’ve been reading clocks for a while now,” Rhyme replied coolly. “Call him. He’s staying at the Plaza.”

“No.”

“I asked you to call him.”

“Here.” The aide slapped a slip of paper down on the far edge of the table but Rhyme read it easily. God may have taken much from Lincoln Rhyme but He’d given him the eyesight of a young man. He went through the process of dialing with his cheek on the control stalk. It was easier than he’d thought but he purposely took a long time and muttered as he did it. Infuriatingly, Thom ignored him and went downstairs.

Berger wasn’t in his hotel room. Rhyme disconnected, mad that he wasn’t able to slam the phone down.

“Problem?” Sellitto asked.

“No,” Rhyme grumbled.

Where is he? Rhyme thought testily. It was late. Berger ought to be at his hotel room by now. Rhyme was stabbed with an odd feeling – jealousy that his death doctor was out helping someone else die.

Sellitto suddenly chuckled softly. Rhyme looked up. The cop was eating a candy bar. He’d forgotten that junk food’d been the staple of the big man’s diet when they were working together. “I was thinking. Remember Bennie Ponzo?”

“The OC Task Force ten, twelve years ago?”

“Yeah.”

Rhyme had enjoyed organized-crime work. The perps were pros. The crime scenes challenging. And the vics were rarely innocent.

“Who was that?” Mel Cooper asked.

“Hitman outa Bay Ridge,” Sellitto said. “Remember after we booked him, the candy sandwich?”

Rhyme laughed, nodding.

“What’s the story?” Cooper asked.

Sellitto said, “Okay, we’re down at Central Booking, Lincoln and me and a couple other guys. And Bennie, remember, he was a big guy, he was sitting all hunched over, feeling his stomach. All of a sudden he goes, ‘Yo, I’m hungry, I wanna candy sandwich.’ And we’re like looking at each other and I go, ‘What’s a candy sandwich?’ And he looks at me like I’m from Mars and goes, ‘What the fuck you think it is? Ya take a Hershey bar, ya put it between two slices of bread and ya eat it. That’s a fucking candy sandwich.’ ”

They laughed. Sellitto held out the bar to Cooper, who shook his head, then to Rhyme, who felt a sudden impulse to take a bite. It’d been over a year since he’d had chocolate. He avoided food like that – sugar, candy. Troublesome food. The little things about life were the biggest burdens, the ones that saddened and exhausted you the most. Okay, you’ll never scuba-dive or hike the Alps. So what? A lot of people don’t. But everybody brushes their teeth. And goes to the dentist, gets a filling, takes the train home. Everybody picks a hunk of peanut from out behind a molar when nobody’s looking.

Everybody except Lincoln Rhyme.

He shook his head to Sellitto and drank a long swallow of Scotch. His eyes slid back to the computer screen, recalling the goodbye letter to Elaine he’d been composing when Sellitto and Banks had interrupted him that morning. There were some other letters he wanted to write as well.

The one he was putting off writing was to Pete Taylor, the spinal cord trauma specialist. Most of the time Taylor and Rhyme had talked not about the patient’s condition but about death. The doctor was an ardent opponent of euthanasia. Rhyme felt he owed him a letter to explain why he’d decided to go ahead with the suicide.

And Amelia Sachs?

The Portable’s Daughter would get a note too, he decided.

Crips are generous, crips are kind, crips are iron…

Crips are nothing if not forgiving.

Dear Amelia:

My Dear Amelia:

Amelia:

Dear Officer Sachs:

Inasmuch as we have had the pleasure of working together, I would like to take this opportunity to state that although I consider you a betraying Judas, I’ve forgiven you. Furthermore I wish you well in your future career as a kisser of the media’s ass…

“What’s her story, Lon? Sachs.”

“Aside from the fact she’s got a ball-buster temper I didn’t know about?”

“She married?”

“Naw. A face and bod like that, you’da thought some good-lookin’ hunk woulda snagged her by now. But she doesn’t even date. We heard she was going with somebody a few years ago but she never talks about it.” He lowered his voice. “Lipstick lesbos’s what the rumor is. But I don’t know from that – my social life’s picking up women at the laundromat on Saturday night. Hey, it works. What can I say?”

You’ll have to learn to give up the dead…

Rhyme was thinking about the look on her face when he’d said that to her. What was that all about? Then he grew angry with himself for spending any time thinking about her. And took a good slug of Scotch.

The doorbell rang, then footsteps on the stairs. Rhyme and Sellitto glanced toward the doorway. The sound was from the boots of a tall man, wearing city-issue jodhpurs and a blue helmet. One of NYPD’s elite mounted police. He handed a bulky envelope to Sellitto and returned down the stairs.

The detective opened it. “Lookit what we got here.” He poured the contents onto the table. Rhyme glanced up with irritation. Three or four dozen plastic evidence bags, all labeled. Each contained a patch of cellophane from the packages of veal shanks they’d sent ESU to buy.

“A note from Haumann.” He read: “ 'To: L. Rhyme. L. Sellitto. From: B. Haumann, TSRF.' ”

“What’s 'at?” Cooper asked. The police department is a nest of initials and acronyms. RMP – remote mobile patrol – is a squad car. IED – improvised explosive device – is a bomb. But TSRF was a new one. Rhyme shrugged.

