Copyright

About

Dedication

Acknowledgments

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

EIGHTEEN

NINETEEN

TWENTY

TWENTY-ONE

TWENTY-TWO

TWENTY-THREE

TWENTY-FOUR

TWENTY-FIVE

TWENTY-SIX

TWENTY-SEVEN

TWENTY-EIGHT

TWENTY-NINE

THIRTY

THIRTY-ONE

THIRTY-TWO

THIRTY-THREE

THIRTY-FOUR

THIRTY-FIVE

THIRTY-SIX

THIRTY-SEVEN

THIRTY-EIGHT

THIRTY-NINE

AFTERWORD

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Copyright


This book was

copied right, in

the dark, by

Illuminati.

About the

   e-Book

TITLE: The Mephisto Club

AUTHOR: Gerritsen, Tess

ABEB Version: 3.1

Hog Edition

Dedication

 

To Neil and Mary

 

Acknowledgments

 

Every book is a challenge to write, a seemingly impossible mountain to climb. No matter how difficult the writing may be, I have the comfort of knowing that wonderful colleagues and friends stand by me. Many thanks to my incomparable agent, Meg Ruley, and the team at Jane Rotrosen Agency. Your guidance has been the star I’ve steered by. Thanks also to my amazing editor, Linda Marrow, who can make any writer shine, to Gina Centrello, for her enthusiasm through the years, and to Gilly Hailparn for all her kind attention. And across the pond, Selina Walker at Transworld has been my unflagging cheerleader.

Finally, I must thank the one person who’s been with me the longest. My husband Jacob knows just how difficult it is to be married to a writer. Yet he’s still here.


 

“And destroy all the spirits of the reprobate, and the children of the Watchers, because they have wronged mankind.”

 

The Book of Enoch X:15, ancient Jewish text, 2nd century B.C.


ONE

 

They looked like the perfect family.

This was what the boy thought as he stood beside his father’s open grave, as he listened to the hired minister read platitudes from the Bible. Only a small group had gathered on that warm and buggy June day to mourn the passing of Montague Saul, no more than a dozen people, many of whom the boy had just met. For the past six months, he had been away at boarding school, and today he was seeing some of these people for the very first time. Most of them did not interest him in the least.

But his uncle’s family— they interested him very much. They were worth studying.

Dr. Peter Saul looked very much like his dead brother Montague, slender and cerebral in owlish glasses, brown hair thinning toward inevitable baldness. His wife, Amy, had a round, sweet face, and she kept darting anxious looks at her fifteen-year-old nephew, as though aching to wrap her arms around him and smother him with a hug. Their son, Teddy, was ten years old, all skinny arms and legs. A little clone of Peter Saul, right down to the same owlish glasses.

Finally, there was the daughter, Lily. Sixteen years old.

Tendrils of her hair had come loose from the ponytail and now clung to her face in the heat. She looked uncomfortable in her black dress, and she kept shifting coltishly back and forth, as though preparing to bolt. As though she’d rather be anywhere than in this cemetery, waving away buzzing insects.

They look so normal, so average, the boy thought. So different from me. Then Lily’s gaze suddenly met his, and he felt a tremor of surprise. Of mutual recognition. In that instant, he could almost feel her gaze penetrating the darkest fissures of his brain, examining all the secret places that no one else had ever seen. That he’d never allowed them to see.

Disquieted, he looked away. Focused, instead, on the other people standing around the grave: His father’s housekeeper. The attorney. The two next-door neighbors. Mere acquaintances who were here out of a sense of propriety, not affection. They knew Montague Saul only as the quiet scholar who’d recently returned from Cyprus, who spent his days fussing over books and maps and little pieces of pottery. They did not really know the man. Just as they did not really know his son.

At last the service ended, and the gathering moved toward the boy, like an amoeba preparing to engulf him in sympathy, to tell him how sorry they were that he’d lost his father. And so soon after moving to the United States.

“At least you have family here to help you,” said the minister.

Family? Yes, I suppose these people are my family, the boy thought, as little Teddy shyly approached, urged forward by his mother.

“You’re going to be my brother now,” said Teddy.

“Am I?”

“Mom has your room all ready for you. It’s right next to mine.”

“But I’m staying here. In my father’s house.”

Bewildered, Teddy looked at his mother. “Isn’t he coming home with us?”

Amy Saul quickly said, “You really can’t live all by yourself, dear. You’re only fifteen. Maybe you’ll like it so much in Purity, you’ll want to stay with us.”

“My school’s in Connecticut.”

“Yes, but the school year’s over now. In September, if you want to return to your boarding school, of course you can. But for the summer, you’ll come home with us.”

“I won’t be alone here. My mother will come for me.”

There was a long silence. Amy and Peter looked at each other, and the boy could guess what they were thinking. His mother abandoned him ages ago.

“She is coming for me,” he insisted.

Uncle Peter said, gently, “We’ll talk about it later, son.”

 

In the night, the boy laid awake in his bed, in his father’s town house, listening to the voices of his aunt and uncle murmuring downstairs in the study. The same study where Montague Saul had labored these past months to translate his fragile little scraps of papyrus. The same study where, five days ago, he’d had a stroke and collapsed at his desk. Those people should not be in there, among his father’s precious things. They were invaders in his house.

“He’s still just a boy, Peter. He needs a family.”

“We can’t exactly drag him back to Purity if he doesn’t want to come with us.”

“When you’re only fifteen, you have no choice in the matter. Adults have to make the decisions.”

The boy rose from bed and slipped out of his room. He crept halfway down the stairs to listen in on the conversation.

“And really, how many adults has he known? Your brother didn’t exactly qualify. He was so wrapped up in his old mummy linens, he probably never noticed there was a child underfoot.”

“That’s not fair, Amy. My brother was a good man.”

“Good, but clueless. I can’t imagine what kind of woman would dream of having a child with him. And then she leaves the boy behind for Monty to raise? I don’t understand any woman who’d do that.”

“Monty didn’t do such a bad job raising him. The boy’s getting top marks in school.”

“That’s your measurement for what makes a good father? The fact that the boy gets top marks?”

“He’s also a poised young man. Look how well he held up at the service.”

“He’s numb, Peter. Did you see a single emotion on his face today?”

“Monty was like that, too.”

“Cold-blooded, you mean?”

“No, intellectual. Logical.”

“But underneath it all, you know that boy has got to be hurting. It makes me want to cry, how much he needs his mother right now. How he keeps insisting she’ll come back for him, when we know she won’t.”

“We don’t know that.”

“We’ve never even met the woman! Monty just writes us from Cairo one day, to tell us he has a brand-new son. For all we know, he plucked him up from the reeds, like baby Moses.”

The boy heard the floor creak above him, and he glanced toward the top of the stairs. He was startled to see his cousin Lily staring down at him over the banister. She was watching him, studying him, as if he were some exotic creature she’d never before encountered and she was trying to decide if he was dangerous.

“Oh!” said Aunt Amy. “You’re up!”

His aunt and uncle had just come out of the study, and they were standing at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at him. Looking a little dismayed, too, at the possibility that he had overheard their entire conversation.

“Are you feeling all right, dear?” said Amy.

“Yes, Auntie.”

“It’s so late. Maybe you should go back to bed now?”

But he didn’t move. He paused on the stairs for a moment, wondering what it would be like to live with these people. What he might learn from them. It would make the summer interesting, until his mother came for him.

He said, “Aunt Amy, I’ve made up my mind.”

“About what?”

“About my summer, and where I’d like to spend it.”

She instantly assumed the worst. “Please don’t be too hasty! We have a really nice house, right on the lake, and you’d have your own room. At least come for a visit before you decide.”

“But I’ve decided to come stay with you.”

His aunt paused, temporarily stunned. Then her face lit up in a smile, and she hurried up the steps to give him a hug. She smelled like Dove soap and Breck shampoo. So average, so ordinary. Then a grinning Uncle Peter gave him an affectionate clap on the shoulder, his way of welcoming a new son. Their happiness was like a web of spun sugar, drawing him into their universe, where all was love and light and laughter.

“The kids will be so glad you’re coming back with us!” said Amy.

He glanced toward the top of the stairs, but Lily was no longer there. She had slipped away, unnoticed. I will have to keep my eye on her, he thought. Because already, she’s keeping her eye on me.

“You’re part of our family now,” said Amy.

As they walked up the stairs together, she was already telling him her plans for the summer. All the places they’d take him, all the special meals they’d cook for him when they got back home. She sounded happy, even giddy, like a mother with her brand-new baby.

Amy Saul had no idea what they were about to bring home with them.

TWO

 

Twelve years later.

 

Perhaps this was a mistake.

Dr. Maura Isles paused outside the doors of Our Lady of Divine Light, uncertain whether she should enter. The parishioners had already filed in, and she stood alone in the night as snow whispered down onto her uncovered head. Through the closed church doors she heard the organist begin playing “Adeste Fidelis,” and she knew that by now everyone would be seated. If she was going to join them, this was the time to step inside.

She hesitated, because she did not truly belong among the believers inside that church. But the music called to her, as did the promise of warmth and the solace of familiar rituals. Out here, on the dark street, she stood alone. Alone on Christmas Eve.

She walked up the steps, into the building.

Even at this late hour, the pews were filled with families and sleepy children who’d been roused from their beds for midnight Mass. Maura’s tardy arrival attracted several glances, and as the strains of “Adeste Fidelis” faded, she quickly slipped into the first empty seat she could find, near the back. Almost immediately, she had to rise to her feet again, to stand with the rest of the congregation as the entrance song began. Father Daniel Brophy approached the altar and made the sign of the cross.

“The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you,” he said.

“And also with you,” Maura murmured along with the congregation. Even after all these years away from the church, the responses flowed naturally from her lips, ingrained there by all the Sundays of her childhood. “Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.”

Although Daniel was unaware of her presence, Maura was focused only on him. On the dark hair, the graceful gestures, the rich baritone voice. Tonight she could watch him without shame, without embarrassment. Tonight it was safe to stare.

“Bring us eternal joy in the kingdom of Heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.”

Settling back onto the bench, Maura heard muffled coughs and the whimpers of tired children. Candles flickered on the altar in a celebration of light and hope on this winter’s night.

Daniel began to read. “And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people…’”

Saint Luke, thought Maura, recognizing the passage. Luke, the physician.

“‘…and this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in…’” He paused, his gaze suddenly pausing on Maura. And she thought: Is it such a surprise to see me here tonight, Daniel?

He cleared his throat, looked down at his notes, and continued reading. “‘Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’”

Although he now knew she was seated among his flock, his gaze did not again meet hers. Not during the singing of “Cantate Domino” and “Dies Sanctificatus,” not during the offertory or the liturgy of the Eucharist. As others around her rose to their feet and filed forward to receive Communion, Maura remained in her seat. If you did not believe, it was hypocrisy to partake of the Host, to sip the wine.

Then what am I doing here?

Yet she remained through the concluding rites, through the blessing and the dismissal.

“Go in the peace of Christ.”

“Thanks be to God,” the parishioners responded.

The Mass now ended, people began to file out of the church, buttoning coats, pulling on gloves as they shuffled to the exit. Maura, too, stood up and was just stepping into the aisle when she glimpsed Daniel trying to catch her attention, imploring her, silently, not to leave. She sat back down, conscious of the curious gazes of people as they filed past her pew. She knew what they saw, or what they imagined they saw: a lone woman, hungry for a priest’s words of comfort on Christmas Eve.

Or did they see more?

She did not return their looks. As the church emptied, she stared straight ahead, stoically focused on the altar. Thinking: It’s late, and I should go home. I don’t know what good can possibly come of staying.

“Hello, Maura.”

She looked up and met Daniel’s gaze. The church was not yet empty. The organist was still packing up her sheet music, and several choir members were still pulling on their coats, yet at that moment Daniel’s attention was so centered on Maura, she might have been the only other person in the room.

“It’s been a long time since you visited,” he said.

“I suppose it has been.”

“Not since August, wasn’t it?”

So you’ve been keeping track, too.

He slid onto the bench beside her. “I’m surprised to see you here.”

“It’s Christmas Eve, after all.”

“But you don’t believe.”

“I still enjoy the rituals. The songs.”

“That’s the only reason you came? To sing a few hymns? Chant a few Amens and Thanks be to Gods?”

“I wanted to hear some music. Be around other people.”

“Don’t tell me you’re all alone tonight.”

She gave a shrug, a laugh. “You know me, Daniel. I’m not exactly a party animal.”

“I just thought… I mean, I assumed…”

“What?”

“That you’d be with someone. Especially tonight.”

I am. I’m with you.

They both fell silent as the organist came walking up the aisle, carrying her tote bag of music. “Good night, Father Brophy.”

“Good night, Mrs. Easton. Thank you for the lovely performance.”

“It was a pleasure.” The organist cast a final, probing glance at Maura, then continued toward the exit. They heard the door swing shut, and they were finally alone.

“So why has it been so long?” he asked.

“Well, you know the death business. It never lets up. One of our pathologists had to go into the hospital for back surgery a few weeks ago, and we’ve had to cover for him. It’s been busy, that’s all.”

“You can always pick up the phone and call.”

“Yes, I know.” He could, too, but he never did. Daniel Brophy would never step one foot over the line, and perhaps that was a good thing— she was struggling with enough temptation for them both.

“So how have you been?” she asked.

“You know about Father Roy’s stroke last month? I’ve stepped in as police chaplain.”

“Detective Rizzoli told me.”

“I was at that Dorchester crime scene a few weeks ago. The police officer who was shot. I saw you there.”

“I didn’t see you. You should have said hello.”

“Well, you were busy. Totally focused as usual.” He smiled. “You can look so fierce, Maura. Did you know that?”

She gave a laugh. “Maybe that’s my problem.”

“Problem?”

“I scare men away.”

“You haven’t scared me.”

How could I? She thought. Your heart isn’t available for breaking. Deliberately she glanced at her watch and rose to her feet. “It’s so late, and I’ve already taken up too much of your time.”

“It’s not as if I have any pressing business,” he said as he walked with her toward the exit.

“You have a whole flock of souls to look after. And it is Christmas Eve.”

“You’ll notice I have nowhere else to go tonight, either.”

She paused and turned to face him. They stood alone in the church, breathing in the scents of candle wax and incense, familiar smells that brought back a childhood of other Christmases, other Masses. The days when stepping into a church provoked none of the turmoil she was now feeling. “Good night, Daniel,” she said, turning toward the door.

“Will it be another four months until I see you again?” he called out after her.

“I don’t know.”

“I’ve missed our talks, Maura.”

Again she hesitated, her hand poised to push open the door. “I’ve missed them, too. Maybe that’s why we shouldn’t have them anymore.”

“We haven’t done anything to be ashamed of.”

“Not yet,” she said softly, her gaze not on him, but on the heavy carved door, which stood between her and escape.

“Maura, let’s not leave it like this between us. There’s no reason we can’t maintain some sort of—” He stopped.

Her cell phone was ringing.

She fished it out of her purse. At this hour, a ringing phone could not mean anything good. As she answered the call, she felt Daniel’s eyes on her, felt her own jittery reaction to his gaze.

“Dr. Isles,” she said, her voice unnaturally cool.

“Merry Christmas,” said Detective Jane Rizzoli. “I’m kind of surprised you’re not at home right now. I tried calling there first.”

“I came to midnight Mass.”

Geez, it’s already one A.M. Isn’t it over yet?”

“Yes, Jane. It’s over, and I’m about to leave,” said Maura, in a tone of voice that cut off any more queries. “What have you got for me?” she asked. Because she already knew that this call was not a simple hello, but a summons.

“Address is two-ten Prescott Street, East Boston. A private residence. Frost and I got here about a half hour ago.”

“Details?”

“We’re looking at one vic, a young woman.”

“Homicide?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“You sound pretty sure of yourself.”

“You’ll see when you get here.”

She disconnected and found Daniel still watching her. But the moment for taking risks, for saying things they both might come to regret, had passed. Death had intervened.

“You have to go to work?”

“I’m covering tonight.” She slipped the phone back into her purse. “Since I don’t have any family in town, I volunteered.”

“On this of all nights?”

“The fact that it’s Christmas doesn’t make much difference to me.”

She buttoned up her coat collar and walked out of the building, into the night. He followed her outside, and as she tramped through freshly fallen snow to her car, he stood watching her from the steps, his white vestments flapping in the wind. Glancing back, she saw him raise his hand in a good-bye wave.

He was still waving as she drove away.

THREE

 

The blue lights of three cruisers pulsed through a filigree of falling snow, announcing to all who approached: Something has happened here, something terrible. Maura felt her front bumper scrape against ice as she squeezed her Lexus up next to the snow bank, to make room for other vehicles to pass. At this hour, on Christmas Eve, the only vehicles likely to turn up on the narrow street would be, like hers, members of Death’s entourage. She took a moment to steel herself against the exhausting hours to come, her tired eyes mesmerized by all the flashing lights. Her limbs felt numb; her circulation turned to sludge. Wake up, she thought. It’s time to go to work.

She stepped out of the car and the sudden blast of cold air blew the sleep from her brain. She walked through freshly fallen powder that whispered away like white feathers before her boots. Although it was one-thirty, lights were burning in several of the modest homes along the street, and through a window decorated with holiday stencils of flying reindeer and candy canes, she saw the silhouette of a curious neighbor peering out from his warm house, at a night that was no longer silent or holy.

“Hey, Dr. Isles?” called out a patrolman, an older cop whom she vaguely recognized. Clearly he knew exactly who she was. They all knew who she was. “How’d you get so lucky tonight, huh?”

“I could ask the same of you, Officer.”

“Guess we both drew the short straws.” He gave a laugh. “Merry goddamn Christmas.”

“Is Detective Rizzoli inside?”

“Yeah, she and Frost have been videotaping.” He pointed toward a residence where all the lights were shining, a boxy little house crammed into a row of tired older homes. “By now, they’re probably ready for you.”

The sound of violent retching made her glance toward the street, where a blond woman stood doubled over, clutching at her long coat to avoid soiling the hem as she threw up in the snow bank.

The patrolman gave a snort. Muttered to Maura, “That one’s gonna make a fine homicide detective. She came striding onto the scene right outta Cagney and Lacey. Ordered us all around. Yeah, a real tough one. Then she goes in the house, gets one look, and next thing you know, she’s out here puking in the snow.” He laughed.

“I haven’t seen her before. She’s from Homicide?”

“I hear she just transferred over from Narcotics and Vice. The commissioner’s bright idea to bring in more girls.” He shook his head. “She’s not gonna last long. That’s my prediction.”

The woman detective wiped her mouth and moved unsteadily toward the porch steps, where she sank down.

“Hey. Detective!” called out the patrolman. “You might wanna move away from the crime scene? If you’re gonna puke again, at least do it where they’re not collecting evidence.”

A younger cop, standing nearby, snickered.

The blond detective jerked back to her feet, and in bright strobe flashes the cruiser lights illuminated her mortified face. “I think I’ll go sit in my car for a minute,” she murmured.

“Yeah. You do that, ma’am.”

Maura watched the detective retreat to the shelter of her vehicle. What horrors was she about to face inside that house?

“Doc,” called out Detective Barry Frost. He had just emerged from the house and was standing on the porch, hunched in a Windbreaker. His blond hair stood up in tufts, as though he had just rolled out of bed. Though his face had always been sallow, the yellow glow cast by the porch light made him look sicklier than usual.

“I gather it’s pretty bad in there,” she said.

“Not the kind of thing you want to see on Christmas. Thought I’d better come out here and get some air.”

She paused at the bottom of the steps, noting the jumble of footprints that had been left on the snow-dusted porch. “Okay to walk in this way?”

“Yeah. Those prints are all Boston PD.”

“What about footwear evidence?”

“We didn’t find much out here.”

“What, did he fly in the window?”

“It looks like he swept up after himself. You can still see some of the whisk marks.”

She frowned. “This perp pays attention to detail.”

“Wait till you see what’s inside.”

She walked up the steps and pulled on shoe covers and gloves. Close up, Frost looked even worse, his face gaunt and drained of all color. But he took a breath and offered gamely: “I can walk you in.”

“No, you take your time out here. Rizzoli can show me around.”

He nodded, but he wasn’t looking at her; he was staring off at the street with the fierce concentration of a man trying to hold on to his dinner. She left him to his battle and reached for the doorknob. Already she was braced for the worst. Only moments ago, she had arrived exhausted, trying to shake herself awake; now she could feel tension sizzling like static through her nerves.

She stepped into the house. Paused there, her pulse throbbing, and gazed at an utterly unalarming scene. The foyer had a scuffed oak floor. Through the doorway she could see into the living room, which was furnished with cheap mismatches: a sagging futon couch, a beanbag chair, a bookcase cobbled together from particle board planks and concrete blocks. Nothing so far that screamed crime scene. The horror was yet to come; she knew it was waiting in this house, because she had seen its reflection in Barry Frost’s eyes and in the ashen face of the woman detective.

She walked through the living room into the dining room, where she saw four chairs around a pine table. But it was not the furniture she focused on; it was the place settings that had been laid out on the table, as though for a family meal. Dinner for four.

One of the plates had a linen napkin draped over it, the fabric spattered with blood.

Gingerly she reached for the napkin. Lifting it up by the corner, she took one look at what lay underneath it, on the plate. Instantly she dropped the napkin and stumbled backward, gasping.

“I see you found the left hand,” a voice said.

Maura spun around. “You scared the shit out of me.”

“You want some seriously scary shit?” said Detective Jane Rizzoli. “Just follow me.” She turned and led Maura up a hallway. Like Frost, Jane looked as if she had just rolled out of bed. Her slacks were wrinkled, her dark hair a wiry tangle. Unlike Frost, she moved fearlessly, her paper-covered shoes whishing across the floor. Of all the detectives who regularly showed up in the autopsy room, Jane was the one most likely to push right up to the table, to lean in for a closer look, and she betrayed no hesitation now as she moved along the hall. It was Maura who lagged behind, her gaze drawn downward to the drips of blood on the floor.

“Stay along this side,” said Jane. “We’ve got some indistinct footprints here, going in both directions. Some kind of athletic shoe. They’re pretty much dry now, but I don’t want to smear anything.”

“Who called in the report?”

“It was a nine-one-one call. Came in just after midnight.”

“From where?”

“This residence.”

Maura frowned. “The victim? Did she try to get help?”

“No voice on the line. Someone just dialed the emergency operator and left the phone off the hook. First cruiser got here ten minutes after the call. Patrolman found the door unlocked, came into the bedroom, and freaked out.” Jane paused at a doorway and glanced over her shoulder at Maura. A warning look. “Here’s where it gets hairy.”

The severed hand was bad enough.

Jane moved aside to let Maura gaze into the bedroom. She did not see the victim; all she saw was the blood. The average human body contains perhaps five liters of it. The same volume of red paint, splashed around a small room, could splatter every surface. What her stunned eyes encountered, as she stared through the doorway, were just such extravagant splatters, like bright streamers flung by boisterous hands across white walls, across furniture and linen.

“Arterial,” said Rizzoli.

Maura could only nod, silent, as her gaze followed the arcs of spray, reading the horror story written in red on these walls. As a fourth-year medical student serving a clerkship rotation in the ER, she had once watched a gunshot victim exsanguinate on the trauma table. With the blood pressure crashing, the surgery resident in desperation had performed an emergency laparotomy, hoping to control the internal bleeding. He’d sliced open the belly, releasing a fountain of arterial blood that gushed out of the torn aorta, splashing doctors’ gowns and faces. In the final frantic seconds, as they’d suctioned and packed in sterile towels, all Maura could focus on was that blood. Its brilliant gloss, its meaty smell. She’d reached into the open abdomen to grab a retractor, and the warmth that had soaked through the sleeves of her gown had felt as soothing as a bath. That day, in the operating room, Maura had seen the alarming spurt that even a weak arterial pressure can generate.

Now, as she gazed at the walls of the bedroom, it was once again the blood that held her focus, that recorded the story of the victim’s final seconds. When the first cut was made, the victim’s heart was still beating, still generating a blood pressure. There, above the bed, was where the first machine-gun splatter hit, arcing high onto the wall. After a few vigorous pulses, the arcs began to decay. The body would try to compensate for the falling pressure, the arteries clamping down, the pulse quickening. But with every heartbeat, it would drain itself, accelerating its own demise. When at last the pressure faded and the heart stopped, there would be no more spurts, just a quiet trickle as the last blood seeped out. This was the death Maura saw recorded on these walls, and on this bed.

Then her gaze halted, riveted on something she had almost missed among all the splatters. Something that made the hairs on the back of her neck suddenly stand up. On one wall, drawn in blood, were three upside-down crosses. And beneath that, a series of cryptic symbols:

“What does that mean?” said Maura softly.

“We have no idea. We’ve been trying to figure it out.”

Maura could not tear her gaze from the writing. She swallowed. “What the hell are we dealing with here?”

“Wait till you see what comes next.” Jane circled around to the other side of the bed and pointed to the floor. “The victim’s right here. Most of her, anyway.”

Only as Maura rounded the bed did the woman come into view. She was lying unclothed and on her back. Exsanguination had drained the skin to the color of alabaster, and Maura suddenly remembered her visit to a room in the British Museum, where dozens of fragmented Roman statues were on display. The wear of centuries had chipped at the marble, cracking off heads, breaking off arms, until they were little more than anonymous torsos. That’s what she saw now, staring down at the body. A broken Venus. With no head.

“It looks like he killed her there, on the bed,” said Jane. “That would explain the splatters on that particular wall and all the blood on the mattress. Then he pulled her onto the floor, maybe because he needed a firm surface to finish cutting.” Jane took a breath and turned away, as though she had suddenly reached her limit, and could not look at the corpse any longer.

“You said the first cruiser took ten minutes to respond to that nine-one-one call,” said Maura.

“That’s right.”

“What was done here —these amputations, the removal of the head— that would have taken longer than ten minutes.”

“We realize that. I don’t think it was the victim who made that call.”

The creak of a footstep made them both turn, and they saw Barry Frost standing in the doorway, looking less than eager to enter the room.

“Crime Scene Unit’s here,” he said.

“Tell them to come on in.” Jane paused. “You don’t look so hot.”

“I think I’m doing pretty good. Considering.”

“How’s Kassovitz? She finished puking? We could use some help in here.”

Frost shook his head. “She’s still sitting in her car. I don’t think her stomach’s ready for this one. I’ll go get CSU.”

“Tell her to grow a spine, for God’s sake!” Jane called after him as he walked out of the room. “I hate it when a woman lets me down. Gives us all a bad name.”

Maura’s gaze returned to the torso on the floor. “Have you found—”

“The rest of her?” said Jane. “Yeah. You’ve already seen the left hand. The right arm’s sitting in the bathtub. And now I guess it’s time to show you the kitchen.”

“What’s in there?”

“More surprises.” Jane started across the room, toward the hallway.

Turning to follow her, Maura caught a sudden glimpse of herself in the bedroom mirror. Her reflection stared back at her with tired eyes, the black hair limp from melted snow. But it was not the image of her own face that made her freeze. “Jane,” she whispered. “Look at this.”

“What?”

“In the mirror. The symbols.” Maura turned and stared at the writing on the wall. “Do you see it? It’s a reverse image! Those aren’t symbols, those are letters, meant to be read in the mirror.”

Jane looked at the wall, then at the mirror. “That’s a word?”

“Yes. It spells out Peccavi.

Jane shook her head. “Even in reverse, it doesn’t mean a thing to me.”

“It’s Latin, Jane.”

“For what?”

“I have sinned.”

For a moment, the two women stared at each other. Then Jane gave a sudden laugh. “Well, that’s a doozy of a confession for you. You think a few Hail Marys will erase this particular sin?”

“Maybe this word doesn’t refer to the killer. Maybe it’s all about the victim.” She looked at Jane. “I have sinned.”

“Punishment,” said Jane. “Vengeance.”

“It’s a possible motive. She did something to anger the killer. She sinned against him. And this is his payback.”

Jane took a deep breath. “Let’s go into the kitchen.” She led Maura down the hallway. At the kitchen doorway she stopped and looked at Maura, who had halted on the threshold, too stunned by what she saw to say a word.

On the tiled floor, a large red circle had been drawn in what looked like red chalk. Spaced around its circumference were five black puddles of wax that had melted and congealed. Candles, thought Maura. In the center of that circle, positioned so that the eyes were staring at them, was a woman’s severed head.

A circle. Five black candles. It’s a ritual offering.

“So now I’m supposed to go home to my little girl,” said Jane. “In the morning, we’ll all sit around the tree and open presents and pretend there’s peace on earth. But I’ll be thinking of… that thing… staring back at me. Merry frigging Christmas.”

Maura swallowed. “Do we know who she is?”

“Well, I haven’t dragged in her friends and neighbors to make a positive ID. Hey, you recognize that head on the kitchen floor? But based on her driver’s license photo, I’d say this is Lori-Ann Tucker. Twenty-eight years old. Brown hair, brown eyes.” Abruptly, Jane laughed. “Put all the body parts together, and that’s about what you’d get.”

“What do you know about her?”

“We found a paycheck stub in her purse. She works over at the Science Museum. We don’t know in what capacity, but judging by the house, the furniture” —Jane glanced toward the dining room— “she’s not making a ton of money.”

They heard voices, and the creak of footsteps as CSU moved into the house. Jane at once straightened to greet them with some semblance of her usual aplomb. The unshrinking Detective Rizzoli that everyone knew.

“Hey guys,” she said as Frost and two male criminalists gingerly stepped into the kitchen. “We got ourselves a fun one.”

“Jesus,” one of the criminalists murmured. “Where’s the rest of the victim?”

“In several rooms. You might want to start with—” She stopped, her body suddenly snapping straight.

The phone on the kitchen counter was ringing.

Frost was standing closest to it. “What do you think?” he asked, glancing at Rizzoli.

“Answer it.”

Gingerly Frost picked up the receiver in his gloved hand. “Hello? Hello?” After a moment he set it down again. “They hung up.”

“What’s Caller ID say?”

Frost pressed the call history button. “It’s a Boston number.”

Jane took out her cell phone and looked at the number on the display. “I’ll try calling it back,” she said, and dialed. Stood listening as it rang. “No answer.”

“Let me see if that number’s called here before,” said Frost. He cycled back through the history, reviewing every call that had come in or gone out on the line. “Okay, here’s that call to nine-one-one. Twelve-ten A.M.”

“Our perp, announcing his handiwork.”

“There’s another call, just before that one. A Cambridge number.” He looked up. “It was at twelve-oh-five.”

“Did our perp make two calls from this phone?”

“If it was our perp.”

Jane stared at the phone. “Let’s think about this. He’s standing here in the kitchen. He’s just killed her and cut her up. Sliced off her hand, her arm. Sets her head right here, on the floor. Why call someone? Does he want to brag about it? And who’s he gonna call?”

“Find out,” said Maura.

Jane once again used her cell phone, this time to call the Cambridge number. “It’s ringing. Okay, I’m getting an answering machine.” She paused, and her gaze suddenly whipped to Maura. “You’re not going to believe who this number belongs to.”

“Who?”

Jane hung up and dialed the number again. Handed Maura the cell phone.

Maura heard it ring four times. Then the answering machine picked up and a recording played. The voice was instantly, chillingly familiar.

You’ve reached Dr. Joyce P. O’Donnell. I do want to hear from you, so please leave a message, and I’ll return your call.

Maura disconnected and met Jane’s equally stunned gaze. “Why would the killer call Joyce O’Donnell?”

“You’re kidding,” said Frost. “It’s her number?”

“Who is she?” one of the criminalists asked.

Jane looked at him. “Joyce O’Donnell,” she said, “is a vampire.”

FOUR

 

This was not where Jane wanted to be on Christmas morning.

She and Frost sat in her parked Subaru on Brattle Street, gazing at the large white colonial residence. The last time Jane had visited this house, it had been summer, and the front garden had been impeccably groomed. Seeing it now, in a different season, she was once again impressed by how tasteful every detail was, from the slate-gray trim to the handsome wreath on the front door. The wrought-iron gate was decorated with pine boughs and red ribbon, and through the front window she could see the tree, glittering with ornaments. That was a surprise. Even bloodsuckers celebrated Christmas.

“If you don’t want to do this,” said Frost, “I can talk to her.”

“You think I can’t handle this?”

“I think this has gotta be hard for you.”

“What’ll be hard is keeping my hands off her throat.”

“You see? That’s what I mean. Your attitude’s going to get in the way. You two have a history, and that colors everything. You can’t be neutral.”

“No one could be neutral, knowing who she is. What she does.”

“Rizzoli, she just does what she’s paid to do.”

“So do whores.” Except whores don’t hurt anyone, thought Jane, staring at Joyce O’Donnell’s house. A house paid for with the blood of murder victims. Whores don’t waltz into courtrooms in sleek St. John suits and take the witness stand in defense of butchers.

“All I’m saying is, try to keep your cool, okay?” said Frost. “We don’t have to like her. But we can’t afford to piss her off.”

“You think that’s my plan?”

“Look at you. Your claws are already out.”

“Purely in self-defense.” Jane shoved open the car door. “Because I know this bitch is going to try to sink hers in me.” She stepped out, sinking calf-deep into snow, but she scarcely felt the cold seeping through her socks; her deepest chill was not physical. Her focus was on the house, on the encounter to come, with a woman who knew Jane’s secret fears only too well. Who also knew how to exploit those fears.

Frost swung open the gate, and they walked up the shoveled path. The flagstones were icy, and Jane was trying so hard not to slip that by the time she reached the porch steps, she already felt off balance and unsure of her footing. Not the best way to face Joyce O’Donnell. Nor did it help that when the front door opened, O’Donnell was looking her usual elegant self, blond hair cut in a sleek bob, her pink button-down shirt and khaki slacks perfectly tailored to her athletic frame. Jane, in her tired black pantsuit, with her trouser cuffs damp from melted snow, felt like the supplicant at the manor house door. Exactly how she wants me to feel.

O’Donnell gave a cool nod. “Detectives.” She did not immediately step aside, a pause intended to demonstrate that here, on her own territory, she was in command.

“May we come in?” Jane finally asked. Knowing that, of course, they would be allowed in. That the game had already begun.

O’Donnell waved them into the house. “This isn’t how I care to spend Christmas day,” she said.

“It’s not exactly how we want to spend it either,” Jane countered. “And I’m sure it’s not what the victim wanted.”

“As I told you, the recording’s already been erased,” said O’Donnell, leading the way into her living room. “You can listen to it, but there’s nothing to hear.”

Not much had changed since the last time Jane had visited this house. She saw the same abstract paintings on the walls, the same richly hued Oriental carpets. The only new feature was the Christmas tree. The trees of Jane’s childhood had been decorated with haphazard taste, the branches hung with the mismatched assortment of ornaments hardy enough to have survived earlier Rizzoli Christmases. And there’d been tinsel— lots and lots of it. Vegas trees, Jane used to call them.

But on this tree, there was not a single strand of tinsel. No Vegas in this house. Instead, the branches were hung with crystal prisms and silver teardrops, reflecting wintry sunshine on the walls, like dancing chips of light. Even her damn Christmas tree makes me feel inadequate.

O’Donnell crossed to her answering machine. “This is all I have now,” she said, and pressed Play. The digital voice announced: “You have no new messages.” She looked at the detectives. “I’m afraid the recording you asked about is gone. As soon as I got home last night, I played all my messages. Erased them as I went. By the time I got to your message, about preserving the recording, it was too late.”

“How many messages were there?” asked Jane.

“Four. Yours was the last.”

“The call we’re interested in would have come in around twelve-ten.”

“Yes, and the number’s still there, in the electronic log.” O’Donnell pressed a button, cycling back to the 12:10 call. “But whoever called at that time didn’t say anything.” She looked at Jane. “There was no message at all.”

“What did you hear?”

“I told you. There was nothing.”

“Extraneous noises? TV, traffic?”

“Not even heavy breathing. Just a few seconds of silence, and then the hang-up click. That’s why I immediately erased it. There was nothing to hear.”

“Is the caller’s number familiar to you?” asked Frost.

“Should it be?”

“That’s what we’re asking you,” Jane said, the bite in her voice unmistakable.

O’Donnell’s gaze met hers and Jane saw, in those eyes, a flash of disdain. As though I’m not even worth her attention. “No, I didn’t recognize the phone number,” said O’Donnell.

“Do you know the name Lori-Ann Tucker?”

“No. Who’s that?”

“She was murdered last night, in her own home. That call was made from her telephone.”

O’Donnell paused and said, reasonably, “It could have been a wrong number.”

“I don’t think so, Dr. O’Donnell. I think the call was meant to reach you.

“Why call me and then say nothing? It’s more likely that she heard the recording on my answering machine, realized she’d made a mistake, and simply hung up.”

“I don’t believe it was the victim who called you.”

Again, O’Donnell paused, this time longer. “I see,” she said. She moved to an armchair and sat down, but not because she was shaken. She looked perfectly unruffled sitting in that chair, an empress holding court. “You think it was the killer who called me.”

“You don’t sound at all worried by that possibility.”

“I don’t know enough yet to be worried. I don’t know anything about this case. So why don’t you tell me more?” She gestured to the couch, an invitation for her visitors to sit down. It was the first hint of hospitality that she’d offered.

Because now we have something interesting to offer her, thought Jane. She’s caught a whiff of blood. It’s exactly what this woman craves.

The couch was a pristine white, and Frost paused before settling onto it, as though afraid to smudge the fabric. But Jane didn’t give it a second glance. She sat down in her snow-dampened slacks, her focus on O’Donnell.

“The victim was a twenty-eight-year-old woman,” said Jane. “She was killed last night, around midnight.”

“Suspects?”

“We’ve made no arrests.”

“So you have no idea who the killer is.”

“I’m only saying that we’ve made no arrests. What we’re doing is following leads.”

“And I’m one of them.”

“Someone called you from the victim’s home. It could well have been the perp.”

“And why would he —assuming it’s a he— want to talk to me?”

Jane leaned forward. “We both know why, Doctor. It’s what you do for a living. You probably have a nice little fan club out there, all the killers who consider you their friend. You’re famous, you know, among the murderer set. You’re the lady shrink who talks to monsters.”

“I try to understand them, that’s all. Study them.”

“You defend them.”

“I’m a neuropsychiatrist. I’m far more qualified to testify in court than most expert witnesses. Not every killer belongs in prison. Some of them are seriously damaged people.”

“Yeah, I know your theory. Bonk a kid on the head, screw up his frontal lobes, and he’s absolved of all responsibility for anything he does from then on. He can kill a woman, chop her up into pieces, and you’ll still defend him in court.”

“Is that what happened to this victim?” O’Donnell’s face had taken on a disturbing alertness, her eyes bright and feral. “Was she dismembered?”

“Why do you ask?”

“I’d just like to know.”

“Professional curiosity?”

O’Donnell sat back in her chair. “Detective Rizzoli, I’ve interviewed a lot of killers. Over the years, I’ve compiled extensive statistics on motives, methods, patterns. So yes, it is professional curiosity.” She paused. “Dismemberment is not that unusual. Especially if it’s to aid in disposal of the victim.”

“That wasn’t the reason for it in this case.”

“You know that?”

“It’s pretty clear.”

“Did he purposefully display the body parts? Was it staged?”

“Why? You happen to have any sicko pals who’re into that kind of thing? Any names you want to share with us? They write to you, don’t they? Your name’s out there. The doctor who loves to hear all the details.”

