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Rhymes With Prey

Jeffery Deaver

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  Rhymes with Prey

  Jeffery Deaver and John Sandford

  From the anthology FaceOff

  Simon & Schuster

  New York London Toronto Sydney New Delhi



  Combining Lincoln Rhyme and Lucas Davenport in a single adventure seemed an insurmountable problem. Rhyme, the hero of Jeffery Deaver’s series that began with The Bone Collector (1997), is a quadriplegic and, of necessity, sticks close to home in New York City. Davenport, the star of John Sandford’s Prey series, is an ace investigator living in Minnesota—working presently for that state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

  How could the two ever meet?

  Fortunately, Davenport’s talents as a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners cop have transported him to the Big Apple before. In Silent Prey (1992), NYPD Detective Lily Rothenburg enlisted Davenport’s aid in nailing the psychotic killer Dr. Michael Bekker, who was prowling the streets of Manhattan. Rhyme, too, has a partner, Detective Amelia Sachs, so Jeff and John decided it was a natural fit for this foursome to join forces to tackle the case of a murderous sculptor for whom art and death are inextricably—and gruesomely—intertwined.

  The combination of these four was particularly harmonious since Lucas Davenport and Lily Rothenburg are known for their streetwise policing and skill at psychological profiling—while Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs ply the complementary skill of forensic science. Together, they take on the task of figuring out who’s doing what and why to victims in Lower Manhattan’s chic art scene.

  The process of writing this story was seamless. Both John and Jeff are experienced at this sort of thing. Together, they developed an outline, comprising about eight scenes, then divided up the task of writing each one. Jeff handled the crime scene and forensics-oriented portions, John the undercover and street investigations. Rather than writing serially—one section after the other, sending the finished portions to each other—amazingly, they worked simultaneously. When the rough story was finished, they each polished the completed manuscript, combined edits, and, voila, they had a story.

  It’s a chilling tale, one filled with each author’s trademark reversals and twists. You’ll think twice about ever walking into an art gallery again.

  And heaven help you if you ever strike up a conversation with a stranger in a bar.

  Rhymes with Prey

  THE NIGHT WAS HOT, AND close, and the midsummer perfume of Central Park West—the odor of melted bubble gum, mixed with discarded cheese pretzels and rotten bananas, or something just like that—seeped into the backseat of the taxi as it cleared Fifty-seventh Street and headed north.

  The taxi driver was Pakistani, from Karachi, he said, a slender, mild-mannered man who smelled lightly of cumin with an overlay of Drakkar Noir cologne. He listened to what might have been Pakistani jazz, or Afghani rap, or something even more exotic; the couple in the backseat wouldn’t have known the difference, if there was any difference. When the male passenger asked how big Karachi was, the driver said, “More big than New York City, but more small than New York City if includes the suburgers.”

  The woman said, “Really,” with an edge of skepticism.

  The Pakistani picked up the skepticism and said, “I look in Wiki, and this is what Wiki say.”

  The male passenger was from Minnesota and, not knowing any better, or because he was rich and didn’t care, overtipped the driver as he and the woman got out of the cab. As it moved away, he said to her, “I could use a suburger right now. With catsup and fries.”

  “You just don’t want to deal with Rhyme,” she said. “He makes you nervous.”

  Lucas Davenport looked up at Lincoln Rhyme’s town house, a Victorian pile facing the park, with a weak, old-fashioned light over the doorway. “I’m getting over it. When I first went in there, I had a hard time looking at him. That pissed him off. I could feel it, and I feel kinda bad about it.”

  “Didn’t have any trouble looking at Amelia,” said Lily Rothenburg.

  “Be nice,” Lucas said, as they walked toward the front steps. “I’m happily married.”

  “Doesn’t keep you from checking out the market,” Lily said.

  “I don’t think she’s on the market,” Lucas said. He made a circling motion with an index finger. “I mean, can they—?”