Sellitto continued to read, chuckling. “ 'Tactical Supermarket Response Force. Re: Veal shanks. Citywide search discovered forty-six subjects, all of which were apprehended and neutralized with minimal force. We read them their rights and have transported same to detention facility in the kitchen of Officer T. P. Giancarlo’s mother. Upon completion of interrogation, a half-dozen suspects will be transferred to your custody. Heat at 350 for thirty minutes.' ”

Rhyme laughed. Then sipped more Scotch, savoring the flavor. This was one thing he’d miss, the smoky breath of the liquor. (Though in the peace of senseless sleep, how could you miss anything? Just like evidence, take away the baseline standard and you have nothing to judge the loss against; you’re safe for all eternity.)

Cooper fanned out some of the samples. “Forty-six samples of the cello. One from each chain and the major independents.”

Rhyme gazed at the samples. The odds were good for class identification. Individuation of cellophane’d be a bitch – the scrap found on the veal bone clue wouldn’t of course exactly match one of these. But, because parent companies buy identical supplies for all their stores, you might learn in which chain 823 bought the veal and narrow down the neighborhoods he might live in. Maybe he should call the Bureau’s physical-evidence team and -

No, no. Remember: it’s their fuck-ing case now.

Rhyme commanded Cooper, “Bundle them up and ship them to our federal brethren.”

Rhyme tried shutting down his computer and hit the wrong button with his sometimes ornery ring finger. The speakerphone came on with a loud wail of squelch.

“Shit,” Rhyme muttered darkly. “Fucking machinery.”

Uneasy with Rhyme’s sudden anger, Sellitto glanced at his glass and joked, “Hell, Linc, Scotch this good’s supposed to make you mellow.”

“Got news,” Thom replied sourly. “He is mellow.”

He parked close to the huge drainpipe.

Climbing from the cab he could smell the fetid water, slimy and ripe. They were in a cul-de-sac leading to the wide runoff pipe that ran from the West Side Highway down to the Hudson River. No one could see them here.

The bone collector walked to the back of the cab, enjoying the sight of his elderly captive. Just like he’d enjoyed staring at the girl he’d tied in front of the steam pipe. And the wiggling hand by the railroad tracks early this morning.

Gazing at the frightened eyes. The man was thinner than he’d thought. Grayer. Hair disheveled.

Old in the flesh but young in the bone…

The man cowered away from him, arms folded defensively across his narrow chest.

Opening the door, the bone collector pressed his pistol against the man’s breastbone.

“Please,” his captive whispered, his voice quavering. “I don’t have much money but you can have it all. We can go to an ATM. I’ll -”

“Get out.”

“Please don’t hurt me.”

The bone collector gestured with his head. The frail man looked around miserably then scooted forward. He stood beside the car, cowering, his arms still crossed, shivering despite the relentless heat.

“Why are you doing this?”

The bone collector stepped back and fished the cuffs from his pocket. Because he wore the thick gloves it took a few seconds to find the chrome links. As he dug them out he thought he saw a four-rigger tacking up the Hudson. The opposing current here wasn’t as strong as in the East River, where sailing ships had a hell of a time making their way from the East, Montgomery and Out Ward wharves north. He squinted. No, wait – it wasn’t a sailboat, it was just a cabin cruiser, Yuppies lounging on the long front deck.

As he reached forward with the cuffs, the man grabbed his captor’s shirt, gripped it hard. “Please. I was going to the hospital. That’s why I flagged you down. I’ve been having chest pains.”

“Shut up.”

And the man suddenly reached for the bone collector’s face, the liver-spotted hands gripping his neck and shoulder and squeezing hard. A jolt of pain radiated from the spot where the yellow nails dug into him. With a burst of temper, he pulled his victim’s hands off and cuffed him roughly.

Slapping a piece of tape on the man’s mouth, the bone collector dragged him down the gravel embankment toward the mouth of the pipe, four feet in diameter. He stopped, examined the old man.

It’d be so easy to take you down to the bone.

The bone… Touching it. Hearing it.

He lifted the man’s hand. The terrified eyes gazed back, his lips trembling. The bone collector caressed the man’s fingers, squeezed the phalanges between his own (wished he could take his glove off but didn’t dare). Then he lifted the man’s palm and pressed it hard against his own ear.

“What? -”

His left hand curled around his mystified captive’s little finger and slowly pulled until he heard the deep thonk of brittle bone snapping. A satisfying sound. The man screamed, a muted cry stuttering through the tape. And slumped to the ground.

The bone collector pulled him upright and led the stumbling man into the mouth of the pipe. He prodded the man forward.

They emerged underneath the old, rotting pier. It was a disgusting place, strewn with the decomposed bodies of animals and fish, trash on the wet rocks, a gray-green sludge of kelp. A mound of seaweed rose and fell in the water, humping like a fat lover. Despite the evening heat in the rest of the city, down here it was cold as a March day.

Señor Ortega…

He lowered the man into the river, cuffed him to a pier post, ratcheting the bracelet tight around his wrist again. The captive’s grayish face was about three feet above the surface of the water. The bone collector walked carefully over the slick rocks to the drainpipe. He turned and paused for a moment, watching, watching. He hadn’t cared much whether the constables found the others or not. Hanna, the woman in the taxi. But this one… The bone collector hoped they didn’t find him in time. Indeed, that they didn’t find him at all. So he could come back in a month or two and see if the clever river had scrubbed the skeleton clean.

Back on the gravel drive he pulled the mask off and left the clues to the next scene not far from where he’d parked. He was angry, furious at the constables, and so this time he hid the clues. And he also included a special surprise. Something he’d been saving for them. The bone collector returned to the taxi.

The breeze was gentle, carrying the fragrance of the sour river with it. And the rustle of grass and, as always in the city, the shushhhh of traffic.