“If they write me, it’s usually anonymous. They don’t tell me their names.”

“But you do get letters,” said Frost.

“I hear from people.”

“Killers.”

“Or fabricators. Whether they tell the truth or not is impossible for me to determine.”

“You think some of them are just sharing their fantasies?”

“And they’ll probably never act on them. They just need a way to express unacceptable urges. We all have them. The mildest-mannered man occasionally daydreams about things he’d like to do to women. Things so twisted he doesn’t dare tell anyone. I bet that even you entertain a few inappropriate thoughts, Detective Frost.” She kept her gaze on him, a look that was meant to make him uncomfortable. Frost, to his credit, did not even flush.

“Has anyone written you about fantasies of dismemberment?” he asked.

“Not lately.”

“But someone has?”

“As I said, dismemberment is not unusual.”

“As a fantasy or a real act?”

“Both.”

Jane said, “Who’s been writing you about their fantasies, Dr. O’Donnell?”

The woman met Jane’s gaze. “That correspondence is confidential. That’s why they feel safe telling me their secrets, their desires, their daydreams.”

“Do these people ever call you?”

“Rarely.”

“And you talk to them?”

“I don’t avoid them.”

“Do you keep a list of these callers?”

“Hardly a list. I can’t remember the last time it happened.”

“It happened last night.”

“Well, I wasn’t here to answer it.”

“You weren’t here at two A.M., either,” said Frost. “We called then, and got your machine.”

“Where were you last night?” Jane asked.

O’Donnell shrugged. “Out.”

“At two A.M., on Christmas Eve?”

“I was with friends.”

“What time did you get home?”

“Probably around two-thirty.”

“They must be very good friends. You mind telling us their names?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Why?”

“Why don’t I want my privacy violated? Do I actually have to answer that question?”

“This is a homicide investigation. A woman was slaughtered last night. It was one of the most brutal crime scenes I’ve ever walked into.”

“And you want my alibi.”

“I’m just curious why you won’t tell us.”

“Am I a suspect? Or are you just trying to show me who’s in charge?”

“You’re not a suspect. At the moment.”

“Then I’m under no obligation to even talk to you.” Abruptly, O’Donnell rose to her feet and started toward the door. “I’ll walk you out, now.”

Frost, too, started to get up, then saw that Jane wasn’t budging, and he sank back down again.

Jane said, “If you gave one damn about the victim, if you saw what he did to Lori-Ann Tucker—”

O’Donnell turned to face her. “Why don’t you tell me? What, exactly, was done to her?”

“You want the details, do you?”

“It’s my field of study. I need to know the details.” She moved toward Jane. “It helps me understand.”

Or it turns you on. That’s why you suddenly look interested. Even eager.

“You said she was dismembered,” said O’Donnell. “Was the head removed?”

“Rizzoli,” said Frost, a cautionary note in his voice.

But Jane did not need to reveal a thing; O’Donnell had already drawn her own conclusions. “The head is such a powerful symbol. So personal. So individual.” O’Donnell stepped closer, moving in like a predator. “Did he take it with him, as a trophy? A reminder of his kill?”

“Tell us where you were last night.”

“Or did he leave the head at the scene? Someplace where it would elicit maximum shock? Someplace it would be impossible to miss? A kitchen counter, perhaps? Or a prominent place on the floor?”

“Who were you with?”

“It’s a potent message, displaying a head, a face. It’s the killer’s way of telling you he’s in complete control. He’s showing you how powerless you are, Detective. And how powerful he is.”

“Who were you with?” The instant the words were out, Jane knew they were a mistake. She’d allowed O’Donnell to goad her, and she had lost her temper. The ultimate sign of weakness.

“My friendships are private,” O’Donnell said, and added, with a quiet smile, “Except for the one you already know about. Our mutual acquaintance. He keeps asking about you, you know. Always wants to know what you’re up to.” She did not have to say his name. They both knew she was talking about Warren Hoyt.

Don’t react, thought Jane. Don’t let her see how deeply she’s dug her claws into me. But she could feel her own face snap taut and saw Frost glance at her with concern. The scars that Hoyt had left on Jane’s hands were only the most obvious wounds; there were far deeper ones. Even now, over two years later, she flinched at the mention of his name.

“He’s a fan of yours, Detective,” said O’Donnell. “Even though he’ll never walk again because of you, he bears you absolutely no grudge.”

“I couldn’t care less what he thinks.”

“I went to see him last week. He showed me his collection of news clippings. His Janie file, as he calls it. When you were trapped in that hospital siege, over the summer, he kept the TV on all night. Watched every second of it.” O’Donnell paused. “He told me you had a baby girl.”

Jane’s back went rigid. Don’t let her do this to you. Don’t let her dig those claws in deeper.

“I believe your daughter’s name is Regina, isn’t it?”

Jane rose to her feet, and though she was shorter than O’Donnell, something in Jane’s eyes made the other woman abruptly step back. “We’ll be calling on you again,” said Jane.

“Call me all you want,” said O’Donnell. “I have nothing else to tell you.”

 

“She’s lying,” said Jane.

She yanked open the car door and slid in behind the wheel. There she sat, staring at a scene that was Christmas card–pretty, the sun glistening on icicles, the snow-frosted houses decked in tasteful wreaths and holly. No garish Santas and reindeer on this street, no rooftop extravaganzas like the ones in Revere, where she had grown up. She thought of Johnny Silva’s house, just down the street from her parents’, and of the long lines of rubberneckers from miles around who’d detour onto their street, just to gape at the eye-popping light show that the Silvas put up in their front yard every December. There you’d find Santa and the three wise men and the manger with Mary and Jesus and a menagerie of so many animals it would’ve sunk Noah’s ark. All lit up like a carnival. You could have powered a small African nation with the electricity the Silvas burned through every Christmas.

But here on Brattle Street, there were no such gaudy spectacles, only understated elegance. No Johnny Silvas lived here. She’d rather have that moron Johnny for a neighbor than the woman who lived in this house.

“She knows more about this case than she’s telling us.”

“How do you draw that conclusion?” asked Frost.

“Instinct.”

“I thought you didn’t believe in instinct. That’s what you always tell me. That it’s nothing better than a lucky guess.”

“But I know this woman. I know what makes her tick.” She looked at Frost, whose winter pallor seemed even more pronounced in the weak sunshine. “She got more than a hang-up call from the killer last night.”

“You’re guessing.”

“Why did she erase it?”

“Why wouldn’t she? If the caller left no message?”

“That’s her story.”

“Oh man. She got to you.” He shook his head. “I knew she would.”

“She didn’t get close.”

“Yeah? When she started talking about Regina, that didn’t light your fuse? She’s a shrink. She knows just how to manipulate you. You shouldn’t even be dealing with her.”

“Who should? You? That weenie Kassovitz?”

“Someone who doesn’t have a history with her. Someone she can’t touch.” He gave Jane a probing look that made her want to turn away. They had been partners for two years now, and even though they were not the closest of friends, they understood each other in a way that mere friends or even lovers seldom did, because they had shared the same horrors, fought the same battles. Frost, better than anyone, even better than her husband, Gabriel, knew her history with Joyce O’Donnell.

And with the killer known as the Surgeon.

“She still scares you, doesn’t she?” he asked quietly.

“All she does is piss me off.”

“Because she knows what does scare you. And she never stops reminding you of him, never forgets to bring up his name.”

“Like I’m the least bit afraid of a guy who can’t even wiggle his toes? Who can’t pee unless some nurse shoves a tube up his dick? Oh yeah, I’m real scared of Warren Hoyt.”

“You still having the nightmares?”

His question stopped her cold. She couldn’t lie to him; he’d see it. So she said nothing at all, but just looked straight ahead, at that perfect street with its perfect houses.

“I’d be having them,” he said, “if it’d happened to me.”

But it didn’t, she thought. I’m the one who felt Hoyt’s blade at my throat, who bears the scars from his scalpel. I’m the one he still thinks about, fantasizes about. Though he could never again hurt her, just knowing that she was the object of his desires made her skin crawl.

“Why are we talking about him?” she said. “This is about O’Donnell.”

“You can’t separate the two.”

“I’m not the one who keeps bringing up his name. Let’s stick to the subject, okay? Joyce P. O’Donnell, and why the killer chose to call her.”

“We can’t be sure it was the perp who called her.”

“Talking to O’Donnell is every pervert’s idea of great phone sex. They can tell her their sickest fantasies, and she’d lap it up and beg for more, all the while taking notes. That’s why he’d call her. He’d want to crow about his accomplishment. He’d want a willing ear, and she’s the obvious person to call. Dr. Murder.” With an angry twist of the key, she started the car. Cold air blasted from the heating vents. “That’s why he called her. To brag. To bask in her attention.”

“Why would she lie about it?”

“Why wouldn’t she tell us where she was last night? It makes you wonder who she was with. Whether that call wasn’t an invitation.”

Frost frowned at her. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

“Sometime before midnight, our perp does his slice-and-dice on Lori-Ann Tucker. Then he makes a phone call to O’Donnell. She claims she wasn’t home— that her answering machine picked up. But what if she was at home at the time? What if they actually spoke to each other?”

“We called her house at two A.M. She wasn’t answering then.”

“Because she was no longer at home. She said she was out with friends.” Jane looked at him. “What if it was just one friend? One bright, shiny new friend.”

“Come on. You really think she’d protect this perp?”

“I wouldn’t put anything past her.” Jane let out the brake and pulled away from the curb. Anything.”

FIVE

 

“This is no way to spend Christmas day,” said Angela Rizzoli, glancing up from the stove at her daughter. Four pots simmered on the burners, lids clattering, as steam curled in a wispy wreath around Angela’s sweat-dampened hair. She lifted a pot lid and slid a plateful of homemade gnocchi into the boiling water. They plopped in, their splash announcing that dinner was now imminent. Jane gazed around the kitchen at endless platters of food. Angela Rizzoli’s worst fear was that someone, someday, would leave her house hungry.

Today was not that day.

On the countertop was a roasted leg of lamb, fragrant with oregano and garlic, and a pan of sizzling potatoes browned with rosemary. Jane saw ciabatta bread and a salad of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella. A green bean salad was the lone contribution that Jane and Gabriel had brought to the feast. On the stove, the simmering pots released yet other aromas, and in the boiling water, tender gnocchi bobbed and swirled.

“What can I do in here, Mom?” asked Jane.

“Nothing. You worked today. You sit there.”

“You want me to grate the cheese?”

“No, no. You must be tired. Gabriel says you were up all night.” Angela gave the pot a quick stir with a wooden spoon. “I don’t see why you had to work today, too. It’s unreasonable.”

“It’s what I gotta do.”

“But it’s Christmas.”

“Tell it to the bad guys.” Jane pulled the grater from the drawer and began scraping a block of Parmesan cheese across the blades. She could not just sit still in this kitchen. “How come Mike and Frankie aren’t helping in here, anyway? You must’ve been cooking all morning.”

“Oh, you know your brothers.”

“Yeah.” She snorted. Unfortunately.

In the other room, football was blaring from the TV, as usual. Men’s shouts joined the roar of stadium crowds, all cheering some guy with a tight butt and a pigskin ball.

Angela bustled over to inspect the green bean salad. “Oh, this looks good! What’s in the dressing?”

“I don’t know. Gabriel made it.”

“You’re so lucky, Janie. You got a man who cooks.”

“You starve Dad a few days, he’ll know how to cook, too.”

“No, he wouldn’t. He’d just waste away at the dining table, waiting for dinner to float in all by itself.” Angela lifted up the pot of boiling water and turned it upside down, dumping the cooked gnocchi into a colander. As the steam cleared, Jane saw Angela’s sweating face, framed by tendrils of hair. Outside, the wind sliced across ice-glazed streets, but here in her mother’s kitchen, heat flushed their faces and steamed the windows.

“Here’s Mommy,” said Gabriel, walking into the kitchen with a wide-awake Regina in his arms. “Look who’s up from her nap already.”

“She didn’t sleep long,” said Jane.

“With that football game going on?” He laughed. “Our daughter is definitely a Patriots fan. You should have heard her howl when the Dolphins scored.”

“Let me hold her.” Jane opened her arms and hugged a squirming Regina against her chest. Only four months old, she thought, and already my baby is trying to wriggle away from me. Ferocious little Regina had come into the world with fists swinging, her face purple from screaming. Are you so impatient to grow up? Jane wondered as she rocked her daughter. Won’t you stay a baby for a while and let me hold you, enjoy you, before the passing years send you walking out our door?

Regina grabbed Jane’s hair and gave it a painful yank. Wincing, Jane pried away tenacious fingers and stared down at her daughter’s hand. And she thought, suddenly, of another hand, cold and lifeless. Someone else’s daughter, now lying in pieces in the morgue. Here it is, Christmas. Of all days, I should not have to think of dead women. But as she kissed Regina’s silky hair, as she inhaled the scent of soap and baby shampoo, she could not shut out the memory of another kitchen and of what had stared up at her from the tiled floor.

“Hey, Ma, it’s halftime. When’re we gonna eat?”

Jane looked up as her older brother, Frankie, lumbered into the room. The last time Jane had seen him was a year ago, when he’d flown home from California for Christmas. Since then, his shoulders had bulked up even more. Every year, Frankie seemed to grow bigger, and his arms were now so thick with muscle that they could not hang straight, but swung in simian arcs. All those hours in the weight room, she thought, and where has it gotten him? Bigger, but definitely no smarter. She shot an appreciative glance at Gabriel, who was opening a bottle of Chianti. Taller and leaner than Frankie, he was built like a racehorse, not a draft horse. When you have a brain, she thought, who needs monster muscles?

“Dinner’s in ten minutes,” said Angela.

“That means it’ll run into the third quarter,” said Frankie.

“Why don’t you guys just turn off the TV?” said Jane. “It’s Christmas dinner.”

“Yeah, and we’d all be eating a lot earlier if you’d shown up on time.”

“Frankie,” snapped Angela. “Your sister worked all night. And look, she’s in here helping. So don’t you go picking on her!”

There was sudden silence in the kitchen as both brother and sister stared at Angela in surprise. Did Mom actually take my side, for once?

“Well. This is some great Christmas,” said Frankie, and he walked out of the kitchen.

Angela slid the colander of drained gnocchi into a serving bowl and ladled on steaming veal sauce. “No appreciation for what women do,” she muttered.

Jane laughed. “You just noticed?”

“Like we don’t deserve some respect?” Angela reached for a chef’s knife and attacked a bunch of parsley, mincing it with machine-gun raps. “I blame myself. Should have taught him better. But really, it’s your father’s fault. He sets the example. No appreciation for me whatsoever.”

Jane glanced at Gabriel, who chose just that moment to conveniently escape the room. “Uh… Mom? Did Dad do something to tick you off?”

Angela looked over her shoulder at Jane, her knife blade poised over the mangled parsley. “You don’t want to know.”

“Yes I do.”

“I’m not going to go there, Janie. Oh, no. I believe every father deserves his child’s respect, no matter what he does.”

“So he did do something.”

“I told you, I’m not going to go there.” Angela scooped up the minced parsley and flung it onto the bowl of gnocchi. Then she stomped to the doorway and yelled, over the sound of the TV: “Dinner! Sit.

Despite Angela’s command, it was a few minutes before Frank Rizzoli and his two sons could tear themselves away from the TV. The halftime show had begun, and leggy girls in sequins strutted across the stage. The three Rizzoli men sat with eyes transfixed on the screen. Only Gabriel rose to help Jane and Angela shuttle platters of food into the dining room. Though he didn’t say a word, Jane could read the look he gave her.

Since when did Christmas dinner turn into a war zone?

Angela slammed the bowl of roast potatoes on the table, walked into the living room, and snatched up the remote. With one click, she shut off the TV.

Frankie groaned. “Aw, Mom. They got Jessica Simpson coming on in ten…” He saw Angela’s face and instantly shut up.

Mike was the first to jump up from the couch. Without a word, he scooted obediently into the dining room, followed at a more sullen pace by his brother Frankie and Frank senior.

The table was magnificently set. Candles flickered in crystal holders. Angela had laid out her blue and gold china and linen napkins and the new wineglasses she’d just bought over at the Dansk outlet. When Angela sat down and surveyed the feast, it was not with pride but with a look of sour dissatisfaction.

“This looks wonderful, Mrs. Rizzoli,” said Gabriel.

“Why, thank you. I know you appreciate how much work goes into a meal like this. Since you know how to cook.”

“Well, I didn’t really have a choice, living on my own for so many years.” He reached under the table and squeezed Jane’s hand. “I’m lucky I found a girl who can cook.” When she gets around to it was what he should have added.

“I taught Janie everything I know.”

“Ma, can you pass the lamb?” called Frankie.

Excuse me?”

“The lamb.”

“What happened to please? I’m not passing it until you say the word.”

Jane’s father sighed. “Geez Louise, Angie. It’s Christmas. Can we just feed the boy?”

“I’ve been feeding this boy for thirty-six years. He’s not going to starve just because I ask for a little courtesy.”

“Um… Mom?” ventured Mike. “Could you, uh, please pass the potatoes?” Meekly, he added again, “Please?”

“Yes, Mikey.” Angela handed him the bowl.

For a moment no one spoke. The only sounds were jaws chewing and silverware sawing against china. Jane glanced at her father, seated at one end of the table, and then at her mother, seated at the other end. There was no eye contact between them. They might have been dining in different rooms, so distant were they from each other. Jane did not often take the time to study her parents, but tonight she felt compelled to, and what she saw depressed her. When did they get so old? When did Mom’s eyes start to droop, and Dad’s hair recede to such thin wisps?

When did they start hating each other?

“So Janie, tell us what kept you so busy last night,” said her dad, his gaze on his daughter, studiously avoiding even a glance at Angela.

“Um, no one really wants to hear about it, Dad.”

“I do,” said Frankie.

“It’s Christmas. I think maybe—”

“Who got whacked?”

She glanced across the table at her older brother. “A young woman. It wasn’t pretty.”

“Doesn’t bother me any to talk about it,” Frankie said, shoving a chunk of pink lamb into his mouth. Frankie the Master Sergeant, challenging her to gross him out.

“This one would bother you. It sure as hell bothers me.”

“Was she good-looking?”

“What’s that got to do with it?”

“Just wondering.”

“It’s an idiotic question.”

“Why? If she’s good-looking, it helps you understand the guy’s motive.”

“To kill her? Jesus, Frankie.”

“Jane,” said her dad. “It’s Christmas.”

“Well, Janie has a point,” snapped Angela.

Frank looked at his wife in astonishment. “Your daughter cusses at the dinner table, and you’re getting on my back?”

“You think that only pretty women are worth killing?”

“Ma, I didn’t say that,” said Frankie.

“He didn’t say that,” said his father.

“But it’s what you think. Both of you. Only good-looking women are worth the attention. Love ’em or kill ’em, it’s only interesting if they’re pretty.

“Oh, please.”

“Please what, Frank? You know it’s true. Look at you.

Jane and her brothers all frowned at their father.

“Look at him why, Ma?” asked Mike.

“Angela,” said Frank, “it’s Christmas.”

“I know it’s Christmas!” Angela jumped to her feet and gave a sob. “I know.” She walked out of the room, into the kitchen.

Jane looked at her father. “What’s going on?”

Frank shrugged. “Women that age. Change of life.”

“This isn’t just change of life. I’m going to go see what’s bothering her.” Jane rose from her chair and followed her mother into the kitchen.

“Mom?”

Angela did not seem to hear her. She was standing with her back turned, whipping cream in a stainless steel bowl. The beater clattered, sending flecks of white spraying across the countertop.

“Mom, are you okay?”

Gotta get the dessert started. I completely forgot about whipping the cream.”

“What’s the matter?”

“I should have had this ready before we sat down. You know your brother Frankie gets impatient if he has to wait too long for the next course. If we make him sit there for more than five minutes, next thing you know, he’ll turn on that TV again.” Angela reached for the sugar and sprinkled a spoonful of it into the bowl as the beater churned up the cream. “At least Mikey tries his best to be nice. Even when all he sees are bad examples. Every which way he looks, just bad examples.”

“Look, I know something’s wrong.”

Angela shut off the beater and, with shoulders slumped, she stared at the cream, now whipped up so thick it was almost butter. “It’s not your problem, Janie.”

“If it’s yours, it’s mine.”

Her mother turned and looked at her. “Marriage is harder than you think.”

“What did Dad do?”

Angela untied her apron and tossed it on the counter. “Can you serve the shortcake for me? I’ve got a headache. I’m going upstairs to lie down.”

“Mom, let’s talk about this.”

“I’m not going to say anything else. I’m not that kind of mother. I’d never force my kids to choose sides.” Angela walked out of the kitchen and thumped upstairs to her bedroom.

Bewildered, Jane went back into the dining room. Frankie was too busy sawing into his second helping of lamb even to look up. But Mike had an anxious look on his face. Frankie might be thick as a plank, but Mike clearly understood that something was seriously wrong tonight. She looked at her father, who was emptying the bottle of Chianti into his glass.

“Dad? You want to tell me what this is all about?”

Her father took a gulp of wine. “No.”

“She’s really upset.”

“And that’s between her and me, okay?” He stood up and gave Frankie a clap on the shoulder. “C’mon. I think we can still catch the third quarter.”

 

“This was the most screwed-up Christmas we’ve ever had,” said Jane as they drove home. Regina had fallen asleep in her car seat, and for the first time all evening Jane and Gabriel could have a conversation without distractions. “It’s not usually this way. I mean, we have our squabbles and all, but my mom usually wrangles us all together in the end.” She glanced at her husband, whose face was unreadable in the shadowy car. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“You had no idea you were marrying into a nuthouse. Now you’re probably wondering what you got yourself into.”

“Yep. I’d say it’s time to trade in the wife.”

“Well, you’re thinking that a little, aren’t you?”

“Jane, don’t be ridiculous.”

“Hell, there are times when I’d like to run away from my family.”

“But I definitely don’t want to run away from you.” He turned his gaze back to the road, where windblown snow swirled past their headlights. For a moment they drove without speaking. Then he said, “You know, I never heard my parents argue. Not once, in all the years I was growing up.”

“Go ahead, rub it in. I know my family’s a bunch of loudmouths.”

“You come from a family that makes its feelings known, that’s all. They slam doors and they yell and they laugh like hyenas.”

“Oh, this is getting better and better.”

“I wish I’d grown up in a family like that.”

“Right.” She laughed.

“My parents didn’t yell, Jane, and they didn’t slam doors. They didn’t much laugh, either. No, Colonel Dean’s family was far too disciplined to ever stoop to anything as common as emotions. I don’t remember him ever saying, ‘I love you,’ to either me or to my mother. I had to learn to say it. And I’m still learning.” He looked at her. “You taught me how.”

She touched his thigh. Her cool impenetrable guy. There were still a few things left to teach him.

“So never apologize for them,” he said. “They’re the ones who made you.”

“Sometimes I wonder about that. I look at Frankie and I think, please God, let me be the baby they found on the doorstep.”

He laughed. “It was pretty tense tonight. What was the story there, anyway?”

“I don’t know.” She sank back against the seat. “But sooner or later, we’ll hear all about it.”

SIX

 

Jane slipped paper booties over her shoes, donned a surgical gown, and looped the ties behind her waist. Gazing through the glass partition into the autopsy lab, she thought: I really don’t want to go in there. But already Frost was in the room, gowned and masked, with just enough of his face visible for Jane to see his grimace. Maura’s assistant, Yoshima, pulled x-rays out of an envelope and mounted them on the viewing box. Maura’s back obstructed Jane’s view of the table, hiding what she had little wish to confront. Just an hour ago, she had been sitting at her kitchen table, Regina cooing on her lap as Gabriel had cooked breakfast. Now the scrambled eggs churned in her stomach and she wanted to yank off this gown and walk back out of the building, into the purifying snow.

Instead she pushed through the door, into the autopsy room.

Maura glanced over her shoulder, and her face betrayed no qualms about the procedure to follow. She was merely a professional like any other, about to do her job. Though they both dealt in death, Maura was on far more intimate terms with it, far more comfortable staring into its face.

“We were just about to start,” said Maura.

“I got hung up in traffic. The roads are a mess out there this morning.” Jane tied on her mask as she moved toward the foot of the table. She avoided looking at the remains but focused, instead, on the x-ray viewing box.

Yoshima flipped the switch and the light flickered on, glowing behind two rows of films. Skull x-rays. But these were unlike any skull films Jane had seen before. Where the cervical spine should be, she saw only a few vertebrae, and then… nothing. Just the ragged shadow of soft tissue where the neck had been severed. She pictured Yoshima positioning that head for the films. Had it rolled around like a beach ball as he’d set it on the film cassette, as he’d angled the collimator? She turned away from the light box.

And found herself staring at the table. At the remains, displayed in anatomical position. The torso was on its back, the severed parts laid out approximately where they should be. A jigsaw puzzle in flesh and bone, the pieces waiting for reassembly. Though she did not want to look at it, there it was: the head, which had tilted onto its left ear, as though the victim was turning to look sideways.

“I need to approximate this wound,” said Maura. “Can you help me hold it in position?” A pause. “Jane?”

Startled, Jane met Maura’s gaze. “What?”

Yoshima’s going to take photos, and I need to get a look through the magnifier.” Maura grasped the cranium in her gloved hands and rotated the head, trying to match the wound edges. “Here, just hold it in this position. Pull on some gloves and come around to this end.”

Jane glanced at Frost. Better you than me, his eyes said. She moved to the head of the table. There she paused to snap on gloves, then reached down to cradle the head. Found herself gazing into the victim’s eyes, the corneas dull as wax. A day and a half in a refrigerator had chilled the flesh, and as she cupped the face, she thought of the butcher counter in her local supermarket, with its icy chickens wrapped in plastic. We are all, in the end, merely meat.

Maura bent over the wound, studying it through the magnifier. “There seems to be a single sweep across the anterior. Very sharp blade. The only notching I see is quite a ways back, under the ears. Minimal bread-knife repetition.”

“A bread knife’s not exactly sharp,” said Frost, his voice sounding very far away. Jane looked up and saw that he had retreated from the table and was standing halfway to the sink, his hand covering his mask.

“By bread-knifing, I’m not referring to the blade,” said Maura. “It’s a cutting pattern. Repeated slices going deeper, in the same plane. What we see here is one very deep initial slice, cutting right through the thyroid cartilage, down to the spinal column. Then a quick disarticulation, between the second and third cervical vertebrae. It could have taken less than a minute to complete this decapitation.”

Yoshima moved in with the digital camera, taking photos of the approximated wound. Frontal view, lateral. Horror from every angle.

“Okay, Jane,” said Maura. “Let’s take a look at the incision plane.” Maura grasped the head and turned it upside down. “Hold it there for me.”

Jane caught a glimpse of severed flesh and the open windpipe, and she abruptly averted her gaze, blindly holding the head in place.

Again, Maura moved in with the magnifier to examine the cut surface. “I see striations on the thyroid cartilage. I think the blade was serrated. Get some shots of this.”

Once again, the shutter clicked as Yoshima leaned in for more photos. My hands will be in these shots, thought Jane, this moment preserved for the evidence files. Her head, my hands.

“You said… you said that was arterial spray on the wall,” said Frost.

Maura nodded. “In the bedroom.”

“She was alive.”

“Yes.”

“And this —decapitation— took only seconds?”

“With a sharp knife, a skillful hand, a killer could certainly do it in that time. Only the vertebral column might slow him down.”

“Then she knew, didn’t she? She must have felt it.”

“I highly doubt that.”

“If someone cuts off your head, you’d be conscious for at least a few seconds. That’s what I heard on The Art Bell Show. Some doctor was on the radio with him, talking about what it’s like to be guillotined. That you’re probably still conscious as your head drops into the bucket. You can actually feel yourself falling into it.”

“That may be true, but—”

“The doctor said that Mary, Queen of Scots was still trying to speak, even after they cut off her head. Her lips kept moving.”

“Jesus, Frost,” said Jane. “Like I need to be creeped out even more?”

“It’s possible, isn’t it? That this victim felt her head come off?”

“It’s highly unlikely,” said Maura. “And I’m not saying that just to ease your mind.” She turned the head sideways on the table. “Feel the cranium. Right here.”

Frost stared at her in horror. “No, that’s okay. I don’t need to.”

“Come on. Pull on a glove and run your fingers over the temporal bone. There’s a scalp laceration. I didn’t see it until we washed away the blood. Palpate the skull here and tell me what you feel.”

It was clearly the last thing Frost wanted to do, but he pulled on a glove and tentatively placed his fingers on the cranium. “There’s a, uh, dip in the bone.”

“A depressed skull fracture. You can see it on x-ray.” Maura crossed to the light box and pointed to the skull table. “On the lateral film, you see fractures fanning out from that impact point. They radiate like a spiderweb across the temporal bone. In fact, that’s exactly what we call this type of fracture. A mosaic or spiderweb pattern. It’s in a particularly critical location, because the middle meningeal artery runs right under here. If you rupture that, the patient bleeds into the cranial cavity. When we open the skull, we’ll see if that’s what happened.” She looked at Frost. “This was a significant blow to the head. I think the victim was unconscious when the cutting began.”

“But still alive.”

“Yes. She was definitely still alive.”

“You don’t know that she was unconscious.”

“There are no defense wounds on her limbs. No physical evidence that she fought back. You don’t just let someone cut your throat without a struggle. I think she was stunned by that blow. I don’t think she felt the blade.” Maura paused and added, quietly, “At least, I hope not.” She moved to the corpse’s right side, grasped the amputated arm, and lifted the incised end to the magnifier. “We have more tool markings here on the cartilage surface, where he disarticulated the elbow joint,” she said. “It looks like the same blade was used here. Very sharp, serrated edge.” She opposed the unattached arm to the elbow, as though assembling a mannequin, and eyed the match. There was no expression of horror on her face, only concentration. She might be studying widgets or ball bearings, not incised flesh. Not the limb of a woman who’d once lifted that arm to brush back her hair, to wave, to dance. How did Maura do it? How did she walk into this building every morning, knowing what waited for her? Day after day, picking up the scalpel, dissecting the tragedy of lives cut short? I deal with those tragedies, too. But I don’t have to saw open skulls or thrust my hands into chests.

Maura circled to the corpse’s left side. Without hesitation, she picked up the severed hand. Chilled and drained of blood, it looked like wax, not flesh, like a movie propmaster’s idea of what a real hand would look like. Maura swung the magnifier over it and inspected the raw, cut surface. For a moment she said nothing, but a frown was now etched on her forehead.

She set down the hand and lifted the left arm to examine the wrist stump. Her frown deepened. Again she picked up the hand and opposed the two wounds, trying to match the incised surfaces, hand to wrist, waxy skin to waxy skin.

Abruptly she set down the body parts and looked at Yoshima. “Could you put up the wrist and hand films?”

“You’re done with all these skull x-rays?”

“I’ll get back to those later. Right now I want to see the left hand and wrist.”

Yoshima removed the first set of x-rays and mounted a fresh set. Against the backlight of the viewing box, hand and finger bones glowed, the columns of phalanges like slender stalks of bamboo. Maura stripped off her gloves and approached the light box, her gaze riveted on the images. She said nothing; it was her silence that told Jane that something was very wrong.

Maura turned and looked at her. “Have you searched the victim’s entire house?”

“Yes, of course.”

“The whole house? Every closet, every drawer?”

“There wasn’t a lot there. She’d moved in just a few months before.”

“And the refrigerator? The freezer?”

“CSU went through it. Why?”

“Come look at this x-ray.”

Jane pulled off her soiled gloves and crossed to the light box to scan the films. She saw nothing there to account for Maura’s sudden tone of urgency, nothing that did not correspond with what she saw lying on the table. “What am I supposed to look at?”

“You see this view of the hand? These little bones here are called the carpals. They make up the base of the hand, before the finger bones branch off.” Maura took Jane’s hand to demonstrate, turning it palm side up, revealing the scar that would forever remind Jane of what another killer had done to her. A record of violence, marked in her flesh by Warren Hoyt. But Maura made no comment on the scar; instead she pointed to the meaty base of Jane’s palm, near the wrist.

“The carpal bones are here. On the x-ray, they look like eight little stones. They’re just small chunks of bone, held together by ligaments and muscles and connective tissue. These give our hands flexibility, allow us to do a whole range of amazing tasks, from sculpting to playing the piano.”

“Okay. So?”

“This one here, in this proximal row” —Maura pointed to the x-ray, to a bone near the wrist— “it’s called the scaphoid. You’ll notice there’s a joint space beneath it, and then on this film, there’s a distinct chip of another bone. It’s part of the styloid process. When he cut off this hand, he also took off a fragment of the arm bone.”

“I’m still not getting the significance.”

“Now look at the x-ray of the arm stump.” Maura pointed to a different film. “You see the distal end of the two forearm bones. The thinner bone is the ulna— the funny bone. And the thick one, on the thumb side, is the radius. Here’s that styloid process I was talking about earlier. You see what I’m getting at?”

Jane frowned. “It’s intact. On this arm x-ray, that bone is all here.”

“That’s right. Not only is it intact, there’s even a chunk of the next bone still attached to it. A chip from the scaphoid.”

In that chilly room, Jane’s face suddenly felt numb. “Oh man,” she said softly. “This is starting to sound bad.”

“It is bad.”

Jane turned and crossed back to the table. She stared down at the severed hand, lying beside what she had believed —what they had all believed— was the arm it had once been attached to.

“The cut surfaces don’t match,” said Maura. “Neither do the x-rays.”

Frost said, “You’re telling us this hand doesn’t belong to her?”

“We’ll need DNA analysis to confirm it. But I think the evidence is right here, on the light box.” She turned and looked at Jane. “There’s another victim that you haven’t found yet. And we have her left hand.”

SEVEN

 

July 15, Wednesday. Phase of the moon: New.

 

These are the rituals of the Saul family.

At one P.M., Uncle Peter comes home from his half day at the clinic. He changes into jeans and a T-shirt and heads for his vegetable garden, where a jungle of tomato plants and cucumber vines weigh down their string trellises.

At two P.M., little Teddy comes up the hill from the lake, carrying his fishing pole. But no catch. I have not yet seen him bring home a single fish.

At two-fifteen, Lily’s two girlfriends walk up the hill, carrying bathing suits and beach towels. The taller one —I think her name is Sarah— also brings a radio. Its strange and thumping music now disturbs the otherwise silent afternoon. Their towels spread out on the lawn, the three girls bask in the sun like drowsy felines. Their skin gleams with suntan lotion. Lily sits up and reaches for her bottle of water. As she lifts it to her lips, she suddenly goes still, her gaze on my window. She sees me watching her.

It is not the first time.

Slowly she sets down the water bottle and says something to her two friends. The other girls now sit up and look in my direction. For a moment they stare at me, as I am staring at them. Sarah shuts off the radio. They all rise to their feet, shake out their towels, and come into the house.

A moment later, Lily knocks on my door. She doesn’t wait for an answer but walks uninvited into my room.

“Why do you watch us?” she says.

“I was just looking out the window.”

“You’re looking at us.”

“Because you happen to be there.”

Her gaze falls on my desk. Lying open there is the book my mother gave me when I turned ten years old. Popularly known as the Egyptian Book of the Dead, it is a collection of ancient coffin texts. All the spells and incantations one needs to navigate the afterlife. She moves closer to the book, but hesitates to touch it, as though the pages might burn her fingers.

“Are you interested in death rituals?” I ask.

“It’s just superstition.”

“How do you know unless you’ve tried them?”

“You can actually read these hieroglyphs?”

“My mother taught me. But those are just minor spells. Not the really powerful ones.”

“And what can a powerful spell do?” She looks at me, her gaze so direct and unflinching that I wonder if she is more than she seems. If I’ve underestimated her.

“The most powerful spells,” I tell her, “can bring the dead back to life.”

“You mean, like in The Mummy?” She laughs.

I hear more giggles behind me and turn to see her two friends standing in the doorway. They’ve been eavesdropping, and they look at me with disdain. I am clearly the weirdest boy they have ever met. They have no idea how different I really am.

Lily closes the Book of the Dead. “Let’s go swimming, girls,” she says, and walks out of the room, trailing the sweet scent of her suntan lotion.

Through my window, I watch them head down the hill, toward the lake. The house is now quiet.

I go into Lily’s room. From her hairbrush, I pull off long brown strands of hair and slip them into my pocket. I uncap the lotions and creams on her dresser and sniff them; each scent brings with it the flash of a memory: Lily at the breakfast table. Lily sitting beside me in the car. I open her drawers, her closet, and touch her clothes. Clothes that any American teenager might wear. She’s just a girl after all, nothing more. But she needs watching.

It’s what I do best.

EIGHT

 

Siena, Italy. August.

 

Lily Saul bolted awake, straight from a deep sleep, and lay gasping among twisted bedsheets. The amber light of late afternoon glowed through the crack between the partially closed wooden shutters. In the gloom above her bed, a fly buzzed, circling in anticipation of a taste of her damp flesh. Her fear. She sat up on the thin mattress, shoved back tangled hair, and massaged her head as her heartbeat gradually slowed. Sweat trickled from her armpits, soaking into her T-shirt. She had managed to sleep through the worst heat of the afternoon, but the room still felt suffocating, the air thick enough to smother her. I can’t keep living this way forever, she thought, or I’ll go insane.

Maybe I’m already insane.

She rose from the bed and crossed to the window. Even the ceramic tiles beneath her feet radiated heat. Throwing open the shutters, she gazed across the tiny piazza, at buildings baking like stone ovens in the sun. A golden haze leafed domes and rooftops in umber. The summer heat had driven the sensible locals of Siena indoors; only the tourists would be out now, wandering wide-eyed through narrow alleys, huffing and sweating their way up the steep incline to the basilica or posing for photographs on the Piazza del Campo, their shoe soles melting and tacky on the scorching brickwork: all the usual tourist things that she herself had done when she’d first arrived in Siena, before she’d settled into the rhythms of the natives, before the heat of August had closed in on this medieval city.

Below her window, on the piazzetta, not a soul moved. But as she was turning away, she spied a twitch of motion in the shadow of a doorway. She went very still, her gaze fixed on the spot. I can’t see him. Can he see me? Then the inhabitant sheltering in that doorway emerged from its hiding place, trotted across the piazzetta, and vanished.

Only a dog.

With a laugh, she turned from the window. Not every shadow hid a monster. But some did. Some shadows follow you, threaten you, wherever you go.

In her tiny bathroom she splashed lukewarm water on her face, pulled back her dark hair in a ponytail. She did not waste time with makeup; over the past year, she had shed any habits that slowed her down. She lived out of one small suitcase plus a backpack, owned only two pairs of shoes, her sandals and sneakers. Jeans and T-shirts and sweaters took her from the heat of summer to the sleet of winter. When you got right down to it, survival was all a matter of layering, whether it was with clothes or emotional defenses. Keep out the elements, ward off attachments.

Stay safe.

She grabbed her backpack and stepped out of the room into the gloomy hallway. There she paused, as she always did, and inserted a torn bit of cardboard matchstick into the lower jamb as she closed the door and locked it. Not that the ancient lock would keep anyone out. Like the building, it was probably centuries old.

