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The Bodies Left Behind: A Novel

Jeffery Deaver


  The Broken Window*

  Chopin Manuscript ( (Contributor)

  The Sleeping Doll

  More Twisted: Collected Stories, Volume 2

  The Cold Moon*

  The Twelfth Card*

  Garden of Beasts

  Twisted: Collected Stories

  The Vanished Man*

  The Stone Monkey*

  The Blue Nowhere

  The Empty Chair*

  Speaking in Tongues

  The Devil’s Teardrop

  The Coffin Dancer*

  The Bone Collector*

  A Maiden’s Grave

  Praying for Sleep

  The Lesson of Her Death

  Mistress of Justice

  Hard News

  Death of a Blue Movie Star

  Manhattan Is My Beat

  Hell’s Kitchen

  Bloody River Blues

  Shallow Graves

  A Century of Great Suspense Stories (Editor)

  A Hot and Sultry Night for Crime (Editor)

  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Introduction)

  *Novels featuring Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs

  Simon & Schuster

  1230 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, NY 10020

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2008 by Jeffery Deaver

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Simon & Schuster Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

  SIMON & SCHUSTER and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Deaver, Jeffery.

  The Bodies Left Behind / Jeffery Deaver.—1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed.

  p. cm.

  I. Title

  PS3554.E1755B64 2008


  ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-9998-2

  ISBN-10: 1-4165-9998-3

  Visit us on the World Wide Web:

  For Robby Burroughs

  The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.









  The woods around Lake Mondac were as quiet as could be, a world of difference from the churning, chaotic city where the couple spent their weekdays.

  Silence, broken only by an occasional a-hoo-ah of a distant bird, the hollow siren of a frog.

  And now: another sound.

  A shuffle of leaves, two impatient snaps of branch or twig.


  No, that couldn’t be. The other vacation houses beside the lake were deserted on this cool Friday afternoon in April.

  Emma Feldman, in her early thirties, set down her martini on the kitchen table, where she sat across from her husband. She tucked a strand of curly black hair behind her ear and walked to one of the grimy kitchen windows. She saw nothing but dense clusters of cedar, juniper and black spruce rising up a steep hill, whose rocks resembled cracked yellow bone.

  Her husband lifted an eyebrow. “What was it?”

  She shrugged and returned to her chair. “I don’t know. Didn’t see anything.”

  Outside, silence again.

  Emma, lean as any stark, white birch outside one of the many windows of the vacation house, shook off her blue jacket. She was wearing the matching skirt and a white blouse. Lawyer clothes. Hair in a bun. Lawyer hair. Stockings but shoeless.

  Steven, turning his attention to the bar, had abandoned his jacket as well, and a wrinkled striped tie. The thirty-six-year-old, with a full head of unruly hair, was in a blue shirt and his belly protruded inexorably over the belt of his navy slacks. Emma didn’t care; she thought he was cute and always would.

  “And look what I got,” he said, nodding toward the upstairs guest room and unbagging a large bottle of pulpy organic vegetable juice. Their friend, visiting from Chicago this weekend, had been flirting with liquid diets lately, drinking the most disgusting things.

  Emma read the ingredients and wrinkled her nose. “It’s all hers. I’ll stick with vodka.”

  “Why I love you.”

  The house creaked, as it often did. The place was seventy-six years old. It featured an abundance of wood and a scarcity of steel and stone. The kitchen, where they stood, was angular and paneled in glowing yellow pine. The floor was lumpy. The colonial structure was one of three houses on this private road, each squatting on ten acres. It could be called lakefront property but only because the lake lapped at a rocky shore two hundred yards from the front door.

  The house was plopped down in a small clearing on the east side of a substantial elevation. Midwest reserve kept people from labeling these hills “mountains” here in Wisconsin, though it rose easily seven or eight hundred feet into the air. At the moment the big house was bathed in blue late-afternoon shadows.

  Emma gazed out at rippling Lake Mondac, far enough from the hill to catch some descending sun. Now, in early spring, the surrounding area was scruffy, reminding of wet hackles rising from a guard dog’s back. The house was much nicer than they could otherwise afford—they’d bought it through foreclosure—and she knew from the moment she’d seen it that this was the perfect vacation house.


  The colonial also had a pretty colorful history.

  The owner of a big meatpacking company in Chicago had built the place before World War II. It was discovered years later that much of his fortune had come from selling black-market meat, circumventing the rationing system that limited foods here at home to make sure the troops were nourished. In 1956 the man’s body was found floating in the lake; he was possibly the victim of veterans who had learned of his scheme and killed him, then searched the house, looking for the illicit cash he’d hidden here.

  No ghosts figured in any version of the death, though Emma and Steven couldn’t keep from embellishing. When guests were staying here they’d gleefully take note of who kept the bathroom lights on and who braved the dark after hearing the tales.

  Two more snaps outside. Then a third.

  Emma frowned. “You hear that? Again, that sound. Outside.”