Like emery paper on bone.

He stopped and listened to this sound, head cocked as he looked out over the billion lights of the buildings, stretching to the north like an oblong galaxy. It was then that a woman, running fast, emerged on a jogging path beside the drainpipe and nearly collided with him.

In purple shorts and top, the thin brunette danced out of his way. Gasping, she stopped, flicked sweat from her face. In good shape – taut muscles – but not pretty. A hook of a nose, broad lips, blotchy skin.

But beneath that…

“You’re not supposed… You shouldn’t park here. This’s a jogging path…”

Her words fading and fear rising into her eyes, which flicked from his face to the taxi to the wad of ski mask in his hand.

She knew who he was. He smiled, noting her remarkably pronounced clavicle.

Her right ankle shifted slightly, ready to take her weight when she sprinted away. But he got her first. He ducked low, to tackle her, and when she gave a fast scream and dropped her arms to block him the bone collector straightened up fast from his feint and swung his elbow into her temple. There was a crack like a snapping belt.

She went down on the gravel, hard, and lay still. Horrified, the bone collector dropped to his knees and cradled her head. He moaned, “No, no, no…” Furious with himself for striking so hard, sick at heart that he might’ve broken what seemed to be a perfect skull beneath the tentacles of stringy hair and the unremarkable face.

Amelia Sachs finished another COC card and took a break. She paused, found a vending machine and bought a paper cup of vile coffee. She returned to the windowless office, looked over the evidence she’d gathered.

She felt a curious fondness for the macabre collection. Maybe because of what she’d gone through to collect it – her fiery joints ached and she still shuddered when she thought of the buried body at the first scene this morning, the bloody branch of a hand, and of T.J. Colfax’s dangling flesh. Until today physical evidence hadn’t meant anything to her. PE was boring lectures on drowsy spring afternoons at the academy. PE was math, it was charts and graphs, it was science. It was dead.

No, Amie Sachs was going to be a people cop. Walking beats, dissing back the dissers, outing druggies. Spreading respect for the law – like her father. Or pounding it into them. Like handsome Nick Carelli, a five-year vet, the star of Street Crimes, grinning at the world with his yo-you-gotta-problem? smile.

That’s just who she was going to be.

She looked at the crisp brown leaf she’d found in the stockyard tunnel. One of the clues 823 had left for them. And here was the underwear too. She remembered that I the feebies had snagged the PE before Cooper’d finished the test on the… what was that machine? The Chromatograph? She wondered what the liquid soaking the cotton was.

But these thoughts led to Lincoln Rhyme and he was the one person she didn’t want to think about just now.

She began to voucher the rest of the PE. Each COC card had a series of blank lines that would list the custodians of the evidence, in sequence, from the initial discovery at the scene all the way to trial. Sachs had transported evidence several times and her name had appeared on COC cards. But this was the first time A. Sachs, NYPD 5885 had occupied the first slot.

Once again she lifted the plastic bag containing the leaf.

He’d actually touched it. Him. The man who’d killed T.J. Colfax. Who’d held Monelle Gerger’s pudgy arm and cut deep into it. Who was out searching for another vic right now – if he hadn’t already snatched one.

Who’d buried that poor man this morning, waving for mercy he never got.

She thought of Locard’s Exchange Principle. People coming into contact, each transferring something to the other. Something big, something small. Most likely they didn’t even know what.

Had something of 823 come off on this leaf? A cell of skin? A dot of sweat? It was a stunning thought. She felt a trill of excitement, of fear, as if the killer were right here in this tiny airless room with her.

Back to the COC cards. For ten minutes she filled them out and was just finishing the last one when the door burst open, startling her. She spun around.

Fred Dellray stood in the doorway, his green jacket abandoned, his starched shirt rumpled. Fingers pinching the cigarette behind his ear. “Step inside a minute’r two, officer. It’s payoff time. Thought you might wanna be there.”

Sachs followed him down the short corridor, two steps behind his lope.

“The AFIS results’re comin’ in,” Dellray said.

The war room was even busier than before. Jacketless agents hovered over desks. They were armed with their on-duty weapons – the big Sig-Sauer and Smith & Wesson automatics, 10mm and.45s. A half-dozen agents were clustered around the computer terminal beside the Opti-Scan.

Sachs hadn’t liked the way Dellray’d taken the case away from them, but she had to admit that beneath the slick-talking hipster Dellray was one hell of a good cop. Agents – young and old – would come up to him with questions and he’d patiently answer them. He’d yank a phone from the cradle and cajole or berate whoever was on the other end to get him what he needed. Sometimes, he’d look up across the bustling room and roar, “We gonna nail this prick-dick? Yep, you betcha we are.” And the straight-arrows’d look at him uneasily but with the obvious thought in mind that if anybody could nail him it’d be Dellray.

“Here, it’s coming in now,” an agent called.

Dellray barked, “I want open lines to New York, Jersey and Connecticut DMVs. And Corrections and Parole. INS too. Tell ’em to stand by for an incoming ID request. Put everything else on hold.”

Agents peeled off and began making phone calls.

The computer screen filled.

She couldn’t believe that Dellray actually crossed his stickish fingers.

Utter silence throughout the room.

“Got him!” the agent at the keyboard shouted.

“Ain’t no unsub anymore,” Dellray sang melodically, bending over the screen. “Listen up, people. We gotta name: Victor Pietrs. Born here, 1948. His parents were from Belgrade. So, we got a Serbian connection. ID brought to us courtesy of New York D of C. Convictions for drugs, assault, one with a deadly. Two sentences served. Okay, listen to this – psychiatric history, committed three times on involuntary orders. Intake at Bellevue and Manhattan Psychiatric. Last release date three years ago. LKA Washington Heights.”