  “I don’t know,” Lily said. “Why don’t you ask? Just wait until I’m out of there.”

  “Maybe not,” Lucas said. “I’m getting over it, but I’m not that far over it. And he’s not exactly Mr. Warmth.”

  “Somebody might say that about you, too,” Lily observed.

  “Hey. Nobody said that to me while getting busy in my Porsche.”

  Lily laughed and turned a little pink. Way back, back before their respective marriages, they’d dallied. In fact, Lucas had dallied her brains loose in a Porsche 911, a feat that not everyone thought possible, especially for people their size. “A long time ago, when we were young,” she said, as they climbed the steps to Lincoln’s front door. “I was slender as a fairy then.”

  Lucas was a tall man, heavy in the shoulders, with a hawk nose and blue eyes. His black hair was touched with a bit of silver at the temples and a long thin scar ran from his forehead across his brow ridge and down onto his cheek, the product of a fishing accident. Another scar, on his throat, was not quite as outdoorsy, though it happened outdoors, when a young girl shot him with a piece-of-crap .22 and he almost died.

  Lily was dark-haired and full-figured, constantly dieting and constantly finding more interesting things to eat. She never gained enough to be fat, couldn’t lose enough to be thin. She’d never been a fairy. She was paid as a captain in the NYPD, but she was more than that: one of the plainclothes influentials who floated around the top of the department, doing things meant to be invisible to the media. As someone said of her, she was the nut cutter they called when nuts seriously needed to be cut.

  Like now. She’d brought Lucas in as a “consultant” from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, because she didn’t know who she could trust in her own department. They might have a serial-killer cop on the loose—or even worse, a bunch of cops. And if that was right, the cops wouldn’t be out-of-control dumbass flatfoots, but serious guys, narcotics detectives who’d become fed up with the pointlessness and ineffectiveness of the war on drugs.

  The four dead were all female, all illegal Mexicans, all had been tortured, and all had some connection to drug sales—although with two of them, Lucas thought, the connection was fairly thin. Still, if they were dealing with the cartels, and if there was a turf war going on, they could have been killed simply as warnings. And torture was something the cartels did as other people might play cards.

  On the other hand, the women may have been tortured not as punishment, or to make a point, but for information. Somebody, the commissioner feared, had decided to take direct action to eliminate the drug problem, with the emphasis on eliminate. The bodies were piling up: so he called his nut cutter and the nut cutter called Lucas. The duo had just been downtown checking out and talking with the honchos that made up the department’s famous Narcotics Unit Four. Or infamous, some said. The trio of shields—two men and a woman—had earned the highest drug-conviction rate in the city with, the rumors went, less than kosher tactics. Lately they’d been running ops in the area where the women had been killed.

nbsp; Lily pushed the doorbell.

  Amelia Sachs came to the door, chewing on a celery stalk, and let them in. She was a tall woman, slender and redheaded, a former model, which pushed several of Lucas’s buttons. Given all of that, their relationship had been testy, maybe because of Lucas’s initial attitude toward Lincoln and his disability.

  Lincoln was in his Storm-Arrow wheelchair, peering at a high-def video screen. Without looking at them, he said, “You got nothing.”

  “Not entirely true,” Lucas said. “All three of them were dressed carelessly.”

  Lincoln turned his head and squinted at him. “Why is that important?”

  Lucas shrugged. “Anyone who dresses carelessly bears watching, in my estimation,” he said. He was wearing a Ralph Lauren Purple Label summer-weight wool suit in medium blue, a white dress shirt with one of the more muted Hermès ties, and bespoke shoes from a London shoemaker.

  Amelia made a rude noise, and Lucas grinned at her, or at least showed his teeth.

  “Easy,” Lily said. To Lincoln: “You’re basically right. We got nothing. We weren’t exactly stonewalled, we were know-nothinged. Like it was all a big puzzle, and why were we there?”

  “Were they acting?” Lincoln asked.