Bracing herself for the heat, she walked outside, into the piazzetta. She paused, scanning the deserted space. It was still too early for most locals to be out and about, but in another hour or so, they would stir from their meal-induced naps and start back to their shops, their offices. Lily still had some time to herself before Giorgio expected her back at work. It was a chance to walk and clear away the cobwebs, to visit her favorite haunts in her favorite city. She had been in Siena only three months, and already she could feel the town slipping away from her. Soon she’d have to leave it, as she’d left every other place she’d loved.

I have stayed here too long already.

She walked through the piazzetta and headed up the narrow alley leading to Via di Fontebranda. Her route took her toward the town’s ancient fountain house, past buildings that once housed medieval craftsmen and later slaughterhouses. The Fontebranda was a Siena landmark once celebrated by Dante, and its waters were still clear, still inviting, even after the passage of centuries. She had walked here once beneath the full moon. According to legend, that was when werewolves came to bathe in the waters, just before transforming back to their human forms. That night, she’d glimpsed no werewolves, only drunken tourists. Perhaps they were one and the same.

Moving up the hill now, her sturdy sandals slapping against griddle-hot stones, she walked past the Sanctuary and House of Saint Catherine, the patron saint of Siena, who had survived for long periods on no other food but the Blessed Sacrament. Saint Catherine had experienced vivid visions of Hell and Purgatory and Heaven, and had lusted for the glory and divine agony of martyrdom. After a long and uncomfortable illness, all she’d managed was a disappointingly ordinary death. As Lily labored up the hill, she thought: I have seen visions of Hell, too. But I want no part of martyrdom. I want to live. I’ll do anything to live.

By the time she climbed to the Basilica di San Domenico, her T-shirt was soaked with sweat. She stood panting at the top of the hill, gazing down upon the city, its tiled roofs blurred to soft focus in the summery haze. It was a view that made her heart ache, because she knew she would have to leave it. Already she’d lingered in Siena longer than she should have, and she could now feel the evil catching up to her, could almost smell its faint, foul odor wafting in on the wind. All around her, doughy-thighed tourists swarmed the hilltop, but she stood in silent isolation, a ghost among the living. Already dead, she thought. For me, this is borrowed time.

“Excuse me, Miss? Do you speak English?”

Startled, Lily turned to see a middle-aged man and woman wearing matching U Penn T-shirts and baggy shorts. The man was clutching a complicated-looking camera.

“Do you want me to take your picture?” Lily asked.

“That’d be great! Thanks.”

Lily took the camera. “Is there a trick to this one?”

“No, just press the button.”

The couple linked arms and posed with the view of Siena stretching like a medieval tapestry behind them. Their souvenir of a strenuous climb on a hot day.

“You’re American, aren’t you?” said the woman as Lily handed back the camera. “So where are you from?” It was merely a friendly question, something countless tourists asked each other, a way to connect with fellow travelers far from home. Instantly it put Lily on guard. Their curiosity is almost certainly innocent. But I don’t know these people. I can’t be certain.

Oregon,” she lied.

“Really? Our son lives there! Which city?”

Portland.”

“Now, isn’t it a small world? He lives on Northwest Irving Street. Is that anywhere near you?”

“No.” Already Lily was backing away, retreating from these overbearing people who would probably next insist that she join them for coffee, and ask her ever more questions, probing for details she had no intention of sharing. “Have a nice visit!”

“Say, would you like to—”

“I have to meet someone.” She gave a wave and fled. The doors of the basilica loomed ahead, offering sanctuary. She stepped inside, into cool silence, and breathed a sigh of relief. The church was nearly empty; only a few tourists wandered the vast space, and their voices were blessedly hushed. She walked toward the Gothic arch, where the sun glowed through stained glass in chips of jeweled light, past the tombs of Sienese nobles that lined both walls. Turning into a chapel niche, she stopped before the gilded marble altar and stared at the tabernacle containing the preserved head of Saint Catherine of Siena. Her mortal remains had been divided and distributed as holy relics, her body in Rome, her foot in Venice. Had she known this would be her fate? That her head would be wrenched from her decaying torso, her mummified face displayed to countless sweaty tourists and chattering schoolchildren?

The saint’s leathery eye sockets gazed back from behind glass. This is what death looks like. But you already know, don’t you, Lily Saul?

Shivering, Lily left the chapel niche and hurried through the echoing church, back toward the exit. Outside again, she was almost grateful for the heat. But not for the tourists. So many strangers with cameras. Any one of them might be furtively snapping her photo.

She left the basilica and started back downhill, through the Piazza Salimbeni, past the Palazzo Tolomei. The tangle of narrow streets easily befuddled tourists, but Lily knew the way through the maze, and she walked quickly, purposefully, toward her destination. She was late now, because she’d lingered too long on the hill, and Giorgio would surely scold her. Not that the prospect offered any sort of terror, for Giorgio’s grumblings never resulted in consequences of any significance.

So when she arrived at work fifteen minutes late, she did not feel even a hint of trepidation. The little bell tinkled on the door, announcing her entrance as she stepped into the shop, and she inhaled the familiar scents of dusty books and camphor and cigarette smoke. Giorgio and his son, Paolo, were hunched over a desk near the back of the shop, both of them wearing magnifying loupes around their heads. When Paolo looked up, one enormous eye stared like a cyclops at Lily.

“You must see this!” he called out to her in Italian. “It just arrived. Sent by a collector from Israel.”

They were so excited, they hadn’t even noticed she was late. She set her backpack down behind her desk and squeezed her way past the antique table and the oak monastery bench. Past the Roman sarcophagus, which now served ignominiously as a temporary container for file storage. She stepped over an open crate that had spilled wooden packing shavings onto the floor, and frowned at the object on Giorgio’s desk. It was a block of carved marble, perhaps part of an edifice. She noticed the patina on two adjoining surfaces, a soft gleam left by centuries of exposure to wind and rain and sun. It was a cornerstone.

Young Paolo pulled off his loupe, and his dark hair stood up. Grinning at her with those earlike tufts of hair, he looked like one of the legendary Sienese werewolves, albeit a perfectly harmless and utterly charming one. Like his father, Paolo possessed not a single ounce of cruelty, and were it not for the fact that she would inevitably be forced to break his heart, Lily would happily have taken him as a lover.

“I think you will like this piece,” he said, and offered her his magnifier. “It is just the sort of thing you’re always interested in.”

She bent over the cornerstone and studied the manlike figure carved there. It was standing upright, with a skirt around its waist and decorative bracelets and anklets. But the head was not human. She slid the magnifier over her head and leaned in closer. As the details came alive through the lens, she felt a sudden chill. She saw jutting canine teeth and fingers tipped with claws. And horns.

She straightened, her throat dry, her voice oddly distant. “You said the collector is from Israel?”

Giorgio nodded and took off his loupe, revealing an older, plumper version of Paolo. The same dark eyes, but webbed with laugh lines. “This man is new to us. So we’re not sure of the provenance. Whether to trust him.”

“How did he happen to send us this piece?”

Giorgio shrugged. “It arrived in the crate today. That’s all I know.”

“He wants you to sell it for him?”

“He asked only for an appraisal. What do you think?”

She rubbed a finger across the patina. Felt the chill again, seeping from the stone to her flesh. “Where does he say it comes from?”

Giorgio reached for a bundle of papers. “He says he acquired it eight years ago, in Tehran. I think it must be smuggled.” He gave another shrug, a wink. “But what do we know, eh?”

“Persian,” she murmured. “This is Ahriman.”

“What is Ahriman?” asked Paolo.

“Not a what, a who. In ancient Persia, Ahriman is a demon. The spirit of destruction.” She set the magnifier on the desk and took a deep breath. “He’s their personification of evil.”

Giorgio gave a laugh and rubbed his hands in glee. “You see, Paolo? I told you she’d know. Devils, demons, she knows them all. Every time, she has the answer.”

“Why?” Paolo looked at her. “I never understood why you’re so interested in evil things.”

How could she answer that question? How could she tell him that she’d once looked the Beast in the eye, and It had looked right back at her? Had seen her? It’s been pursuing me ever since.

“So it is authentic?” asked Giorgio. “This cornerstone?”

“Yes, I believe it is.”

“Then I should write him at once, eh? Our new friend in Tel Aviv. Tell him he has sent it to the right dealer, one who understands its value.” With great care, he set the stone back into its packing crate. “For something this special, we will certainly find a buyer.”

Who would want that monstrosity in their home? Lily thought. Who’d want to have evil staring at you from your own wall?

“Ah, I almost forgot,” said Giorgio. “Did you know you have an admirer?”

Lily frowned at him. “What?”

“A man, he came to the shop at lunchtime. He asked if an American woman worked for me.”

She went very still. “What did you tell him?”

Paolo said, “I stopped Father from saying anything. We could get into trouble, since you have no permit.”

“But now I’ve been thinking about it some more,” said Giorgio. “And I think maybe the man’s just sweet on you. And that’s why he inquired.” Giorgio winked.

She swallowed. “Did he say his name?”

Giorgio gave his son a playful slap on the arm. “You see?” he scolded. “You move too slowly, boy. Now another man will come and swoop her away from us.”

“What was his name?” Lily asked again, her voice sharper. But neither father nor son seemed to register the change in her demeanor. They were too busy teasing each other.

“He didn’t leave one,” said Giorgio. “I think he wants to play the incognito game, eh? Make you guess.”

“Was he a young man? What did he look like?”

“Oh. So you’re interested.”

“Was there anything” —she paused— “unusual about him?”

“What do you mean, unusual?”

Not human was what she wanted to say.

“He had very blue eyes,” offered Paolo brightly. “Strange eyes. Bright, like an angel’s.”

Quite the opposite of an angel.

She turned and immediately crossed to the window, where she peered out through dusty glass at passersby. He’s here, she thought. He’s found me in Siena.

“He’ll come back, cara mia. Just be patient,” said Giorgio.

And when he does, I can’t be here.

She snatched up her backpack. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m not feeling well.”

“What’s the matter?”

“I think I shouldn’t have eaten that fish last night. It’s not agreeing with me. I need to go home.”

“Paolo will walk you there.”

“No! No.” She yanked open the door, setting off a violent jangle of the bell. “I’ll be fine.” She fled the shop and did not glance back, for fear that Paolo would try to run after her, would insist on playing the gentleman and escort. She couldn’t afford to let him slow her down. Haste was everything now.

She took a circuitous route back to her flat, avoiding crowded piazzas and major streets. Instead she cut through tiny alleys, scrambled up narrow steps between medieval walls, steadily circling toward the Fontebranda neighborhood. It would take her only five minutes to pack. She had learned to be mobile, to move at an instant’s notice, and all she had to do was toss her clothes and toilet case into the suitcase and grab the stash of Euros from its hiding place behind the dresser. These past three months, Giorgio had paid her under the table in cash, knowing full well that she had no work permit. She’d collected a nice nest egg to tide her over between jobs, enough to last her till she settled into a new town. She should grab the cash and suitcase and just go. Straight to the bus station.

No. No, on second thought, that’s where he’d expect her to go. A taxi would be better. Costly, yes, but if she used it only to get out of town, maybe as far as San Gimignano, she could catch a train to Florence. There, among the teeming crowds, she could disappear.

She did not enter her building through the piazzetta; instead, she approached through the shadowy side street, past rubbish cans and locked bicycles, and climbed the back stairs. Music was blaring in one of the other flats, spilling out an open doorway into the hall. It was that sullen teenager next door. Tito and his damn radio. She caught a glimpse of the boy, slouched like a zombie on the couch. She continued past his flat, toward hers. She was just taking out her keys when she spotted the torn matchstick and froze.

It was no longer wedged in the doorjamb; it had fallen to the floor.

Her heart pounded as she backed away. As she retreated past Tito’s doorway, the boy looked up from the couch and waved. Of all the inconvenient times for him to start being friendly. Don’t say a word to me, she silently pleaded. Don’t you dare say a word.

“You’re not at work today?” he called out in Italian.

She turned and ran down the stairs. Almost tripped over the bicycles as she fled into the alley. I’m too fucking late, she thought as she hurtled around the corner and scrambled up a short flight of steps. Ducking into an overgrown garden, she crouched behind a crumbling wall and froze there, scarcely daring to breathe. Five minutes, ten. She heard no footsteps, no sounds of pursuit.

Maybe the matchstick fell by itself. Maybe I can still get my suitcase. My money.

Risking a glance over the wall, she stared up the alley. No one.

Do I chance it? Do I dare?

She slipped into the alley again. Made her way down a series of narrow streets until she reached the outskirts of the piazzetta. But she did not step into the open; instead she edged toward the corner of a building and peered up at the window of her own flat. The wooden shutters were open, as she’d left them. Through the gathering twilight, she saw something move in that window. A silhouette, just for a second, framed by the shutters.

She jerked back behind the building. Shit. Shit.

She unzipped her backpack and rifled through her wallet. Forty-eight Euros. Enough for a few meals and a bus ticket. Maybe enough for a cab ride to San Gimignano, but not much more. She had an ATM card, but she dared not use it except in large cities, where she could easily slip straight into a crowd. The last time she’d used it was in Florence, on a Saturday night, when the streets were thronged.

Not here, she thought. Not in Siena.

She left the piazzetta and headed deep into the back alleys of the Fontebranda. Here was the neighborhood she knew best; here she could elude anyone. She found her way to a tiny coffee bar that she’d discovered weeks ago, frequented only by locals. Inside, it was gloomy as a cave and thick with cigarette smoke. She settled at a corner table, ordered a cheese and tomato sandwich and an espresso. Then, as the evening passed, another espresso. And another. Tonight, she would not be sleeping. She could walk to Florence. It was only— what, twenty, twenty-five miles? She’d slept in the fields before. She’d stolen peaches, plucked grapes in the dark. She could do it again.

She devoured her sandwich, swept every last crumb into her mouth. No telling when she’d eat again. By the time she stepped out of the coffee bar, night had fallen and she could move through dark streets with little fear of being recognized. There was one other option. It was risky, but it would save her from a twenty-five-mile hike.

And Giorgio would do it for her. He would drive her to Florence.

She walked and walked, giving the busy Campo a wide berth, sticking to the side streets. By the time she reached Giorgio’s residence, her calves were aching, her feet sore from the uneven cobblestones. She paused in the cover of darkness, gazing at the window. Giorgio’s wife had died years ago, and father and son now shared the flat. The lights were on inside, but she saw no movement on the first floor.

She was not foolhardy enough to knock at the front door. Instead she circled around to the small garden in back, let herself in through the gate, and brushed past fragrant thyme and lavender to knock at the kitchen door.

No one answered.

She strained to hear if the TV was on, thinking that perhaps they couldn’t hear her, but she heard only the muted sounds of traffic from the street.

She tried the knob; the door swung open.

One look was all it took. One glimpse of blood, of splayed arms and ruined faces. Of Giorgio and Paolo, tangled together in a last embrace.

She backed away, hand clapped to her mouth, her vision blurred in a wash of tears. My fault. This is all my fault. They were killed because of me.

Stumbling backward through lavender, she collided with the wooden gate. The jolt snapped her back to her senses.

Go. Run.

She scrambled out of the garden, not bothering to latch the gate behind her, and fled down the street, her sandals slapping against the cobblestones.

She did not slow her pace until she reached the outskirts of Siena.

NINE

 

“Are we absolutely certain there is a second victim?” asked Lieutenant Marquette. “We don’t have DNA confirmation yet.”

“But we do have two different blood types,” said Jane. “The amputated hand belonged to someone with O positive blood. Lori-Ann Tucker is A positive. So Dr. Isles was absolutely correct.”

There was a long silence in the conference room.

Dr. Zucker said softly, “This is getting very interesting.”

Jane looked across the table at him. Forensic psychologist Dr. Lawrence Zucker’s intent stare had always made her uncomfortable. He looked at her now as though she were the sole focus of his curiosity, and she could almost feel his gaze tunneling into her brain. They had worked together during the Surgeon investigation two and a half years ago, and Zucker knew just how haunted she’d been in the aftermath. He knew about her nightmares, her panic attacks. He’d seen the way she used to rub incessantly at the scars on her palms, as though to massage away the memories. Since then, the nightmares of Warren Hoyt had faded. But when Zucker looked at her this way, she felt exposed, because he knew just how vulnerable she’d once been. And she resented him for it.

She broke off her gaze and focused instead on the other two detectives, Barry Frost and Eve Kassovitz. Adding Kassovitz to the team had been a mistake. The woman’s very public barfing into the snow bank was now common knowledge in the unit, and Jane could have predicted the practical jokes that followed. The day after Christmas, a giant plastic bucket, labeled with Kassovitz’s name, had mysteriously appeared on the unit’s reception desk. The woman should have just laughed it off, or maybe gotten pissed about it. Instead she looked as beaten down as a clubbed seal, and she sat slumped in her chair, too demoralized to say much. No way was Kassovitz going to survive this boys’ club if she didn’t learn to punch back.

“So we have a killer who not only dismembers his victims,” said Zucker, “but he also transfers body parts between his crime scenes. Do you have a photo of the hand?”

“We have lots of photos,” said Jane. She passed the autopsy file to Zucker. “By its appearance, we’re pretty sure the hand is a female’s.”

The images were gruesome enough to turn anyone’s stomach, but Zucker’s face betrayed no shock, no disgust, as he flipped through them. Only keen curiosity. Or was that eagerness she saw in his eyes? Did he enjoy the view of atrocities visited on a young woman’s body?

He paused over the photo of the hand. “No nail polish, but the fingers definitely look manicured. Yes, I agree it looks like a woman’s.” He glanced at Jane, his pale eyes peering at her over wire-rim glasses. “What do you have back on these fingerprints?”

“The owner of that hand has no criminal record. No military service. Nothing in NCIC.”

“She’s not in any database?”

“Not her fingerprints, anyway.”

“And this hand isn’t medical waste? A hospital amputation, maybe?”

Frost said, “I checked with every medical center in the greater Boston area. In the past two weeks, there’ve been two hand amps, one at Mass Gen, another at Pilgrim Hospital. Both were the result of trauma. The first was a chain saw accident. The second was a dog attack. In both cases, the hands were so badly mangled they couldn’t be reattached. And the first case was a man’s.”

“This hand was not dug up out of hospital waste,” said Jane. “And it wasn’t mangled. It was sliced off with a very sharp, serrated blade. Also, it wasn’t done with any particular surgical skill. The tip of the radius was sheared off, with no apparent attempt at controlling blood loss. No tied-off vessels, no dissection of skin layers. Just a clean cut.”

“Do we have any missing persons it might match?”

“Not in Massachusetts,” said Frost. “We’re widening the net. Any white female. She can’t have gone missing too long ago, since the hand looks pretty fresh.”

“It could have been frozen,” said Marquette.

“No,” said Jane. “There’s no cellular damage under the microscope. That’s what Dr. Isles said. When you freeze tissue, the expansion of water ruptures cells, and she didn’t find that. The hand may have been refrigerated, or packed in ice water, like they do to transport harvested organs. But it wasn’t frozen. So we think the owner of that hand was probably killed no more than a few days ago.”

“If she was killed,” said Zucker.

They all stared at him. The terrible implication of his words made them all pause.

“You think she could still be alive?” said Frost.

“Amputations in and of themselves aren’t fatal.”

“Oh, man,” said Frost. “Cut off her hand without killing her…”

Zucker flipped through the rest of the autopsy photos, pausing over each one with the concentration of a jeweler peering through his loupe. At last he set them down. “There are two possible reasons why a killer would cut up a body. The first is purely practical. He needs to dispose of it. These are killers who are self-aware and goal-directed. They understand the need to dispose of forensic evidence and hide their crimes.”

“Organized killers,” said Frost.

“If dismemberment is followed by the scattering or concealment of body parts, that would imply planning. A cognitive killer.”

“These parts weren’t in any way concealed,” said Jane. “They were left around the house, in places where he knew they’d be found.” She handed another stack of photos to Zucker. “Those are from the crime scene.”

He opened the folder and paused, staring at the first image. “This gets even more interesting,” he murmured.

He looks at a severed hand on a dinner plate, and that’s the word that comes to mind?

“Who set the table?” He looked up at her. “Who laid out the dishes, the silverware, the wineglasses?”

“We believe the perp did.”

“Why?”

“Who the hell knows why?”

“I mean, why do you assume he was the one who did it?”

“Because there was a smear of blood under one of the plates, where he handled it.”

“Fingerprints?”

“Unfortunately, no. He wore gloves.”

“Evidence of advance planning. Forethought.” Zucker directed his gaze, once again, at the photo. “This is a setting for four. Is that significant?”

“Your guess is as good as ours. There were eight plates in the cabinet, so he could have put down more. But he chose to use only four.”

Lieutenant Marquette asked, “What do you think we’re dealing with here, Dr. Zucker?”

The psychologist didn’t answer. He paged slowly through the photos, pausing at the image of the severed arm in the bathtub. Then he flipped to the photo of the kitchen, and he stopped. There was a very long silence as he stared at the melted candles, at the circle drawn on the floor. At what sat at the center of that circle.

“It looked like some kind of a weird ritual setup to us,” said Frost. “The chalk circle, the burned candles.”

“This certainly appears ritualistic.” Zucker looked up, and the glitter in his eyes made a chill wash up the back of Jane’s neck. “Did the perp draw this circle?”

Jane hesitated, startled by his question. “You mean— as opposed to the victim?”

“I’m not making any assumptions here. I hope you don’t either. What makes you so certain the victim didn’t draw this circle? That she didn’t start off as a willing participant in the ritual?”

Jane felt like laughing. Yeah, I’d volunteer to get my head cut off, too. She said, “It had to be the killer who drew that circle and lit those candles. Because we found no pieces of chalk in the house. After he used it to draw on that kitchen floor, he took it with him.”

Zucker leaned back in his chair, thinking. “So this killer dismembers, but doesn’t conceal the body parts. He doesn’t disfigure the face. He leaves little in the way of forensic evidence, indicating an awareness of law enforcement. Yet he hands us—so to speak—the biggest clue of all: the body part of another victim.” He paused. “Was there semen left behind?”

“None was detected in the victim’s body.”

“And the crime scene?”

“CSU went all over that house with UV. The CrimeScope picked up hairs too numerous to count, but no semen.”

“Again, characteristic of cognitive behavior. He leaves no evidence of sexual activity. If he is indeed a sexual killer, then he’s controlled enough to wait until it’s safe to enjoy his release.”

“And if he’s not a sexual killer?” asked Marquette.

“Then I’m not entirely sure what all of this represents,” said Zucker. “But the dismemberment, the display of body parts. The candles, the chalk circle.” He looked around the table. “I’m sure we’re all thinking the same thing. Satanic rituals.”

“It was Christmas Eve,” added Marquette. “The holiest of nights.”

“And our killer isn’t there to honor the Prince of Peace,” said Zucker. “No, he’s trying to summon the Prince of Darkness.”

“There’s one other photo you should look at,” said Jane, pointing to the stack of images that Zucker hadn’t yet seen. “There was some writing, left on the wall. Drawn in the victim’s blood.”

Zucker found the photo. “Three upside-down crosses,” he said. “These could well have satanic meanings. But what are these symbols beneath the crosses?”

“It’s a word.”

“I don’t see it.”

“It’s a reverse image. You can read it if you hold it up to a mirror.”

Zucker’s eyebrow lifted. “You do know, don’t you, the significance of mirror writing?”

“No. What’s the significance?”

“When the Devil makes a deal to buy your soul, the pact is drawn up and signed in mirror writing.” He frowned at the word. “So what does it say?”

Peccavi. It’s Latin. It means: ‘I have sinned.’”

“A confession?” suggested Marquette.

“Or a boast,” said Zucker. “Announcing to Satan, ‘I’ve done your bidding, Master.’” He gazed at all the photos laid out on the table. “I would love to get this killer into an interview room. There’s so much symbolism here. Why did he arrange the body parts in just this way? What’s the meaning of the hand on the plate? The four place settings on the dining table?”

“The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” Detective Kassovitz said softly. It was one of the few times she’d spoken during the meeting.

“Why do you suggest that?” asked Zucker.

“We’re talking about Satan. About sin.” Kassovitz cleared her throat, seemed to gain her voice as she sat straighter. “These are biblical themes.”

“The four place settings could also mean he has three invisible friends who are joining him for a midnight snack,” said Jane.

“You don’t buy into the biblical theme?” said Zucker.

“I know it looks like Satanism,” said Jane. “I mean, we’ve got it all here— the circle and the candles. The mirror writing, the upside down crosses. It’s like we’re supposed to come to that conclusion.”

“You think it was merely staged this way?”

“Maybe to hide the real reason Lori-Ann Tucker was killed.”

“What motives would there be? Did she have romantic problems?”

“She’s divorced, but her ex-husband lives in New Mexico. They apparently had an amicable parting. She moved to Boston only three months ago. There seem to be no boyfriends.”

“She had a job?”

Eve Kassovitz said, “I interviewed her supervisor over at the Science Museum. Lori-Ann worked in the gift shop. No one knew of any conflicts or any problems.”

Zucker asked, “Are we absolutely sure about that?” He directed his question at Jane, not Kassovitz, a snub that made Kassovitz flush. It was yet another blow to her already battered self-esteem.

“Detective Kassovitz just told you what we know,” said Jane, backing up her teammate.

“Okay,” said Zucker. “Then why was this woman killed? Why stage it to look like Satanism, if it really isn’t?”

“To make it interesting. To draw attention.”

Zucker laughed. “As if it wouldn’t already draw our attention?”

“Not ours. The attention of someone who’s much more important to this perp.”

“You’re talking about Dr. O’Donnell, aren’t you?”

“We know the killer called O’Donnell, but she claims she wasn’t home.”

“You don’t believe her?”

“We can’t confirm it, since she erased any phone message. She said it was a hang-up call.”

“What makes you think that’s not the truth?”

“You know who she is, don’t you?”

He regarded her for a moment. “I know you two have had conflicts. That her friendship with Warren Hoyt bothers you.”

“This isn’t about me and O’Donnell—”

“But it is. She maintains a friendship with the man who almost killed you, the man whose most deeply held fantasy is to complete that job.”

Jane leaned forward, every muscle suddenly taut. “Don’t go there, Dr. Zucker,” she said quietly.

He stared at her, and something he saw in her eyes made him slowly lean back in retreat. “You consider O’Donnell a suspect?” he said.

“I don’t trust her. She’s a gunslinger for the bad guys. Pay her enough to testify, and she’ll walk into court and defend just about any killer. She’ll claim he’s neurologically damaged and not responsible for his actions. That he belongs in a hospital, not a jail.”

Marquette added, “She’s not popular with law enforcement, Dr. Zucker. Anywhere.”

“Look, even if we loved her,” said Jane, “we’re still left with unanswered questions. Why did the killer call her from the crime scene? Why wasn’t she at home? Why won’t she tell us where she was?”

“Because she knows you’re already hostile.”

She has no idea how hostile I can get.

“Detective Rizzoli, are you implying that Dr. O’Donnell had something to do with this crime?”

“No. But she’s not above exploiting it. Feeding off it. Whether she meant to or not, she inspired it.”

“How?”

“You know how a pet cat will sometimes kill a mouse and bring it home to its master as sort of an offering? A token of affection?”

“You think our killer is trying to impress O’Donnell.”

“That’s why he called her. That’s why he set up this elaborate death scene, to pique her interest. Then, to make sure his work gets noticed, he calls nine-one-one. And a few hours later, while we’re standing in the kitchen, he calls the victim’s house from a pay phone, just to make sure we’re there. This perp is reeling us all in. Law enforcement. And O’Donnell.”

Marquette said, “Does she realize how much danger she could be in? Being the focus of a killer’s attention?”

“She didn’t seem too impressed.”

“What does it take to scare that woman?”

“Maybe when he sends her that little token of affection. The equivalent of a dead mouse.” Jane paused. “Let’s not forget. Lori-Ann Tucker’s hand is still missing.”

TEN

 

Jane could not stop thinking about that hand as she stood in her kitchen, slicing cold chicken for a late-night snack. She carried it to the table, where her usually impeccably groomed husband was sitting with his sleeves rolled up, baby drool on his collar. Was there anything sexier than a man patiently burping his daughter? Regina gave a lusty belch and Gabriel laughed. What a sweet and perfect moment this was. All of them together and safe and healthy.

Then she looked down at the sliced chicken and she thought of what had rested on another dinner plate, on another woman’s dining table. She pushed the plate aside.

We are just meat. Like chicken. Like beef.

“I thought you were hungry,” said Gabriel.

“I guess I changed my mind. It suddenly doesn’t look so appetizing.”

“It’s the case, isn’t it?”

“I wish I could stop thinking about it.”

“I saw the files you brought home tonight. Couldn’t help looking through them. I’d be preoccupied, too.”

Jane shook her head. “You’re supposed to be on vacation. What are you doing, checking out autopsy photos?”

“They were lying right there on the counter.” He set Regina in her infant carrier. “You want to talk about it? Bounce it off me, if you’d like. If you think it’ll help.”

She glanced at Regina, who was watching them with alert eyes, and suddenly she gave a laugh. “Geez, when she’s old enough to understand, this is gonna be really appropriate family conversation. So, honey, how many headless corpses have you seen today?

“She can’t understand us. So talk to me.”

Jane got up and went to the refrigerator, took out a bottle of Adam’s Ale, and popped off the top.

“Jane?”

“You really want to hear the details?”

“I want to know what’s bothering you so much.”

“You saw the photos. You know what’s bothering me.” She sat down again and took a gulp of beer. “Sometimes,” she said quietly, looking down at the sweating bottle, “I think it’s crazy to have children. You love them, raise them. Then you watch them walk into a world where they just get hurt. Where they meet up with people like…” Like Warren Hoyt was what she was thinking, but she didn’t say his name; she almost never said his name. It was as if saying it aloud was to summon the Devil himself.

The sudden buzz of the intercom made her snap straight. She looked up at the wall clock. “It’s ten-thirty.”

“Let me see who it is.” Gabriel walked into the living room and pressed the intercom button. “Yes?”

An unexpected voice responded over the speaker. “It’s me,” said Jane’s mother.

“Come on up, Mrs. Rizzoli,” said Gabriel, and buzzed her in. He shot a surprised look at Jane.

“It’s so late. What’s she doing here?”

“I’m almost afraid to ask.”

They heard Angela’s footsteps on the stairs, slower and more ponderous than usual, accompanied by an intermittent thumping, as though she were hauling something behind her. Only when she reached the second-floor landing did they see what it was.

A suitcase.

“Mom?” said Jane, but even as she said it, she could not quite believe that this woman with the wild hair and even wilder eyes was her mother. Angela’s coat was unbuttoned, the flap of her collar was turned under, and her slacks were soaked to the knees, as though she’d trudged through a snow bank to reach their building. She gripped the suitcase with both hands and looked ready to fling it at someone. Anyone.

She looked dangerous.

“I need to stay with you tonight,” said Angela.

“What?”

“Well, can I come in or not?”

“Of course, Mom.”

“Here, let me get that for you, Mrs. Rizzoli,” Gabriel said, taking the suitcase.

“You see?” said Angela, pointing to Gabriel. “That’s how a man’s supposed to behave! He sees that a woman needs help, and he steps right up to the plate. That’s what a gentleman’s supposed to do.”

“Mom, what happened?”

“What happened? What happened? I don’t know where to begin!”

Regina gave a wail of protest at being ignored for too long.

At once, Angela scurried into the kitchen and lifted her granddaughter from the infant seat. “Oh baby, poor little girl! You have no idea what you’re in for when you grow up.” She sat down at the table and rocked the baby, hugging her so tightly that Regina squirmed, trying to free herself from this suffocating madwoman.

“Okay, Mom,” sighed Jane. “What did Dad do?”

“You won’t hear it from me.”

“Then who am I going to hear it from?”

“I won’t poison my children against their father. It’s not right for parents to bad-mouth each other.”

“I’m not a kid anymore. I need to know what’s going on.”

But Angela did not offer an explanation. She continued to rock back and forth, hugging the baby. Regina looked more and more desperate to escape.

“Um… how long do you think you’ll be with us, Mom?”

“I don’t know.”

Jane looked up at Gabriel, who’d been wise enough so far to stay out of the conversation. She saw the same flash of panic in his eyes.

“I might need to find a new place to live,” said Angela. “My own apartment.”

“Wait, Mom. You’re not saying you’re never going back.”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying. I’m going to make a new life, Janie.” She looked at her daughter, her chin jutting up in defiance. “Other women do it. They leave their husbands and they do just fine. We don’t need them. We can survive all by ourselves.”

“Mom, you don’t have a job.”

“What do you think I’ve been doing for the past thirty-seven years? Cooking and cleaning for that man? You think he ever appreciated it? Just comes home and gulps down what I put in front of him. Doesn’t taste the care that goes into it. You know how many people have told me I should open up a restaurant?”

Actually, thought Jane, it’d be a great restaurant. But she wasn’t about to say anything to encourage this insanity.

“So don’t ever say to me, You don’t have a job. My job was to take care of that man, and I’ve got nothing to show for it. I might as well do the same work and get paid.” She hugged Regina with renewed vigor and the baby let out a squawk of protest. “I’ll stay with you only a little while. I’ll sleep in the baby’s room. On the floor is perfectly okay with me. And I’ll watch her when you two go to work. It takes a village, you know.”

“All right, Mom.” Jane sighed and crossed to the telephone. “If you won’t tell me what’s going on, maybe Dad will.”

“What are you doing?”

“Calling him. I bet he’s all ready to apologize.” I bet he’s hungry and wants his personal chef back. She picked up the receiver and dialed.

“Don’t even bother,” said Angela.

The phone rang once, twice.

“I’m telling you, he won’t answer. He’s not even there.”

“Well, where is he?” asked Jane.

“He’s at her house.”

Jane froze as the phone in her parents’ home rang and rang unanswered. Slowly she hung up and turned to face her mother. “Whose house?”

“Hers. The slut’s.”

“Jesus, Ma.”

“Jesus has nothing to do with it.” Angela took in a sudden gulp of air and her throat clamped down on a sob. She rocked forward, Regina clutched to her chest.

“Dad’s seeing another woman?”

Wordlessly, Angela nodded. Lifted her hand up to wipe her face.

“Who? Who’s he seeing?” Jane sat down to look her mother in the eye. “Mom, who is she?”

“At work…” Angela whispered.

“But he works with a bunch of old guys.”

“She’s new. She— she’s”— Angela’s voice suddenly broke— “younger.

The phone rang.

Angela’s head shot up. “I won’t talk to him. You tell him that.”

Jane glanced at the number on the digital readout, but she didn’t recognize it. Maybe it was her dad calling. Maybe he was calling from her phone. The slut’s.

“Detective Rizzoli,” she snapped.

A pause, then, “Having a rough night, are you?”

And getting worse, she thought, recognizing the voice of Detective Darren Crowe.

“What’s up?” she asked.

“Bad things. We’re up on Beacon Hill. You and Frost will want to get over here. I hate being the one to tell you about this, but—”

“Isn’t this your night?”

“This one belongs to all of us, Rizzoli.” Crowe sounded grimmer than she’d ever heard him, without a trace of his usual sarcasm. He said, quietly, “It’s one of ours.”

One of ours. A cop.

“Who is it?” she asked.

“It’s Eve Kassovitz.”

Jane couldn’t speak. She stood with her fingers growing numb around the telephone, thinking, I saw her only a few hours ago.

“Rizzoli?”

She cleared her throat. “Give me the address.”

When she hung up, she found that Gabriel had taken Regina into the other room, and Angela was now sitting with shoulders slumped, her arms sadly empty. “I’m sorry, Mom,” said Jane. “I have to go out.”

Angela gave a demoralized shrug. “Of course. You go.”

“We’ll talk when I get back.” She bent to kiss her mom’s cheek and saw up close Angela’s sagging skin, her drooping eyes. When did my mother get so old?

She buckled on her weapon and pulled her coat out of the closet. As she buttoned up, she heard Gabriel say, “This is pretty bad timing.”

She turned to look at him. What happens when I get old, like my mom? Will you leave me for a younger woman, too? “I could be gone awhile,” she said. “Don’t wait up.”

ELEVEN

 

Maura stepped out of her Lexus and her boots crunched on rime-glazed pavement, cracking through ice as brittle as glass. Snow that had melted during the warmer daylight hours had been flash-frozen again in the brutally cold wind that had kicked up at nightfall, and in the multiple flashes from cruiser lights, every surface gleamed, slick and dangerous. She saw a cop skate his way along the sidewalk, arms windmilling for balance, and saw the CSU van skid sideways as it braked, barely kissing the rear bumper of a parked cruiser.

“Watch your step there, Doc,” a patrolman called out from across the street. “Already had one officer go down on the ice tonight. Think he mighta broke his wrist.”

“Someone should salt this road.”

“Yeah.” He gave a grunt. “Someone should. Since the city sure ain’t keeping up with the job tonight.”

“Where’s Detective Crowe?”

The cop waved a gloved hand toward the row of elegant town homes. “Number forty-one. It’s a few houses up the street. I can walk you there.”

“No, I’m fine. Thank you.” She paused as another cruiser rounded the corner and skidded up against the curb. She counted at least eight parked cruisers already clogging the narrow street.

“We’re going to need room for the morgue van to get through,” she said. “Do all these patrol cars really need to be here?”

“Yeah, they do,” the cop said. The tone of his voice made her turn to look at him. Lit by the strobe flashes of rack lights, his face was carved in bleak shadows. “We all need to be here. We owe it to her.”

Maura thought about the death scene on Christmas Eve, when Eve Kassovitz had stood doubled over in the street, retching into a snow bank. She remembered, too, how the patrol officers had snickered about the barfing girl detective. Now that detective was dead, and the snickers were silent, replaced by the grim respect due every police officer who has fallen.

The cop’s breath came out in an angry rush. “Her boyfriend, he’s one, too.”

“Another police officer?”

“Yeah. Help us get this perp, Doc.”

She nodded. “We will.” She started up the sidewalk, aware, suddenly, of all the eyes that must be watching her progress, all the officers who had surely taken note of her arrival. They knew her car; they all knew who she was. She saw nods of recognition among the shadowy figures who stood huddled together, their breaths steaming, like smokers gathered for a furtive round of cigarettes. They knew the grim purpose of her visit, just as they knew that any one of them might someday be the unfortunate object of her attention.

The wind suddenly kicked up a cloud of snow, and she squinted, lowering her head against the sting. When she raised it again she found herself staring at someone she had not expected to see here. Across the street stood Father Daniel Brophy, talking softly to a young police officer who had sagged backward against a Boston PD cruiser, as though too weak to stand on his own feet. Brophy put his arm around the other man’s shoulder to comfort him, and the officer collapsed against him, sobbing, as Brophy wrapped both arms around him. Other cops stood nearby in awkward silence, boots shuffling, their gazes to the ground, clearly uncomfortable with this display of raw grief. Although Maura could not hear the words Brophy murmured, she saw the young cop nod, heard him force out a tear-choked response.

I could never do what Daniel does, she thought. It was far easier to cut dead flesh and drill through bone than to confront the pain of the living. Suddenly Daniel’s head lifted and he noticed her. For a moment they just stared at each other. Then she turned and continued toward the town house, where a streamer of crime scene tape fluttered from the porch’s cast-iron railing. He had his job and she had hers. It was time to focus. But even as she kept her gaze on the sidewalk ahead, her mind was on Daniel. Whether he would still be there when she finished her task here. And if he was, what happened next? Should she invite him out for a cup of coffee? Would that make her seem too forward, too needy? Should she simply say good night and go her own way, as always?