He looked up. “Who’s got the phone companies?”

Several agents raised their hands.

“Make the calls,” Dellray ordered.

An interminable five minutes.

“Not there. No current New York Telephone listing.”

“Nothing in Jersey,” another agent echoed.

“Negative, Connecticut.”

“Fuck-all,” Dellray muttered. “Mix the names up. Try variations. An’ lookit phone-service accounts canceled in the past year for nonpayment.”

For several minutes voices rose and fell like the tide.

Dellray paced manically and Sachs understood why his frame was so scrawny.

Suddenly an agent shouted, “Found him!”

Everyone turned to look.

“I’m on with NY DMV,” another agent called. “They’ve got him. It’s coming through now… He’s a cabbie. Got a hack license.”

“Why don’ that s’prise me,” Dellray muttered. “Shoulda thoughta that. Where’s home sweet home?”

“Morningside Heights. A block from the river.” The agent wrote down the address and held it aloft as Dellray swept past and took it. “Know the neighborhood. Pretty deserted. Lotta druggies.”

Another agent typed the address into his computer terminal. “Okay, checking deeds… Property’s an old house. A bank’s got title. He must be renting.”

“You want HRT?” one agent called across the bustling room. “I got Quantico on the line.”

“No time,” Dellray announced. “Use the field office SWAT. Get ’em suited up.”

Sachs asked, “And what about the next victim?”

“What next victim?”

“He’s already taken somebody. He knows we’ve had the clues for an hour or two. He’d’ve planted the vic awhile ago. He had to.”

“No reports of anybody missing,” the agent said. “And if he did snatch ’em they’re probably at his house.”

“No, they wouldn’t be.”

“Why not?”

“They’d pick up too much PE,” she said. “Lincoln Rhyme said he has a safe house.”

“Well, then we’ll get him to tell us where they are.”

Another agent said, “We can be real persuasive.”

“Let’s move it,” Dellray called. “Yo, ever’body, let’s thank Officer Amelia Sachs here. She’s the one found that print and lifted it.”

She was blushing. Could feel it, hated it. But she couldn’t help herself. As she glanced down she noticed strange lines on her shoes. Squinting, she realized she was still wearing the rubber bands.

When she looked up she saw a room full of unsmiling federal agents checking weapons and heading for the door as they glanced at her. The same way, she thought, lumberjacks look at logs.

NINETEEN

IN 1911 A TRAGEDY OF MASSIVE DIMENSION befell our fair city.

On March 25, hundreds of industrious young women were hard at work in a garment factory, one of the many, known notoriously as “sweat-shops”, in Greenwich Village in down-town Manhattan.

So enamored of profits were the owners of this company that they denied the poor girls in their employ even the rudimentary facilities that slaves might enjoy. They believed the laborers could not be trusted to make expeditious visits to the rest-room facilities and so kept the doors to the cutting and sewing rooms under lock and key.

The bone collector was driving back to his building. He passed a squad car but he kept his eyes forward and the constables never noticed him.

On the day in question a fire started on the eighth floor of the building and within minutes swept through the factory, from which the young employees tried to flee. They were unable to escape, however, owing to the chained state of the door. Many died on the spot and many more, some horribly afire, leapt into the air a hundred feet above the cobblestones and died from the collision with unyielding Mother Earth.

There numbered 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. The police, however, were confounded by the inability to locate one of the victims, a young woman, Esther Weinraub, whom several witnesses had seen leap in desperation from the eighth floor window. None of the other girls who similarly leapt survived the fall. Was it possible that she, miraculously, had? For when the bodies were laid out in the street for bereaved family member to identify, poor Miss Weinraub‘s was not to be found.

Reports began to circulate of a ghoul, a man seen carting off a large bundle from the scene of the fire. So incensed were the constables that someone might violate the sacred remains of an innocent young woman that they put on a still search for the man.

After several weeks, their diligent efforts bore fruit. Two residents of Greenwich Village reported seeing a man leaving the scene of the fire and carrying a heavy bundle “like a carpet” over his shoulder. The constables picked up his trail and tracked him to the West Side of the city, where they interviewed neighbors and learned that the man fit the description of James Schneider, who was still at large.

They narrowed their search to a decrepit abode in an alley in Hell’s Kitchen, not far from the 60th Street stockyards. As they entered the alleyway they were greeted with a revolting stench…

He was now driving past the very site of the Triangle fire itself – maybe he’d even been subconsciously prompted to come here. The Asch Building – the ironic name of the structure that had housed the doomed factory – was gone and the site was now a part of NYU. Then and now… The bone collector would not have been surprised to see white-bloused working girls, trailing sparks and faint smoke, tumbling gracefully to their deaths, falling around him like snow.

Upon breaking into Schneider’s habitation, the authorities found a sight that sent even the most seasoned of them reeling with horror. The body of wretched Esther Weinraub – (or what remained of it) – was found in the basement. Schneider was bent on completing the work of the tragic fire and was slowly removing the woman’s flesh through means too shocking to recount here.

A search of this loathsome place revealed a secret room, off the basement, filled with bones that had been stripped clean of flesh.

Beneath Schneider’s bed, a constable found a diary, in which the madman chronicled his history of evil. “Bone” – (Schneider wrote) – “is the ultimate core of a human being. It alters not, deceives not, yields not. Once the facade of our intemperate ways of the flesh, the flaws of the lesser Races, and the weaker gender, are burnt or boiled away, we are – all of us – noble bone. Bone does not lie. It is immortal.”