  “Hard to tell,” Lucas said. “Most detectives are good liars. But if somebody put a gun to my head, I’d say no, they weren’t acting. They didn’t know what we were talking about.”

  “Mmm, I like that concept,” Amelia said.

  “What?” Lucas asked. “Lying?”

  “No. Putting a gun to your head.”

  Lily rolled her eyes. “Amelia.”

  “Just having fun, Lily,” Amelia said. “You know I love Lucas like a brother.”

  “And I hope it stays that way,” Lincoln grumped. “Anyway . . . while you were out touring the city, we’ve made some significant progress here. There were some anomalies in the autopsy photos that I thought worth revisiting. The bodies were found nude, of course, and so dirt and sand had been comprehensively impressed in the victims’ skins, along with grains of concrete. However, in examining the photos, I noticed that in several of these flecks, we were getting more light return than you might expect from grains of sand or soil or concrete. The photos were taken with flash, of course, a very intense light. The enhanced light return would not have been especially noticeable under the lights of an autopsy table. I sent Amelia to investigate.”

  “I found that all four victims had tiny bits of metal ingrained in their skin. The cut surfaces were shiny, which is why Lincoln was able to see them in the high-res photos,” Amelia said. “There weren’t many of them, but some in each. I recovered them—”

  “And brought them here,” Lincoln said. “They were uniform in size, and smaller than the average brown sugar ant. We ran them through the GDS 400A Glow Discharge Spectrometer, a Hewlett Packard Gas Chromatograph, and a JEOL SEM-scanning electron microscope. Those’re instruments for determining the composition of a liquid, gas, or solid—”

  “I know what they are; I’m a cop, not a fucking moron,” Lucas said.

  Lincoln continued without acknowledging the interruption. “And found that they were flecks of bronze.”

  Lily said, “Bronze. That’s good, right? We need a bronze-working shop.”

  Amelia said, “It’s good in a way. The fact is, bronze has become pretty much a specialty metal—it’s used to make bells, cymbals, some ship propellers, Olympic medals, and bronze wool replaces steel wool for some woodworking applications. It’s used in high-end weather stripping for doors.”

  Lincoln, impatient, said, “Yes, yes, yes. But the flecks are not bronze wool, and they are rounded, with no flat sides, as you would get from weather stripping, and so on. Nor do they appear to be millings, which you would get with propellers and cymbals and such, because the grain size is too consistent.”

  “How about sculpture?” Lucas asked.

  Lincoln was momentarily disconcerted, then said, “I concluded that since the grains were so uniformly sized, and so sharply cut, they most likely came from a hand-filing process. The most common hand-filing process used with bronze involves . . . sculpture casting.”

  Lucas said to Lily, “That was apparent to me as soon as they mentioned bronze.”

  “Quite,” Lincoln said.

  Lily: “So we’re looking for a foundry.”

  “Perhaps not,” Lincoln said. “There is another aspect worth mentioning. There weren’t many of these bronze filings. I surmise that the murders may have taken place not in the foundry area, where you would expect a variety of returns from the casting process—and we have no bronze-related returns other than these flecks—and probably not even in the filing or grinding area. It appears to me that the grains were tracked into the area where the murders took place. Still, the kill site was near the filing area, or there would have been even fewer grains.”

  Lucas said, “So, what, we’re looking for a room off a studio? Maybe even living quarters?”

  “Not living quarters. I think we’re looking for a loft of some kind. A loft with a concrete floor. All four victims had flecks of concrete buried in their skin, but two of them were found lying on blacktop, not concrete. And it’s an empty building. Probably an abandoned warehouse.”

  “Where do you get that?” Lucas asked.

  Lincoln twitched his shoulders, which Lucas had learned was a shrug. “The women weren’t gagged. Whoever killed them let them scream. Either because it didn’t bother them, or because they enjoyed it. And they felt safe in letting them scream.”

  Lucas nodded at him: “Interesting,” he said.