What do I want to happen?

She reached the building and paused on the sidewalk, gazing up at the handsome three-story residence. Inside, every light was blazing. Brick steps led up to a massive front door, where a brass knocker gleamed in the glow of decorative gaslight lanterns. Despite the season, there were no holiday decorations on this porch. This was the only front door on the street without a wreath. Through the large bow windows, she saw the flicker of a fire burning in the hearth, but no twinkle of Christmas tree lights.

“Dr. Isles?”

She heard the squeal of metal hinges and glanced at the detective who had just pushed open the wrought-iron gate at the side of the house. Roland Tripp was one of the older cops in the homicide unit and tonight he was definitely showing his age. He stood beneath the gaslight lamp and the glow yellowed his skin, emphasizing his baggy eyes and drooping lids. Despite the bulky down jacket, he looked chilled, and he spoke with a clenched jaw, as though trying to suppress chattering teeth.

“The victim’s back here,” he said, holding open the gate to let her in.

Maura walked through, and the gate clanged shut behind them. He led the way into a narrow side yard, their path lit by the jerky beam of his flashlight. The walkway had been shoveled since the last storm, and the bricks had only a light dusting of windblown snow. Tripp halted, his flashlight aimed at the low mound of snow at the edge of the walkway. At the splash of red.

“This is what got the butler worried. He saw this blood.”

“There’s a butler here?”

“Oh, yeah. We’re talking that kind of money.”

“What does he do? The owner of this house?”

“He says he’s a retired history professor. Taught at Boston College.”

“I had no idea history professors did this well.”

“You should take a look inside. This ain’t no professor’s house. This guy’s got other money.” Tripp aimed his flashlight at a side door. “Butler came out this exit here, carrying a bag of garbage. Started toward those trash cans when he noticed the gate was open. That’s when he first got an inkling that something wasn’t right. So he comes back, up this side yard, looking around. Spots the blood and knows that something really isn’t right. And notices more blood streaking along these bricks, toward the back of the house.”

Maura stared at the ground. “The victim was dragged along this walkway.”

“I’ll show you.” Detective Tripp continued toward the rear of the town house, into a small courtyard. His flashlight swept across ice-glazed flagstones and flower beds, now covered with a winter protection of pine boughs. At the center of the courtyard was a white gazebo. In the summertime, it would no doubt be a delightful spot to linger, a shady place to sit and sip coffee and breathe in the scents of the garden.

But the current occupant of that gazebo was not breathing at all.

Maura took off her wool gloves and pulled on latex ones instead. They were no protection against the chill wind that pierced straight to her flesh. Crouching down, she pulled back the plastic sheet that had been draped over the crumpled form.

Detective Eve Kassovitz lay flat on her back, arms at her sides, her blond hair matted with blood. She was dressed in dark clothes— wool pants, a pea coat, and black boots. The coat was unbuttoned, and the sweater halfway pulled up to reveal bare skin smeared with blood. She was wearing a holster, and the weapon was still buckled in place. But it was the corpse’s face that Maura stared at, and what she saw made her draw back in horror. The woman’s eyelids had been sliced away, her eyes left wide open in an eternal stare. Trickles of blood had dried on both temples, like red tears.

“I saw her just six days ago,” said Maura. “At another death scene.” She looked up at Tripp. His face was hidden in shadow, and all she saw was that hulking silhouette looming above her. “The one over in East Boston.”

He nodded. “Eve joined the unit just a few weeks ago. Came over from Narcotics and Vice.”

“Does she live in this neighborhood?”

“No, ma’am. Her apartment’s down in Mattapan.”

“Then what’s she doing here on Beacon Hill?”

“Even her boyfriend doesn’t know. But we have some theories.”

Maura thought of the young cop she’d just seen sobbing in Daniel’s arms. “Her boyfriend is that police officer? The one with Father Brophy?”

“Ben’s taking it pretty hard. Goddamn awful way to find out about it, too. Out on patrol when he heard the chatter on the radio.”

“And he has no idea what she’s doing in this neighborhood? Dressed in black, and packing a weapon?”

Tripp hesitated, just long enough for Maura to notice.

“Detective Tripp?” she said.

He sighed. “We gave her kind of a hard time. You know, about what happened on Christmas Eve. Maybe the teasing got a little out of hand.”

“This is about her getting sick at the crime scene?”

“Yeah. I know it’s juvenile. It’s just something we do to each other in the unit. We kid around, insult each other. But Eve, I’m afraid she took it pretty personally.”

“That still doesn’t explain what she’s doing on Beacon Hill.”

“Ben says that after all the teasing, she was pretty fixed on proving herself. We think she was up here working the case. If so, she didn’t bother to tell anyone else on her team.”

Maura looked down at Eve Kassovitz’s face. At the staring eyes. With gloved hands, she pulled aside strands of blood-stiffened hair to reveal a scalp laceration, but she could palpate no fractures. The blow that had ripped that flap of scalp did not seem serious enough to have caused death. She focused next on the torso. Gently she lifted the sweater, uncovering the rib cage, and stared at the bloodstained bra. The stab wound penetrated the skin just beneath the sternum. Already, the blood had dried, a frozen crust of it obscuring the margins of the wound.

“What time was she found?”

“Around ten P.M. Butler came out earlier, around six P.M., to bring out a trash bag, and didn’t see her then.”

“He took out the trash twice tonight?”

“There was a dinner party for five people inside the house. Lotta cooking, lotta garbage.”

“So we’re looking at a time of death between six and ten P.M.”

“That’s right.”

“And the last time Detective Kassovitz was seen alive by her boyfriend?”

“About three this afternoon. Just before he headed to his shift.”

“So he has an alibi.”

“Airtight. Partner was with him all evening.” Tripp paused. “You need to take a body temp or something? ’Cause we already got the ambient temperature if you need it. It’s twelve degrees.”

Maura eyed the corpse’s heavy clothes. “I’m not going to take a rectal temp here. I don’t want to undress her in the dark. Your witness has already narrowed down the time of death. Assuming he’s correct about the times.”

Tripp gave a grunt. “Probably down to the split second. You should meet this butler guy, Jeremy. I now know the meaning of anal retentive.”

A light slashed the darkness. She glanced up to see a silhouette approaching, flashlight beam sweeping the courtyard.

“Hey, Doc,” said Jane. “Didn’t know you were already here.”

“I just arrived.” Maura rose to her feet. In the gloom, she could not see Jane’s face, only the voluminous halo of her hair. “I didn’t expect to see you here. Crowe was the one who called me.”

“He called me, too.”

“Where is he?”

“He’s inside, interviewing the home owner.”

Tripp gave a snort. “Of course he is. It’s warm in there. I’m the one who has to freeze his butt out here.”

Geez, Tripp,” said Jane. “Sounds like you love Crowe as much as I do.”

“Oh yeah, such a lovable guy. No wonder his old partner took early retirement.” He huffed out a breath, and the steam spiraled up into darkness. “I think we should rotate Crowe around the unit. Spread the pain a little. We can each take turns putting up with Pretty Boy.”

“Believe me, I’ve already put up with him more than I should have to,” said Jane. She focused on Eve Kassovitz, and her voice softened. “He was an asshole to her. That was Crowe’s idea, wasn’t it? The puke bucket on the desk?”

“Yeah,” Tripp admitted. “But we’re all responsible, in a way. Maybe she wouldn’t be here if…” He sighed. “You’re right. We were all assholes.”

“You said she came here working the case,” said Maura. “Was there a lead?”

“O’Donnell,” said Jane. “She was one of the dinner guests tonight.”

Kassovitz was tailing her?”

“We briefly discussed surveillance. It was just a consideration. She never told me she was going to act on it.”

“O’Donnell was here, in this house?”

“She’s still inside, being interviewed.” Jane’s gaze was back on the body. “I’d say O’Donnell’s devoted fan has just left her another offering.”

“You think this is the same perp.”

“I know it is.”

“There’s mutilation of the eyes here, but no dismemberment. No ritualistic symbols like in East Boston.”

Jane glanced at Tripp. “You didn’t show her?”

“I was about to.”

“Show me what?” asked Maura.

Jane raised her flashlight and shone it on the back door of the residence. What Maura saw sent a chill coiling up her spine. On the door were three upside-down crosses. And drawn beneath it, in red chalk, was a single staring eye.

“I’d say that’s our boy’s work,” said Jane.

“It could be a copycat. A number of people saw those symbols in Lori-Ann Tucker’s bedroom. And cops talk.”

“If you still need convincing…” Jane aimed her flashlight at the bottom of the door. On the single granite step, leading into the house, was a small cloth-covered bundle. “We unwrapped it just enough to look inside,” said Jane. “I think we’ve found Lori-Ann Tucker’s left hand.”

A sudden gust of wind swept the courtyard, kicking up a mist of snow that stung Maura’s eyes, flash-froze her cheeks. Dead leaves rattled across the patio, and the gazebo creaked and shuddered above them.

“Have you considered the possibility,” said Maura softly, “that this murder tonight has nothing to do with Joyce O’Donnell?”

“Of course it does. Kassovitz tails O’Donnell here. The killer sees her, chooses her as his next victim. It still gets back to O’Donnell.”

“Or he could have seen Kassovitz on Christmas Eve. She was there at the crime scene. He could have been watching Lori-Ann Tucker’s house.”

“You mean, enjoying all the action?” said Tripp.

“Yes. Enjoying the fact that all the excitement, all the cops, were because of him. Because of what he’d just done. What a sense of power.”

“So he follows Kassovitz here,” said Tripp, “because she caught his eye that night? Man, that puts a different spin on this.”

Jane looked at Maura. “It means he could’ve been watching any one of us. He’d know all our faces now.”

Maura bent down and pulled the sheet back over the body. Her hands were numb and clumsy as she stripped off the latex gloves and pulled on her wool ones. “I’m freezing. I can’t do anything else out here. We should just move her to the morgue. And I need to defrost my hands.”

“Have you already called for pickup?”

“They’re on their way. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll wait for them in my car. I want to get out of this wind.”

“I think we should all get out of this wind,” said Tripp.

They walked back along the side yard and stepped through the iron gate into the liverish glow of the gas lamp. Across the street, silhouetted in strobe by cruiser rack lights, was a huddle of cops. Daniel stood among them, taller than the other men, hands buried in the pockets of his overcoat.

“You can come inside with us and wait,” said Jane.

“No,” said Maura, her gaze on Daniel. “I’ll just sit in my car.”

Jane was silent for a moment. She’d noticed Daniel, too, and she could probably guess why Maura was lingering outside.

“If you’re looking to get warm, Doc,” said Jane, “you’re not going to find it out here. But I guess that’s your choice.” She clapped Tripp on the shoulder. “Come on. Let’s go back inside. See how Pretty Boy’s doing.” They walked up the steps, into the house.

Maura paused on the sidewalk, her gaze on Daniel. He did not seem to notice that she was there. It was awkward with all those cops standing around him. But what was there to be embarrassed about, really? She was here to do her job, and so was he. It’s the most natural thing in the world for two acquaintances to greet each other.

She crossed the street, toward the circle of cops. Only then did Daniel see her. So did the other men, and they all fell silent as she approached. Though she dealt with police officers every day, saw them at every crime scene, she had never felt entirely comfortable with them, or they with her. That mutual discomfort was never more obvious than at this moment, when she felt their gazes on her. She could guess what they thought of her. The chilly Dr. Isles, never a barrel of laughs. Or maybe they were intimidated; maybe it was the MD behind her name that set her apart, made her unapproachable.

Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe they are afraid of me.

“The morgue van should be here any minute,” she said, opening the conversation on pure business. “If you could make room for it on the street.”

“Sure thing, Doc,” one of the cops said, and coughed.

Another silence followed, the cops looking off in other directions, everywhere but at her, their feet shuffling on cold pavement.

“Well, thank you,” she said. “I’ll be waiting in my car.” She didn’t cast a glance at Daniel, but simply turned and walked away.

“Maura?”

She glanced back at the sound of his voice, and saw that the cops were still watching. There’s always an audience, she thought. Daniel and I are never alone.

“What do you know so far?” he asked.

She hesitated, aware of all the eyes. “Not much more than anyone else, at this point.”

“Can we talk about it? It might help me comfort Officer Lyall if I knew more about what happened.”

“It’s awkward. I’m not sure…”

“You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t feel comfortable revealing.”

She hesitated. “Let’s sit in my car. It’s right down the street.”

They walked together, hands thrust in pockets, heads bent against icy gusts. She thought of Eve Kassovitz, lying alone in the courtyard, her corpse already chilled, her blood freezing in her veins. On this night, in this wind, no one wanted to keep company with the dead. They reached her car and slid inside. She turned on the engine to run the heater, but the air that puffed through the vents offered no warmth.

“Officer Lyall was her boyfriend?” she asked.

“He’s devastated. I don’t think I was able to offer much comfort.”

“I couldn’t do your job, Daniel. I’m not good at dealing with grief.”

“But you do deal with it. You have to.”

“Not on the level you do, when it’s still so raw, so fresh. I’m the one they expect all the answers from, not the one they call in to give comfort.” She looked at him. In the gloom of her car he was just a silhouette. “The last Boston PD chaplain lasted only two years. I’m sure the stress contributed to his stroke.”

“Father Roy was sixty-five, you know.”

“And he looked eighty the last time I saw him.”

“Well, taking night calls isn’t easy,” he admitted, his breath steaming the window. “It’s not easy for cops, either. Or doctors or firemen. But it’s not all bad,” he added with a soft laugh, “since going to death scenes is the only time I ever get to see you.”

Although she could not read his eyes, she felt his gaze on her face and was grateful for the darkness.

“You used to visit me,” he said. “Why did you stop?”

“I came for midnight Mass, didn’t I?”

He gave a weary laugh. “Everyone shows up at Christmas. Even the ones who don’t believe.”

“But I was there. I wasn’t avoiding you.”

“Have you been, Maura? Avoiding me?”

She said nothing. For a moment they regarded each other in the gloom of her car. The air blowing from the vent had barely warmed and her fingers were still numb, but she could feel heat rise to her cheeks.

“I know what’s going on,” he said quietly.

“You have no idea.”

“I’m just as human as you are, Maura.”

Suddenly she laughed. It was a bitter sound. “Well, this is a cliché. The priest and the woman parishioner.”

“Don’t reduce it to that.”

“But it is a cliché. It’s probably happened a thousand times before. Priests and bored housewives. Priests and lonely widows. Is it the first time for you, Daniel? Because it sure as hell is the first time for me.” Suddenly ashamed that she had turned her anger on him, she looked away. What had he done, really, except offer her his friendship, his attention? I am the architect of my own unhappiness.

“If it makes you feel any better,” he said quietly, “you’re not the only one who’s miserable.”

She sat perfectly still as air hissed from the vents. She kept her gaze focused straight ahead, on the windshield now fogged with condensation, but all her other senses were painfully focused on him. Even if she were blind and deaf, she’d still know he was there, so attuned was she to every aspect of his presence. Attuned, as well, to her own pounding heart, to the sizzling of her nerves. She’d felt a perverse thrill from his declaration of unhappiness. At least she was not the only one suffering, not the only one who lay sleepless at night. In affairs of the heart, misery yearns for company.

There was a loud rapping on her window. Startled, she turned to see a ghostly silhouette peering in through the fogged glass. She lowered her window and stared into the face of a Boston PD cop.

“Dr. Isles? The morgue van just arrived.”

“Thank you. I’ll be right there.” Her window hummed shut again, leaving the glass streaked with watery lines. She shut off the car engine and looked at Daniel. “We have a choice,” she said. “We can both be miserable. Or we can move on with our lives. I’m choosing to move on.” She stepped out of the car and closed the door. She took one breath of air so cold it seemed to sear her throat. But it also swept any last indecision from her brain, leaving it clearer and focused with laser intensity on what she had to do next. She left her car and did not look back. Once again, she headed up the sidewalk, moving from pool to pool of light as she passed beneath streetlamps. Daniel was behind her now; ahead waited a dead woman. And all these cops, standing around. What were they waiting for? Answers that she might not be able to give them?

She pulled her coat tighter, as though to ward off their stares, thinking of Christmas Eve and another death scene. Of Eve Kassovitz, who’d lingered on the street that night, emptying her stomach into the snow bank. Had Kassovitz experienced even a flicker of a premonition that she would be the next object of Maura’s attention?

The cops all gathered in silence near the house as the morgue team wheeled Eve Kassovitz along the side yard. When the stretcher bearing the shrouded corpse emerged through the iron gate, they stood with heads bared in the frigid wind, a solemn blue line honoring one of their own. Even after the stretcher had disappeared into the vehicle and the doors had swung shut, they did not break ranks. Only when the taillights winked away into the darkness did the hats go back on, and they began to drift back to their cruisers.

Maura, too, was about to walk to her car when the front door of the residence opened. She looked up as warm light spilled out and saw the silhouette of a man standing there, looking at her.

“Excuse me. Are you Dr. Isles?” he asked.

“Yes?”

“Mr. Sansone would like to invite you to step inside the house. It’s a great deal warmer in here, and I’ve just made a fresh pot of coffee.”

She hesitated at the foot of the steps, looking up at the warm glow that framed the manservant. He stood very straight, watching her with an eerie stillness that made her think of a life-size statue she’d once seen in a gag store, a papier-mâché butler holding a tray of fake drinks. She glanced down the street toward her car. Daniel had already left, and she had nothing to look forward to but a lonely drive home and an empty house.

“Thank you,” she said, and started up the steps. “I could use a cup of coffee.”

TWELVE

 

She stepped into the warmth of the front parlor. Her face was still numb from the bite of the wind. Only as she stood before the fireplace, waiting for the butler to notify Mr. Sansone, did sensation slowly creep back into her cheeks; she felt the pleasant sting of reawakened nerves, of flushing skin. She could hear the murmur of conversation in another room— Detective Crowe’s voice, pointed with questioning, answered by a softer response, barely audible. A woman’s. In the fireplace, sparks popped and smoke puffed up, and she realized these were real logs burning, that it was not the fake gas fireplace she’d assumed it was. The medieval oil painting that hung above the hearth might well be authentic as well. It was a portrait of a man wearing robes of wine-red velvet, with a gold crucifix around his neck. Though he was not young, and his dark hair was woven with silver, his eyes burned with a youthful fire. In that room’s flickering light, those eyes seemed piercingly alive.

She shivered and turned away, strangely intimidated by the stare of a man almost certainly long dead. The room had other curiosities, other treasures to examine. She saw chairs upholstered in striped silk, a Chinese vase that gleamed with the patina of centuries, a rosewood butler’s table that held a cigar box and a crystal decanter of brandy. The carpet she stood on bore a well-worn path down its center, evidence of its age and the countless shoes that had trod across it, but the relatively untouched perimeter revealed the unmistakable quality of thick wool and the craftsmanship of the weaver. She looked down at her feet, at a tapestry of intricate vines twining across burgundy to frame a unicorn reclining beneath a bower of trees. Suddenly she felt guilty that she was standing on such a masterpiece. She stepped off it, onto the wood floor, and closer to the hearth.

Once again, she was facing the portrait over the mantelpiece. Once again, her gaze lifted to the priest’s piercing eyes, eyes that seemed to stare straight back at her.

“It’s been in my family for generations. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how vivid the colors still are? Even after four centuries.”

Maura turned to face the man who had just stepped into the room. He had entered so quietly, it was as though he had simply materialized behind her, and she was too taken by surprise to know quite what to say. He was dressed in a dark turtleneck, which made his silver hair all the more striking. Yet his face looked no older than fifty. Had they merely passed each other on the street, she would have stared at him because his features were so arresting and so hauntingly familiar. She saw a high forehead, an aristocratic bearing. His dark eyes caught the flicker of firelight, so that they seemed lit from within. He had referred to the portrait as an heirloom, and she saw at once the familial resemblance between the portrait and the living man. The eyes were the same.

He held out his hand. “Hello, Dr. Isles. I’m Anthony Sansone.” His gaze was focused with such intensity on her face that she wondered if they had met before.

No. I certainly would have remembered a man this attractive.

“I’m glad to finally make your acquaintance,” he said, shaking her hand. “After everything I’ve heard about you.”

“From whom?”

“Dr. O’Donnell.”

Maura felt her hand go cold in his grasp, and she pulled away. “I can’t imagine why I’d be a subject of conversation.”

“She had only good things to say about you. Believe me.”

“That’s a surprise.”

“Why?”

“Because I can’t say the same thing about her,” she said.

He gave a knowing nod. “She can be off-putting. Until you get the chance to know her. Value her insights.”

The door swung open so quietly, Maura did not hear it. Only the gentle clink of chinaware alerted her to the fact that the butler had stepped into the room, carrying a tray with cups and a coffeepot. He set them on an end table, regarded Sansone with a questioning look, then withdrew from the room. Not a single word had passed between them; the only communication had been that look, and the returning nod— all the vocabulary needed between two men who obviously knew each other well enough to dispense with unnecessary words.

Sansone gestured for her to sit down, and Maura sank into an empire armchair upholstered in striped silk.

“I apologize for confining you to the front parlor,” he said. “But Boston PD seems to have commandeered the other rooms while they conduct their interviews.” He poured coffee and handed her a cup. “I take it you’ve examined the victim?”

“I saw her.”

“What did you think?”

“You know I can’t comment.”

He leaned back in his chair, looking perfectly at ease against blue and gold brocade. “I’m not talking about the body itself,” he said. “I perfectly understand why you can’t discuss your medical findings. I was referring to the scene itself. The gestalt of the crime.”

“You should ask the lead investigator, Detective Rizzoli.”

“I’m more interested in your impressions.”

“I’m a physician. Not a detective.”

“But I’m guessing you have a special insight into what happened in my garden tonight.” He leaned forward, coal-dark eyes riveted on hers. “You saw the symbols drawn on my back door?”

“I can’t talk about—”

“Dr. Isles, you won’t be giving away anything. I saw the body. So did Dr. O’Donnell. When Jeremy found the woman, he came straight into the house to tell us.”

“And then you and O’Donnell tramped outside like tourists to have a look?”

“We’re the furthest thing from tourists.”

“Did you stop to think about the footprints you might have destroyed? The trace evidence you’ve contaminated?”

“We understood exactly what we were doing. We had to see the crime scene.”

“Had to?”

“This house isn’t just my residence. It’s also a meeting place for colleagues from around the world. The fact that violence has struck so close alarms us.”

“It would alarm anyone to find a dead body in their garden. But most people wouldn’t troop outside with their dinner guest to look at it.”

“We needed to know if it was merely an act of random violence.”

“As opposed to what?”

“A warning, meant specifically for us.” He set down his coffee cup and focused his attention so completely on her that she felt pinned to the silk-upholstered chair. “You did see the chalk symbols on the door? The eye. The three upside-down crosses?”

“Yes.”

“I understand there was another slaying, on Christmas Eve. Another woman. Another crime scene with reverse crosses drawn on the bedroom wall.”

She didn’t need to confirm it; this man had surely read the answer in her face. She could almost feel his gaze probing deep, and seeing too much.

“We might as well talk about it,” he said. “I already know the pertinent details.”

“How do you know? Who told you?”

“People I trust.”

She gave a disbelieving laugh. “Dr. O’Donnell being one of them?”

“Whether you like her or not, she is an authority in her field. Look at her body of work on serial murderers. She understands these creatures.”

“Some would say she identifies with them.”

“On some level, you’d have to. She’s willing to crawl inside their heads. Examine every crevice.”

The way Maura herself had felt examined by Sansone’s gaze only moments ago.

“It takes a monster to know one,” said Maura.

“You really believe that?”

“About Joyce O’Donnell, yes. I do believe that.”

He leaned even closer, and his voice dropped to an intimate murmur. “Could your dislike of Joyce be merely personal?”

“Personal?”

“Because she knows so much about you? About your family?”

Maura stared back, stunned into silence.

“She told us about Amalthea,” he said.

“She had no right to.”

“Your mother’s incarceration is a matter of public record. We all know what Amalthea did.”

“This is my private life—”

“Yes, and she’s one of your personal demons. I understand that.”

“Why the hell is this of any interest to you?”

“Because you’re of interest. You’ve looked evil in the eye. You’ve seen it in your own mother’s face. You know it’s there, in your bloodline. That’s what fascinates me, Dr. Isles— that you come from such violent stock, yet here you are, working on the side of the angels.”

“I work on the side of science and reason, Mr. Sansone. Angels aren’t involved.”

“All right, so you don’t believe in angels. But do you believe in their counterparts?”

“Do you mean demons?” She gave a laugh. “Of course not.”

He regarded her for a moment with a look of vague disappointment. “Since your religion seems to be science and reason, as you put it, how does science explain what happened in my garden tonight? What happened to that woman on Christmas Eve?”

“You’re asking me to explain evil.”

“Yes.”

“I can’t. Neither can science. It just is.

He nodded. “That’s exactly right. It just is, and it’s always been with us. A real entity, living among us, stalking us. Waiting for its chance to feed. Most people aren’t aware of it, and they don’t recognize it, even when it brushes up against them, when it passes them on the street.” His voice had dropped to a whisper. In the momentary hush, she heard the crackle of flames in the hearth, the murmur of voices in the other room. “But you do,” he said. “You’ve seen it with your own eyes.”

“I’ve only seen what every homicide cop has seen.”

“I’m not talking about everyday crimes. Spouses killing spouses, drug dealers shooting the competition. I’m talking about what you saw in your mother’s eyes. The gleam. The spark. Not divine, but something unholy.”

A draft moaned down the flue, scattering ashes against the fire screen. The flames shuddered, quailing before an invisible intruder. The room suddenly felt cold, as though all heat, all light, had just been sucked from it.

“I understand perfectly,” he said, “why you wouldn’t want to talk about Amalthea. It’s a terrible bloodline to inherit.”

“She has nothing to do with who I am,” Maura said. “She didn’t raise me. I didn’t even know she existed until a few months ago.”

“Yet you’re sensitive about the subject.”

She met his gaze. “I really don’t care.”

“I find it strange that you don’t care.”

“We don’t inherit our parents’ sins. Or their virtues.”

“Some legacies are too powerful to ignore.” He pointed to the painting over the hearth. “Sixteen generations separate me from that man. Yet I’ll never escape his legacy. I’ll never be washed clean of the things he did.”

Maura stared at the portrait. Once again, she was struck by the resemblance between the living man sitting beside her and the face on the canvas. “You said that painting was an heirloom.”

“Not one that I was happy to inherit.”

“Who was he?”

Monsignore Antonino Sansone. This portrait was painted in Venice in 1561. At the height of his power. Or, you might also say, at the depth of his depravity.”

Antonino Sansone? Your name?”

“I’m his direct descendent.”

She frowned at the painting. “But he—”

“He was a priest. That’s what you’re about to say, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“It would take all night to tell you his story. Another time, maybe. Let’s just say that Antonino was not a godly man. He did things to other human beings that would make you question the very meaning of—” He paused. “He’s not an ancestor I’m proud of.”

“Yet you have his portrait hanging in your house.”

“As a reminder.”

“Of what?”

“Look at him, Dr. Isles. He looks like me, don’t you think?”

“Eerily so.”

“In fact, we could be brothers. That’s why he’s hanging there. To remind me that evil has a human face, maybe even a pleasant face. You could walk past that man, see him smile back at you, and you’d never imagine what he’s thinking about you. You can study a face all you want, but you never really know what lies beneath the mask.” He leaned toward her, his hair reflecting firelight like a silvery helmet. “They look just like us, Dr. Isles,” he said softly.

“They? You make it sound like a separate species.”

“Maybe they are. Throwbacks to an ancient era. All I know is, they are not like us. And the only way to identify them is to track what they do. Follow the bloody trail, listen for the screams. Search for what most police departments are too overwhelmed to notice: the patterns. We look beyond the background noise of everyday crimes, of routine bloodshed, to see the hot spots. We watch for the footprints of monsters.”

“Who do you mean by we?”

“The people who were here tonight.”

“Your dinner guests.”

“We share a belief that evil isn’t just a concept. It’s real, and it has a physical presence. It has a face.” He paused. “At some time in our lives, we’ve each seen it in the flesh.”

Maura’s eyebrow lifted. “Satan?”

“Whatever name you want to use.” He shrugged. “There’ve been so many names, dating back to the ancients. Lucifer, Abigor, Samael, Mastema. Every culture has its name for evil. My friends and I have each personally brushed up against it. We’ve seen its power, and I’ll admit it, Dr. Isles. We’re scared.” His gaze met hers. “Tonight, more than ever.”

“You think this killing in your garden—”

“It has to do with us. With what we do here.”

“Which is?”

“We monitor the work of monsters. Around the country, around the world.”

“A club of armchair detectives? That’s what it sounds like to me.” Her gaze moved back to the portrait of Antonino Sansone, which was no doubt worth a fortune. Just a glance around this drawing room told her that this man had money to burn. And the time to waste on eccentric interests.

“Why was that woman killed in my garden, Dr. Isles?” he said. “Why choose my house, on this particular evening?”

“You think it’s all about you and your club?”

“You saw the chalk drawings on my door. And the drawings at the Christmas Eve slaying.”

“And I have no idea what any of them mean.”

“The upside-down crosses are common satanic symbols. But what interests me is the chalk circle in Lori-Ann Tucker’s house. The one drawn on her kitchen floor.”

There was no point denying the facts; this man already knew the details. “So what does the circle mean?”

“It could be a ring of protection. Another symbol taken from satanic rituals. By drawing that circle, Lori-Ann may have been trying to shield herself. She may have been trying to control the very forces she was calling from the darkness.”

“Wait. You think the victim drew it, to ward off the devil?” Her tone of voice left no doubt what she thought of his theory: utter nonsense.

“If she did draw it, then she had no idea who —or what— she was summoning.”

The fire suddenly fluttered, flames reaching up in a bright claw. Maura turned as the inner door swung open and Dr. Joyce O’Donnell emerged. She paused, clearly surprised to see Maura. Then her attention shifted to Sansone.

“Lucky me. After two hours of questions, Boston’s finest finally decided to let me go home. You throw a hell of a dinner party, Anthony. This is one evening you’ll never be able to top.”

“Let’s hope I never do,” said Sansone. “Let me get your coat.” He rose and pushed open a wooden panel, exposing a hidden closet. He held up O’Donnell’s fur-trimmed coat and she slipped her arms into the sleeves with feline grace, her blond hair brushing across his hands. Maura saw familiarity in that momentary contact, a comfortable dance between two people who knew each other well.

Perhaps very well.

As she buttoned, O’Donnell’s gaze settled on Maura. “It’s been a while, Dr. Isles,” she said. “How is your mother?”

She always goes straight for the jugular. Don’t let her see she’s drawn blood.

“I have no idea,” said Maura.

“You haven’t been back to see her?”

“No. But you probably already know that.”

“Oh, I finished my interviews with Amalthea over a month ago. I haven’t seen her since.” Slowly, O’Donnell pulled woolen gloves over long, elegant fingers. “She was doing well when I last saw her, in case you’re interested.”

“I’m not.”

“They have her working in the prison library now. She’s turned into quite the bookworm. Reads every psychology textbook she can get her hands on.” O’Donnell paused to give her glove a last tug. “If she’d ever had the chance to go to college, she could have been a star.”

Instead, my mother chose a different path. Predator. Butcher. No matter how hard Maura worked to distance herself, no matter how deeply she buried any thoughts of Amalthea, she could not look at her own reflection without seeing her mother’s eyes, her mother’s jaw. The monster peering back from the mirror.

“Her case history will take up a whole chapter in my next book,” said O’Donnell. “If you’re ever willing to sit down and talk with me, it would contribute a great deal to her history.”

“I have absolutely nothing to add.”

O’Donnell simply smiled, clearly expecting the snub. “Always worth asking,” she said, and looked at Sansone. A gaze that lingered, as though she had something more to say, but could not say it in Maura’s presence. “Good night, Anthony.”

“Shall I have Jeremy follow you home, just to be sure?”

“Absolutely not.” She flashed him a smile that struck Maura as distinctly flirtatious. “I can take care of myself.”

“These are different circumstances, Joyce.”

“Afraid?”

“We’d be crazy if we weren’t.”

She flung her scarf around her neck, a theatrical flourish to emphasize that she, for one, was not going to let something as trivial as fear slow her down. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

He opened the door, letting in a whoosh of frigid air, a flurry of snowflakes that scattered like glitter across the antique carpet. “Stay safe,” he said. He waited in the doorway, watching as O’Donnell walked to her car. Only after she drove away did he close the door. Once again, he faced Maura.

“So you and your friends think you’re on the side of the angels,” said Maura.

“I believe we are.”

“Whose side is she on?”

“I know there’s no love lost between her and law enforcement. It’s her job as a defense witness to be at odds with the prosecution. But I’ve known Joyce for three years now. I know where she stands.”

“Can you really be sure?” Maura picked up her coat, which she’d left draped over a settee. He did not attempt to help her on with it; perhaps he sensed that she, unlike O’Donnell, was not in the mood to be indulged. As she buttoned her coat, she felt she was being watched by two sets of eyes. The portrait of Antonino Sansone was watching her as well, his gaze piercing the mist of four centuries, and she could not help a glance in the portrait’s direction, at the man whose actions, so many generations ago, could still make his namesake shudder.

“You say you’ve looked evil in the eye,” she said, turning back to her host.

“We both have.”

“Then you should know by now,” she said, “that it wears a pretty damn good disguise.”

She stepped out of the house and breathed in air that sparkled with frozen mist. The sidewalk stretched before her like a dark river; streetlamps cast pale islands of light. A lone Boston PD cruiser was parked across the street, engine idling, and she saw the silhouette of a patrolman sitting in the driver’s seat. She raised her hand in a wave.

He waved back.

No reason to be nervous, she thought, as she started walking. My car’s just down the street, and a cop’s nearby. So was Sansone. She glanced back and saw that he was still standing on his front steps, watching her. Nevertheless she pulled out her car keys, kept her thumb poised on the panic button. Even as she moved down the sidewalk, she scanned shadows, searching for even a flicker of movement. Only after she’d climbed into her car and locked it did she feel the tension ease from her shoulders.

Time to go home. Time for a stiff drink.

When she walked into her house, she found two new messages on her answering machine. She went into the kitchen first, to pour herself a glass of brandy, came back into the living room, sipping her drink, and pressed Play. At the sound of the first caller’s voice, she went very still.

“It’s Daniel. I don’t care how late it is when you hear this. Just call me, please. I hate to think that you and I—” A pause. “We need to talk, Maura. Call me.”

She did not move. Just stood clutching her brandy, her fingers numb around the glass as the second message played.

“Dr. Isles, it’s Anthony Sansone. I just wanted to make sure you got home safely. Give me a call and let me know, will you?”

The machine went silent. She took a breath, reached for the phone, and dialed.

Sansone residence. This is Jeremy.”

“It’s Dr. Isles. Could you—”

“Hello, Dr. Isles. Let me get him for you.”

“Just let him know that I’m home.”

“I know that he’d like very much to talk to you himself.”

“There’s no need to disturb him. Good night.”

“Good night, Doctor.”

She hung up and hovered over the receiver, poised to make the second call.

A sharp thump on her porch made her back snap straight. She went to the front door and flipped on the porch light. Outside, the wind swirled snow fine as dust. On the porch, a fallen icicle lay in glistening shards, like a broken dagger. She turned off the light but lingered at the window and watched as a municipal truck rumbled past, scattering sand across the icy road.

She returned to the couch and stared at the phone as she drank the last of her brandy.

We need to talk, Maura. Call me.

She set down the glass, turned off the lamp, and went to bed.

THIRTEEN

 

July 22. Phase of the moon: First Quarter.

 

Aunt Amy stands at the stove stirring a pot of stew, her face as contented as a cow’s. On this overcast day, with dark clouds gathering in the western sky, she seems oblivious to the rumble of thunder. In my aunt’s world, every day is a sunny one. She sees no evil, fears no evil. She is like the livestock fattening on clover on the farm down the road, the cattle that know nothing of the slaughterhouse. She cannot see beyond the glow of her own happiness, to the precipice just beyond her feet.

She is nothing like my mother.

Aunt Amy turns from the stove and says, “Dinner’s almost ready.”

“I’ll set the table,” I offer, and she flashes me a grateful smile. It takes so little to please her. As I set the plates and napkins on the table and lay the forks tines-down, in the French way, I feel her loving gaze. She sees only a quiet and agreeable boy; she’s blind to who I really am.

Only my mother knows. My mother can trace our bloodline all the way back to the Hyksos, who ruled Egypt from the north, in the age when the God of War was sacred. “The blood of ancient hunters runs in your veins,” my mother said. “But it’s best never to speak of it, because people will not understand.”

I say little as we sit down to dinner. The family chatters enough to fill any silence. They talk about what Teddy did at the lake today, what Lily heard while at Lori-Ann’s house. What a nice crop of tomatoes they’ll be harvesting in August.

When we have finished eating, Uncle Peter says, “Who wants to go into town for ice cream?”

I am the only one who chooses to stay home.

I watch from the front door as their car drives away. As soon as it vanishes down the hill, I climb the stairs and walk into my aunt and uncle’s bedroom. I’ve been waiting for the chance to explore it. The room smells like lemon furniture polish. The bed is neatly made, but there are minor touches of disorder —my uncle’s jeans draped over a chair, a few magazines on the nightstand— to confirm that real people live in this room.

In their bathroom, I open the medicine cabinet and find, along with the usual headache pills and cold capsules, a two-year-old prescription, made out to Dr. Peter Saul: “Valium, 5 mg. Take one tablet three times a day as needed for back spasms.”

There are at least a dozen pills still left in the bottle.

I return to the bedroom. I open dresser drawers and discover that my aunt’s bra size is 36B, that her underwear is cotton, and that my uncle wears medium jockey shorts. In a bottom drawer, I also find a key. It’s too small for a door. I think I know what it opens.

Downstairs, in my uncle’s study, I fit the key into a lock, and the cabinet door swings open. On the shelf inside is his handgun. It’s an old one that he inherited from his father, which is the only reason he has not gotten rid of it. He never takes it out; I think he is a little afraid of it.

I lock the cabinet and return the key to its drawer.

An hour later, I hear their car pulling into the driveway, and I go downstairs to greet them as they come back into the house.

Aunt Amy smiles when she sees me. “I’m so sorry you didn’t come with us. Were you terribly bored?”

FOURTEEN

 

The squeal of the truck’s air brakes startled Lily Saul awake. She raised her head, groaning at the ache in her neck, and blinked with sleepy eyes at the passing countryside. Dawn was just breaking and the morning mist was a haze of gold over sloping vineyards and dew-laden orchards. She hoped that poor Paolo and Giorgio had passed on to a place this beautiful; if anyone deserved Heaven, they did.

But I will not be seeing them there. This will be my only chance at Heaven. Here, now. A moment of peace, infinitely sweet because I know it won’t last.

“You’re awake at last,” the driver said in Italian, dark eyes appraising her. Last night, when he had stopped at the side of the road just outside Florence to offer her a ride, she had not gotten a good look at him. Now, with the morning light slanting into the truck’s cab, she saw coarse features, a jutting brow, and a day’s dark stubble on his jaw. Oh, she could read that look he gave her. Will we or won’t we, Signorina? American girls were easy. Give them a lift, offer them a place to stay, and they’ll sleep with you.