The lunatic writings set forth a chronicle of gruesome experimentation as he sought to ascertain the most effective way of cleansing his victims of their flesh. He tried boiling the bodies, burning them, rendering with lye, staking them out for animals, and immersing them in water.

But one method above all he favored for this macabre sport. “It is best, I have concluded” – (his diary continues) – “simply to bury the body in rich earth and let Nature do the tedious work. This is the most time-consuming method but the least likely to arouse suspicion as the odors are kept to a minimum. I prefer to inter the individuals while still alive, though why that might be I cannot say with any certainty.”

In his heretofore secret room three more bodies were discovered in this very condition. The splayed hands and agog faces of the poor victims attest that they were indeed alive when Schneider piled the last shovelful of dirt upon their tormented crowns.

It was these dark designs that prompted the journalists of the day to christen Schneider with the name by which he was forever after known: – “The Bone Collector.”

He drove on, his mind returning to the woman in the trunk, Esther Weinraub. Her thin elbow, her collarbone delicate as a bird’s wing. He sped the cab forward, even risked running two red lights. He couldn’t wait much longer.

“I’m not tired,” Rhyme snapped.

“Tired or not, you need to rest.”

“No, I need another drink.”

Black suitcases lined the wall, awaiting the help of officers from the Twentieth Precinct to transport them back to the IRD lab. Mel Cooper was carting a microscope case downstairs. Lon Sellitto was still sitting in the rattan chair but he wasn’t saying much. Just coming to the obvious conclusion that Lincoln Rhyme was not a mellow drunk at all.

Thom said, “I’m sure your blood pressure’s up. You need rest.”

“I need a drink.”

Goddamn you, Amelia Sachs, Rhyme thought. And didn’t know why.

“You should give it up. Drinking’s never been any good for you.”

Well, I am giving it up, Rhyme responded silently. For good. Monday. And no twelve-step plan for me; it’s a one-stepper.

“Pour me another drink,” he ordered.

Not really wanting one.

“No.”

“Pour me a drink now!” Rhyme snapped.

“No way.”

“Lon, would you please pour me another drink?”

“I -”

Thom said, “He doesn’t get any more. When he’s in a mood like this he’s insufferable and we’re not going to put up with him.”

“You’re going to withhold something from me? I could fire you.”

“Fire away.”

“Crip abuse! I’ll get you indicted. Arrest him, Lon.”

“Lincoln,” Sellitto said placatingly.

“Arrest him!”

The detective was taken aback by the viciousness of Rhyme’s words.

“Hey, buddy, maybe you should go a little light,” Sellitto said.

“Oh, Christ,” Rhyme groaned. He started to moan loudly.

Sellitto blurted, “What is it?” Thom was silent, looking on cautiously.

“My liver.” Rhyme’s face broke into a cruel grin. “Cirrhosis probably.”

Thom swung around, furious. “I will not put up with this crap. Okay?”

“No, It’s not oh-kay -”

A woman’s voice, from the doorway: “We don’t have much time.”

“- at all.”

Amelia Sachs walked into the room, glanced at the empty tables. Rhyme felt spittle on his lip. He was overwhelmed with fury. Because she saw the drool. Because he wore a crisp white shirt he’d changed into just for her. And because he wanted desperately to be alone, forever, alone in the dark of motionless peace – where he was king. Not king for a day. But king for eternity.

The spit tickled. He cramped his already sore neck muscles trying to wipe his lip dry. Thom deftly swiped a Kleenex from a box and dried his boss’s mouth and chin.

“Officer Sachs,” Thom said. “Welcome. A shining example of maturity. We aren’t seeing much of that right at the moment.”

She wasn’t wearing her hat and her navy blouse was open at the collar. Her long red hair tumbled to her shoulders. Nobody’d have any trouble differentiating that hair under a comparison ’scope.

“Mel let me in,” she said, nodding toward the stairs.

“Isn’t it past your bedtime, Sachs?”

Thom tapped a shoulder. Behave yourself, the gesture meant.

“I was just at the federal building,” she said to Sellitto.

“How are our tax dollars doing?”

“They’ve caught him.”

“What?” Sellitto asked. “Just like that? Jesus. They know about it downtown?”

“Perkins called the mayor. The guy’s a cabbie. He was born here but his father’s Serbian. So they’re thinking he’s trying to get even with the UN, or something. Got a yellow sheet. Oh, and a history of mental problems too. Dellray and feebie SWAT’re on their way there right now.”

“How’d they do it?” Rhyme asked. “Betcha it was the fingerprint.”

She nodded.

“I suspected that would figure prominently. And, tell me, how concerned were they about the next victim?”

“They’re concerned,” she said evenly. “But mostly they want to nail the unsub.”

“Well, that’s their nature. And let me guess. They’re figuring they’ll sweat the location of the vic out of him after they take him down.”

“You got it.”

“That may take some doing,” Rhyme said. “I’ll venture that opinion without the benefit of our Dr. Dobyns and the Behavioral mavens. So, a change of heart, Amelia? Why’d you come back?”

“Because whether Dellray collars him or not I don’t think we have time to wait. To save the next vic, I mean.”

“Oh, but we’re dismantled, haven’t you heard? Shut down, done gone outa business.” Rhyme was looking in the dark computer screen, trying to see if his hair had stayed combed.

“You giving up?” she asked.