  Steven glanced out the window. The breeze kicked up now and then. He turned back.

  Her eyes strayed to her briefcase.

  “Caught that,” he said, chiding.


  “Don’t even think about opening it.”

  She laughed, though without much humor.

  “Work-free weekend,” he said. “We agreed.”

  “And what’s in there?” she asked, nodding at the backpack he carried in lieu of an attaché case. Emma was wrestling the lid off a jar of cocktail olives.

  “Only two things of relevance, Your Honor: my le Carré novel and that bottle of Merlot I had at work. Shall I introduce the latter into evid…” Voice fading. He looked to the window, through which they could see a tangle of weeds and trees and branches and rocks the color of dinosaur bones.

  Emma too glanced outside.

  “That I heard,” he said. He refreshed his wife’s martini. She dropped olives into both drinks.

  “What was it?”

  “Remember that bear?”

  “He did
n’t come up to the house.” They clinked glasses and sipped clear liquor.

  Steven said, “You seem preoccupied. What’s up, the union case?”

  Research for a corporate acquisition had revealed some possible shenanigans within the lakefront workers union in Milwaukee. The government had become involved and the acquisition was temporarily tabled, which nobody was very happy about.

  But she said, “This’s something else. One of our clients makes car parts.”

  “Right. Kenosha Auto. See? I do listen.”

  She looked at her husband with an astonished glance. “Well, the CEO, turns out, is an absolute prick.” She explained about a wrongful death case involving components of a hybrid car engine: a freak accident, a passenger electrocuted. “The head of their R-and-D department…why, he demanded I return all the technical files. Imagine that.”

  Steven said, “I liked your other case better—that state representative’s last will and testament…the sex stuff.”

  “Shhhh,” she said, alarmed. “Remember, I never said a word about it.”

  “My lips are sealed.”

  Emma speared an olive and ate it. “And how was your day?”

  Steven laughed. “Please…I don’t make enough to talk about business after hours.” The Feldmans were a shining example of a blind date gone right, despite the odds. Emma, a U of W law school valedictorian, daughter of Milwaukee-Chicago money; Steven, a city college bachelor of arts grad from the Brewline, intent on helping society. Their friends gave them six months, tops; the Door County wedding, to which all those friends were invited, had occurred exactly eight months after their first date.

  Steven pulled a triangle of Brie out of a shopping bag. Found crackers and opened them.

  “Oh, okay. Just a little.”

  Snap, snap…

  Her husband frowned. Emma said, “Honey, it’s freaking me a little. That was footsteps.”

  The three vacation houses here were eight or nine miles from the nearest shop or gas station and a little over a mile from the county highway, which was accessed via a strip of dirt poorly impersonating a road. Marquette State Park, the biggest in the Wisconsin system, swallowed most of the land in the area; Lake Mondac and these houses made up an enclave of private property.

  Very private.

  And very deserted.

  Steven walked into the utility room, pulled aside the limp beige curtain and gazed past a cut-back crepe myrtle into the side yard. “Nothing. I’m thinking we—”

  Emma screamed.

  “Honey, honey, honey!” her husband cried.

  A face studied them through the back window. The man’s head was covered with a stocking, though you could see crew-cut, blondish hair, a colorful tattoo on his neck. The eyes were halfway surprised to see people so close. He wore an olive drab combat jacket. He knocked on the glass with one hand. In the other he was holding a shotgun, muzzle up. He was smiling eerily.

  “Oh, God,” Emma whispered.

  Steven pulled out his cell phone, flipped it open and punched numbers, telling her, “I’ll deal with him. Go lock the front door.”

  Emma ran to the entryway, dropping her glass. The olives spun amid the dancing shards, picking up dust. Crying out, she heard the kitchen door splinter inward. She looked back and saw the intruder with the shotgun rip the phone from her husband’s hand and shove him against the wall. A print of an old sepia landscape photograph crashed to the floor.

  The front door too swung open. A second man, his head also covered with mesh, pushed inside. He had long dark hair, pressed close by the nylon. Taller and stockier than the first, he held a pistol. The black gun was small in his outsized hand. He pushed Emma into the kitchen, where the other man tossed him the cell phone. The bigger one stiffened at the pitch, but caught the phone one-handed. He seemed to grimace in irritation at the toss and dropped the phone in his pocket.

  Steven said, “Please…What do you…?” Voice quavering.

  Emma looked away quickly. The less she saw, she was thinking, the better their chances to survive.

  “Please,” Steven said, “Please. You can take whatever you want. Just leave us. Please.”

  Emma stared at the dark pistol in the taller man’s hand. He wore a black leather jacket and boots. His were like the other man’s, the kind soldiers wear.

  Both men grew oblivious to the couple. They looked around the house.

  Emma’s husband continued, “Look, you can have whatever you want. We’ve got a Mercedes outside. I’ll get the keys. You—”

  “Just, don’t talk,” the taller man said, gesturing with the pistol.