When Hell freezes over, thought Lily. Not that she hadn’t slept with a stranger or two. Or three, when desperate measures were called for. But those men had not been without their charms, and they had offered what she’d sorely needed at the time— not shelter, but the comfort of a man’s arms. The chance to enjoy the brief but lovely delusion that someone could protect her.

“If you need a place to stay,” the driver said, “I have an apartment, in the city.”

“Thank you, but no.”

“You have some place to go?”

“I have… friends. They’ve offered to let me stay.”

“Where is their address in Rome? I will drop you off.”

He knew she was lying. He was testing her.

“Really,” he said. “It is no trouble.”

“Just leave me at the train station. They live near there.”

Again, his gaze raked across her face. She did not like his eyes. She saw meanness there, like the gleam of a coiled snake that could, at any instant, strike.

Suddenly he gave a shrug, a grin, as if it didn’t matter to him in the least.

“You have been to Rome before?”

“Yes.”

“Your Italian is very good.”

But not good enough, she thought. I open my mouth and they know I’m foreign.

“How long will you stay in the city?”

“I don’t know.” Until it’s no longer safe. Until I can plan my next move.

“If you ever need help, you can call me.” He pulled a business card from his shirt pocket and handed it to her. “The number for my mobile.”

“I’ll give you a call sometime,” she said, dropping the card inside her backpack. Let him hang on to his fantasy. He’d give her less trouble when she left.

At Rome’s Stazione Termine, she climbed out of the truck and gave him a good-bye wave. She could feel his gaze as she crossed the street toward the train station. She didn’t glance back, but walked straight into the building. There, behind windows, she turned to watch his truck. Saw it just sitting there, waiting. Go on, she thought. Get the hell away from me.

Behind the truck, a taxicab blared its horn; only then did the truck move on.

She emerged from the station and wandered into Piazza della Repubblica where she paused, dazed by the crowds, by the heat and noise and gas fumes. Just before leaving Florence, she had chanced a stop at an ATM and withdrawn three hundred Euros, so she was feeling flush now. If she was careful, she could make the cash last for two weeks. Live on bread and cheese and coffee, check into rock-bottom tourist hotels. This was the neighborhood to find cheap accommodations. And with the swarms of foreign tourists moving in and out of the train station, she would easily blend in.

But she had to be cautious.

Pausing outside a sundries store, she considered how she could most easily alter her appearance. A dye job? No. In the land of dark-haired beauties, it was best to stay a brunette. A change of clothes, perhaps. Stop looking so American. Ditch the jeans for a cheap dress. She wandered into a dusty shop and emerged a half hour later wearing a blue cotton frock.

In a fit of extravagance, she next treated herself to a heaping plate of spaghetti Bolognese, her first hot meal in two days. It was a mediocre sauce, and the noodles were soggy and overcooked, but she devoured it all, sopping up every particle of meat with the stale bread. Then, her belly full, the heat weighing down on her shoulders, she trudged sleepily in search of a hotel. She found one on a dirty side street. Dogs had left their stinking souvenirs near the front entrance. Laundry flapped from windows, and a trash can, buzzing with flies, overflowed with garbage and broken glass.

Perfect.

The room she checked into looked over a shadowy interior courtyard. As she unbuttoned her dress, she stood gazing down at a scrawny cat pouncing on something too small for Lily to make out. A piece of string? A doomed mouse?

Stripped down to her underwear, she collapsed onto the lumpy bed and listened to the rattle of window air conditioners in the courtyard, to the honking horns and roaring buses of the Eternal City. A city of four million is a good place to hide for a while, she thought. No one will easily find me here.

Not even the Devil.

FIFTEEN

 

Edwina Felway’s house was in the suburb of Newton. It sat at the edge of the snow-covered Braeburn Country Club, overlooking the east branch of Cheesecake Brook, which was now a gleaming ribbon of ice. Although it was certainly not the largest house on this road of grand residences, its charming eccentricities distinguished it from its more stately neighbors. Thick vines of wisteria had clambered up its stone walls and clung there like arthritic fingers, waiting for spring to warm their knobby joints and coax forth blooms. Framed by one of the gables, a large ocular of stained glass peered like a multicolored eye. Beneath the peaked slate roof, icicles sparkled like jagged teeth. In the front yard, sculptures reared ice-encrusted heads, as though emerging from snowbound hibernation: A winged fairy, still flash-frozen in mid-flight. A dragon, its fiery breath temporarily extinguished. A willowy maiden, the flower wreath on her head transformed by winter to a crown of snowdrops.

“What do you think?” asked Jane as she stared out the car window at the house. “Two million? Two and a half?”

“This neighborhood, right on the golf course? I’m guessing more like four,” said Barry Frost.

“For that weird old house?”

“I don’t think it’s all that old.”

“Well, someone went to a lot of trouble to make it look old.”

“Atmospheric. That’s what I’d call it.”

“Right. Home of the Seven Dwarfs.” Jane turned the car into the driveway and parked beside a van. As they stepped out, onto well-sanded cobblestones, Jane noticed the handicapped placard on the van’s dashboard. Peering through the rear window, she saw a wheelchair lift.

“Hello, there! Are you the detectives?” a booming voice called out. The woman who stood on the porch waving at them was obviously able-bodied.

“Mrs. Felway?” said Jane.

“Yes. And you must be Detective Rizzoli.”

“And my partner, Detective Frost.”

“Watch those cobblestones, they’re slippery. I try to keep the driveway sanded for visitors, but really, there’s no substitute for sensible shoes.” Sensible was a word that clearly applied to Edwina Felway’s wardrobe, Jane noted, as she climbed the steps to shake the woman’s hand. Edwina wore a baggy tweed jacket and wool trousers and rubber Wellingtons, the outfit of an English countrywoman, a role she certainly seemed to fulfill, from her accent right down to her green garden boots. Although she had to be sixty, she stood straight and sturdy as a tree, her handsome face ruddy in the cold, her shoulders as broad as a man’s. The gray hair, cut in a neat pageboy, was pinned back with tortoiseshell barrettes, fully exposing a face with prominent cheekbones and direct blue eyes. She had no need for makeup; she was striking enough without it.

“I’ve put the kettle on,” said Edwina, ushering them into the house. “In case you’d like some tea.” She shut the door, pulled off her boots, and shoved her stocking feet into worn slippers. From upstairs came the excited barking of dogs. Big dogs, by the sound of them. “Oh, I’ve shut them up in the bedroom. They’re not all that disciplined around strangers. And they’re quite intimidating.”

“Do you want us to take off our shoes?” asked Frost.

“Heavens, forget it. The dogs are in and out all the time anyway, tracking in sand. I can’t worry about the floor. Here, let me take your coats.”

As Jane pulled off her jacket, she could not help staring upward at the ceiling that arched overhead. The open rafters were like the beams of a medieval hall. The stained-glass ocular that she had noticed outside beamed in a circle of candy-colored light. Everywhere she looked, on every wall, she saw oddities. A niche with a wooden Madonna, decorated in gold leaf and multicolored glass. A Russian Orthodox triptych painted in jewel tones. Carved animal statues and Tibetan prayer shawls, and a row of medieval oaken pews. Against one wall was a Native American totem pole that thrust all the way to the two-story ceiling.

“Wow,” said Frost. “You’ve got a really interesting place here, ma’am.”

“My husband was an anthropologist. And a collector, until we ran out of space to put it all.” She pointed at the eagle’s head that glared down from the totem pole. “That thing was his favorite. There’s even more of this stuff in storage. It’s probably worth a fortune, but I’ve gotten attached to every hideous piece and I can’t bring myself to let any of it go.”

“And your husband is—”

“Dead.” She said it without hesitation. Just a fact of life. “He was quite a bit older than me. I’ve been a widow for years now. But we had a good fifteen years together.” She hung up their coats, and Jane caught a glimpse into the cluttered closet, saw an ebony walking stick topped by a human skull. That monstrosity, she thought, I would’ve tossed out a long time ago.

Edwina shut the closet door and looked at them. “I’m sure you detectives have your hands full with this investigation. So we thought we’d make things easier for you.”

“Easier?” asked Jane.

The rising squeal of a teakettle made Edwina glance toward the hallway. “Let’s go sit in the kitchen,” she said, and led the way up the hall, her worn slippers whisking across the tired oak floor. “Anthony warned us you’d have a lot of questions, so we wrote out a complete timeline for you. Everything we remember from last evening.”

“Mr. Sansone discussed this with you?”

“He called last night, to tell me everything that happened after I left.”

“I’m sorry he did. It would have been better if you hadn’t talked to him about it.”

Edwina paused in the hallway. “Why? So we can approach this like blind men? If we want to be helpful to the police, we need to be sure of our facts.”

“I’d rather have independent statements from our witnesses.”

“Every member of our group is quite independent, believe me. We each maintain our own opinions. Anthony wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s why we work so well together.”

The scream of the teakettle abruptly cut off, and Edwina glanced toward the kitchen. “Oh, I guess he got it.”

He? Who else was in the house?

Edwina scurried into the kitchen and said, “Here, let me do it.”

“It’s fine, Winnie, I’ve already filled the pot. You wanted Irish breakfast tea, right?”

The man sat in a wheelchair, his back turned to the visitors. Here was the owner of the van in the driveway. He pivoted his chair around to greet them, and Jane saw a thatch of limp brown hair and eyeglasses with thick tortoiseshell frames. The gray eyes that met her gaze were focused and curious. He looked young enough to be Edwina’s son—no older than his mid-twenties. But he sounded American, and there was no family resemblance between the robustly healthy Edwina and this pale young man.

“Let me introduce you,” said Edwina. “This is Detective Frost and Detective Rizzoli. And this is Oliver Stark.”

Jane frowned at the young man. “You were one of the dinner guests last night. At Sansone’s house.”

“Yes.” Oliver paused, reading her face. “Is that a problem?”

“We had hoped to talk to you separately.”

“They’re not happy we’ve already discussed the case amongst ourselves,” Edwina told him.

“Didn’t I predict they’d say that, Winnie?”

“But it’s so much more efficient this way, nailing down the details together. It saves everyone time.” Edwina crossed to the kitchen table and gathered up a huge mountain of newspapers, everything from the Bangkok Post to The Irish Times. She moved them to a countertop, then pulled out two chairs. “Come, everyone, sit down. I’ll go up and get the file.”

“File?” asked Jane.

“Of course we’ve already started a file. Anthony thought you’d want copies.” She strode out of the kitchen and they heard her thump solidly up the stairs.

“Like a mighty redwood, isn’t she?” said Oliver. “I never knew they grew them that big in England.” He wheeled his chair to the kitchen table and waved at them to join him. “I know it goes against everything you police believe in. Independent questioning of witnesses and all that. But this really is more efficient. Plus, we had a conference call with Gottfried this morning, so you’re getting three witness statements at once.”

“That would be Gottfried Baum?” asked Jane. “The fourth dinner guest?”

“Yes. He had to catch a flight back to Brussels last night, which is why he and Edwina left dinner early. We called him a few hours ago to compare notes. All our memories are pretty much in agreement.” He gave Jane a wan smile. “It may be one of the only times in history that we’re all in agreement about something.”

Jane sighed. “You know, Mr. Stark—”

“No one calls me that. I’m Ollie.”

Jane sat down so that her gaze was level with his. He met her look with one of mild amusement, and it irritated her. It said: I’m smart and I know it. Certainly smarter than some policewoman. It also irritated her that he was probably right; he looked like the stereotypical boy genius that you always dreaded sitting next to in math class. The kid who handed in his algebra exam while everyone else was still struggling with problem number one.

“We’re not trying to mess up your usual protocol,” said Oliver. “We just want to be helpful. And we can be, if we work together.”

Upstairs, the dogs were barking, claws tapping back and forth across the floor as Edwina shushed them, and a door thudded shut.

“You can help us by just answering our questions,” said Jane.

“I think you misunderstand.”

“What am I not getting?”

“How useful we can be to you. Our group.”

“Right. Mr. Sansone told me about your little crime-fighting club.”

“It’s a society, not a club.”

“What’s the difference?” asked Frost.

Oliver looked at him. “Gravity, Detective. We have members around the world. And we’re not amateurs.”

“Are you a law enforcement professional, Ollie?” asked Jane.

“Actually, I’m a mathematician. But my real interest is symbology.”

“Excuse me?”

“I interpret symbols. Their origins and their meanings, both apparent and hidden.”

“Uh-huh. And Mrs. Felway?”

“She’s an anthropologist. She just joined us. Came highly recommended from our London branch.”

“And Mr. Sansone? He’s certainly not law enforcement.”

“He might as well be.”

“He told us he’s a retired academic. A Boston College history professor. That doesn’t sound like a cop to me.”

Oliver laughed. “Anthony would underplay himself. That’s just like him.”

Edwina came back into the kitchen, carrying a file folder. “Just like whom, Ollie?”

“We’re talking about Anthony. The police think he’s just a retired college professor.”

“And that’s just the way he likes it.” Edwina sat down. “It doesn’t help to advertise.”

“What are we supposed to know about him, anyway?” asked Frost.

“Well, you know he’s quite wealthy,” said Edwina.

“That was pretty obvious.”

“I mean, seriously wealthy. That house on Beacon Hill, it’s nothing compared to his estate in Florence.”

“Or his house in London,” said Oliver.

“And we’re supposed to be impressed by that?” said Jane.

Edwina’s response was a cool stare. “Money alone seldom makes a man impressive. It’s what he does with it.” She placed the file folder on the table in front of Jane. “For you, Detective.”

Jane opened the folder to the first page. It was a neatly typed chronology of last night’s events, as recalled by three of the dinner guests, Edwina and Oliver and the mysterious Gottfried Baum.

(All times are approximate)

6:00: Edwina and Gottfried arrive

6:15: Oliver Stark arrives.

6:20: Joyce O’Donnell arrives.

6:40: First course served by Jeremy…

The entire menu was listed. Consommé followed by salmon aspic and a salad of baby lettuces. Beef tournedos with crisp potato cakes. A tasting of port to accompany slivers of Reblochon cheese. And finally, with coffee, a Sacher torte and thick cream.

At nine-thirty, Edwina and Gottfried departed together for Logan Airport, where Edwina dropped Gottfried off for his flight to Brussels.

At nine forty-five Oliver left Beacon Hill and drove straight home.

“And that’s what we remember of the timeline,” said Edwina. “We tried to be as accurate as possible.”

Right down to the consommé, thought Jane, scanning the chronology. There was nothing particularly helpful here; it repeated the same information that Sansone and his butler had already provided, but with the additional culinary details. The overall picture was the same: A winter’s night. Four guests arrive on Beacon Hill within twenty minutes of one another. They and their host share an elegant supper and sip wine while they discuss the crimes of the day, never realizing that, just outside, in the frigid garden behind their building, a woman was being murdered.

Some crime-fighting club. These amateurs are less than useless.

The next page in the folder was a sheet of stationery with only a single letter printed at the top: “M,” in a gothic font. And beneath it, the handwritten note: “Oliver, your analysis? A.S.” Anthony Sansone? Jane flipped to the next page and stared at a photograph that she immediately recognized: the symbols that had been drawn on Sansone’s garden door.

“This is from the crime scene last night,” said Jane. “How did you get this?”

“Anthony sent it over this morning. It’s one of the photos he took last night.”

“This isn’t meant for public distribution,” said Jane. “It’s evidence.”

“Very interesting evidence,” said Oliver. “You know the significance, don’t you? Of those symbols?”

“They’re satanic.”

“Oh, that’s the automatic answer. You see weird symbols at a crime scene and you just assume it’s the work of some nasty satanic cult. Everyone’s favorite villains.”

Frost said, “Do you think this is something else?”

“I’m not saying this couldn’t be a cult. Satanists do use the reverse cross as a symbol of the Antichrist. And that slaying on Christmas Eve, the one with the decapitation, there was that circle drawn on the floor around the victim’s head. And the burned candles. That certainly calls to mind a satanic ritual.”

“How do you know about all this?”

Oliver glanced at Edwina. “They really think we’re clueless, don’t they?”

“It doesn’t matter how we learned the details,” said Edwina. “The fact is, we do know about the case.”

“Then what do you think about this symbol?” asked Frost, pointing to the photograph. “The one that looks like an eye? Is that satanic as well?”

“It depends,” said Oliver. “First, let’s consider what you saw at the Christmas Eve death scene. There was a red chalk circle where he’d placed the victim’s severed head. And there were five candles burned at the perimeter.”

“Meaning?”

“Well, circles in and of themselves are quite primitive symbols, and they are universal. They can mean all sorts of things. The sun, the moon. Protection. Eternity. Rebirth, the cycle of life. And yes, it’s also used by satanic cults to represent the female sexual organ. We don’t really know what it meant to the person who drew it that night.”

“But it could have a satanic meaning,” said Frost.

“Of course. And the five candles may represent the five points of a pentagram. Now, let’s look at what was drawn last night, on Anthony’s garden door.” He pointed to the photograph. “What do you see?”

“An eye.”

“Tell me more about this eye.”

“It’s got, like, a teardrop. And an eyelash sticking out below it.”

Oliver took a pen from his shirt pocket and flipped the sheet of stationery to its blank side. “Let me draw it more clearly, so you’ll see exactly what the different elements are in this symbol.” On the sheet of paper, he reproduced the drawing:

“It still looks like an eye,” said Frost.

“Yes, but all these features —the eyelash, the teardrop— that makes it a very specific eye. This symbol is called Udjat. Experts on satanic cults will tell you this is a symbol for Lucifer’s all-seeing eye. The teardrop is because he mourns for those souls outside his influence. Some conspiracy theorists claim it’s the same eye printed on U.S. currency.”

“You mean on the top of the pyramid?”

“Right. Their so-called proof that the world’s finances are run by worshippers of Satan.”

“So we’re back to satanic symbols,” said Jane.

“That’s one interpretation.”

“What others are there?”

“This is also a symbol used by the ancient fraternity of Freemasons. In which case it has quite a benign meaning. For them, it symbolizes enlightenment, illumination.”

“The seeking of knowledge,” said Edwina. “It’s about learning the secrets of their craft.”

Jane said, “You’re saying this murder was done by a Freemason?”

“Good grief, no!” said Oliver. “That’s not at all what I’m saying. The poor Freemasons have been the target of so many malicious accusations, I’m not even going to repeat them. I’m just giving you a quick history lesson. This is my field, you know, the interpretation of symbols. I’m trying to explain that this symbol, Udjat, is quite an old one. It’s been used throughout history for various purposes. For some people, its meaning is sacred. For others, it’s terrifying, a symbol of evil. But its original meaning, in the time of ancient Egypt, was quite a bit less threatening. And rather practical.”

“What did it mean then?”

“It represented the eye of Horus, the sun god. Horus is usually depicted in paintings or sculptures as a falcon’s head on a man’s body. He was personified on earth by the Pharaoh.”

Jane sighed. “So it could be a satanic symbol, or a symbol for illumination. Or the eye of some Egyptian god with a bird’s head.”

“There’s yet another possibility.”

“I thought you’d say that.”

Oliver picked up the pen again and drew another variation of the eye. “This symbol,” he said, “came into use in Egypt around 1200 B.C. It’s found in hieratic script.”

“Is that still the eye of Horus?” asked Frost.

“Yes, but notice how the eye is now made up of separate sections. The iris is represented by this circle, between two halves of the sclera. Then there’s the teardrop and the curling lash, as you called it. It looks like just a stylized version of Udjat, but it actually had a very practical use, as a mathematical symbol. Each part of the eye represents a fraction.” He wrote numbers on the sketch now:

“These fractions arise by dividing subsequent numbers in half. The entire eye represents the whole number, one. The left half of the sclera represents the fraction one half. The eyelash is one thirty-second.

“Are we getting around to some kind of point here?” asked Jane.

“Of course.”

“And that would be?”

“That maybe there’s a specific message in this eye. In the first death scene, the severed head was enclosed by a circle. In the second scene, there’s a drawing of Udjat on the door. What if they’re connected, those two symbols? What if one symbol was supposed to be the key to interpreting the other?”

“A mathematical key, you mean?”

“Yes. And the circle, at the first killing, represented an element of Udjat.”

Jane frowned at Oliver’s sketches, at the numbers he had jotted in the various sections of the all-seeing eye. “You’re saying that the circle at the first killing is really supposed to be the iris.”

“Yes. And it has a value.”

“You mean it represents a number? A fraction.” She looked up at Oliver and saw that he was leaning toward her, a flush of excitement in his cheeks.

“Exactly,” he said. “And that fraction would be?”

“One fourth,” she said.

“Right.” He smiled. “Right.”

“One fourth of what?” asked Frost.

“Oh, that we don’t know yet. It could mean a quarter moon. Or one of the four seasons.”

“Or it could mean he’s completed only a quarter of his task,” said Edwina.

“Yes,” said Oliver. “Maybe he’s telling us there are more kills to come. That he’s planning a total of four.”

Jane looked at Frost. “There were four place settings at the dining table.”

In the pause that followed, the ringing of Jane’s cell phone sounded startlingly loud. She recognized the number for the crime-scene lab and answered it at once.

“Rizzoli.”

“Hi, Detective. It’s Erin in Trace Evidence. You know that red circle that was drawn on the kitchen floor?”

“Yeah. We’re talking about it right now.”

“I’ve compared that pigment with the symbols from the Beacon Hill crime scene. The drawings on the door. The pigments do match.”

“So our perp used the same red chalk at both scenes.”

“Well, that’s why I’m calling. It’s not red chalk.”

“What is it?”

“It’s something a lot more interesting.”

SIXTEEN

 

The crime lab was in the south wing of Boston PD’s Schroeder Plaza, right down the hallway from the homicide unit offices. The walk took Jane and Frost past windows that looked out over the tired and broken neighborhood of Roxbury. Today, under a cloak of snow, all was purified and white; even the sky had been cleansed, the air crystalline. But that sparkling view of skyline drew only a glance from Jane; her focus was on Room S269, the trace evidence lab.

Criminalist Erin Volchko was waiting for them. As soon as Jane and Frost walked into the room, she swiveled around from the microscope that she’d been hunched over and swept up a file that was sitting on the countertop. “You two owe me a stiff drink,” she said, “after all the work I put into this one.”

“You always say that,” said Frost.

“This time I mean it. Out of all the trace evidence that came in from that first scene, I thought this would be the one we’d have the least trouble with. Instead, I had to chase all over the place to find out what that circle was drawn with.”

“And it’s not plain old chalk,” said Jane.

“Nope.” Erin handed her the folder. “Take a look.”

Jane opened the file. On top was a photographic sheet with a series of images. Red blobs on a blurred background.

“I started with high-magnification light microscopy,” said Erin. “About 600X to 1000X. Those blobs you see there are pigment particles, collected from the red circle drawn on the kitchen floor.”

“So what does this mean?”

“A few things. You can see there are varying degrees of color. The particles aren’t uniform. The refractive index also varied, from 2.5 to 3.01, and many of those particles are birefringent.”

“Meaning?”

“Those are anhydrous iron oxide particles. A quite common substance found around the world. It’s what gives clay its distinctive hues. It’s used in artists’ pigments to produce the colors red, yellow, and brown.”

“That doesn’t sound like anything special.”

“That’s what I thought, until I dug deeper into the subject. I assumed it came from a piece of chalk or a pastel crayon, so I ran comparisons against samples we obtained from two local artists’ supply stores.”

“Any matches?”

“None. The difference was immediately apparent under the microscope. First, the red pigment granules in the pastel crayons showed far less variability in color and refractive index. That’s because most anhydrous iron oxide used in pigments today is synthetic— manufactured, not mined from the earth. They commonly use a compound called Mars Red, a mixture of iron and aluminum oxides.”

“So these pigment granules here, in this photo, aren’t synthetic?”

“No, this is naturally occurring anhydrous iron oxide. It’s also called hematite, derived from the Greek word for blood. Because it’s sometimes red.”

“Do they use the natural stuff in art supplies?”

“We did find a few specialty chalks and pastel crayons that use natural hematite as a pigment. But chalks contain calcium carbonate. And manufactured pastel crayons usually use a natural glue to bind the pigment. Some kind of starch, like methyl cellulose or gum tragacanth. It’s all mixed together into a paste, which is then extruded through a mold to make crayons. We found no traces of gum tragacanth or any binding starch in the crime-scene samples. Nor did we find enough calcium carbonate to indicate that this came from colored chalk.”

“Then we’re not dealing with something you’d find at an art supply store.”

“Not locally.”

“So where did this red stuff come from?”

“Well, let’s talk about this red stuff first. What it is, exactly.”

“You called it hematite.”

“Right. Anhydrous iron oxide. But when it’s found in tinted clay, it has another name as well: ocher.”

Frost said, “Isn’t that, like, what American Indians used to paint their faces?”

“Ocher has been used by mankind for at least three hundred thousand years. It’s even been found in Neanderthal graves. Red ocher in particular seems to have been universally valued in death ceremonies, probably because of its similarity to blood. It’s found in Stone Age cave paintings and on walls in Pompeii. It was used by the ancients to color their bodies as decoration or war paint. And it was used in magical rituals.”

“Including satanic ceremonies?”

“It’s the color of blood. Whatever your religion, that color has symbolic power.” Erin paused. “This killer makes quite unusual choices.”

“I think we already know that,” said Jane.

“What I mean is, he’s in touch with history. He doesn’t use common chalk for his ritual drawings. Instead he uses the same primitive pigment that was used in the Paleolithic era. And he didn’t just dig it up in his own backyard.”

“But you said that red ocher is found in common clay,” said Frost. “So maybe he did dig it up.”

“Not if his backyard is anywhere around here.” Erin nodded at the file folder Jane was holding. “Check out the chemical analysis. What we found on gas chromatography and Raman spectroscopy.”

Jane flipped to the next page and saw a computer printout. A graph with multiple spikes. “You want to interpret this for us?”

“Sure. First, the Raman spectroscopy.”

“Never heard of it.”

“It’s an archaeologist’s technique for analysis of historic artifacts. It uses the light spectrum of a substance to determine its properties. The big advantage for archaeologists is that it doesn’t destroy the artifact itself. You can analyze the pigments on everything from mummy wrappings to the Shroud of Turin and not damage the article in any way. I asked Dr. Ian MacAvoy, from the Harvard archaeology department, to analyze the Raman spectra results, and he confirmed that the sample contains iron oxide plus clay plus silica.”

“That’s red ocher?”

“Yes. Red ocher.”

“But you already knew that.”

“Still, it was nice to have him confirm it. Then Dr. MacAvoy offered to help me track down its source. Where in the world this particular red ocher came from.”

“You can actually do that?”

“The technique’s still in its research stages. It probably wouldn’t hold up in court as evidence. But he was curious enough to run a comparison against a library of ocher profiles he’s compiled from around the world. He determines the concentrations of eleven other elements in the samples, such as magnesium, titanium, and thorium. The theory is, a particular geographic source will have a distinctive trace element profile. It’s like looking at soil samples from a car tire and knowing that it has the lead-zinc profile of a mining district in Missouri. In this case, with this ocher, we’re checking the sample against eleven separate variables.”

“Those other trace elements.”

“Right. And archaeologists have compiled a library of ocher sources.”

“Why?”

“Because it helps determine the provenance of an artifact. For instance, where did the pigment on the Shroud of Turin come from? Was it France or Israel? The answer may establish the shroud’s origins. Or an ancient cave painting— where did the artist get his ocher? If it came from a thousand miles away, it tells you that either he’s traveled that distance himself, or that there was some form of prehistoric trade. That’s why the ocher source library is so valuable. It gives us a window into the lives of the ancients.”

“What do we know about our pigment sample?” asked Frost.

“Well.” Erin smiled. “First, it has rather a large proportion of manganese dioxide— fifteen percent, giving it a deeper, richer tone. It’s the same proportion found in red ochers that were used in medieval Italy.”

“It’s Italian?”

“No. The Venetians imported it from elsewhere. When Dr. MacAvoy compared the entire elemental profile, he found that it matched one location in particular, a place where they’re still mining red ocher even today. The island of Cyprus.”

Jane said, “I need to see a world map.”

Erin pointed to the file. “It just so happens that I pulled one off the Internet.”

Jane flipped to the page. “Okay, I see. It’s in the Mediterranean, just south of Turkey.”

“It seems to me that red chalk would’ve been a lot easier to use,” said Frost.

“And far cheaper. Your killer chose an unusual pigment, from an obscure source. Maybe he has ties to Cyprus.”

“Or he could just be playing games with us,” said Frost. “Drawing weird symbols. Using weird pigments. It’s like he wants to screw around with our heads.”

Jane was still studying the map. She thought of the symbol drawn on the door in Anthony Sansone’s garden. Udjat, the all-seeing eye. She looked at Frost. “Egypt is directly south of Cyprus.”

“You’re thinking of the eye of Horus?”

“What’s that?” Erin asked.

“That symbol left at the Beacon Hill crime scene,” said Jane. “Horus is the Egyptian sun god.”

“Is that a satanic symbol?”

“We don’t know what it means to this perp,” said Frost. “Everyone’s got a theory. He’s a Satanist. He’s a history buff. Or it could just be plain old-fashioned insanity.”

Erin nodded. “Like Son of Sam. I remember the police wasted a lot of time wondering who the mysterious Sam was. It turned out to be nothing more than the killer’s auditory hallucination. A talking dog.”

Jane closed the folder. “You know, I kind of hope our perp is crazy, too.”

“Why?” asked Erin.

“Because I’m a lot more scared of the alternative. That this killer is perfectly sane.”

 

Jane and Frost sat in the car as the engine warmed and the defroster melted the fog from the windshield. If only it was so easy to clear the mist cloaking the killer. She couldn’t form a picture of him; she couldn’t begin to imagine what he looked like. A mystic? An artist? An historian? All I do know is that he’s a butcher.

Frost shifted into gear, and they pulled into traffic, which was moving far more slowly than usual, on roads slick with ice. Under clear skies, the temperature was dropping, and tonight the cold would be the bitterest so far this winter. It was a night to stay home and eat a hearty stew, a night, she hoped, when evil would stay off the streets.

Frost drove east on Columbus Avenue, then headed toward Beacon Hill, where they planned to take another look at the crime scene. The car at last had warmed, and she dreaded stepping out again, into that wind, into Sansone’s courtyard, still stained with frozen blood.

She noticed they were approaching Massachusetts Avenue and she said, suddenly, “Could you turn right?”

“Aren’t we going to Sansone’s place?”

“Just turn here.”

“If you say so.” He made a right.

“Keep going. Toward Albany Street.”

“We going to the M.E.’s?”

“No.”

“So where we headed?”

“It’s right down here. Another few blocks.” She watched the addresses go by, and said, “Stop. Right here.” She stared across the street.

Frost pulled over to the curb and frowned at her. “Kinko’s?”

“My dad works there.” She glanced at her watch. “And it’s just about noon.”

“What are we doing?”

“Waiting.”

“Aw geez, Rizzoli. This isn’t about your mom, is it?”

“It’s screwing up my whole life right now.”

“Your parents are having a tiff. It happens.”

“Wait till your mother moves in with you. See how Alice likes it.”

“I’m sure this’ll blow over and your mom’ll go home.”

“Not if there’s another woman involved.” She sat up straight. “There he is.”

Frank Rizzoli stepped out the front door of Kinko’s and zipped up his jacket. He glanced at the sky, gave a visible shiver, and exhaled a breath that swirled white in the cold.

“Looks like he’s going on his lunch break,” said Frost. “What’s the big deal?”

“That,” said Jane softly. “That’s the big deal.”

A woman had just stepped out the door as well, a big-haired blond wearing a black leather jacket over skin-tight blue jeans. Frank grinned and slipped his arm around her waist. They began to walk down the street, away from Jane and Frost, arms wrapped around each other.

“What the fuck,” said Jane. “It’s true.”

“You know, I think we should probably just move on.”

“Look at them. Look at them!”

Frost started the engine. “I could really use some lunch. How about we go to—”

Jane shoved open the door and stepped out.

“Aw, Rizzoli! Come on.”

She darted across the street and stalked up the sidewalk, right behind her father. “Hey,” she yelled. “Hey!”

Frank halted, his arm dropping from around the woman’s waist. He turned to stare, slack-jawed, as his daughter approached. The blond had not yet released her grip and she continued to cling to Frank, even as he made futile attempts to extricate himself. From a distance, the woman had looked like a real eye-catcher, but as Jane drew closer she saw, fanning out from the woman’s eyes, deep creases that even thick makeup couldn’t conceal, and she caught a whiff of cigarette smoke. This was the piece of ass Frank had traded up to, a bimbo with big hair? This human equivalent of a golden retriever?

“Janie,” said Frank. “This isn’t the time to—”

“When is the time?”

“I’ll call you, okay? We’ll talk about it tonight.”

“Frankie honey, what’s going on?” the blond asked.

Don’t you call him Frankie! Jane glared at the woman. “And what’s your name?”

The woman’s chin jutted up. “Who wants to know?”

“Just answer the fucking question.”

“Yeah, make me!” The blond looked at Frank. “Who the hell is this?”

Frank lifted a hand to his head and gave a moan, as though in pain. “Oh, man.”

“Boston PD,” said Jane. She pulled out her ID and thrust it in the woman’s face. “Now tell me your name.”

The blond didn’t even look at the ID; her startled gaze was on Jane. “Sandie,” she murmured.

Sandie what?”

Huffington.”

“ID,” ordered Jane.

“Janie,” said her dad. “That’s enough.”

Sandie obediently pulled out her wallet to show her driver’s license. “What did we do wrong?” She shot a suspicious look at Frank. “What’d you do?”

“This is all bullshit,” he said.

“And when’s the bullshit going to end, huh?” Jane shot back at him. “When are you going to grow up?”

“This is none of your beeswax.”

“Oh no? She’s sitting in my apartment right now, probably crying her eyes out. All because you can’t keep your goddamn pants zipped.”

“She?” said Sandie. “Who’re we talking about?”

“Thirty-seven years of marriage, and you dump her for boom-boom here?”

“You don’t understand,” said Frank.

“Oh, I understand just fine.”

“You have no idea what it’s like. Just a damn worker bee, that’s all I am. Some drone to put food on the table. I’m sixty-one years old, and what do I got to show for it? You don’t think I deserve a little fun, for once in my life?”

“You think Mom’s having any fun?”

“That’s her problem.”

“It’s mine, too.”

“Well, I take no responsibility for that.

“Hey,” said Sandie. “This is your daughter?” She looked at Jane. “You said you were a cop.”

Frank sighed. “She is a cop.”

“You’re breaking her heart, you know that?” said Jane. “Do you even care?”

“What about my heart?” Sandie cut in.

Jane ignored the bimbo and kept her gaze on Frank. “I don’t even know who you are anymore, Dad. I used to respect you. Now look at you! Pathetic, just pathetic. This blondie shakes her ass and you’re like some idiot dog, sniffing at it. Oh yeah, Dad, hump away.”

Frank shoved a finger at her. “That’s enough outta you!”

“You think boom-boom here is gonna take care of you when you’re sick, huh? You think she’ll stand by you? Hell, does she even know how to cook?”

“How dare you,” said Sandie. “You used your badge to scare me.”

Mom’ll take you back, Dad. I know she will. Go talk to her.”

“There’s a law against what you did,” said Sandie. “There’s gotta be! It’s police harassment!”

“I’ll show you what police harassment is,” Jane shot back. “You just keep pushing me.”

“What’re you gonna do, arrest me?” Sandie leaned into her, eyes narrowed to slits of mascara. “Go ahead.” The woman shoved her finger against Jane’s chest and gave a hard shove. “I dare you.”

What happened next was purely reflexive. Jane didn’t even stop to think, but simply reacted. With one sweep of her hand, she grasped Sandie’s wrist, twisted her around. Through the rushing of her own blood, she heard Sandie screaming obscenities. Heard her dad yell, “Stop it! For God’s sake, stop!” But she was operating on automatic now, all nerves firing on full thrust as she shoved Sandie to her knees, the way she’d handle any perp. But this time there was rage fueling her, making her twist harder than she had to, making her want to hurt this woman. Humiliate her.

“Rizzoli! Jesus, Rizzoli, that’s enough!”

The sound of Frost’s voice finally penetrated the pounding of her own pulse. Abruptly she released Sandie and stepped back, breathing hard. She stared down at the woman who knelt whimpering on the sidewalk. Frank dropped to his knees beside Sandie and helped her to her feet.

“What the hell’re you gonna do now?” Frank looked up at his daughter. “Arrest her?”

“You saw it. She shoved me.”

“She was upset.”

She made the first contact.”

“Rizzoli,” Frost said quietly. “Let’s just drop it, okay?”

“I could arrest her,” said Jane. “Damn it, I could.

“Yeah, okay,” said Frost. “You could. But do you really want to?”

She heaved out a breath. “I got better things to do,” she muttered. Then she turned and walked back to the car. By the time she climbed in, her dad and the blond had already vanished around the corner.

Frost slid in beside her and pulled his door shut. “That,” he said, “was not a cool thing to do.”

“Just drive.”

“You went in looking for a fight.”

“Did you see her? My dad’s going out with a friggin’ bimbo!”

“All the more reason why you need to stay a hundred miles away from her. You two were gonna kill each other.”

Jane sighed and dropped her head in her hand. “What do I tell my mom?”

“Nothing.” Frost started the car and pulled away from the curb. “Their marriage is not your business.”

“I’m gonna have to go home and look at her face. See all the hurt there. That makes it my business.”

“Then be a good daughter. Give her a shoulder to cry on,” he said. “Because she’s gonna need one.”

 

What do I tell my mom?

Jane pulled into a parking space outside her apartment and sat for a moment, dreading what came next. Maybe she shouldn’t tell her what happened today. Angela already knew about Dad and Miss Golden Retriever. Why rub her face in it? Why humiliate her even more?

Because if I were Mom, I’d want to be told. I wouldn’t want my daughter keeping secrets from me, no matter how painful they were.

Jane stepped out of the car, debating what to say, knowing that, no matter what she decided, this was going to be a miserable evening, and that little she could do or say would ease her mother’s pain. Be a good daughter, Frost had said; give her a shoulder to cry on. Okay, that much she could manage.

She climbed the stairs to the second floor, her feet feeling heavier with every step as she silently cursed Miss Sandie Huffington, who had screwed up all their lives. Oh, I’ve got my eye on you. You so much as jaywalk, Bimbo, and I’m gonna be right there. Outstanding parking tickets? Bad news for you. Mom can’t hit back, but I sure as hell can. She thrust her key into her apartment door and paused, frowning at the sound of her mother’s voice inside. The sound of her laughter.

Mom?

Pushing open the door, she inhaled the scent of cinnamon and vanilla. Heard a different laugh now, startlingly familiar. A man’s. She walked into the kitchen and stared at retired detective Vince Korsak, who sat at the table with a cup of coffee. In front of him was a huge plate of sugar cookies.

“Hey,” he said, lifting his coffee cup in greeting. Baby Regina, sitting right beside him in her infant carrier, lifted her tiny hand, too, as though in imitation.

“Um…what are you doing here?”

“Janie!” scolded Angela, setting a pan of freshly baked cookies on the stovetop to cool. “What a thing to say to Vince.”

Vince? She’s calling him Vince?

“He called to invite you and Gabriel to a party,” said Angela.

