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The Bone Collector

Jeffery Deaver


  Part I King for a Day

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Part II Locard's Principle

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Part III The Portable's Daughter

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-one

  Chapter Twenty-two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Part IV Down to the Bone

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-one

  Chapter Thirty-two

  Chapter Thirty-three

  Chapter Thirty-four

  Chapter Thirty-five

  Chapter Thirty-six

  Part V When You Move They Can't Getcha

  Chapter Thirty-seven

  Appendix: Excerpts from Glossary of Terms, Lincoln Rhyme, Physical Evidence, 4th ed.

  Author's Note

  About the Author

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  The Bone Collector

  A SIGNET Book / published by arrangement with the author

  All rights reserved.

  Copyright (c) 1997 by Jeffery Deaver

  This book may not be reproduced in whole or part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. Making or distributing electronic copies of this book constitutes copyright infringement and could subject the infringer to criminal and civil liability.

  For information address:

  The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  The Penguin Putnam Inc. World Wide Web site address is

  ISBN: 978-1-1012-0908-0


  SIGNET Books first published by The Penguin Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  SIGNET and the "S" design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Putnam Inc.

  Electronic Edition: February, 2002

  For my family,

  Dee, Danny, Julie, Ethel

  and Nelson . . .

  Apples don't fall far.

  And for Diana too.




  The present in New York is so powerful that the past is lost.



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

  She wanted only to sleep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  "Look," John said, "that's why all the crowds."

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

  T.J. muttered, "Body snatchers."

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

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

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

  The door handles too.

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

  "What?" John asked.

  "Well, the doors . . . How do we open them?"

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

  "Hey!" John rapped on the divider. "You missed the turn. Where're you going?"

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

  "Are you taking the bridge?"

  He ignored them.


  And a moment later they sped past the Queensboro turnoff.

  "Shit," John cried. "Where're you taking us? Harlem. I'll bet he's taking us to Harlem."

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

  "Help!" she shouted. "Please . . ."

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

  "What're you doing?"

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

  "Oh, God, no," John muttered. "Look."

  The driver had pulled on a ski mask.

  "What do you want?" T.J. shouted.

  "Money? We'll give you money."

  Still, silence from the front of the cab.

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

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

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

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

  "Oh, shit . . ."

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

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

  "Please, no," she pleaded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  The call was anonymous. As usual.

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

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

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

  "Portable 5885. Can't find anything, Central. You have a further-to?"

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

  "Say again, Central."

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


  Hoped the vic was dead?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Somebody's watching me.

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

  Or line up iron sights on my back . . .

  She spun around quickly.

  Nothing but leaves and rusting machinery and trash.

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

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

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

  What is that?

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

  Oh, my good Lord . . .

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

  He hoped the victim was dead. For his sake.

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

  "Oh, man . . ."

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

  Sachs dropped to her knees and began to dig.

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

  And maybe still was.

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

  It wasn't a woman. Despite the ring. He was a heavyset man in his fifties. As dead as the soil he floated in.

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

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

  You know what to do.


  A is for Arrest a known perp.

  D is for Detain material witnesses and suspects.

  A is for Assess the crime scene.

  P is for. . .

  What was P again?

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

  "Roger, 5885. Perp in custody, K?"

  "No perp."

  "Five-eight-eight-five, K."

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

  When you move they can't getcha . . .

  She heard a sound and cocked her head.

  A rumble, deep, getting louder.

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

  Then a low wail . . .

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

  "Hold up, there!" she shouted.

  The engineer ignored her.

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

  "You can't go through here," she told him.

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

  "It's a crime scene. Please shut off the engine."

  "Lady, I don't see any crimes."

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

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

  "That train, sir. Just leave it right there."

  "I can't leave it here."

  "Please shut off the engine."

  "We don't shut off the engines of trains like this. They run all the time."

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

  "We can't do that."

  "Now, sir. I've got the number of that vehicle of yours."


  "I'd suggest you do it immediately," Sachs barked.

  "What're you going to do, lady? Gimme a ticket?"

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