  Lily ticked it off on her fingers. “We’re looking for a male, probably, because they’re the ones who do this kind of thing; either a sculptor, or somebody who works with a sculptor, who has a studio or a workshop in an empty warehouse.”

  “Either that, or somebody picked the building without knowing about the bronze filings,” Amelia said. “They have nothing to do with bronze, except that they happened to pick a place with bronze filings on the floor. Could have been there forever.”

  “I doubt that,” Lincoln said.

  “It’s a logical possibility, though,” Lily said.

  Lucas: “I’m with Lincoln on this.”

  Lily asked, “Why?”

  Lincoln looked at Lucas and said, “You tell them.”

  “Because the particles are still shiny enough that Lincoln picked them up on the bodies. They’re new.”

  Lily nodded and Amelia said, “Okay.”

  “And he’s a freak. He’s a sadomasochist who knows what he’s doing. He’s got a record,” Lucas said. He turned to Lily. “Time to fire up the computers.”

  And the computers were fired up, not by Lucas, Lily, Amelia, or Lincoln, but by a clerk in the basement of the FBI building in Washington. Lily spoke quietly into the shell-like ear of the chief of detectives, Stan Markowitz, who spoke to a pal in the upper strata of the FBI, who wrote a memo that drifted down through several layers of the bureaucracy, and wound up on the desk of an inveterate war-game player named Barry.

  Barry read the note, and punched in a bunch of keywords, and found, oddly enough, that there were four bronze sculptors in the United States who had been arrested for sex crimes involving some level of violence, and two of them had had studios in New York.

  One of them was dead.

  But James Robert Verlaine wasn’t.

  “JAMES ROBERT VERLAINE,” LILY READ the next morning. They were in Lincoln’s crime lab, once a parlor.

  “Or as we know him, ‘Jim Bob,’ ” Lucas said.

  “Has a fondness for cocaine, has been arrested twice for possession of small amounts, did no time. Also arrested years ago for possession of LSD, did two months. Four years ago, he was charged with possession of thirty hits of ecstasy, but he’d wiped the Ziploc bag they were in and he’d thrown it into the next toilet stall, where it landed in the toilet and wasn’t fished out for a while. Quite a while—somebody had
n’t flushed. The prosecutor dumped it for faulty chain of evidence. Last year he was arrested in an apartment over on skid row in a raid on a meth cooker, but he was released when it turned out the actual cooker was the woman who was renting the apartment. Verlaine said he was just an innocent visitor. The prosecutor dumped it again, insufficient evidence.”

  “Get to the sex,” Lucas said.

  “He’s never been arrested for a sex crime, but he’s been investigated,” Lily said, reading from the FBI report. “He’s known for sculptures with slave themes involving bondage, whipping, various kinds of subjugation of women. A woman named Tina Martinez—note the last names here—complained to police that he’d injured a friend of hers named Maria Corso, who was supposedly modeling for one of these bondage sculptures. Corso refused to prosecute, said there’d been a misunderstanding with her friend. The investigators say they believe she was paid off.”

  “He’s a bad man,” Amelia said.

  “Bad,” Lincoln agreed. “With a substantial interest in drugs.”

  “And probably with the kind of brain rot you get from meth,” Lucas said.

  “Do you have a plan?” Lincoln asked.

  “I plan to spend some time with him today. Just watching. Amelia and Lily can help out. See what he does, who he talks to, where he hangs out.”

  “Do we know where he lives?” Lincoln asked.

  “We do,” Lily said.

  Lincoln said to Lucas, “I wonder if the women could handle the surveillance and keep you informed, of course.”

  Lucas said, “No reason they couldn’t, I guess. Easier with three of us. Why?”

  “I have an idea, but I want to speak to you privately about it. Just to avoid the inevitable question of conspiracy.”

  “Oh, shit,” Lily said.


  Tasty, this one.

  Oh, he could picture her on her back, arms outstretched, yeah, yeah, lying on something rough—concrete or wood. Or metal.