“And you, too, Mrs. Rizzoli,” Korsak said, winking at Angela. “The more chicks that come, the better!”

Angela flushed, and it wasn’t from the oven’s heat.

“And I bet he smelled the cookies over the phone,” said Jane.

“I just happened to be here baking. I told him that if he came right over, I’d whip up an extra batch for him.”

“No way I’d pass up an offer like that,” laughed Korsak. “Hey, pretty nice having your mom here, huh?”

Jane eyed the crumbs all over his wrinkled shirt. “I see you’re off your diet.”

“And I see you’re in a good mood.” He took a sloppy gulp of coffee and swiped a fat hand across his mouth. “I hear you caught yourself a freakin’ weird one.” He paused, glanced at Angela. “Pardon my French, Mrs. Rizzoli.”

“Oh, say whatever you want,” said Angela. “I want you to feel right at home.”

Please don’t encourage him.

“Some kinda satanic cult,” he said.

“You heard that?”

“Retirement didn’t make me deaf.”

Or dumb. As much as he might irritate her with his crude jokes and appalling hygiene, Korsak was one of the sharpest investigators she knew. Although retired since his heart attack last year, he had never really left the badge behind. On a weekend night, she could still find him hanging out at JP Doyle’s, a favorite Boston PD watering hole, catching up on the latest war stories. Retired or not, Vince Korsak would die a cop.

“What else did you hear?” asked Jane, sitting down at the table.

“That your perp’s an artist. Leaves cute little drawings behind. And he likes to” —Korsak paused and glanced at Angela, who was sliding cookies off the pan— “slice and dice. Am I warm?”

“A little too warm.”

Angela lifted off the last of the cookies and sealed them in a ziplock bag. With a flourish, she placed them in front of Korsak. This was not the Angela whom Jane had expected to come home to. Her mother was actually bustling around the kitchen now, gathering pans and bowls, splashing soapsuds as she washed up in the sink. She didn’t look miserable or abandoned or depressed; she looked ten years younger. Is this what happens when your husband walks out on you?

“Tell Jane more about your party,” said Angela, refilling Korsak’s coffee cup.

“Oh yeah.” He took a noisy slurp. “See, I signed my divorce papers last week. Almost a year of wrangling over money, and it’s finally over. I figured it was time to celebrate my new status as a free man. I got my apartment all decorated. Nice leather couch, big-screen TV. I’m gonna buy a few cases, get some friends together, and we’re all gonna par-tee!”

He’d turned into a fifty-five-year-old teenager with a potbelly and a comb-over. Could he get any more pathetic?

“So you’re coming, right?” he asked Jane. “Second Saturday in January.”

“Let me check the date with Gabriel.”

“If he can’t make it, you can always come stag. Just be sure to bring your older sister here.” He gave Angela a wink, and she giggled.

This was getting more painful by the minute. Jane was almost relieved to hear the muffled ringing of her cell phone. She went into the living room, where she’d left her purse, and dug out her phone.

“Rizzoli,” she said.

Lieutenant Marquette did not waste time with pleasantries. “You need to be more respectful of Anthony Sansone,” he said.

In the kitchen, she could hear Korsak laughing, and the sound suddenly irritated her. If you’re going to flirt with my mom, for God’s sake, take it somewhere else.

“I hear you’ve been giving him and his friends a hard time,” said Marquette.

“Maybe you could define what you mean by hard time?”

“You questioned him for nearly two hours. Grilled his butler, his dinner guests. Then you went back to see him again this afternoon. You’re making him feel as if he’s the one under investigation.”

“Well, gee, I’m sorry if I hurt his feelings. We’re just doing what we always do.”

“Rizzoli, try to keep in mind the man is not a suspect.”

“I haven’t reached that conclusion yet. O’Donnell was in his house. Eve Kassovitz was killed in his garden. And when his butler finds the body, what does Sansone do? He takes photos. Passes them around to his friends. You wanna know the truth? These people are not normal. Certainly Sansone isn’t.”

“He’s not a suspect.”

“I haven’t eliminated him.”

“You can trust me on this. Leave him alone.”

She paused. “You want to tell me more, Lieutenant?” she asked quietly. “What do I not know about Anthony Sansone?”

“He’s not a man we want to alienate.”

“Do you know him?”

“Not personally. I’m just conveying the word from above. We’ve been told to treat him with respect.”

She hung up. Moving to the window, she stared out at an afternoon sky that was no longer blue. More snow was probably on the way. She thought: One minute you think you can see forever, and then the clouds move in and obscure everything.

She reached for her cell phone again and began to dial.

SEVENTEEN

 

Maura watched through the viewing window as Yoshima, wearing a lead apron, positioned the collimator over the abdomen. Some people walk into work on Monday mornings dreading nothing worse awaiting them than a stack of fresh paperwork or message slips. On this Monday morning, what had awaited Maura was the woman who lay on that table, her body now stripped bare. Maura saw Yoshima reemerge from behind the lead shield to retrieve the film cassette for processing. He glanced up and gave a nod.

Maura pushed through the door, back into the autopsy lab.

The night she had crouched shivering in Anthony Sansone’s garden, she had seen this body only under the glow of flashlight beams. Today, Detective Eve Kassovitz lay fully bared to view, harsh lights washing out every shadow. The blood had been rinsed away, revealing raw, pink injuries. A scalp laceration. A stab wound on the chest, beneath the sternum. And the lidless eyes, the corneas now clouded from exposure. That was what Maura could not help staring at: those mutilated eyes.

The whish of the door announced Jane’s arrival. “You haven’t started yet?” Jane asked.

“No. Is anyone else joining us?”

“It’s just me today.” Jane paused in the midst of tying on her gown, her gaze suddenly fixed on the table. On the face of her dead colleague. “I should have stood up for her,” she said quietly. “When those jerks in the unit started in with the stupid jokes, I should have put a stop to it right there.”

“They’re the ones who should feel guilty, Jane. Not you.”

“But I’ve been there myself. I know how it feels.” Jane kept looking down at the exposed corneas. “They won’t be able to pretty up these eyes for the funeral.”

“It will have to be a closed coffin.”

“The eye of Horus,” Jane said softly.

“What?”

“That drawing on Sansone’s door. It’s an ancient symbol, dating back to the Egyptians. It’s called Udjat, the all-seeing eye.”

“Who told you about that?”

“One of Sansone’s dinner guests.” She looked at Maura. “These people —Sansone and his friends— they’re weird. The more I find out about them, the more they creep me out. Especially him.

Yoshima came out of the processing room, carrying a sheaf of freshly developed films. They gave a musical twang as he clipped them to the light box.

Maura reached for the ruler and measured the scalp laceration, jotting its dimensions on a clipboard. “He called me that night, you know,” she said, without looking up. “To make sure I got home safely.”

Sansone did?”

Maura glanced up. “Do you consider him a suspect?”

“Think about this: After they found the body, do you know what Sansone did? Before he even called the police? He got out his camera and snapped some photos. Had his butler deliver them to his friends the next morning. Tell me that isn’t weird.”

“But do you consider him a suspect?”

After a pause, Jane admitted, “No. And if I did, it would present problems.”

“What do you mean?”

“Gabriel tried to do a little digging for me. He called around to find out more about the guy. All he did was ask a few questions, and suddenly doors slammed shut. The FBI, Interpol, no one wanted to talk about Sansone. Obviously he has friends in high places who are ready to protect him.”

Maura thought of the house on Beacon Hill. The butler, the antiques. “His wealth could have something to do with it.”

“It’s all inherited. He sure didn’t make his fortune teaching medieval history at Boston College.”

“How wealthy are we talking about?”

“That house on Beacon Hill? It’s his equivalent of slumming. He’s also got homes in London and Paris, plus a family estate in Italy. The guy’s an eligible bachelor, he’s loaded, and he’s good-looking. But he never turns up on the society pages. No charity balls, no black-tie fund-raisers. He’s like a total recluse.”

“He didn’t strike me as the kind of man you’d find on the party circuit.”

“What else did you think about him?”

“We didn’t have that long a conversation.”

“But you did have one that night.”

“It was freezing outside, and he invited me in for coffee.”

“Didn’t that seem a little weird?”

“What?”

“That he made a special effort to invite you in?”

“I appreciated the gesture. And for the record, it was the butler who came out to get me.”

“You, specifically? He knew who you were?”

Maura hesitated. “Yes.”

“What did he want from you, Doc?”

Maura had moved on to the torso, and she now measured the stab wound on the chest and jotted the dimensions on her clipboard. The questions were getting too pointed, and she didn’t like the implications: that she’d let herself be used by Anthony Sansone. “I didn’t reveal anything vital about the case, Jane. If that’s what you’re asking.”

“But you did talk about it?”

“About a number of things. And yes, he wanted to know what I thought. It’s not surprising, since the body was found in his garden. Understandably, he’s curious. And maybe a little eccentric.” She met Jane’s gaze and found it uncomfortably probing. She dropped her attention back to the corpse, to wounds that did not disturb her nearly as much as Jane’s questions.

“Eccentric? That’s the only word you can think of?”

She thought of the way Sansone had studied her that night, how his eyes had reflected the firelight, and other words came to mind. Intelligent. Attractive. Intimidating.

“You don’t think he’s just a little bit creepy?” asked Jane. “Because I sure do.”

“Why?”

“You saw his house. It’s like stepping into a time warp. And you never saw the other rooms, with all those portraits staring from the walls. It’s like walking into Dracula’s castle.”

“He’s a history professor.”

“Was. He’s not teaching anymore.”

“Those are probably heirlooms, and priceless. Clearly he appreciates his family legacy.”

“Oh yeah, the family legacy. That’s where he got lucky. He’s a fourth-generation trust-funder.”

“Yet he pursued a successful academic career. You have to give him some credit for that. He didn’t just turn into an idle playboy.”

“Here’s the interesting twist. The family trust fund was established back in 1905, by his great-grandfather. Guess what the name of that trust fund is?”

“I have no idea.”

“It’s called the Mephisto Foundation.”

Maura glanced up, startled. “Mephisto?” she murmured.

“You gotta wonder,” said Jane, “with a name like that, what kind of family legacy are we talking about?”

Yoshima asked, “What’s the significance of that name? Mephisto?”

“I looked it up,” said Jane. “It’s short for Mephistopheles. Doc here probably knows who he was.”

“The name comes from the legend of Dr. Faustus,” said Maura.

“Who?” asked Yoshima.

“Dr. Faustus was a magician,” said Maura. “He drew secret symbols to summon the Devil. An evil spirit named Mephistopheles appeared and offered him a deal.”

“What kind of deal?”

“In exchange for the full knowledge of magic, Dr. Faustus sold his soul to the Devil.”

“So Mephisto is…”

“A servant of Satan.”

A voice suddenly spoke over the intercom. “Dr. Isles,” said Maura’s secretary, Louise. “You have an outside call on line one. It’s a Mr. Sansone. Do you want to pick up, or shall I take a message?”

Speak of the Devil.

Maura met Jane’s gaze and saw Jane give a quick nod.

“I’ll take the call,” said Maura. Stripping off her gloves, she crossed to the wall phone and picked up the receiver. “Mr. Sansone?”

“I hope I’m not interrupting you,” he said.

She looked at the body on the table. Eve Kassovitz won’t mind, she thought. There is no one as patient as the dead. “I have a minute to talk.”

“This Saturday, I’m hosting a supper here at my home. I’d love to have you join us.”

Maura paused, acutely aware that Jane was watching her. “I’ll need to think about it,” she said.

“I’m sure you’re wondering what this is all about.”

“Actually, I am.”

“I promise not to pick your brain about the investigation.”

“I can’t talk about it anyway. You do know that.”

“Understood. That’s not why I’m inviting you.”

“Then why?” A blunt, inelegant question, but she had to ask it.

“We share common interests. Common concerns.”

“I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”

“Join us on Saturday, around seven. We can talk about it then.”

“Let me check my schedule first. I’ll let you know.” She hung up.

“What was that all about?” asked Jane.

“He just invited me to dinner.”

“He wants something from you.”

“Not a thing, he claims.” Maura crossed to the cabinet for a fresh pair of gloves. Although her hands were steady as she pulled them on, she could feel her face flushing, her pulse throbbing in her fingertips.

“You believe that?”

“Of course not. That’s why I’m not going.”

Jane said quietly, “Maybe you should.”

Maura turned to look at her. “You can’t be serious.”

“I’d like to know more about the Mephisto Foundation. Who they are, what they do at their secret little meetings. I may not be able to get the information any other way.”

“So you want me to do it for you?”

“All I’m saying is, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad idea if you go. As long as you’re careful.”

Maura crossed to the table. Staring down at Eve Kassovitz, she thought: This woman was a cop and she was armed. Yet even she wasn’t careful enough. Maura picked up the knife and began to cut.

Her blade traced a Y on the torso, two incisions slicing from both shoulders to meet lower than usual beneath the sternum. To preserve the stab wound. Even before the ribs were cut, before the chest was opened, she knew what she would find inside the thorax. She could see it in the chest films now hanging on the light box: the globular outline of the heart, far larger than it should be in a healthy young woman. Lifting off the shield of breastbone and ribs, she peered into the chest and slid her hand beneath the swollen sac that contained the heart.

It felt like a bag filled with blood.

“Pericardial tamponade,” she said, and looked up at Jane. “She bled into the sac that surrounds her heart. Since it’s a confined space, the sac becomes so taut, the heart can’t pump. Or the stab itself may have caused a fatal arrhythmia. Either way, this was a quick and efficient kill. But he had to know where to aim the blade.”

“He knew what he was doing.”

“Or he got lucky.” She pointed to the wound. “You can see the blade pierced just below the xiphoid process. Anywhere above that, the heart’s pretty well protected by the sternum and ribs. But if you enter here, where this wound is located, and aim the blade at just the right angle…”

“You’ll hit the heart?”

“It’s not difficult. I did it as an intern, on my ER rotation. With a needle, of course.”

“On a dead person, I hope.”

“No, she was alive. But we couldn’t hear her heartbeat, her blood pressure was crashing, and the chest x-ray showed a globular heart. I had to do something.”

“So you stabbed her?”

“With a cardiac needle. Removed enough blood from the sac to keep her alive until she could make it to surgery.”

“It’s like that spy novel, Eye of the Needle,” said Yoshima. “The killer stabs his victims straight in the heart, and they die so fast, there’s hardly any blood. It makes a pretty clean kill.”

“Thank you for that useful tip,” said Jane.

“Actually, Yoshima raises a good point,” said Maura. “Our perp chose a quick method to kill Eve Kassovitz. But with Lori-Ann Tucker, he took his time removing the hand, the arm, the head. And then he drew the symbols. With this victim, he didn’t waste a lot of time. Which makes me think Eve was killed for a more practical reason. Maybe she surprised him, and he simply had to get rid of her, on the spot. So he did it the fastest way he could. A blow to the head. And then a quick stab to the heart.”

“He took the time to draw those symbols on the door.”

“How do we know he didn’t draw them first? To go with the bundle he’d just delivered on the doorstep?”

“You mean the hand.”

Maura nodded. “His offering.”

Her blade was back at work, cutting, resecting. Out came lungs, which she dropped into a steel basin, where they formed a spongy mass. A glance at the pink surface, a few slices into each of the lobes, told her these had been the healthy lungs of a nonsmoker, designed to serve their owner well into old age. Maura moved on to the peritoneal cavity, gloved hands reaching into the abdomen to resect stomach and pancreas and liver. Eve Kassovitz’s belly had been enviably flat, the reward no doubt of many hours laboring at sit-ups and stomach crunches. How easily all that effort was reduced by a scalpel to incised muscle and gaping skin. The basin slowly filled with organs, loops of small intestine glistening like tangled eels, liver and spleen settling into a bloody mound. Everything healthy, so healthy. She sliced into the retroperitoneum, removed velvety smooth kidneys, sliced off tiny chunks, which she dropped into a specimen jar. They sank into formalin, trailing swirls of blood.

Straightening, she looked at Yoshima. “Can you put up the skull films now? Let’s see what we have.”

He pulled down the torso x-rays and began mounting a new set, which she had not yet examined. Films of the head now glowed on the viewing box. She focused on the table of bone just beneath the scalp laceration, searching the outline of the cranium for some telltale fracture line or depression that she’d been unable to palpate, but she saw none. Even without a fracture, the blow could still have been enough to stun the victim into submission, to bring her down long enough for the killer to yank open her jacket and lift her sweater.

To thrust the blade into her heart.

At first, the skull was what held Maura’s focus. Then she moved on to a lateral view and focused on the neck, her gaze stopping on the hyoid bone. Posterior to it was a cone-shaped opacity unlike anything she had seen before. Frowning, she moved closer to the light box and stood staring at the anomaly. On the frontal view, it was almost hidden against the greater density of the cervical vertebrae. But on the lateral view it was clearly visible, and it was not part of the skeletal structure.

“What on earth is this?” she murmured.

Jane moved beside her. “What’re you looking at?”

“This thing here. It’s not bone. It’s not a normal part of the neck.”

“Is that something in her throat?”

Maura turned back to the table and said to Yoshima, “Could you get the laryngoscope for me?”

Standing at the head of the table, Maura tilted up the chin. She had first used a laryngoscope as a fourth-year medical student, when she’d tried to insert an endotracheal tube into a man who was not breathing. The circumstances were frantic, the patient in cardiac arrest. Her supervising resident allowed Maura only one attempt at the intubation. “You get ten seconds,” he’d said, “and if you can’t, then I take over.” She’d slipped in the laryngoscope and peered into the throat, looking for the vocal cords, but all she could see was tongue and mucosa. As the seconds ticked by, as a nurse pumped on the chest and the Code Blue team watched, Maura had struggled with the instrument, knowing that with every second the patient was deprived of oxygen, more brain cells could die. The resident finally took the instrument from her hands and nudged her aside to do the job himself. It had been a humiliating demonstration of her incompetence.

The dead do not require such speedy intervention. Now, as she slid the laryngoscope blade into the mouth, there was no squealing heart monitor, no Code Blue team staring at her, no life hanging in the balance. Eve Kassovitz was a patient subject as Maura tilted the blade, lifting the tongue out of the way. She bent down and peered into the throat. The neck was long and slender, and on her first try, Maura easily spotted the vocal cords, like pale pink straps flanking the airway. Trapped between them was an object that glistened back at her.

“Forceps,” she said, holding out her hand. Yoshima placed the instrument in her palm.

“You see it?” asked Jane.

“Yes.”

Maura snagged the object and gently withdrew it from the throat. She dropped it onto a specimen tray, and it clattered against stainless steel.

“Is that what I think it is?” said Jane.

Maura turned over the specimen, and it gleamed like a pearl under the bright lights.

A seashell.

EIGHTEEN

 

The afternoon light had darkened to a somber gray by the time Jane drove onto the Harvard University campus and parked her car behind Conant Hall. The lot was nearly empty, and as she stepped out into a bitter wind, she glanced at old brick buildings that looked deserted, at fine feathers of snow swirling across frozen pavement, and she realized that by the time she finished her task here, it would be dark.

Eve Kassovitz was a cop, too. Yet she never saw death coming.

Jane buttoned up her coat collar and started toward the University Museum buildings. In a few days, when students returned from winter break, the campus would come alive again. But on this cold afternoon, Jane walked alone, eyes narrowed against the wind’s bite. She reached the side entrance to the museum and found the door locked. No surprise; it was a Sunday afternoon. She circled around to the front, trudging a shoveled path between banks of dirty snow. At the Oxford Street entrance she paused to stare up at the massive brick building. The words above the doorway read, MUSEUM OF COMPARATIVE ZOOLOGY.

She climbed the granite stairs and stepped into the building, and into a different era. Wood floors creaked beneath her feet. She smelled the dust of many decades and the heat of ancient radiators, and saw row after row of wooden display cabinets.

But no people. The entrance hall was deserted.

She walked deeper into the building, past glass-enclosed specimen cases, and paused to stare at a collection of insects mounted on pins. She saw monstrous black beetles with pincers poised to nip tender skin, and winged roaches, carapaces gleaming. With a shudder she walked on, past butterflies bright as jewels, past a cabinet with birds’ eggs that would never hatch, and mounted finches that would never again sing.

The creak of a footstep told her she was not alone.

She turned and stared up the narrow aisle between two tall cabinets. Backlit by the wintry light glowing through the window, the man was just a bent and faceless silhouette shuffling toward her. Only as he moved closer, emerging at last from his dusty hiding place, did she see the creased face, the wire-rim spectacles. Distorted blue eyes peered at her through thick lenses.

“You wouldn’t be that woman from the police, would you?” he asked.

“Dr. Von Schiller? I’m Detective Rizzoli.”

“I knew you had to be. No one else would wander in this late in the day. The door’s normally locked by now, so you’re getting a bit of a private tour here.” He gave a wink, as though this special treat should stay a secret between them. A rare chance to ogle dead bugs and stuffed birds without the hordes pressing in. “Well, did you bring it?” he asked.

“I’ve got it right here.” She removed the evidence bag from her pocket, and his eyes lit up at the sight of the contents, visible through the clear plastic.

“Come, on, then! Let’s go up to my office where I can get a good look at it under my magnifier. My eyes aren’t so good anymore. I hate the fluorescent lamp up there, but I do need it for something like this.”

She followed him toward the stairwell, matching her pace to his agonizingly slow shuffle. Could this guy still be teaching? He seemed far too old to even make it up the stairs. But Von Schiller was the name recommended to her when she’d called the comparative zoology department, and there was no mistaking the gleam of excitement in his eyes when he’d spotted what she had brought in her pocket. He could not wait to get his hands on it.

“Do you know much about seashells, Detective?” Von Schiller asked as he slowly climbed the stairs, his gnarled hand grasping the carved banister.

“Only what I’ve learned from eating clams.”

“You mean you’ve never collected them?” He glanced back. “Did you know Robert Louis Stevenson once said, ‘It is perhaps a more fortunate destiny to have a taste for collecting shells than to be born a millionaire’?”

“Did he, now?” I think I’d rather be a millionaire.

“It’s a passion I’ve had since I was a child. My parents would take us every year to the Amalfi Coast. My bedroom was filled with so many boxes of shells I could barely turn around. I still have them all, you know. Including a lovely specimen of Epitonium celesti. Rather rare. I bought it when I was twelve, and paid quite a dear price for it. But I’ve always thought that spending money on shells is an investment. The most exquisite art of Mother Nature.”

“Did you get a look at the photos I e-mailed you?”

“Oh, yes. I forwarded the photo to Stefano Rufini, an old friend of mine. Consults for a company called Medshells. They locate rare specimens from around the world and sell them to wealthy collectors. He and I agree about your shell’s probable origins.”

“So what is this shell?”

Von Schiller glanced back at her with a smile. “You think I’d give you a final answer without actually examining it?”

“You seem to know already.”

“I’ve narrowed it down, that’s all I can tell you.” He resumed climbing the stairs. “Its class is Gastropoda,” he said. Climbed another step. “Order: Caenogastropoda.” Another step, another chant. “Superfamily: Buccinacea.”

“Excuse me. What does all that mean?”

“It means that your little seashell is, first of all, a gastropod, which translates to stomach foot. It’s the same general class of mollusk as a land snail or a limpet. They’re univalves, with a muscular foot.”

“That’s the name of this shell?”

“No, that’s just the phylogenetic class. There are at least fifty thousand different varieties of gastropods around the world, and not all of them are ocean dwellers. The common land slug, for instance, is a gastropod, even though it has no shell.” He reached the top of the stairs and led the way through a hall with yet more display cases containing a silent menagerie of creatures, their glassy eyes staring back at Jane in disapproval. So vivid was her impression of being watched that she paused and glanced back at the deserted gallery, at cabinet after cabinet of mounted specimens.

Nobody here but us murdered animals.

She turned to follow Von Schiller.

He had vanished.

For a moment she stood alone in that vast gallery, hearing only the thump of her own heartbeat, feeling the hostile gazes of those countless creatures trapped behind glass. “Dr. Von Schiller?” she called, and her voice seemed to echo through hall after hall.

His head popped out from behind a cabinet. “Well, aren’t you coming?” he asked. “My office is right here.”

Office was too grand a word for the space he occupied. A door with the plaque —DR. HENRY VON SCHILLER, PROFESSOR EMERITUS— led to a windowless nook scarcely larger than a broom closet. Crammed inside were a desk, two chairs, and little else. He flipped on the wall switch and squinted in the harsh fluorescent glare.

“Let’s see it, then,” he said, and eagerly snatched the ziplock bag that she held out to him. “You say you found this at a crime scene?”

She hesitated, then said, merely, yes. Rammed down the throat of a dead woman was what she didn’t say.

“Why do you think it’s significant?”

“I’m hoping you can tell me.”

“May I handle it?”

“If you really need to.”

He opened the bag and, with arthritic fingers, he removed the seashell. “Oh yes,” he murmured as he squeezed behind his desk and settled into a creaking chair. He turned on a gooseneck lamp and pulled out a magnifying glass and a ruler. “Yes, it’s what I thought. Looks like about, oh, twenty-one millimeters long. Not a particularly nice specimen. These striations aren’t all that pretty, and it’s got a few chips here, you see? Could be an old shell that’s been tumbled around in some hobbyist’s collection box.” He looked up, blue eyes watery behind spectacles. Pisania maculosa.”

“Is that its name?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure?”

He set down the magnifying lens with a thud and stood up. “You don’t trust me?” he snapped. “Come on, then.”

“I’m not saying I don’t trust—”

“Of course that’s what you’re saying.” Von Schiller scuttled out of his office, moving with a speed she had not known he was capable of. Annoyed and in a hurry to defend himself, he shuffled through gallery after gallery, leading Jane deep into a gloomy maze of specimen cabinets, past the stares of countless dead eyes, and down a row of display cases tucked into the farthest corner of the building. Clearly, this was not a well-visited section of the museum. Typed display labels were yellowed with age, and dust filmed the glass cases. Von Schiller squeezed down a narrow corridor between cabinets, pulled open a drawer, and took out a specimen box.

“Here,” he said, opening the box. He took out a handful of shells and placed them, one by one, on top of a glass case. “Pisania maculosa. And here’s another, and another. And here’s yours.” He looked at her with the indignation of an insulted academic. “Well?”

Jane scanned the array of seashells, all of them with the same graceful curves, the same spiraling striations. “They do look alike.”

“Of course they do! They’re the same species! I know what I’m talking about. This is my field, Detective.”

And what a really useful field it is, she thought as she took out her notebook. “What’s the species name again?”

“Here, give that to me.” He snatched away her notebook and she watched him write down the name, scowling as he did it. This was not a nice old guy. No wonder they hid him away in a broom closet.

He handed back the notebook. “There. Properly spelled.”

“So what does this mean?”

“It’s the name.”

“No, I mean what’s the significance of this particular shell?”

“Is it supposed to mean something? You’re Homo sapiens sapiens, this is Pisania maculosa. That’s just the way it is.”

“This shell, is it rare?”

“Not at all. You can easily buy them over the Internet, from any number of dealers.”

Which made the shell little more than useless as a way to track a killer. With a sigh, she put away her notebook.

“They’re quite common in the Mediterranean,” he said.

She looked up. “The Mediterranean?”

“And the Azores.”

“I’m sorry. I’m not really clear exactly where the Azores are.”

He gave her a sour look of disbelief. Then he waved her over to one of the cases, where dozens of shells were displayed, along with a faded map of the Mediterranean. “There,” he said, pointing. “It’s these islands here, to the west of Spain. Pisania maculosa ranges throughout this area, from the Azores to the Mediterranean.”

“And nowhere else? The Americas?”

“I’ve just told you its range. Those shells I brought out to show you—they were all collected in Italy.”

She was silent a moment, her gaze still on the case. She could not remember the last time she’d really studied a map of the Mediterranean. Her world, after all, was Boston; crossing the state line was the equivalent of a foreign trip. Why a seashell? Why this particular seashell?

Her eyes then focused on the eastern corner of the Mediterranean. On the island of Cyprus.

Red ocher. Seashells. What is the killer trying to tell us?

“Oh,” said Von Schiller. “I didn’t know anyone else was here.”

Jane had not heard any footsteps, even on the creaking wood floors. She turned to see a young man looming right behind her. Most likely a graduate student, judging by his rumpled shirt and blue jeans. He certainly looked like a scholar, with heavy black-framed glasses, his face washed out to a wintry pallor. He stood so silent that Jane wondered if the man could speak.

Then the words came out, his stuttering so tortured that it was painful to hear. “P-p-professor Von Schiller. It’s t-t-time to c-c-close.”

“We’re just finishing up here, Malcolm. I wanted to show Detective Rizzoli some examples of Pisania.” Von Schiller placed the shells back in their box. “I’ll lock up.”

“B-b-but it’s my—”

“I know, I know. Just because I’ve gotten on in years, no one trusts me to turn one stupid key anymore. Look, I’ve still got papers on my desk that I need to sort through. Why don’t you show the detective out? I promise I’ll lock the door when I leave.”

The young man hesitated, as though trying to come up with the words to protest. Then he simply sighed and nodded.

Jane slipped the evidence bag containing the shell back into her pocket. “Thank you for your help, Dr. Von Schiller,” she said. But the old man was already shuffling away to return the box of shells to its drawer.

The young man said nothing as he led Jane through the gloomy exhibit halls, past animals trapped behind glass, his sneakers setting off barely a creak on the wood floors. This was hardly the place a young man should be spending a Sunday evening, she thought. Keeping company with fossils and pierced butterflies.

Outside, through the gloom of early evening, Jane trudged back toward the parking lot, her shoes crunching across gritty snow. Halfway there she slowed, stopped. Turning, she scanned the darkened buildings, the pools of light cast by streetlamps. No one, nothing, moved.

On the night she died, did Eve Kassovitz see her killer coming?

She quickened her pace, her keys already in hand, and crossed to her car, which now sat alone in the lot. Only after she’d slid inside and locked the door did she let down her guard. This case is freaking me out, she thought. I can’t even walk across a parking lot without feeling like the Devil’s at my back.

And closing in.

NINETEEN

 

August 1. Phase of the moon: Full.

 

Last night my mother spoke to me in my dreams. A scolding. A reminder that I have been undisciplined. “I have taught you all the ancient rituals, and for what?” she asked. “So that you will ignore them? Remember who you are. You are the chosen one.”

I have not forgotten. How could I? Since my earliest years, she has recited the tales of our ancestors, about whom Manetho of Sebennytos, in the age of Ptolemy the Second, wrote, “They set our towns on fire. They caused the people to suffer every brutality. They waged war, desiring to exterminate the race.”

In my veins runs the sacred blood of hunters.

These are secrets that even my distracted and oblivious father did not know. Between my parents, the ties were merely practical. But between my mother and me, the bonds reach across time, across continents, into my very dreams. She is displeased with me.

And so tonight, I lead a goat into the woods.

It comes willingly, because it has never felt the sting of human cruelty. The moon is so bright I need no flashlight to show me the way. Behind me I hear the confused bleating of the other goats that I’ve just released from the farmer’s barn, but they don’t follow me. Their calls recede as I walk deeper into the woods, and now all I hear is the sound of my footfalls and the goat’s hooves on the forest floor.

When we have walked far enough, I tie the goat to a tree. The animal senses what is to come and gives an anxious bleat as I take off my clothes, stripping down to naked skin. I kneel on the moss. The night is cool, but my shivering is from anticipation. I raise the knife, and the ritual words flow from my lips as easily as they always have before. Praise to our lord Seth, to the god of my ancestors. The god of death and destruction. Through countless millennia, he has guided our hands, has led us from the Levant to the lands of Phoenicia and Rome, to every corner of the earth. We are everywhere.

The blood spurts in a hot fountain.

When it is over, I walk naked, except for my shoes, to the lake. Under the moon’s glow I wade into the water and wash away the goat’s blood. I emerge cleansed and exhilarated. Only as I pull on my clothes does my heartbeat finally slow, and exhaustion suddenly drapes its heavy arm around my shoulders. I could almost fall asleep on the grass, but I don’t dare lie down; I am so tired, I might not awaken until daylight.

I trudge back toward the house. As I reach the top of the hill, I see her. Lily stands on the edge of the lawn, a slender silhouette with hair gleaming in the moonlight. She is looking at me.

“Where have you been?” she asks.

“I went for a swim.”

“In the dark?”

“It’s the best time.” Slowly I walk toward her. She stands perfectly still, even as I move close enough to touch her. “The water’s warm. No one can see you swimming naked.” My hand is cool from the lake, and she shivers as I caress her cheek. Is it from fear or fascination? I don’t know. What I do know is that she has been watching me these past weeks, just as I’ve been watching her, and something is happening between us. They say that Hell calls to Hell. Somewhere inside her, the darkness has heard my call and is stirring to life.

I move even closer. Though she’s older than I am, I’m taller, and my arm slips easily around her waist as I lean in. As our hips meet.

Her slap sends me reeling backward.

“Don’t you ever touch me again,” she says. She turns and walks to the house.

My face is still stinging. I linger in the darkness, waiting for the imprint of her blow to fade from my cheek. She has no idea who I really am, who she has just humiliated. No idea what the consequences will be.

I do not sleep that night.

Instead I lie awake, thinking of all the lessons my mother taught me about patience and about biding one’s time. “The most satisfying prize,” she said, “is the one you’re forced to wait for.” When the sun rises the next morning, I am still in bed, thinking about my mother’s words. I am thinking, too, about that humiliating slap. About all the ways that Lily and her friends have shown me disrespect.

Downstairs, Aunt Amy is in the kitchen cooking breakfast. I smell coffee brewing and bacon crisping in a frying pan. And I hear her call out, “Peter? Have you seen my boning knife?”

TWENTY

 

As usual on a hot summer’s day, the Piazza di Spagna was a sea of sweating tourists. They milled elbow to elbow, expensive cameras dangling from their necks, flushed faces shaded from the sun beneath floppy hats and baseball caps. From her perch above, on the Spanish Steps, Lily surveyed the crowd’s movements, noting the eddies that swirled around the vendors’ carts, the crosscurrents of competing tour groups. Wary of pickpockets, she started down the steps, waving away the inevitable trinket hawkers who hovered like flies. She noticed several men glance her way, but their interest was merely momentary. A look, a flicker of a lascivious thought, and then their eyes were on to the next passing female. Lily scarcely gave them a thought as she descended toward the piazza, threading past a couple embracing on the steps, past a studious young man hunched over a book. She waded into the throng. In crowds she felt safe, anonymous, and insulated. It was merely an illusion, of course; there was no truly safe place. As she crossed the piazza, tacking past camera-snapping tourists and children slurping at gelato, she knew that she was all too easy to spot. Crowds provided cover for both prey and predator.

She reached the far end of the piazza and walked past a shop selling designer shoes and purses that she would never, in this lifetime, be able to afford. Beyond it was a bank with an ATM and three people waiting to use it. She joined the line. By the time it was her turn, she’d already taken a good look at everyone standing nearby and spotted no thieves ready to swoop in. Now was the time to make a large withdrawal. She’d been in Rome for four weeks, and had not yet landed any work. Despite her fluent Italian, not a single coffee stand, not a single souvenir shop, had a job for her, and she was down to her last five Euros.

She inserted her bankcard, requested three hundred Euros, and waited for the cash to appear. Her card slid back out, along with a printed receipt. But no cash. She stared down at the receipt, her stomach suddenly dropping. She needed no translation to understand what was printed there.

Insufficient funds.

Okay, she thought, maybe I just asked for too much at once. Calm down. She inserted her card again, punched in the code, requested two hundred Euros.

Insufficient funds.

By now, the woman standing behind her in line was making hurry up already! sighs. For the third time, Lily slid in her card. Requested one hundred Euros.

Insufficient funds.

“Hey, are you going to be finished sometime soon? Like, maybe, today?” the woman behind her asked.

Lily turned to face her. Just that one look, molten with rage, made the woman step back in alarm. Lily shoved past her and headed back to the piazza, moving blindly, for once not caring who was watching her, tracking her. By the time she reached the Spanish Steps, all the strength had gone out of her legs. She sank onto the stairs and dropped her head in her hands.

Her money was gone. She’d known her account was getting low, that eventually it would run out, but she’d thought there was enough to last at least another month. She had enough cash for maybe two more meals, and that was it. No hotel tonight, no bed. But hey, these stairs were comfortable enough, and she couldn’t beat the view. When she got hungry, she could always go diving in the trash can for some tourist’s leftover sandwich.

Who am I kidding? I’ve got to get some money.

She lifted her head, looked around the piazza, and saw plenty of single men. Hello, guys, anyone willing to pay for an afternoon with a hot and desperate chick? Then she spotted three policemen strolling the periphery and decided that this was not a good place to troll for prospects. Getting arrested would be inconvenient; it might also prove fatal.

She unzipped her backpack and feverishly dug around inside. Maybe there was a wad of cash she’d forgotten about, or a few loose coins rattling around on the bottom. Fat chance. As if she didn’t keep track of every single penny. She found a roll of mints, a ballpoint pen. No money.

But she did find a business card, printed with the name FILIPPO CAVALLI. At once his face came back to her. The truck driver with the leering eyes. “If you have no place to stay,” he’d said, “I have an apartment in the city.”

Well, guess what? I have no place to stay.

She sat on the steps, mindlessly rubbing the card between her fingers, until it was pinched and bent. Thinking about Filippo Cavalli and his mean eyes, his unshaven face. How awful could it be? She’d done worse things in her life. Far worse.

And I’m still paying for it.

She zipped up the backpack and looked around for a telephone. Mean eyes or not, she thought, a girl’s gotta eat.

 

She stood in the hallway outside apartment 4-G, nervously straightening her blouse, smoothing down her hair. Then she wondered why the hell she should even bother, considering how slovenly the man had looked the last time she’d seen him. Lord, at least make his breath not be foul, she thought. She could deal with fat men and ugly men. She could just close her eyes and not look. But a man with stinking breath…

The door swung open. “Come in!” Filippo said.

At her first glimpse of him, she wanted to turn and run. He was exactly as she’d remembered, his chin prickly with stubble, his hungry gaze already devouring her face. He had not even bothered to dress in nice clothes for her visit, but was wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and baggy trousers. Why should he bother to clean up? Surely he knew what had brought her here, and it wasn’t his sculpted body or his scintillating wit.

She stepped into the apartment, where the smells of garlic and cigarette smoke battled for dominance. Aside from that, it was not too horrible a place. She saw a couch and chairs, a neat pile of newspapers, a coffee table. The balcony window faced another apartment building. Through the walls, she could hear a neighbor’s TV blaring.

“Some wine, Carol?” he asked.

Carol. She’d almost forgotten which name she’d given him. “Yes, please,” she answered. “And… would you happen to have something to eat?”

“Food? Of course.” He smiled, but his eyes never stopped leering. He knew these were just the pleasantries before the transaction. He brought out bread and cheese and a little dish of marinated mushrooms. Hardly a feast; more like a snack. So this was what she was worth. The wine was cheap, sharp, and astringent, but she drank two glasses anyway as she ate. Better to be drunk than sober for what came next. He sat across the kitchen table watching her as he sipped his own glass of wine. How many other women had come to this apartment, had sat at this kitchen table, steeling themselves for the bedroom? Surely none of them came willingly. Like Lily, they probably needed a drink or two or three before getting down to business.

He reached across the table. She went stock-still as he opened the top two buttons of her blouse. Then he sat back, grinning at the view of her cleavage.