“Officer,” Sellitto began, “even if we wanted to do somethin’ we don’t have any of the PE. That’s the only link -”

“I’ve got it.”

“What?”

“All of it. It’s downstairs in the RRV.”

The detective glanced out the window.

Sachs continued, “From the last scene. From all the scenes.”

“You have it?” Rhyme asked. “How?”

But Sellitto was laughing. “She ’jacked it, Lincoln. Gawdamn!”

“Dellray doesn’t need it,” Sachs pointed out. “Except for the trial. They’ve got the unsub, we’ll save the victim. Works out nice, hm?”

“But Mel Cooper just left.”

“Naw, he’s downstairs. I asked him to wait.” Sachs crossed her arms. She glanced at the clock. After eleven. “We don’t have much time,” she repeated.

His eyes too were on the clock. Lord, he was tired. Thom was right; he’d been awake longer than in years. But, he was surprised – no, shocked – to find, that, while he might have been furious or embarrassed or stabbed with heartless frustration today, the passing minutes had not lain like hot, unbearable weights on his soul. As they had for the past three and a half years.

“Well, church mice in heaven.” Rhyme barked a laugh. “Thom? Thom! We need coffee. On the double. Sachs, get those cello samples to the lab along with the Polaroid of the bit Mel lifted from the veal bone. I want a polarization-comparison report in an hour. And none of this ‘most probably’ crap. I want an answer – which grocery chain did our unsub buy the veal bone at. And get that little shadow of yours back here, Lon. The one named after the baseball player.”

The black vans sped through side streets.

This was a more circuitous route to the perp’s location but Dellray knew what he was doing; anti-terror operations were supposed to avoid major city streets, which were often monitored by accomplices. Dellray, in the back of the lead van, tightened the Velcro strap on the body armor. They were less than ten minutes away.

He looked at the failing apartments, the trash-filled lots as they sped along. The last time he’d been in this decrepit neighborhood he’d been Rastafarian Peter Haile Thomas from Queens. He’d bought 137 pounds of cocaine from a shriveled little Puerto Rican, who decided at the last minute to ’jack his buyer. He took Dellray’s buy-and-bust money and aimed a gun at Dellray’s groin, pulling the trigger as calmly as if he were picking vegetables at the A &P. Click, click, click. Misfire. Toby Dolittle and the backup team took the fucker and his minders down before the scumbag found his other piece, leaving one shook-up Dellray to reflect on the irony of nearly getting killed because the perp truly bought the agent’s performance – that he was a dealer not a cop.

“ETA, four minutes,” the driver called.

For some reason Dellray’s thoughts flipped to Lincoln Rhyme. He regretted he’d been such a shit when he took over the case. But there hadn’t been much choice. Sellitto was a bulldog and Polling was a psycho – though Dellray could handle them. Rhyme was the one who made him uneasy. Sharp as a razor (hell, it had been his team that found Pietrs’s print, even if they didn’t jump on it as fast as they should’ve). In the old days, before his accident, you couldn’t beat Rhyme if he didn’t want to get beat. And you couldn’t fool him either.

Now, Rhyme was a busted toy. It was a sad thing what could happen to a man, how you could die and still be alive. Dellray had walked into his room – his bedroom, no less – and hit him hard. Harder than he needed to.

Maybe he’d call. He could -

“Show time,” the driver called, and Dellray forgot all about Lincoln Rhyme.

The vans turned onto the street where Pietrs lived. Most of the other streets they’d passed had been filled with sweating residents, clutching beer bottles and cigarettes, hoping for a breath or two of cool air. But this one was dark, empty.

The vans cruised slowly to a stop. Two dozen agents climbed out, in black tactical outfits, carrying their H &Ks equipped with muzzle lights and laser sights. Two homeless men stared at them; one quickly hid his bottle of Colt 44 malt liquor under his shirt.

Dellray gazed at a window in Pietrs’s building; it gave off a faint yellow glow.

The driver backed the first van into a shadowy parking space and whispered to Dellray, “It’s Perkins.” Tapping his headset. “He’s got the director on the horn. They want to know who’s leading the assault.”

“I am,” snapped the Chameleon. He turned to his team. “I want surveillance across the street and in the alleys. Snipers, there, there and there. An’ I want ever’body in place fi’ minutes ago. Are we all together on that?”

Down the stairs, the old wood creaking.

His arm around her, he guided the woman, half-conscious from the blow to her head, into the basement. At the foot of the stairs, he shoved her to the dirt floor and gazed down at her.

Esther…

Her eyes rose to meet his. Hopeless, begging. He didn’t notice. All he saw was her body. He began to remove her clothing, the purple jogging outfit. It was unthinkable that a woman would actually go outside in this day and age wearing what was no more than, well, undergarments. He hadn’t thought that Esther Weinraub was a whore. She’d been a working girl, stitching shirts, five for a penny.

The bone collector observed how her collarbone showed at her throat. And where some other man might glance over her breasts and dark areolae he stared at the indentation at the manubrium and the ribs blossoming from it like spider’s legs.

“What’re you doing?” she asked, groggy from the blow to her head.

The bone collector looked her over carefully but what he saw wasn’t a young, anorectic woman, nose too broad, lips too full, with skin like dirty sand. He saw beneath those imperfections the perfect beauty of her structure.

He caressed her temple, stroked it gently. Don’t let it be cracked, please…

She coughed and her nostrils flared – the fumes were very strong down here though he hardly noticed them anymore.

“Don’t hurt me again,” she whispered, her head lolling. “Just don’t hurt me. Please.”