  “We have money. And credit cards. Debit card too. I’ll give you the PIN.”

  “What do you want?” Emma asked, crying.


  Somewhere, in its ancient heart, the house creaked once more.

  “A WHAT?”

  “Kinda a hang-up.”

  “To nine-one-one?”

  “Right. Just, somebody called and said, ‘This—’ and then hung up.”

  “Said what?”

  “‘This.’ The word ‘this.’”

  “T-H-I-S?” Sheriff Tom Dahl asked. He was fifty-three years old, his skin smooth and freckled as an adolescent’s. Hair red. He wore a tan uniform shirt that had fit much better when his wife bought it two years ago.

  “Yessir,” Todd Jackson answered, scratching his eyelid. “And then it was hung up.”

  “Was hung up or he hung it up? There’s a difference.”

  “I don’t know. Oh, I see what you mean.”

  Five twenty-two P.M., Friday, April 17. This was one of the more peaceful hours of the day in Kennesha County, Wisconsin. People tended to kill themselves and their fellow citizens, intentionally or by accident, either earlier in the day or later. Dahl knew the schedule as if it’d been printed; if you can’t recognize the habits of your jurisdiction after fourteen years running a law enforcement agency, you have no business at the job.

  Eight deputies were on duty in the Sheriff’s Department, which was next to the courthouse and city hall. The department was in an old building attached to a new one. The old being from the 1870s, the new from exactly one century later. The area of the building where Dahl and the others worked was mostly open-plan and filled with cubicles and desks. This was the new part. The officers here at the moment—six men and two women—wore uniforms that ranged from starched as wood to old bedsheet, reflecting the tour starting hours.

  “We’re checking,” Jackson said. He too had infant skin, though that was unremarkable, considering he was half the sheriff’s age.

  “‘This,’” Dahl mused. “You hear from the lab?”

  “Oh, ’bout that Wilkins thing?” Jackson picked at his stiff collar. “Wasn’t meth. Wasn’t nothing.”

  Even here, in Kennesha, a county with the sparse population of 34,021, meth was a terrible scourge. The users, tweakers, were ruthless, crazed and absolutely desperate to get the product; cookers felt exactly the same about the huge profits they made. More murders were attributed to meth than coke, heroin, pot and alcohol combined. And there were as many accidental deaths by scalding, burning and overdoses as murders related to the drug. A family of four had just died when their trailer burned down after the mother passed out while cooking a batch in her kitchen. She’d overdosed, Dahl speculated, after sampling some product fresh off the stovetop.

  The sheriff’s jaw tightened. “Well, damn. Just goddamn. He’s cooking it. We all know he’s cooking. He’s playing with us is what he’s doing. And I’d like to arrest him just for that. Well, where did it come from, that nine-one-one call? Landline?”

  “No, somebody’s cell. That’s what’s taking some time.”

  The E911 system, which Kennesha County had had for years, gave the dispatcher the location of the caller in an emergency. The E was for “enhanced,” not “emergency.” It worked with cell calls too, though tracing them was a little more complicated and in the hilly country around
this portion of Wisconsin sometimes didn’t work at all.


  A woman’s voice called across the cluttered space, “Todd, Com Center for you.”

  The deputy headed to his cubicle. Dahl turned back to the wad of arrest reports he was correcting for English as much as for criminal procedure.

  Jackson returned. He didn’t sit down in either of the two office chairs. He hovered, which he did a lot. “Okay, Sheriff. The nine-one-one call? It was from someplace around Lake Mondac.”

  Creepy, Dahl thought. Never liked it up there. The lake squatted in the middle of Marquette State Park, also creepy. He’d run two rapes and two homicides there and in the last murder investigation they’d recovered only a minority of the victim’s body. He glanced at the map on his wall. Nearest town was Clausen, six, seven miles from the lake. He didn’t know the town well but assumed it was like a thousand others in Wisconsin: a gas station, a grocery store that sold as much beer as milk and a restaurant that was harder to find than the local meth cooker. “They have houses there?”

  “Around the lake? Think so.”

  Dahl stared at the blue pebble of Lake Mondac on the map. It was surrounded by a small amount of private land, which was in turn engulfed by huge Marquette Park.


  Jackson said, “And the campgrounds’re closed till May.”

  “Whose phone?”

  “That we’re still waiting on.” The young deputy had spiky blond hair. All the rage. Dahl had worn a crew cut for nine-tenths of his life.

  The sheriff had lost interest in the routine reports and in a beer bash in honor of one of their senior deputies’ birthdays, an event that was supposed to commence in an hour at the Eagleton Tap, and which he had been looking forward to. He was thinking of last year when some guy—a registered sex offender, and a stupid one—picked up Johnny Ralston from grade school and the boy had the presence of mind to hit LAST CALL on his cell phone and slip it in his pocket as they drove around, the sicko asking him what kind of movies he liked. It took all of eight minutes to find them.