She tried to ignore him and reached for another chunk of bread, then drained her glass of wine and poured herself another.

He stood up and came around behind her. He finished unbuttoning her blouse and slipped it off her shoulders, then unfastened her bra.

She stuffed a piece of cheese into her mouth, chewed, and swallowed. Almost coughed it up again as his hands closed over her breasts. She sat rigid, fists clenched, suppressing the instinct to twist around and slug him. Instead she let him reach around in front of her and unzip her jeans. Then he gave her a tug, and obediently she rose to her feet, so he could peel off the rest of her clothes. When she finally stood naked in his kitchen, he stepped back to enjoy the view, his arousal obvious. He did not even bother to remove his own clothes, but just backed her up against the kitchen counter, opened his trousers, and took her standing up. Took her so vigorously that the cabinets rattled and silverware clattered in the drawers.

Hurry. Finish, goddamn it.

But he was just getting started. He twisted her around, pushed her to her knees, and took her on the tiled floor. Then it was into the living room, in full view of the balcony window, as though he wanted the world to see that he, Filippo, could fuck a woman in every position, in every room. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the sounds from the TV next door. Thumping game show music, an excitable Italian host. She focused on the TV because she did not want to listen to Filippo’s panting and grunting as he pounded against her. As he climaxed.

He collapsed on top of her, a flabby dead weight that threatened to suffocate her. She squeezed out from beneath him and lay on her back, her body slick with their mingled sweat.

A moment later, he was snoring.

She left him there, on the living room floor, and went into his bathroom to take a shower. Spent a good twenty minutes under the water, washing away every trace of him. Hair dripping, she returned to the living room to make sure he was still asleep. He was. Quietly, she slipped into his bedroom and went through his dresser drawers. Beneath a mound of socks, she found a bundle of cash—at least six hundred Euros. He won’t miss a hundred, she thought, counting out the bills. Anyway, she’d earned it.

She got dressed and was just picking up her backpack when she heard his footsteps behind her.

“You are leaving so soon?” he asked. “How can you be satisfied with just once?”

Slowly she turned to look at him and forced a smile. “Just once with you, Filippo, is like ten times with any other man.”

He grinned. “That’s what women tell me.”

Then they’re all lying.

“Stay. I’ll cook you dinner.” He came toward her and played with a strand of her hair. “Stay, and maybe—”

She gave it about two seconds’ thought. While this would be a place to spend the night, it required too high a price. “I have to go,” she said, turning away.

“Please stay.” He paused, then added, with a note of desperation, “I’ll pay you.”

She stopped and looked back at him.

“That’s it, isn’t it?” he said softly. His smile faded, his face slowly drooping into a weary mask. Not the strutting lover anymore, but a sad, middle-aged man with a big gut and no woman in his life. Once, she had thought his eyes looked mean; now those eyes looked merely tired, defeated. “I know it’s true.” He sighed. “You did not come because of me. It’s money you want.”

For the first time, it did not disgust her to look at him. Also for the first time, she decided to be honest with him.

“Yes,” she admitted. “I need money. I’m broke, and I can’t find a job in Rome.”

“But you’re American. You can just go home.”

“I can’t go home.”

“Why not?”

She looked away. “I just can’t. There’s nothing there for me anyway.”

He considered her words for a moment and came to a reasonable conclusion. “The police are looking for you?”

“No. Not the police—”

“Then who are you running from?”

I’m running from the Devil himself was what she thought. But she could not say that, or he’d think her crazy. She answered, simply, “A man. Someone who scares me.”

An abusive boyfriend was probably what he thought. He gave a nod of sympathy. “So you need money. Come, then. I can give you some.” He turned and started toward his bedroom.

“Wait. Filippo.” Feeling guilty now, she reached into her pocket and took out the hundred Euros she’d taken from his sock drawer. How could she steal from a man who was so desperately hungry for companionship? “I’m sorry,” she said. “This is yours. I really needed it, but I shouldn’t have taken it.” She reached for his hand and pressed the cash into his palm, barely able to look him in the eye. “I’ll manage on my own.” She turned to leave.

“Carol. Is that your real name?”

She paused, her hand on the knob. “It’s as good a name as any.”

“You say you need a job. What can you do?”

She looked at him. “I’ll do anything. I can clean homes, wait on tables. But I have to be paid in cash.”

“Your Italian is very good.” He looked her over, thinking. “I have a cousin, here in the city,” he finally said. “She organizes tours.”

“What kind of tours?”

“To the Forum, the basilica.” He shrugged. “You know, all the usual places tourists go in Rome. Sometimes she needs guides who speak English. But they must have an education.”

“I do! I have a college degree in classical studies.” Fresh hope made her heart suddenly thud faster. “I know a great deal about history, actually. About the ancient world.”

“But do you know about Rome?”

Lily gave a sudden laugh and set down her backpack. “As a matter of fact,” she said, “I do.”

TWENTY-ONE

 

Maura stood on the ice-glazed sidewalk, gazing up at the Beacon Hill residence where the windows were invitingly aglow. Firelight flickered in the front parlor, just as it had on the night she’d first stepped through the door, lured by the dancing flames, by the promise of a cup of coffee. Tonight what drew her up the steps was curiosity, about a man who both intrigued her and, she had to admit, frightened her a little. She rang the bell and heard it chime inside, echoing through rooms she had yet to see. She expected the manservant to answer the bell and was startled when Anthony Sansone himself opened the door.

“I wasn’t sure you’d actually come,” he said as she stepped inside.

“Neither was I,” she admitted.

“The others will be arriving later. I thought it’d be nice for the two of us to talk first, alone.” He helped her off with her coat and pushed open the secret panel to reveal the closet. In this man’s house, the walls themselves hid surprises. “So why did you decide to come after all?”

“You said we had common interests. I want to know what you mean by that.”

He hung up her coat and turned, a looming figure dressed in black, his face burnished in gold from the firelight. “Evil,” he said. “That’s what we have in common. We’ve both seen it up close. We’ve looked into its face, smelled its breath. And felt it staring back at us.”

“A lot of people have seen it.”

“But you’ve known it on a deeply personal level.”

“You’re talking about my mother again.”

“Joyce tells me that no one’s yet been able to tally all of Amalthea’s victims.”

“I haven’t followed that investigation. I’ve stayed out of it. The last time I saw Amalthea was in July, and I have no plans to ever visit her again.”

“Ignoring evil doesn’t make it go away. It’s still there, still part of your life—”

“Not part of mine.”

“—right down to your DNA.”

“An accident of birth. We’re not our parents.”

“But on some level, Maura, your mother’s crimes must weigh down on you. They must make you wonder.”

“Whether I’m a monster, too?”

Do you wonder that?”

She paused, acutely aware of how intently he was watching her. “I’m nothing like my mother. If anything, I’m her polar opposite. Look at the career I’ve chosen, the work I do.”

“A form of atonement?”

“I have nothing to atone for.”

“Yet you’ve chosen to work on behalf of victims. And justice. Not everyone makes that choice, or does it as well and as fiercely as you do. That’s why I invited you tonight.” He opened the door to the next room. “That’s why I want to show you something.”

She followed him into a wood-paneled dining room, where the massive table was already set for dinner. Five place settings, she noted, surveying the crystal stemware and gleaming china edged in cobalt and gold. Here was another fireplace, with flames dancing in the hearth, but the cavernous room with its twelve-foot ceiling was on the chilly side, and she was glad she’d kept on her cashmere sweater.

“First, a glass of wine?” he asked, holding up a bottle of Cabernet.

“Yes. Thank you.”

He poured and handed her the glass, but she scarcely glanced at it; she was focused instead on the portraits hanging on the walls. A gallery of faces, both men and women, gazed through the patina of centuries.

“These are only a few,” he said. “The portraits my family managed to procure over the years. Some are modern copies, some are mere representations of what we think they looked like. But a few of these portraits are original. As these people must have appeared in life.” He crossed the room to stand before one portrait in particular. It was of a young woman with luminous dark eyes, her black hair gently gathered at the nape of her neck. Her face was a pale oval, and in that dim and firelit room, her skin seemed translucent and so alive that Maura could almost imagine the throb of a pulse in that white neck. The young woman was partly turned toward the artist, her burgundy gown glinting with gold threads, her gaze direct and unafraid.

“Her name was Isabella,” said Sansone. “This was painted a month before her marriage. The portrait required quite a bit of restoration. There were scorch marks on the canvas. It was lucky to survive the fire that destroyed her home.”

“She’s beautiful.”

“Yes, she was. To her great misfortune.”

Maura frowned at him. “Why?”

“She was married to Nicolo Contini, a Venetian nobleman. By all accounts it was a very happy marriage, until” —he paused— “until Antonino Sansone destroyed their lives.”

She looked at him in surprise. “That’s the man in the portrait? In the other room?”

He nodded. “My distinguished ancestor. Oh, he was able to justify all his actions in the name of rooting out the Devil. The church sanctioned it all—the torture, the bloodletting, the burnings at the stake. The Venetians in particular were quite expert at torture and creative at devising ever more brutal instruments to extract confessions. No matter how outlandish the accusations, a few hours in the dungeon with Monsignore Sansone would make almost anyone plead guilty to his charges. Whether the accusation was practicing witchcraft, or casting spells against your neighbors, or consorting with the Devil, confessing to any and all of it was the only way to make the pain stop, to be granted the mercy of death. Which, in itself, was not so merciful, since most of them were burned alive.” He gazed around the room, at the portraits. The faces of the dead. “All these people you see here suffered at his hand. Men, women, children— he made no distinction. It’s said he awakened each day, eager for the task, that he cheerfully fortified himself with a hearty morning meal of bread and meat. Then he’d don his blood-splattered robes and go to work, rooting out heretics. On the street outside, even through thick stone walls, passersby could hear the screams.”

Maura’s gaze circled the room, taking in the faces of the doomed, and she imagined these same faces bruised and contorted in pain. How long had they resisted? How long had they clung to the hope of escape, a chance to live?

Antonino defeated them all,” he said. “Except for one.” His gaze was back on the woman with the luminous eyes.

“Isabella survived?”

“Oh, no. No one survived his attentions. Like all the others, she died. But she was never conquered.”

“She refused to confess?”

“Or submit. She had only to implicate her husband. Renounce him, accuse him of sorcery, and she might have lived. Because what Antonino really wanted wasn’t her confession. He wanted Isabella herself.”

Her beauty was her misfortune. That’s what he’d meant.

“A year and a month,” he said. “That’s how long she survived in a cell without heat, without light. Every day, another session with her torturer.” He looked at Maura. “I’ve seen the instruments from those times. I can’t imagine any version of Hell that could be worse.”

“And he never defeated her?”

“She resisted until the end. Even when they took away her newborn baby. Even when they crushed her hands, scourged the skin from her back, wrenched apart her joints. Every brutality was meticulously recorded in Antonino’s personal journals.”

“You’ve actually seen those journals?”

“Yes. They’ve been passed down through our family. They’re stored in a vault now, with other unpleasant heirlooms from that era.”

“What a horrible legacy.”

“That’s what I meant when I told you we had common interests, common concerns. We both inherited poisoned blood.”

Her gaze was back on Isabella’s face, and suddenly she registered something that he had said only moments ago. They took away her newborn baby.

She looked at him. “You said she had a baby in prison.”

“Yes. A son.”

“What happened to him?”

“He was placed in the care of a local convent, where he was raised.”

“But he was the son of a heretic. Why was he allowed to live?”

“Because of who his father was.”

She looked at him with stunned comprehension. “Antonino Sansone?”

He nodded. “The boy was born eleven months into his mother’s imprisonment.”

A child of rape, she thought. So this is the Sansone bloodline. It goes back to the child of a doomed woman.

And a monster.

She gazed around the room at the other portraits. “I don’t think I’d want these portraits hanging in my home.”

“You think it’s morbid.”

“Every day, I’d be reminded. I’d be haunted by how they died.”

“So you’d hide them in a closet? Avoid even looking at them, the way you avoid thinking about your mother?”

She stiffened. “I have no reason to think about her. She has no part in my life.”

“But she does. And you do think about her, don’t you? You can’t avoid it.”

“I sure as hell don’t hang her portrait in my living room.” She set down her wineglass on the table. “This is a bizarre form of ancestor worship you’re practicing. Displaying the family torturer in the front parlor, like some kind of icon, someone you’re proud of. And here in the dining room, you keep a gallery of his victims. All these faces staring at you, like a trophy collection. It’s the kind of thing a—”

A hunter would display.

She paused, staring down at her empty glass, aware of the silence in the house. Five place settings were on the table, yet she was the only guest who’d arrived, perhaps the only guest who’d actually been invited.

She flinched as he brushed her arm and reached for her empty glass. He turned to refill it, and she stared at his back, at the outline of muscles beneath the black turtleneck shirt. Then he turned to face her, wineglass held out. She took it, but did not sip, though her throat had suddenly gone dry.

“Do you know why these portraits are here?” he asked quietly.

“I just find it…strange.”

“I grew up with them. They hung in my father’s house, and in his father’s house. So did the portrait of Antonino, but always in a separate room. Always in a place of prominence.”

“Like an altar.”

“In a way.”

“You honor that man? The torturer?”

“We keep his memory alive. We never allow ourselves to forget who —and what— he was.”

“Why?”

“Because this is our responsibility. A sacred duty the Sansones accepted generations ago, starting with Isabella’s son.”

“The child born in prison.”

He nodded. “By the time Vittorio reached adulthood, Monsignore Sansone was dead. But his reputation as a monster had spread, and the Sansone name was no longer an advantage, but rather a curse. Vittorio could have fled from his own name, denied his own bloodline. Instead he did quite the opposite. He embraced the Sansone name, as well as the burden.”

“You talked about a sacred duty. What sort of duty?”

Vittorio took a vow to atone for what his father did. If you look at our family crest, you’ll see the words: Sed libera nos a malo.

Latin. She frowned at him. “Deliver us from evil.”

“That’s right.”

“And what, exactly, are Sansones expected to do?”

“Hunt the Devil, Dr. Isles. That’s what we do.”

For a moment she didn’t respond. He can’t possibly be serious, she thought, but his gaze was absolutely steady.

“You mean figuratively, of course,” she finally said.

“I know you don’t believe he actually exists.”

“Satan?” She couldn’t help but laugh.

“People have no trouble believing that God exists,” he said.

“That’s why it’s called faith. It requires no proof, because there is none.”

“If one believes in the light, one has to believe in the darkness as well.”

“But you’re talking about a supernatural being.”

“I’m talking about evil, distilled to its purest form. Manifested in the shape of real flesh-and-blood creatures, walking among us. This isn’t about the impulsive kill, the jealous husband who’s gone over the edge, or the scared soldier who mows down an unarmed enemy. I’m talking about something entirely different. People who look human, but are the farthest thing from it.”

“Demons?”

“If you want to call them that.”

“And you really believe they exist, these monsters or demons or whatever you call them?”

“I know they do,” he said quietly.

The ringing of the doorbell startled her. She glanced toward the front parlor, but Sansone made no move to answer the bell. She heard footsteps, and then the butler’s voice speaking in the foyer.

“Good evening, Mrs. Felway. May I take your coat?”

“I’m a little bit late, Jeremy. Sorry.”

“Mr. Stark and Dr. O’Donnell haven’t arrived yet, either.”

“Not yet? Well, I feel better then.”

“Mr. Sansone and Dr. Isles are in the dining room, if you’d like to join them.”

“God, I could really use a drink.”

The woman who swept into the room was as tall as a man and looked just as formidable, her square shoulders emphasized by a tweed blazer with leather epaulets. Although her hair was streaked with silver, she moved with the vigor of youth and the assurance of authority. She didn’t hesitate, but crossed straight to Maura.

“You must be Dr. Isles,” she said, and gave Maura a matter-of-fact handshake. “Edwina Felway.”

Sansone handed the woman a glass of wine. “How’re the roads out there, Winnie?”

“Treacherous.” She took a sip. “I’m surprised Ollie isn’t here already.”

“It’s just eight o’clock now. He’s coming with Joyce.”

Edwina’s gaze was on Maura. Her eyes were direct, even intrusive. “Has there been any progress on the case?”

“We haven’t talked about that,” said Sansone.

“Really? But it’s the one thing on all our minds.”

“I can’t discuss it,” said Maura. “I’m sure you understand why.”

Edwina looked at Sansone. “You mean she hasn’t agreed yet?”

“Agreed to what?” asked Maura.

“To join our group, Dr. Isles.”

“Winnie, you’re a bit premature. I haven’t fully explained—”

“The Mephisto Foundation?” said Maura. “Is that what you’re talking about?”

There was a silence. In the other room, a phone began to ring.

Edwina suddenly laughed. “She’s one step ahead of you, Anthony.”

“How did you know about the foundation?” he asked, looking at Maura. Then he gave a knowing sigh. “Detective Rizzoli, of course. I hear she’s been asking questions.”

“She’s paid to ask questions,” said Maura.

“Is she finally satisfied that we’re not suspects?”

“It’s just that she doesn’t like mysteries. And your group is very mysterious.”

“And that’s why you accepted my invitation tonight. To find out who we are.”

“I think I have found out,” said Maura. “And I think I’ve heard enough to make a decision.” She set down her glass. “Metaphysics doesn’t interest me. I know there’s evil in the world, and there always has been. But you don’t need to believe in Satan or demons to explain it. Human beings are perfectly capable of evil all by themselves.”

“You aren’t in the least bit interested in joining the foundation?” asked Edwina.

“I wouldn’t belong here. And I think I should leave now.” She turned to find Jeremy standing in the doorway.

“Mr. Sansone?” The manservant was holding a portable phone. “Mr. Stark just called. He’s quite concerned.”

“About what?”

“Dr. O’Donnell was supposed to pick him up, but she hasn’t appeared yet.”

“When was she supposed to be at his house?”

“Forty-five minutes ago. He’s been calling, but she doesn’t answer either her home phone or her cell.”

“Let me try her number.” Sansone took the phone and dialed, drumming the table as he waited. He disconnected, dialed again, his fingers tapping faster. No one in the room spoke; they were all watching him, listening to the accelerating rhythm of his fingers. The night Eve Kassovitz died, these people had sat in this very room, not realizing that Death was right outside. That it had found its way into their garden, and had left its strange symbols on their door. This house had been marked.

Perhaps the people inside it were marked as well.

Sansone hung up.

“Shouldn’t you call the police?” asked Maura.

“Oh, Joyce may simply have forgotten,” said Edwina. “It seems a little premature to ask the police to rush in.”

Jeremy said, “Would you like me to drive over and check Dr. O’Donnell’s house?”

Sansone stared for a moment at the phone. “No,” he finally said. “I’ll go. I’d rather you stayed here, just in case Joyce calls.”

Maura followed him into the parlor, where he grabbed his overcoat from the closet. She, too, pulled on her coat.

“Please stay and have dinner,” he said, reaching for his car keys. “There’s no need for you to rush home.”

“I’m not going home,” she said. “I’m coming with you.”

TWENTY-TWO

 

Joyce O’Donnell’s porch light was on, but no one answered the door.

Sansone tried the knob. “It’s locked,” he said, and took out his cell phone. “Let me try calling her one more time.”

As he dialed, Maura backed away from the porch and stood on the walkway, gazing up at O’Donnell’s house, at a second-floor window that cast its cheery glow into the night. Faintly, she heard a phone ringing inside. Then, once again, silence.

Sansone disconnected. “Her answering machine picked up.”

“I think it’s time to call Rizzoli.”

“Not yet.” He produced a flashlight and headed along the shoveled walkway toward the side of the house.

“Where are you going?”

He continued toward the driveway, black coat melting into the shadows. The beam of his light skimmed across flagstones and disappeared around the corner.

She stood alone in the front yard, listening to the rattle of dead leaves in the branches above her. “Sansone?” she called out. He didn’t answer. She heard only the pounding of her own heart. She followed him around the corner of the house. There she halted in the deserted driveway, the shadow of the garage looming before her. She started to call his name again, but something silenced her: the creeping awareness of another presence watching her, tracking her. She turned and quickly scanned the street. She saw a scrap of windblown paper tumble down the road like a fluttering wraith.

A hand closed around her arm.

Gasping, she stumbled away. She found herself staring at Sansone, who had silently materialized right behind her.

“Her car’s still in the garage,” he said.

“Then where is she?”

“I’m going around to the back.”

This time she did not let him leave her sight, but followed right at his heels as he moved through the side yard, tramping through deep and unbroken snow alongside the garage. By the time they emerged in the backyard, her trousers were soaked, and melted snow had seeped into her shoes, chilling her feet. His flashlight beam skittered across shrubs and deck chairs, all covered in a velvety blanket of white. No footprints, no disturbed snow. A vine-covered wall enclosed the yard, a private space completely hidden from the neighbors. And she was here alone, with a man she scarcely knew.

But he was not focused on her. His attention was on the kitchen door, which he could not get open. For a moment he stared at it, debating his next move. Then he looked at Maura.

“You know Detective Rizzoli’s number?” he asked. “Call her.”

She pulled out her cell phone and moved toward the kitchen window for more light. She was about to dial when her gaze suddenly focused on the kitchen sink, just inside the window.

Sansone,” she whispered.

“What?”

“There’s blood— near the drain.”

He took one glance, and his next move shocked her. He grabbed one of the deck chairs and hurled it against the window. Glass shattered, shards exploding into the kitchen. He scrambled inside, and seconds later the door swung open.

“There’s blood down here on the floor, too,” he said.

She looked down at smears of red on the cream tiles. He ran out of the kitchen, his black coat flapping behind him like a cape, moving so fast that when she reached the foot of the stairs, he was already on the second-floor landing. She stared down at more blood, swipes of it on the oak steps, along the baseboard, as though a battered limb had scraped against the wall as the body was dragged upstairs.

Maura!” yelled Sansone.

She sprinted up the stairs, reached the second-floor landing, and saw more blood, like glistening ski marks down the hallway. And she heard the sound, like water gurgling in a snorkel. Even before she stepped into the bedroom, she knew what she was about to confront: not a dead victim, but one desperately fighting to live.

Joyce O’Donnell lay on her back on the floor, eyes wide open in mortal panic, a gout of red spurting from her neck. She wheezed in air, blood rattling in her lungs, and coughed. Bright red spray exploded from her throat, spattering Sansone’s face as he crouched over her.

“I’ll take over! Call nine-one-one!” Maura ordered as she dropped to her knees and pressed bare fingers to the slash wound. She was used to the touch of dead flesh, not living, and the blood that dribbled onto her hands was shockingly warm. ABC, she thought. Those were the first rules of life support: airway, breathing, circulation. But with one brutal slash across the throat, the attacker had compromised all three. I’m a doctor, but there’s so little I can do to save her.

Sansone finished his call. “The ambulance is on its way. What can I do?”

“Get me some towels. I need to stop the bleeding!”

O’Donnell’s hand suddenly closed around Maura’s wrist, clenching it with the force of panic. The skin was so slick, Maura’s fingers slipped off the wound, releasing a fresh spurt. Another wheeze, another cough, sent spray from the incised trachea. O’Donnell was drowning. With every breath, she inhaled her own blood. It gurgled in her airway, frothed in her alveoli. Maura had examined the incised lungs of other victims whose throats had been cut; she knew the mechanism of death.

Now I am watching it happen, and I can’t do a thing to stop it.

Sansone dashed back into the bedroom carrying towels, and Maura pressed a wadded washcloth to the neck. The white terry cloth magically turned red. O’Donnell’s hand gripped her wrist even tighter. Her lips moved, but she could produce no words, only the rattle of air bubbling through blood.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” said Maura. “The ambulance is almost here.”

O’Donnell began to tremble, limbs quaking as though in seizures. But her eyes were aware and fixed on Maura. Does she see it in my eyes? That I know she’s dying?

Maura glanced up at the distant wail of a siren.

“There it is,” said Sansone.

“The front door’s locked!”

“I’ll go down and meet them.” He scrambled to his feet and she heard him pounding down the stairs to the first floor.

O’Donnell’s eyes were still awake, staring. Her lips moved faster now, and her fingers tightened to a claw. Outside, the siren’s wail drew closer, but in this room, the only sounds were the gurgling breaths of the dying woman.

“Stay with me, Joyce!” urged Maura. “I know you can hold on!”

O’Donnell tugged at Maura’s wrist, panicked jerks that threatened to wrench Maura’s hand from the wound. With each gasp, bright droplets sprayed from her throat in explosive bursts. Her eyes widened, as though glimpsing the darkness yawning before her. No, she mouthed. No.

At that instant, Maura realized the woman was no longer looking at her, but at something behind her. Only then did she hear the creak of the floorboard.

Her attacker never left the house. He’s still here. In this room.

She turned just as the blow rushed toward her. She saw darkness swoop at her like bat’s wings, and then she went sprawling. Her face slammed to the floor and she lay stunned, her vision black. But she could feel, transmitted through the boards, the thud of escaping footsteps, like the heartbeat of the house itself, pulsing against her cheek. Pain throbbed its way into her head and grew to a steady hammering that seemed to pound nails into her skull.

She did not hear Joyce O’Donnell take her last breath.

A hand grasped her shoulder. In sudden panic she flailed, fighting for her life, swinging blindly at her attacker.

“Maura, stop. Maura!”

Her hands now trapped in his, she managed only a few weak struggles. Then her vision cleared and she saw Sansone staring at her. She heard other voices and glimpsed the metallic sheen of a stretcher. Turning, she focused on two paramedics who were crouched over Joyce O’Donnell’s body.

“I’m not getting a pulse. No respirations.”

“This IV’s wide open.”

“Jesus, look at all the blood.”

“How’s the other lady doing?” The paramedic looked at Maura.

Sansone said, “She seems okay. I think she just fainted.”

“No,” whispered Maura. She grabbed his arm. “He was here.”

“What?”

“He was still here. In the room!”

Suddenly he realized what she was saying, and he reared back with a look of shock and scrambled to his feet.

“No— wait for the police!”

But Sansone was already out the door.

She struggled to sit up and swayed, her vision watery and threatening to go gray. When at last the room brightened, she saw two paramedics kneeling in Joyce O’Donnell’s blood, their equipment and discarded packaging splayed out around them. An EKG traced across the oscilloscope.

It was a flat line.

 

Jane slid into the backseat of the cruiser beside Maura and pulled the door shut. That one brief whoosh of cold air swept all the heat from the vehicle and Maura began to shake again.

“You sure you’re feeling okay?” said Jane. “Maybe we should take you to the ER.”

“I want to go home,” said Maura. “Can’t I go home now?”

“Is there anything else you remember? Any other details that are coming back to you?”

“I told you, I didn’t see a face.”

“Just his black clothes.”

“Black something.

“Something? Are we talking man or beast here?”

“It all happened so fast.”

“Anthony Sansone’s wearing black.”

“It wasn’t him. He left the room. He went down to meet the ambulance.”

“Yeah, that’s what he says, too.”

Jane’s face was silhouetted against the lights of the cruisers parked across the street. The usual convoy of official vehicles had arrived, and crime-scene tape now fluttered between stakes planted in the front yard. Maura had sat in this vehicle for so long, the blood on her coat had dried, turning the fabric stiff as parchment. She would have to throw out this coat; she never wanted to wear it again.

She looked at the house, where all the lights were now blazing. “The doors were locked when we got here. How did he get in?”

“There’s no sign of forced entry. Just that broken kitchen window.”

“We had to break it. We saw blood in the sink.”

“And Sansone was with you the whole time?”

“We were together all evening, Jane.”

“Except when he gave chase. He claims he didn’t see anyone outside. And he churned up the snow pretty good when he went searching around outside the house. Screwed up any shoe prints we might have been able to use.”

“He’s not a suspect in this.”

“I’m not saying he is.”

Maura paused, suddenly thinking of something Jane had just told her. No sign of forced entry. “Joyce O’Donnell let him in.” She looked at Jane. “She let the killer into her own house.”

“Or she forgot to lock the door.”

“Of course she’d lock her door. She wasn’t stupid.”

“She didn’t exactly play it safe, either. When you work with monsters, you never know which one will follow you home. These killings have always been about her, Doc. With the very first kill, he draws her attention by calling her. The second kill is right outside the home where she’s having dinner. It was all leading up to this. To the main event.”

“Why would she let him into her home?”

“Maybe because she thought she could control him. Think about how many prisons she’s walked into, how many people like Warren Hoyt and Amalthea Lank she’s interviewed. She gets up close and personal with them all.”

At the mention of her mother, Maura flinched but said nothing.

“She’s like one of those circus lion tamers. You work with the animals every day, and you start to think you’re the one in control. You expect that every time you crack the whip, they’ll jump like good little kitties. Maybe you even think they love you. Then one day you turn your back, and they’re sinking their teeth in your neck.”

“I know you never liked her,” said Maura. “But if you’d been there —if you’d watched her die”— she looked at Jane— “she was terrified.”

“Just because she’s dead, I’m not going to start liking her. She’s a victim now, so I owe her my best effort. But I can’t help feeling that she brought this on herself.”

There was a rap on the glass and Jane rolled down the window. A cop peered in at them and said, “Mr. Sansone wants to know if you’re done questioning him.”

“No, we’re not. Tell him to wait.”

“And the ME’s packing up. You got any last questions?”

“I’ll call him if I do.”

Through the window, Maura saw her colleague, Dr. Abe Bristol, emerge from the house. Abe would be doing O’Donnell’s autopsy. If what he’d just seen inside had upset him, he did not show it. He paused on the porch, calmly buttoning his coat and pulling on warm gloves as he chatted with a cop. Abe didn’t have to watch her die, thought Maura. He isn’t wearing her blood on his coat.

Jane pushed open the car door, and a fresh blast of cold air whooshed in. “C’mon, Doc,” she said, climbing out. “We’ll get you home.”

“My car’s still parked on Beacon Hill.”

“You can worry about your car later. I’ve got you a ride.” Jane turned and called out, “Father Brophy, She’s ready to leave.”

Only then did Maura notice him, standing in the shadows across the street. He walked toward them, a tall silhouette whose face took on flickering features only as he moved into the cruisers’ dancing lights. “Are you sure you’re feeling well enough?” he asked as he helped her out of the car. “You don’t want to go to the hospital?”

“Please, just drive me home.”

Although he offered his arm for support, she didn’t take it, but kept her hands in her pockets as they walked to his car. She could feel the gazes of police officers watching them. There go Dr. Isles and that priest, together again. Was there anyone who hadn’t noticed, hadn’t wondered about them?

There’s not a damn thing worth wondering about.

She slid into his front seat and stared straight ahead as he started the engine. “Thank you,” she said.

“You know I’d do this for you in a heartbeat.”

“Did Jane call you?”

“I’m glad she did. You need a friend to drive you home tonight. Not some cop you hardly know.” He pulled away from the curb and the garish lights of emergency vehicles faded behind them. “You came too close tonight,” he said softly.

“Believe me, I wasn’t trying to.”

“You shouldn’t have gone into that house. You should have called the police.”

“Can we not talk about it?”

“Is there anything we can still talk about, Maura? Or is this how it’s going to be from now on? You won’t visit me, you won’t answer my calls?”

She finally looked at him. “I’m not getting younger, Daniel. I’m forty-one, my only marriage was a spectacular disaster, and I have a knack for getting into hopeless affairs. I want to be married. I want to be happy. I can’t afford to waste time on relationships that go nowhere.”

“Even if the friendship, the feelings, are real?”

“Friendships are broken all the time. So are hearts.”

“Yes,” he said, and sighed. “That’s true.” They drove for a moment in silence. Then he said, “I never meant to break your heart.”

“You haven’t.”

“But I have hurt you. I know that.”

“We’ve hurt each other. We had to.” She paused, and said bitterly, “It’s what your almighty God demands, isn’t it?” Her words were meant to wound, and by his sudden silence she knew they had found their mark. He said nothing as they approached her neighborhood, as he pulled into her driveway and shut off the engine. He sat for a moment, then turned to her.

“You’re right,” he said. “My God demands too damn much.” And he pulled her toward him.

She should have resisted; she should have pushed him away and stepped out of his car. But she didn’t, because for too long she had wanted this embrace, this kiss. And more, much more. This was crazy; this could never turn out right. But neither common sense, nor his God, stood between them now.

Lead us not into temptation. They kissed their way from the car to her front door. Deliver us from evil. Futile words, a mere sand castle standing against the relentless tide. They stepped into the house. She did not turn on the light, and as they stood in the shadowy foyer, the darkness seemed to magnify the harsh sound of their breathing, the rustle of wool. She shed the bloodstained coat and it fell to the floor in a puddle of black. Only the faint glow from the windows lit the hallway. There were no lights to illuminate their sin, no other eyes to witness their fall from grace.

She led the way to the bedroom. To her bed.

For a year they had been circling in this dance, every step inching them to this moment. She knew this man’s heart, and he knew hers, but his flesh was a stranger’s never before touched, never tasted. Her fingers brushed across warm skin and traced down the curve of his spine, all of it new territory that she was hungry to explore.

The last of their clothes slithered off; the last chance to turn back slipped away. “Maura,” he whispered as he pressed kisses to her neck, her breasts. “My Maura.” His words were soft as a prayer, not to his Lord, but to her. She felt no guilt at all as she welcomed him into her arms. It was not her vow that was broken, not her conscience that would suffer. Tonight, God, for this moment, he’s mine, she thought, reveling in her victory as Daniel groaned against her, as she wrapped her legs around him, tormented him, urged him on. I have what you, God, can never give him. I take him from you. I claim him. Go ahead and call in all your demons; I don’t give a damn.

Tonight, neither did Daniel.

When at last their bodies found release, he collapsed into her arms. For a long time they lay silent. By the light through her windows she could see the faint gleam of his eyes, staring at the darkness. Not asleep, but thinking. Perhaps regretting. As the moments passed, she could stand the silence no longer.

“Are you sorry?” she finally asked.

“No,” he whispered. His fingers slid along her arm.

“Why am I not convinced?”

“Do you need to be?”

“I want you to be glad. What we did is natural. It’s human.” She paused and said with a sigh, “But maybe that’s just a poor excuse for sin.”

“That’s not what I’m thinking about at all.”

“What are you thinking?”

He pressed a kiss to her forehead, his breath warming her hair. “I’m thinking about what happens next.”

“What do you want to happen?”

“I don’t want to lose you.”

“You don’t have to. It’s your choice.”

“My choice,” he said softly. “It’s like having to choose between breathing in and breathing out.” He rolled onto his back. For a moment, he was silent. “I think I told you, once,” he said, “how I came to take my vows.”

“You said your sister was dying. Leukemia.”

“And I made a bargain. A deal with God. He delivered, and Sophie’s alive now. I kept my side of the bargain as well.”

“You were only fourteen. That’s too young to promise away the rest of your life.”

“But I did make that promise. And I can do so much good in His name, Maura. I’ve been happy, keeping that promise.”

“And then you met me.”

He sighed. “And then I met you.”

“You do have to choose, Daniel.”

“Or you’ll walk out of my life. I know.”

“I don’t want to.”

He looked at her. “Then don’t, Maura! Please. These past few months without you, I’ve been lost in the wilderness. I felt so guilty, wanting you. But you were all I thought about.”

“So where does this leave me, if I stay in your life? You get to keep your church, but what do I get to have?” She stared up at the darkness. “Nothing has really changed, has it?”

“Everything has changed.” He reached for her hand. “I love you.”

But not enough. Not as much as you love your God.

Yet she let him pull her into his arms again. She met his kisses with her own. This time their lovemaking was not a tender joining; this coupling was fierce, bodies colliding. Not love, but punishment. Tonight they’d use each other. If she couldn’t have love, then lust it would be. Give him something to remember that would haunt him on those nights when God was not enough. This is what you’ll give up when you leave me. This is the Heaven you’ll walk away from.

Before dawn, he did walk away. She felt him stir awake beside her, then slowly sit up on the side of the bed and begin to dress. But of course; it was Sunday morning, and the flock must be tended to.

He bent to kiss her hair. “I have to leave,” he whispered.

“I know.”

“I love you, Maura. I never thought I’d say that to a woman. But I’m saying it now.” He stroked her face and she turned away, so he wouldn’t see the tears welling in her eyes.

“Let me make you coffee,” she said, starting to sit up.

“No, you stay warm in bed. I’ll find my own way out.” Another kiss, and he rose to his feet. She heard him walk down the hall, and the front door closed.

So it had finally happened. She’d become just another cliché. Eve with her apple. The temptress luring a holy man to sin. This time, the snake that seduced them was not Satan, but their own lonely hearts. You want to find the Devil, Mr. Sansone. Just take a look at me.

Take a look at any one of us.

Outside the sky slowly lightened to a cold, bright dawn. She pushed aside sheets, and the scent of their lovemaking rose from the warm linen: the heady scent of sin. She did not shower it off, but simply pulled on a robe, stepped into slippers, and went into the kitchen to make coffee. Standing at the sink, filling the carafe, she gazed out at clematis vines crystallized in ice, at rhododendrons huddling with leaves crumpled, and did not need to look at a thermometer to know that today the cold would be brutal. She imagined Daniel’s parishioners hugging their coats as they stepped from their cars and walked toward the church of Our Lady of Divine Light, braving this Sunday chill for the uplifting words of Father Brophy. And what would he say to them this morning? Would he confess to his flock that even he, their shepherd, had lost his way?

She started the coffeemaker and went to the front door for her newspaper. Stepping outside, she was stunned by the cold. It burned her throat, stung her nostrils. She wasted no time retrieving the newspaper, which had landed on the front walkway, then turned and scurried back up the porch steps. She was just reaching for the doorknob when she suddenly froze, her gaze fixed on the door.

On the words, the symbols, scrawled there.

She spun around, frantically scanning the street. She saw sunshine glinting off icy pavement, heard only the silence of a Sunday morning.

She scrambled into the house, slammed the door shut, and rammed the dead bolt home. Then she ran for the phone and called Jane Rizzoli.

TWENTY-THREE

 

“Are you sure you didn’t hear anything last night? No footsteps on the porch, nothing out of the ordinary?” asked Jane.

Maura sat on the couch, shivering despite her sweater and wool slacks. She had not eaten breakfast, had not even poured herself a cup of coffee, but she felt not the faintest stirring of hunger. During the half hour before Jane and Frost had arrived, Maura had remained at her living room window, watching the street, attuned to every noise, tracking every car that passed. The killer knows where I live. He knows what happened last night, in my bedroom.

“Doc?”

Maura looked up. “I didn’t hear anything. The writing was just there, on my door, when I woke up. When I went outside to get my…” She flinched, her heart suddenly thudding.

Her phone was ringing.

Frost picked up the receiver. “Isles residence. This is Detective Frost. I’m sorry, Mr. Sansone, but we’re dealing with a situation here right now, and this isn’t a convenient time for you to talk to her. I’ll let her know you called.”

Jane’s gaze returned to Maura. “Are you sure that writing wasn’t already on your door when you got home last night?”

“I didn’t see it then.”

“You used the front door to enter the house?”

“Yes. Normally, I’d come in the garage. But my car’s still on Beacon Hill.”

“Did Father Brophy walk you to the door?”

“It was dark, Jane. We wouldn’t have seen the writing.” We were only focused on each other. All we had on our minds was getting to my bedroom.

Frost said, “I think I’ll check around outside. See if there are any footprints.” He went out the front door. Though he was now tramping right outside the house, the sound of his footsteps did not penetrate the double-pane windows. Last night a trespasser could have walked right past her bedroom, and she wouldn’t have heard a thing.