He took the knife from his pocket and bent down, cut her underwear off. She looked down at her naked body.

“You want that?” she said breathlessly. “Okay, you can fuck me. Okay.”

The pleasure of the flesh, he thought… it just doesn’t come close.

He pulled her to her feet and madly she pushed away from him and began stumbling toward a small doorway in the corner of the basement. Not running, not really trying to escape. Just sobbing, reaching out a hand, weaving toward the door.

The bone collector watched her, entranced by her slow, pathetic gait.

The doorway, which had once opened onto a coal chute, now led to a narrow tunnel that connected to the basement of the abandoned building next door.

Esther struggled to the metal door and pulled it open. She climbed inside.

It was no more than a minute later that he heard the wailing scream. Followed by a breathless, wrenching, “God, no, no, no…” Other words too, lost in her boiling howls of terror.

Then she was coming back through the tunnel, moving faster now, whipping her hands around her, as if she was trying to shake off what she’d just seen.

Come to me, Esther.

Stumbling over the dirt floor, sobbing.

Come to me.

Running straight into his patient, waiting arms, which wrapped around her. He squeezed the woman tight as a lover, felt that marvelous collarbone beneath his fingers, and slowly dragged the frantic woman back toward the tunnel doorway.

TWENTY

THE PHASES OF THE MOON, the leaf, the damp underwear, dirt. Their team was back in Rhyme’s bedroom – all except Polling and Haumann; it was straining NYPD loyalty to bring captains in on what was, no two ways about it, an unauthorized operation.

“You G-C’d the liquid in the underwear, right, Mel?”

“Have to do it again. They shut us down before we got the results.”

He blotted out a sample and injected it into the Chromatograph. As he ran the machine Sachs jockeyed to look at the peaks and valleys of the profile appearing on the screen. Like a stock index. Rhyme realized she was standing close to him, as if she’d edged near when he wasn’t looking. She spoke in a low voice. “I was…”

“Yes?”

“I was blunter than I meant to be. Before, I mean. I have a temper. I don’t know where I got it from. But I have it.”

“You were right,” Rhyme said.

They easily held each other’s eyes and Rhyme thought of the times he and Blaine had had serious discussions. As they talked they always focused on an object between them – one of the ceramic horses she collected, a book, a nearly empty bottle of Merlot or Chardonnay.

He said, “I work scenes differently than most criminalists. I needed somebody without any preconceived ideas. But I also needed somebody with a mind of her own.”

The contradictory qualities we seek in that elusive perfect lover. Strength and vulnerability, in equal measures.

“When I talked to Commissioner Eckert,” she said, “it was just to get my transfer through. That’s all I wanted. It never occurred to me that word’d get back to the feds and they’d take the case away.”

“I know that.”

“I still let my temper go. I’m sorry for that.”

“Don’t backpedal, Sachs. I need somebody to tell me I’m a jerk when I act like one. Thom does. That’s why I love him.”

“Don’t get sentimental on me, Lincoln,” Thom called from across the room.

Rhyme continued, “Nobody else ever tells me to go to hell. They’re always walking on eggshells. I hate it.”

“It doesn’t seem like there’ve been many people around here to say much of anything to you lately.”

After a moment he said, “That’s true.”

On the screen of the chromatograph-spectrometer the peaks and valleys stopped moving and became one of nature’s infinite signatures. Mel Cooper tapped on the computer keys and read the results. “Water, diesel oil, phosphate, sodium, trace minerals… No idea what it means.”

What, Rhyme wondered, was the message? The underwear itself? The liquid? He said, “Let’s move on. I want to see the dirt.”

Sachs brought him the bag. It contained pinkish sand, laced with chunks of clay and pebbles.

“Bull’s liver,” he announced. “Rock-and-sand mixture. Found just above the bedrock in Manhattan. Sodium silicate mixed in?”

Cooper ran the Chromatograph. “Yep. Plenty of it.”

“Then we’re looking for a downtown location within fifty yards of the water – ” Rhyme laughed at the astonished gaze on Sachs’s face. “It’s not magic, Sachs. I’ve just done my homework, that’s all. Contractors mix sodium silicate with bull’s liver to stabilize the earth when they dig foundations in deep-bedrock areas near the water. That means it’s got to be downtown. Now, let’s take a look at the leaf.”

She held up the bag.

“No clue what it is,” Rhyme said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen one like that. Not in Manhattan.”

“I’ve got a list of horticulture web sites,” Cooper said, staring at his computer screen. “I’ll do some surfing.”

Rhyme himself had spent some time on-line, cruising the Internet. As it had with books, movies and posters, his interest in the cyberworld had eventually paled. Perhaps because so much of his own world was virtual, the net was, in the end, a forlorn place for Lincoln Rhyme.

Cooper’s screen flicked and danced as he clicked on hyperlinks and disappeared deeper into the web. “I’m downloading some files. Should take ten, twenty minutes.”

Rhyme said, “All right. The rest of the clues Sachs found… Not the planted ones. The others. They might tell us about where he’s been. Let’s look at our secret weapon, Mel.”

“Secret weapon?” Sachs asked.

“The trace evidence.”

Special Agent Fred Dellray had put together a ten-man entry operation. Two teams plus search and surveillance. The flak-jacketed agents stood in the bushes, sweating madly. Across the street, upstairs in an abandoned brownstone, the S &S team had their Big Ears and video infrareds trained on the perp’s house.

The three snipers, with their big Remingtons strapped, loaded and locked, lay prone on rooftops. Their binoculared spotters crouched beside them like Lamaze coaches.