“Do you think he followed you home last night?” Jane asked. “From O’Donnell’s house?”

“I don’t know. He could have. But I’ve been present at all three death scenes. Lori-Ann Tucker’s. Eve Kassovitz’s. On any one of those nights, he might have seen me.”

“And followed you home.”

She hugged herself, trying to suppress her shaking. “I never noticed. I never realized I was being watched.”

“You have an alarm system. Did you use it last night?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I— I simply forgot to arm it.” I had other things on my mind.

Jane sat down in the chair across from her. “Why would he draw those symbols on your door? What do you think they mean?”

“How would I know?”

“And the message he left— it’s the same one that he left in Lori-Ann Tucker’s bedroom. Only this time, he didn’t bother to write it in Latin. This time he made sure we’d understand exactly what he meant. I have sinned.” Jane paused. “Why direct those particular words at you?”

Maura said nothing.

“Do you think they were meant for you?” Jane’s gaze was suddenly alert, probing.

She knows me too well, thought Maura. She can see I’m not telling her the whole story. Or maybe she’s caught the whiff of lust on my skin. I should have showered before they got here; I should have washed away Daniel’s scent.

Abruptly, Maura stood up. “I can’t concentrate,” she said. “I need a cup of coffee.” She turned and headed toward the kitchen. There she busied herself, pouring coffee into mugs, reaching into the refrigerator for cream. Jane had followed her into the kitchen, but Maura avoided looking at her. She slid a steaming mug in front of Jane and then turned to the window as she sipped, delaying, as long as she could, the revelation of her shame.

“Is there something you want to tell me?” said Jane.

“I’ve told you everything. I woke up this morning and found that writing on my door. I don’t know what else to say.”

“After you left O’Donnell’s house, did Father Brophy drive you straight home?”

“Yes.”

“And you didn’t see any cars tailing you?”

“No.”

“Well, maybe Father Brophy noticed something. I’ll see what he remembers.”

Maura cut in. “You don’t need to talk to him. I mean, if he’d noticed anything last night, he would have told me.”

“I still have to ask him.”

Maura turned to face Jane. “It’s Sunday, you know.”

“I know what day it is.”

“He has services.”

Jane’s gaze had narrowed, and Maura felt her cheeks flame with heat.

“What happened last night?” Jane asked.

“I told you. I came straight home from O’Donnell’s house.”

“And you stayed inside for the rest of the night?”

“I didn’t leave the house.”

“Did Father Brophy?”

The question, asked so matter-of-factly, startled Maura into silence. After a moment, she sank into a chair at the kitchen table but said nothing, just stared down at her coffee.

“How long did he stay?” asked Jane. Still no emotion in her voice, still the cop, although Maura knew there was disapproval behind that question, and guilt tightened its fist around her throat.

“He stayed most of the night.”

“Till what time?”

“I don’t know. It was still dark when he left.”

“And what did you two do while he was here?”

“This isn’t relevant.”

“You know it is. We’re talking about what the killer might have seen through your windows. What might have inspired him to write those words on your door. Were your living room lights on the whole night? Were you and Brophy sitting there, talking?”

Maura heaved out a breath. “No. The lights… they were off.”

“The house was dark.”

“Yes.”

“And someone standing outside, watching your windows, would have to assume—”

“You know what the hell they’d assume.”

“Would they be right?”

Maura met her gaze. “I was freaked out last night, Jane! Daniel was there for me. He’s always been there for me. We didn’t plan for this to happen. It’s the only time— the one time—” Her voice faded. “I didn’t want to be alone.”

Jane sat down at the kitchen table as well. “You know, those words take on new meaning. I have sinned.

“We’ve all sinned,” shot back Maura. “Each and every damn one of us.”

“I’m not criticizing you, okay?”

“Yes you are. You think I can’t hear it in your voice?”

“If you’re feeling guilty, Doc, it’s not because of anything I said.”

Maura stared back at Jane’s unrelenting gaze and thought, She’s right, of course. My guilt is all my own.

“We will have to talk to Father Brophy about this, you know. About what happened last night.”

Maura gave a resigned sigh. “Please, when you do talk to him, just keep it discreet.”

“I’m not exactly bringing in the TV cameras, okay?”

“Detective Frost doesn’t have to know about this.”

“Of course he has to know. He’s my partner.”

Maura dropped her head in her hands. “Oh, God.”

“This is relevant to the case, and you know it. If I didn’t tell Frost, he’d have every right to cry foul.”

So I won’t be able to look at Frost again without seeing a reflection of my own guilt, thought Maura, cringing at the thought of Frost’s reaction. One’s reputation was such a fragile thing; one tiny crack and it disintegrates. For two years, they had regarded her as the queen of the dead, the unflappable medical examiner who could gaze without flinching at sights that turned the stomachs of even the most seasoned investigators. Now they’d look at her and see the weaknesses, the flaws of a lonely woman.

Footsteps thumped on the front porch. It was Frost, coming back into the house. She did not want to be present when he learned the tawdry truth. Uptight, upright Barry Frost would be shocked to hear who’d been sleeping in her bed.

But he was not the only person who’d just stepped into the house. Maura heard voices talking, and she looked up in sudden recognition as Anthony Sansone swept into the kitchen, followed by Frost.

“Are you all right?” Sansone asked her.

Jane said, “This really isn’t a good time for a visit, Mr. Sansone. Would you mind stepping outside?”

He ignored Jane; his gaze stayed on Maura. He was not dressed in black today, but in shades of gray. A tweed jacket, an ash-colored shirt. So different from Daniel, she thought; this man I cannot read, and he makes me uncomfortable.

“I just saw the markings on your door,” he said. “When did that happen?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Sometime last night.”

“I should have driven you home myself.”

Jane cut in. “I really think you should leave now.”

“Wait,” said Frost. “You need to hear what he says, about what’s on the door. What it might mean.”

I have sinned? I think the meaning is pretty obvious.”

“Not the words,” said Sansone. “The symbols beneath them.”

“We’ve already heard about the all-seeing eye. Your friend Oliver Stark explained it.”

“He may have been mistaken.”

“You don’t agree that it’s the eye of Horus?”

“I think it may represent something else entirely.” He looked at Maura. “Come outside and I’ll explain it to you.”

Maura had no wish to once again confront those accusing words on her door, but his sense of urgency forced her to follow him. Stepping outside onto the porch, she paused, blinking against the sun’s glare. It was such a beautiful Sunday morning, a morning to linger over coffee and the newspaper. Instead she was afraid to sit in her own house, afraid to look at her own front door.

She took a breath and turned to confront what had been drawn in ocher that was the color of dried blood. The words I have sinned screamed at her, an accusation that made her want to shrink, to hide her guilty face.

But it was not the words that Sansone focused on. He pointed to the two symbols drawn below them. The larger one they had seen before, on his garden door.

“That looks exactly like the all-seeing eye to me,” said Jane.

“But look at this other symbol,” said Sansone, pointing to a figure near the bottom of the door. It was so small, it almost seemed like an afterthought. “Drawn in ocher, as at the other crime scenes.”

Jane said, “How did you know about the ocher?”

“My colleagues need to see this. To confirm what I think it represents.” He took out his cell phone.

“Wait,” said Jane. “This isn’t some public showing.”

“Do you know how to interpret this, Detective? Do you have any idea where to start? If you want to find this killer, you’d better understand his thinking. His symbols.” He began to dial. Jane did not stop him.

Maura dropped to a crouch so that she could study the bottom sketch. She stared at arching horns, a triangular head, and slitted eyes. “It looks like a goat,” she said. “But what does it mean?” She gazed up at Sansone. Backlit by the morning glare, he was a towering figure, black and faceless.

“It represents Azazel,” he said. “It’s a symbol of the Watchers.”

 

Azazel was the chief of the Se’irim,” said Oliver Stark. “They were goat demons who haunted the ancient deserts before Moses, before the pharaohs. All the way back in the age of Lilith.”

“Who’s Lilith?” asked Frost.

Edwina Felway looked at Frost in surprise. “You don’t know about her?”

Frost gave an embarrassed shrug. “I have to admit, I’m not all that well-versed in the Bible.”

“Oh, you won’t find Lilith in the Bible,” said Edwina. “She’s long been banished from accepted Christian doctrine, although she does have a place in Hebrew legend. She was Adam’s first wife.”

“Adam had another wife?”

“Yes, before Eve.” Edwina smiled at his startled face. “What, you think the Bible tells the whole story?”

They were sitting in Maura’s living room, gathered around the coffee table, where Oliver’s sketchpad lay among the empty cups and saucers. Within half an hour of Sansone’s call, both Edwina and Oliver had arrived to examine the symbols on the door. They’d conferred on the porch for only a few minutes before the cold drove them all into the house for hot coffee and theories. Theories that now struck Maura as cold-bloodedly intellectual. Her home had been marked by a killer, and these people calmly sat in her living room, discussing their bizarre theology. She glanced at Jane, who wore an undisguised expression of these people are kooks. But Frost was clearly fascinated.

“I never heard that Adam had a first wife,” he said.

“There’s a whole history that never appears in the Bible, Detective,” said Edwina, “a secret history you can only find in Canaanite or Hebrew legends. They talk about the marriage between Adam and a free-spirited woman, a cunning temptress who refused to obey her husband, or to lie beneath him as a docile wife should. Instead she demanded wild sex in every position and taunted him when he couldn’t satisfy her. She was the world’s first truly liberated female, and she wasn’t afraid to seek the pleasures of the flesh.”

“She sounds like a lot more fun than Eve,” said Frost.

“But in the eyes of the church, Lilith was an abomination, a woman who was beyond the control of men, a creature so sexually insatiable that she finally abandoned her boring old husband, Adam, and ran off to have orgies with demons.” Edwina paused. “And as a result, she gave birth to the most powerful demon of all, the one who’s plagued mankind ever since.”

“You don’t mean the Devil?”

Sansone said, “It’s a belief that was commonly held in the Middle Ages: Lilith was the mother of Lucifer.”

Edwina gave a snort. “So you see how history treats an assertive woman? If you refuse to be subservient, if you enjoy sex a little too much, then the church turns you into a monster. You’re known as the Devil’s mother.”

“Or you disappear from history entirely,” said Frost. “Because this is the first I’ve ever heard of Lilith. Or that goat person.”

Azazel,” said Oliver. He tore off his latest sketch and placed it on the coffee table so that everyone could see it. It was a more detailed version of the face that had been drawn on Maura’s door: a horned goat with slitted eyes and a single flame burning atop its head. “The goat demons are mentioned in Leviticus and Isaiah. They were hairy creatures who cavorted with wild beings like Lilith. The name Azazel goes back to the Canaanites, probably a derivation of one of their ancient gods’ names.”

“And that’s who the symbol on the door refers to?” asked Frost.

“That would be my guess.”

Jane laughed, unable to contain her skepticism. “A guess? Oh, we’re really nailing down the facts here, aren’t we?”

Edwina said, “You think this discussion is a waste of time?”

“I think a symbol is whatever you want to make of it. You people think it’s a goat demon. But to the weirdo who drew it, it may mean something entirely different. Remember all that stuff you and Oliver spouted about the eye of Horus? The fractions, the quarter moon? So all of that is suddenly a bunch of hooey?”

“I did explain to you that the eye can represent a number of different things,” said Oliver. “The Egyptian god. The all-seeing eye of Lucifer. Or the Masonic symbol for illumination, for wisdom.”

“Those are pretty opposite meanings,” said Frost. “The Devil versus wisdom?”

“They’re not opposite at all. You have to remember what the word Lucifer means. Translated, the name is ‘Bringer of Light.’”

“That doesn’t sound so evil.”

“Some would claim that Lucifer isn’t evil,” said Edwina, “that he represents the questioning mind, the independent thinker, the very things that once threatened the church.”

Jane snorted. “So now Lucifer isn’t such a bad guy? He just asked too many questions?”

“Who you call the Devil depends on your perspective,” said Edwina. “My late husband was an anthropologist. I’ve lived all over the world, collected images of demons that look like jackals or cats or snakes. Or beautiful women. Every culture has its own idea of what the Devil looks like. There’s only one thing that almost all cultures, dating back to the most primitive tribes, agree on: the Devil actually exists.

Maura thought of that faceless swirl of black that she had glimpsed in O’Donnell’s bedroom last night, and a chill prickled the back of her neck. She didn’t believe in Satan. But she did believe in evil. And last night, I was surely in its presence. Her gaze fell on Oliver’s sketch of the horned goat. “This thing —this Azazel— is he also a symbol of the Devil?”

“No,” said Oliver. “Azazel is often used as a symbol for the Watchers.”

“Who are these watchers you keep talking about?” asked Frost.

Edwina looked at Maura. “Do you have a Bible, Dr. Isles?”

Maura frowned at her. “Yes.”

“Could you get it for us?”

Maura crossed to the bookcase and scanned the top shelf for the familiar worn cover. It had been her father’s Bible, and Maura had not opened it in years. She took it down and handed it to Edwina, who riffled through the pages, setting off a puff of dust.

“Here it is. Genesis, chapter six. Verses one and two: ‘And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.’”

“The sons of God?” asked Frost.

“That passage almost certainly refers to angels,” explained Edwina. “It says that angels lusted after earthly women, so they married them. A marriage between the divine and the mortal.” She looked down at the Bible again. “And here’s verse four: ‘There were giants on the earth in these days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.’” Edwina closed the book.

“What does all that mean?” asked Frost.

“It says that they had children,” said Edwina. “That’s the one place in the Bible where these children are mentioned. These offspring resulted from matings between humans and angels. They were a mixed race of demons called the Nephilim.”

“Also known as the Watchers,” said Sansone.

“You’ll find references to them in other sources that predate the Bible. In the Book of Enoch. In the Book of Jubilees. They’re described as monsters, spawned by fallen angels who had intercourse with human women. The result was a secret race of hybrids that supposedly still walks among us. These creatures are said to have unusual charm and talent, unusual beauty. Often very tall, very charismatic. But they’re demons nonetheless, and they serve the darkness.”

“You people actually believe this?” asked Jane.

“I’m just telling you what’s in holy writings, Detective. The ancients believed mankind was not alone on this earth, that others came before us and that some people today still carry the bloodline of those monsters.”

“But you called them the children of angels.”

“Fallen angels. Flawed and evil.”

“So these things, these Watchers, are like mutants,” said Frost, “hybrids.”

Edwina looked at him. “A subspecies. Violent and predatory. The rest of us are merely prey.”

“It’s written that when Armageddon arrives,” said Oliver, “when the world as we know it ends, the Antichrist himself will be one of the Nephilim. A Watcher.”

And their mark is on my door. Maura stared at the sketch of the goat’s head. Was that symbol intended as a warning?

Or an invitation?

“Well,” said Jane, and she looked pointedly at her watch. “This has been a really valuable use of our time.”

“You still don’t see the significance, do you?” said Sansone.

“It makes for a great story around the campfire, but it doesn’t get me any closer to our killer.”

“It gets you into his head. It tells us what he believes.”

“Angels and goat demons. Right. Or maybe our perp just likes to play head games with cops. So he makes us waste our time chasing after ocher and seashells.” Jane rose to her feet. “The crime scene unit should be here any minute. Maybe you people could all go home now, so we can do our jobs.”

“Wait,” Sansone cut in. “What was that you just said about seashells?”

Jane ignored him and looked at Frost. “Can you call CSU and find out what’s taking them so long?”

“Detective Rizzoli,” said Sansone, “tell us about the seashells.”

“You seem to have your own sources. Why don’t you ask them?”

“This could be very important. Why don’t you just save us the effort and tell us?”

“First, you tell me. What’s the significance of a seashell?”

“What kind of shell? A bivalve, a cone?”

“Does it make a difference?”

“Yes.”

Jane paused. “It’s sort of a spiral. A cone, I guess.”

“It was left at a death scene?”

“You might say that.”

“Describe the shell.”

“Look, there’s nothing special about it. The guy I spoke to says it’s a common species found all over the Mediterranean.” She paused as her cell phone rang. “Excuse me,” she said, and walked out of the room. For a moment no one said anything. The three members of the Mephisto Foundation looked at one another.

“Well,” Edwina said softly, “I’d say this just about clinches it.”

“Clinches what?” said Frost.

“The seashell,” said Oliver, “is on Anthony’s family crest.”

Sansone rose from his chair and crossed to the window. There he stood gazing out at the street, his broad back framed in black by the window. “The symbols were drawn in red ocher, mined from Cyprus,” he said. “Do you know the significance of that, Detective Frost?”

“We have no idea,” Frost admitted.

“This killer isn’t playing games with the police. He’s playing games with me. With the Mephisto Foundation.” He turned to face them, but the morning glare made his expression impossible to read. “On Christmas Eve, he kills a woman and leaves satanic symbols at the scene—the candles, the ocher circle. But the single most significant thing he does that night is place a phone call to Joyce O’Donnell, a member of our foundation. That was the tug on our sleeve. It was meant to get our attention.”

“Your attention? It seems to me this has always been about O’Donnell.”

“Then Eve Kassovitz was killed in my garden. On a night we were meeting.”

“It’s also the night O’Donnell was your dinner guest. She was the one he stalked, the one he had his eye on.”

“I would have agreed with you last night. All the signs, up till then, pointed to Joyce as the target. But these symbols on Maura’s door tell us the killer hasn’t completed his work. He’s still hunting.”

“He knows about us, Anthony,” said Edwina. “He’s cutting down our circle. Joyce was the first. The question is, who’s next?”

Sansone looked at Maura. “I’m afraid he thinks you’re one of us.”

“But I’m not,” she said. “I don’t want anything to do with your group delusion.”

“Doc?” said Jane. Maura had not heard her come back into the room. Jane was standing in the doorway, holding her cell phone. “Can you come into the kitchen? We need to talk in private.”

Maura rose and followed her up the hallway. “What is it?” she asked as they stepped into the kitchen.

“Could you arrange to take the day off tomorrow? Because you and I need to go out of town tonight. I’m going home to pack an overnight bag. I’ll be back to pick you up around noon.”

“Are you telling me I should run and hide? Just because someone’s written on my door?”

“This has nothing to do with your door. I just got a call from a cop out in upstate New York. Last night they found a woman’s body. It’s clearly a homicide.”

“Why should a murder in New York concern us?”

“She’s missing her left hand.”

TWENTY-FOUR

 

August 8. Phase of the moon: Last Quarter.

 

Every day, Teddy goes down to the lake.

In the morning, I hear the squeal and slap of the screen door, and then I hear his shoes thump down the porch steps. From my window, I watch him walk from the house and head down toward the water, fishing pole propped on his thin shoulder, tackle box in hand. It is a strange ritual, and useless, I think, because he never brings back any fruits of his labor. Every afternoon, he returns empty-handed but cheerful.

Today, I follow him.

He does not see me as he rambles through the woods toward the water. I stay far enough behind him so that he can’t hear my footsteps. He is singing anyway, in his high and childish voice, an off-key version of the “Kookaburra” song, and is oblivious to the fact he is being watched. He reaches the water’s edge, baits his hook, and throws in his line. As the minutes pass, he settles onto the grassy bank and gazes across water so calm that not even a whisper of wind ruffles the mirrored surface.

The fishing pole gives a twitch.

I move closer as Teddy reels in his catch. It is a brownish fish and it writhes on the line, every muscle twitching in mortal terror. I wait for the fatal blow, for that sacred instant in time when the divine spark flickers out. But to my surprise, Teddy grasps his catch, pulls the hook from its mouth, and gently lowers the fish back into the water. He crouches close, murmuring to it, as though in apology for having inconvenienced its morning.

“Why didn’t you keep it?” I ask.

Teddy jerks straight, startled by my voice. “Oh,” he says. “It’s you.”

“You let it go.”

“I don’t like to kill them. It’s only a bass, anyway.”

“So you throw them all back?”

“Uh-huh.” Teddy baits his hook again and casts it into the water.

“What’s the point of catching them, then?”

“It’s fun. It’s like a game between us. Me and the fish.”

I sit down beside him on the bank. Gnats buzz around our heads and Teddy waves them away. He has just turned eleven years old, but he still has a child’s perfectly smooth skin, and the golden baby fuzz on his face catches the sun’s glint. I am close enough to hear his breathing, to see the pulse throb in his slender neck. He does not seem bothered by my presence; in fact, he gives me a shy smile, as though this is a special treat, sharing the lazy morning with his older cousin.

“You want to try?” he says, offering me the pole.

I take it. But my attention remains on Teddy, on the fine sheen of perspiration on his forehead, on the shadows cast by his eyelashes.

The pole gives a tug.

“You’ve got one!”

I begin to reel it in, and the fish’s struggles make my hands sweat in anticipation. I can feel its thrashings, its desperation to live, transmitted through the pole. At last it breaks the water, its tail flapping as I swing it over the bank. I grab hold of slimy scales.

“Now take out the hook,” says Teddy. “But be careful not to hurt him.”

I look into the open tackle box and see a knife.

“He can’t breathe out of water. Hurry.” Teddy urges me.

I think about reaching for the knife, about holding the wriggling fish down against the grass and piercing it behind the gills. About slitting it open, all the way down the belly. I want to feel the fish give a last twitch, want to feel its life force leap directly into me in a bracing jolt— the same jolt I felt when I was ten years old and took the oath of Herem. When my mother at last brought me into the circle and handed me the knife. “You have reached the age,” she said. “It’s time to be one of us.” I think of the sacrificial goat’s final shudder, and I remember the pride in my mother’s eyes and the murmurs of approval from the circle of robed men. I want to feel that thrill again.

A fish will not do.

I remove the hook and drop the wriggling bass back into the lake. It gives a splash of its tail and darts away. The whisper of a breeze ruffles the water and dragonflies tremble on the reeds. I turn to Teddy.

And he says, “Why are you looking at me like that?”

TWENTY-FIVE

 

Forty-two Euros in tips— not a bad haul for a chilly Sunday in December. As Lily waved good-bye to the tour group whom she’d just shepherded through the Roman Forum, she felt an icy raindrop fleck her face. She looked up at dark clouds hanging ominously low and she shivered. Tomorrow she’d certainly need a raincoat.

With that fresh roll of cash in her pocket, she headed for the favorite shopping venue of every penny-pinching student in Rome: the Porta Portese flea market in Trastevere. It was already one P.M., and the dealers would be closing down their stalls, but she might have time to pick up a bargain. By the time she reached the market, a fine drizzle was falling. The Piazza di Porta Portese echoed with the clatter of crates being packed up. She wasted no time snatching up a used wool sweater for only three Euros. It reeked of cigarette smoke, but a good washing would remedy that. She paid another two Euros for a hooded slicker that was marred only by a single streak of black grease. Now dressed warmly in her new purchases, and with money still in her pocket, she indulged in the luxury of browsing.

She wandered down the narrow passage between stalls, pausing to pick through buckets of costume jewelry and fake Roman coins, and continued toward Piazza Ippolito Nievo and the antiques stalls. Every Sunday, it seemed, she always ended up in this section of the market, because it was the old things, the ancient things, that truly interested her. A scrap of medieval tapestry or a mere chip of bronze could make her heart pound faster. By the time she reached the antiques area, most of the dealers were already carting away their merchandise, and she saw only a few stands still open, their wares exposed to the drizzle. She wandered past the meager offerings, past weary, glum-faced sellers, and was about to leave the piazza when her gaze fell on a small wooden box. She halted, staring.

Three reverse crosses were carved into the top.

Her mist-dampened face suddenly felt encased in ice. Then she noticed that the hinge was facing toward her, and with a sheepish laugh, she rotated the box to its proper orientation. The crosses turned right-side up. When you looked too hard for evil, you saw it everywhere. Even when it’s not there.

“You are looking for religious items?” the dealer asked in Italian.

She glanced up to see the man’s wrinkled face, his eyes almost lost in folds of skin. “I’m just browsing, thank you.”

“Here. There’s more.” He slid a box in front of her, and she saw tangled rosary beads and a wooden carving of the Madonna and old books, their pages curling in the dampness. “Look, look! Take your time.”

At first glance, she saw nothing in that box that interested her. Then she focused on the spine of one of the books. The title was stamped on the leather in gold: The Book of Enoch.

She picked it up and opened it to the copyright page. It was the English translation by R. H. Charles, a 1912 edition printed by Oxford University Press. Two years ago, in a Paris museum, she had viewed a centuries-old scrap of the Ethiopic version. The Book of Enoch was an ancient text, part of the apocryphal literature.

“It is very old,” said the dealer.

“Yes,” she murmured, “it is.”

“It says 1912.”

And these words are even older, she thought, as she ran her fingers across the yellowed pages. This text predated the birth of Christ by two hundred years. These were stories from an era before Noah and his ark, before Methusaleh. She flipped through the pages and paused at one passage that had been underlined in ink.

Evil spirits have proceeded from their bodies, because they are born from men, and from the holy Watchers is their beginning and primal origin; they shall be evil spirits on earth, and evil spirits shall they be called.

“I have many more of his things,” said the dealer.

She looked up. “Whose?”

“The man who owned that book. This is all his.” He waved at the boxes. “He died last month, and now everything must be sold. If you are interested in such items, I have another one just like it.” He bent down to dig through another box and came up with a slim leather-bound book, its cover battered and stained. “The same author,” he said. “R. H. Charles.”

Not the same author, she thought, but the same translator. It was a 1913 edition of The Book of Jubilees, yet another holy text that predated the Christian era. Although she was familiar with the title Jubilees, she had never read this particular book. She lifted the cover, and the pages fell open to chapter ten, verse five, a passage that was also underlined in ink:

And thou knowest how thy Watchers, the fathers of these spirits, acted in my day: and as for these spirits which are living, imprison them and hold them fast in the place of condemnation, and let them not bring destruction on the sons of thy servant, my God; for these are malignant, and created in order to destroy.

In the margin, scrawled in the same ink, were the words: The sons of Seth. The daughters of Cain.

Lily closed the book and suddenly noticed the brown stains on the leather cover. Blood?

“Would you like to buy it?”

She looked up. “What happened to this man? The one who owned these books?”

“I told you. He died.”

“How?”

A shrug. “He lived alone. He was very old, very strange. They found him locked inside his apartment, with all these books piled up against the door. So he couldn’t even get out. Crazy, eh?”

Or terrified, she thought, of what might get in.

“I’ll give you a good price. Do you want it?”

She stared at the second book, thinking of its owner, lying dead and barricaded in his cluttered apartment, and she could almost smell the scent of decaying flesh wafting up from the pages. Repulsed though she was by the stains on the leather, she wanted this book. She wanted to know why the owner had scrawled those words in the margins and whether he had written anything else.

“Five Euros,” the dealer said.

For once, she did not dicker, but simply paid the asking price and walked away with the book.

It was raining hard by the time she climbed the dank stairwell to her flat. All afternoon it rained as she sat reading by the gray and watery light through her window. She read about Seth. The third son of Adam, Seth begat Enos, who begat Kenan. It was the same lofty bloodline from which later sprang the patriarchs Jared and Enoch, Methuselah and Noah. But from this very bloodline also sprang corrupted sons, wicked sons, who mated with the daughters of a murderous ancestor.

The daughters of Cain.

Lily stopped at another underlined passage, the words long ago marked by the man whose ghostly presence now seemed to hover at her shoulder, anxious to share his secrets, to whisper his warnings.

And lawlessness increased on the earth and all flesh corrupted its way, alike men and cattle and beasts and birds and everything that walks on the earth, all of them corrupted their ways and their orders, and they began to devour each other, and lawlessness increased on the earth and every imagination of the thoughts of all men was thus evil continually.

Daylight was fading. She had been sitting for so long, she’d lost all feeling in her limbs. Outside, rain continued to tap at the window, and on the streets of Rome, traffic rumbled and honked. But here, in her room, she sat in numb silence. A century before Christ, before the Apostles, these words were already old, written about a terror so ancient that today mankind no longer remembered it, no longer marked its presence.

She looked down, once again, at The Book of Jubilees, at the ominous words of Noah, spoken to his sons:

For I see, and behold the demons have begun their seductions against you and against your children and now I fear on your behalf, that after my death ye will shed the blood of men upon the earth and that ye, too, will be destroyed from the face of the earth.

The demons are still among us, she thought. And the bloodshed has already begun.

TWENTY-SIX

 

Jane and Maura drove west on the Massachusetts Turnpike, Jane at the wheel as they hurtled through a stark landscape of snow and bare trees. Even on this Sunday afternoon, they shared the highway with a convoy of monster trucks that dwarfed Jane’s Subaru as she sped around them like a daredevil gnat. It was better not to watch. Maura focused instead on Jane’s notes. The handwriting was a hurried scrawl, but it was no less legible than the scrawls of physicians, which Maura had long ago learned to decipher.

 

Sarah Parmley, 28 years old. Last seen 12/23 checking out of the Oakmont Motel.

 

“She vanished two weeks ago,” said Maura. “And they only just discovered her body?”

“She was found in a vacant house. Apparently, it’s somewhat isolated. The caretaker noticed her car parked outside. He also found that the house’s front door was unlocked, so he went in to investigate. He’s the one who discovered the body.”

“What was the victim doing in a vacant house?”

“No one knows. Sarah arrived in town on December twentieth to attend her aunt’s funeral. Everyone assumed that she’d returned home to California right after the service. But then her employer in San Diego started calling, looking for her. Even then, no one in town considered the possibility that Sarah had never left.”

“Look at the map, Jane. From upstate New York to Boston— the crime scenes are three hundred miles apart. Why would the killer transport her hand that far? Maybe it’s not hers.”

“It is her hand. I know it is. I tell you, the x-rays are going to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Check out the name of the town where Sarah’s body was found.”

“Purity, New York. It’s a quaint name, but it doesn’t mean a thing to me.”

“Sarah Parmley grew up in Purity. She graduated from high school there.”

“So?”

“So guess where Lori-Ann Tucker went to high school?”

Maura looked at her in surprise. “She’s from the same town?”

“You got it. And Lori-Ann Tucker was twenty-eight years old, too. Eleven years ago, they would have graduated from the same high school class.”

“Two victims who grew up in the same town, went to the same high school. They would have known each other.”

“And maybe that’s where this perp met them. This is how he chose them. Maybe he was obsessed with them since high school. Maybe they snubbed him, and he’s spent the last eleven years thinking about ways to get back at them. Then suddenly, Sarah shows up in Purity for her aunt’s funeral, and he sees her. Gets all pissed off again. Kills her and cuts off her hand as a souvenir. Has so much fun doing it that he decides to do it again.”

“So he drives all the way to Boston to kill Lori-Ann? It’s a long way to go for a thrill.”

“But not for good old-fashioned revenge.”

Maura stared at the road, thinking. “If it was all about revenge, why did he call Joyce O’Donnell that night? Why did he turn his rage on her?”

“Only she knew the answer to that. And she refused to share the secret with us.”

“And why write on my door? What’s the message there?”

“You mean, I have sinned?”

Maura flushed. Closing the folder, she sat with clenched hands pressing against the file. So it was back to that again. The one subject she had no wish to talk about.

“I told Frost about it,” said Jane.

Maura said nothing, just kept her gaze focused straight ahead.

“He needed to know. He’s already spoken to Father Brophy.”

“You should have let me talk to Daniel first.”

“Why?”

“So he wouldn’t be completely taken by surprise.”

“That we know about you two?”

“Don’t sound so damn judgmental.”

“I wasn’t aware that I did.”

“I can hear it in your voice. I don’t need this.”

“Then it’s a good thing you didn’t hear what Frost had to say about it.”

“You think this doesn’t happen all the time? People fall in love, Jane. They make mistakes.”

“But not you!” Jane sounded almost angry, betrayed. “I always thought you were smarter than this.”

“No one’s that smart.”

“This can’t go anywhere and you know it. If you ever expect him to marry you—”

“I’ve already tried marriage, remember? That was a rousing success.”

“And what do you think you’re going to get out of this?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, I do. First there’ll be all the whispers. Your neighbors wondering why that priest’s car is always parked outside your house. Then you’ll have to sneak out of town just to spend time with each other. But eventually, someone’s going to see you two together. And then the gossip starts. It’ll just get more and more awkward. Embarrassing. How long are you going to be able to keep that up? How long before he’s forced to make a choice?”

“I don’t want to talk about this.”

“You think he’ll choose you?”

“Cut it out, Jane.”

“Well, do you?” The question was unnecessarily brutal, and for a moment Maura considered getting out at the next town, calling for a rental car, and driving home by herself.

“I’m old enough to make my own choices,” she said.

“But what’s his choice going to be?”

Maura turned her head to stare out the window at snowy fields, at toppling fence posts half-buried in drifts. If he doesn’t choose me, will I really be all that surprised? He can tell me again and again how much he loves me. But will he ever leave his church for me?

Jane sighed. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s my life, not yours.”

“Yeah, you’re right. It’s your life.” Jane shook her head and laughed. “Man, the whole world’s gone totally bonkers. I can’t count on anything anymore. Not a single goddamn thing.” She drove for a moment in silence, squinting at the setting sun. “I didn’t tell you about my own wonderful news.”

“What news?”

“My parents have split up.”

At last Maura looked at her. “When did this happen?”

“Right after Christmas. Thirty-seven years of marriage, and my dad suddenly goes sniffing after some blondie from work.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Then this thing with you and Brophy— it’s like everyone’s gone sex crazy. You. My idiot dad. Even my mom.” She paused. “Vince Korsak asked her out on a date. That’s how weird everything’s gotten.” Suddenly Jane gave a groan. “Oh, Christ. I just thought about it. Do you realize that he could end up being my stepdad?”

“The world hasn’t gone that crazy.”

“It could happen.” Jane shuddered. “It gives me the creeps just thinking about the two of them.”

“Then don’t think about it.”

Jane gritted her teeth. “I’m trying not to.”

And I’ll try not to think of Daniel.

But as they continued driving west toward the setting sun, through the city of Springfield and into the rolling Berkshire Hills, all she could think about was him. She breathed in and could still smell his scent, crossed her arms and could still feel his touch, as though the memories were engraved on her skin. And she wondered: Is it the same for you, Daniel? When you stood before your congregation this morning and looked around at the faces watching you, waiting for your words, was it my face you sought, my face you thought about?

By the time they crossed the state line into New York, night had fallen. Her cell phone rang, and in the dark car it took her a moment to find it among the jumbled contents of her purse. “Dr. Isles,” she answered.

“Maura, it’s me.”

At the sound of Daniel’s voice, she felt her cheeks flame and was glad that darkness masked her face from Jane’s gaze.

“Detective Frost came to see me,” he said.

“I had to tell them.”

“Of course you had to. But I wish you’d called me about it. You should have told me.”

“I’m sorry. It must have been so embarrassing, to hear it from him first.”

“No, I mean about the writing on your door. I had no idea. I would have been there for you in an instant. You shouldn’t have had to face that alone.”

She paused, acutely aware that Jane was listening to every word. And would no doubt express her disapproval the instant the call ended.

“I went by your house a little while ago,” he said. “I was hoping to find you at home.”

“I’m going to be away tonight.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m in the car with Jane. We just passed through Albany a while ago.”

“You’re in New York? Why?”

“They’ve found another victim. We think…” Jane’s hand suddenly closed around Maura’s arm, an unmistakable warning that the less revealed, the better. Jane didn’t trust him anymore, now that he’d proven himself to be all too human. “I can’t talk about it,” she said.

There was a silence on the line. Then, a quiet “I understand.”

“There are details we have to keep confidential.”

“You don’t need to explain. I know how it works.”

“Can I call you back later?” When there isn’t another pair of ears listening.

“You don’t have to, Maura.”

“I want to.” I need to.

She hung up and stared at a night pierced only by the beams of their headlights. They had left the turnpike behind them, and their route now took them southwest, on a road that cut through snow-covered fields. Here, the only lights they saw came from the occasional passing car or the glow of a distant farmhouse.

“You’re not going to talk to him about the case, are you?” asked Jane.

“Even if I did, he’s perfectly discreet. I’ve always trusted him.”

“Well, so did I.”

“Meaning you don’t anymore?”

“You’re in lust, Doc. That’s not the best time to trust your judgment.”

“We both know this man.”

“And I never thought—”

“What, that he’d sleep with me?”

“I’m just saying, you may think you know someone. And then they surprise you. They do something you never expected, and you realize you’re in the dark about everyone. Everyone. If you told me a few months ago that my dad would leave my mom for some bimbo, I’d have said you were nuts. I’m telling you, people are a goddamn mystery. Even the people we love.”

“And now you don’t trust Daniel.”

“Not when it comes to that vow of chastity.”

“I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about this investigation. About telling him details that concern both of us.”

“He’s not a cop. He doesn’t have to hear a thing.”

“He was with me last night. The writing on my door was directed at him, too.”

“You mean, I have sinned?”

Heat flooded Maura’s face. “Yes,” she said.

For a moment they drove without speaking. The only sounds were the tires on the road, the hiss of the car heater.

“I respected Brophy, okay?” said Jane. “He’s been good to Boston PD. When we need a priest on the scene, he comes right over, any time of night. I liked him.”

“Then why have you turned against him?”

Jane looked at her. “Because I happen to like you, too.”

“You certainly don’t give me that impression.”

“Yeah? Well, when you do something unexpected like this, something so self-destructive, it makes me wonder.”

“What?”

“If I really know you, either.”

 

It was after eight when they finally pulled into the parking lot of Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton. Maura was not inclined to make small talk as she stepped out of the car, her muscles stiff from the long journey. They had stopped only briefly for a silent dinner at a rest stop McDonald’s, and her stomach was unsettled by Jane’s driving, by the hastily devoured meal, but most of all by the tension between them, now spun so tight that one more twist could snap it. She has no right to judge me, Maura thought as they trudged past drifts of plowed snow. Jane was married and happy and so fucking morally superior. What did she know about Maura’s life, about the nights she spent alone watching old movies or playing the piano to an empty house? The gap between their lives yawned too wide to be bridged by real friendship. And what do I have in common, anyway, with this blunt and uncompromising bitch? Not a thing.

They walked in through the ER entrance, cold wind sweeping in with them as the automatic doors slid shut. Jane crossed straight to the triage window and called out, “Hello? Can I get some information out here?”

“Are you Detective Rizzoli?” said a voice behind them.

They had not seen him sitting alone in the patient waiting area. Now he rose to his feet, a wan-faced man wearing a tweed jacket over a hunter-green sweater. Not a cop, guessed Maura, noting his shaggy head of hair, and he quickly confirmed her impression.

“I’m Dr. Kibbie,” he said. “Thought I’d wait for you out here, so you wouldn’t have to find your own way down to the morgue.”

“Thanks for meeting us tonight,” said Jane. “This is Dr. Isles, from our ME’s office.”

Maura shook his hand. “You’ve already done the autopsy?”

“Oh, no. I’m not a pathologist, just a humble internist. There are four of us who rotate as Chenango County coroners. I do the preliminary death investigation and decide if a postmortem is called for. The autopsy itself will probably be done tomorrow afternoon, assuming the Onondaga County ME can make it down here from Syracuse.”

“You must have your own pathologist in this county.”

“Yes, but in this particular case…” Kibbie shook his head. “Unfortunately, we know this murder’s going to generate publicity. A lot of interest. Plus, it could end up in a splashy criminal trial someday, and ou