Dellray – wearing an FBI windbreaker and jeans instead of his Leprechaun-green outfit – listened through his clip-on earphone.

“Surveillance to Command. We’ve got infrared on the basement. Somebody moving down there.”

“What’sa view like?” Dellray asked.

“No view. Windows’re too dirty.”

“He all by his humble self? Maybe got a vic with him?” Knowing somehow that Officer Sachs was probably right; that he’d already ’napped somebody else now.

“Can’t tell. We’ve just got motion and heat.”

Dellray had sent other officers around to the sides of the house. They reported in. “No sign of anyone on the first or second floor. Garage is locked.”

“Snipers?” Dellray asked. “Report.”

“Shooter One to Command. I’ve acquired on front door. Over.”

The others were covering the hallway and a room on the first floor. “Loaded and locked,” they radioed in.

Dellray drew his large automatic.

“Okay, we got paper,” Dellray said. Meaning a warrant. They wouldn’t have to knock. “Lessgo! Teams one and two, deploy, deploy, deploy.”

The first team took out the front door with a battering ram while the second used the slightly more civilized approach of breaking in the back-door window and unlocking the dead bolt. They streamed inside, Dellray following the last of Team One’s officers into the old, filthy house. The smell of rotting flesh was overwhelming and Dellray, no stranger to crime scenes, swallowed hard, struggling to keep from vomiting.

The second team secured the ground floor and then charged up the stairs toward the bedroom while the first sped down the basement stairs, boots thumping loudly on the old wood.

Dellray raced down into the foul-smelling basement. He heard a door being kicked in somewhere below and the shout of, “Don’t move! Federal agents. Freeze, freeze, freeze!”

But when he reached the basement doorway he heard the same agent blurt in a very different tone, “What the hell’s this? Oh, Jesus.”

“Fuck,” another one called. “That’s gross.”

“Shit in a flaming pile,” Dellray spat out, choking, as he stepped inside. Swallowing hard at the vile smell.

The man’s body lay on the floor, leaching black fluid. Throat cut. His dead, glazed eyes stared at the ceiling but his torso seemed to be moving – swelling and shifting. Dellray shuddered; he’d never developed much immunity to the sight of insect infestation. The number of bugs and worms suggested the vic’d been dead for at least three days.

“Why’d we get positive on the infrared?” one agent asked.

Dellray pointed out the rat and mouse teeth marks along the vic’s bloated leg and side. “They’re around here someplace. We interrupted dinner hour.”

“So what happened? One of the vics get him?”

“Watcha talkin’ about?” Dellray snapped.

“Isn’t that him?”

“No, it’s not him,” Dellray exploded, gazing at one particular wound on the corpse.

One of the team was frowning. “Naw, Dellray. This’s the guy. We got mug shots. That’s Pietrs.”

“Of course it’s fucking Pietrs. But he ain’t the unsub. Don’tcha get it?”

“No? What do you mean?”

It was all clear to him now. “Sumvabitch.”

Dellray’s phone chirped and made him jump. He flipped it open, listened for a minute. “She did what? Oh, like I really need this too… No, we don’t have the fucking perp in fucking custody.”

He jammed the OFF button, pointed an angry finger at two SWAT agents. “You’re coming with me.”

“What’s up, Dellray?”

“We gonna pay ourselves a visit. And what ain’t we gonna be when we do it?” The agents looked at each other, frowning. But Dellray supplied the answer. “We ain’t gonna be very nice at all.”

Mel Cooper shook the contents of the envelopes out onto newsprint. Examined the dust with an eye loupe. “Well, there’s the brick dust. And some other kind of stone. Marble, I think.”

He put a sample on the slide and examined it under the compound ’scope. “Yep, marble. Rose-colored.”

“Was there any marble at the stockyard tunnel? Where you found the German girl?”

“None,” Sachs responded.

Cooper suggested it might have come from Monelle’s residence hall when Unsub 823 grabbed her.

“No, I know the block the Deutsche Haus is in. It’s just a converted East Village tenement. The best stone you’d find there’d be polished granite. Maybe, just maybe, it’s a fleck of his hidey-hole. Anything notable about it?”

“Chisel marks,” Cooper said, bending over the ’scope.

“Ah, good. How clean?”

“Not very. Ragged.”

“So an old steam stonecutter?”

“Yes, I’d guess.”

“Write, Thom,” Rhyme instructed, nodding at the poster. “There’s marble in his safe house. And it’s old.”

“But why do we care about his safe house?” Banks asked, looking at his watch. “The feds’ll be there by now.”

“You can never have too much information, Banks. Remember that. Now, what else’ve we got?”

“Another bit of the glove. That red leather. And what’s this?” he asked Sachs, holding up a plastic bag containing a plug of wood.

“The sample of the aftershave. Where he brushed up against a post.”

“Should I run an olfactory profile?” Cooper wondered.

“Let me smell it first,” Rhyme said.

Sachs brought the bag over to him. Inside was a tiny disk of wood. She opened it up and he inhaled the air.

“Brut. How could you miss it? Thom, add that our man uses drugstore cologne.”

Cooper announced, “Here’s that other hair.” The technician mounted it in a comparison ’scope. “Very similar to the one we found earlier. Probably the same source. Oh, hell, Lincoln, for you, I’ll say it is the same. Brown.”

“Are the ends cut or fractured naturally?”

“Cut.”

“Good, we’re closing in on hair color,” Rhyme said.

Thom wrote brown just as Sellitto said, “Don’t write that!”

“What?”