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The Coffin Dancer

Jeffery Deaver

  "[Lincoln Rhyme is] among the most brilliant and most vulnerable of crime fiction's heroes."

  --New York Post Praise for Jeffery Deaver and his New York Times bestsellers


  "Intense and heart-stopping . . . leaves readers gasping at the stunning climax."


  "Rhyme . . . is more relentless than ever."


  "Supercharged tension."

  --USA Today

  "Revelations and reversals punctuate this thriller like a string of firecrackers . . . . Superb plotting and brisk, no-nonsense prose."

  --Publishers Weekly

  "Quick to the punch . . . diabolically packed with the good stuff: cover-ups, mystery, action."

  --Library Journal

  "Wake up, Scarpetta fans--Lincoln Rhyme is here to blast you out of you stupor."

  --Entertainment Weekly

  "There is no thriller writer today like Jeffery Deaver."

  --San Jose Mercury News


  "A page-turner . . . . Engaging . . . . Entertaining, suspenseful . . . . The Vanished Man [has] a well-sculpted plot and a fascinating villain."

  --Chicago Sun-Times

  "Deaver delivers. Movie thrillers should be this good."


  "Giddily entertaining . . . . The storyline twists--and twists and twists--through Deaver's masterful sleight of hand . . . . Rich in magic lore and lingo."

  --Publishers Weekly

  "It's the details that help solve crimes, and no one does detail better than Deaver . . . . Well-researched and exciting, this has all the elements of good crime fiction: likable leads, a colorful supporting cast, fascinating scientific analysis, and a look at the secrets of an otherwise unknown world. A sure hit."


  "Deaver's control of his material is most enjoyable . . . . Deaver should take a deep bow."

  --Santa Fe New Mexican (NM)


  "Rock-solid suspense . . . . The Stone Monkey performs all the gymnastic plot twists typical of Deaver."


  "[Deaver] can give the reader whiplash with his twists and turns."

  --San Jose Mercury News

  "Monkey see, monkey do . . . and this monkey did the best so far."

  --Publishers Weekly


  "A shocker . . . . Speaking In Tongues is like Cape Fear on steroids. It's a supra-nasty, but unquestionably suspenseful, tale of revenge . . . . The villain is smooth and beguiling."

  --Los Angeles Times

  "What sets this thriller apart from anything else . . . are the characters of Matthews and Collier . . . . There's plenty of action . . . . Enough violence and madness to satisfy the most bloodthirsty of appetites."

  --Chicago Tribune


  "A terrific thriller."

  --USA Today

  "High-tension wired . . . . Deaver keeps the excitement streaming . . . . [He] fills every keystroke with suspense."



  "Masterful . . . . Gripping . . . . You're drawn into Deaver's diabolical, high-speed fun house, a ride through a thicket of twists that will have you tumbling toward the conclusion as quickly as you can."

  --New York Post


  "A fiendish suspense thriller . . . . Leaves us weak."

  --The New York Times Book Review

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  Author's Note

  Part I: Too Many Ways to Die

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Part II: The Kill Zone

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Part III: Craft smanship

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-one

  Chapter Twenty-two

  Chapter Twenty-three

  Chapter Twenty-four

  Chapter Twenty-five

  Part IV: Monkey Skills

  Chapter Twenty-six

  Chapter Twenty-seven

  Chapter Twenty-eight

  Chapter Twenty-nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-one

  Chapter Thirty-two

  Chapter Thirty-three

  Chapter Thirty-four

  Part V: Danse Macabre

  Chapter Thirty-five

  Chapter Thirty-six

  Chapter Thirty-seven

  Chapter Thirty-eight

  Chapter Thirty-nine

  Chapter Forty

  Chapter Forty-one

  'Garden of Beasts' Excerpt

  About Jeffery Deaver

  To the memory of my grandmother

  Ethel May Rider


  All writers know that their books are only partly products of their own efforts. Novels are molded by our loved ones and friends, sometimes directly, sometimes in more subtle but no less important ways. I'd like to say thanks to some of the people who've helped me with this book: To Madelyn Warcholik for keeping my characters true to themselves, for making sure my plots don't move so recklessly they get pulled over for speeding, and for being an unlimited source of inspiration. To editors David Rosenthal, Marysue Rucci, and Carolyn Mays for brilliantly and unflinchingly doing all the hard work. To agent Deborah Schneider for being the best in the business. And to my sister and fellow author, Julie Reece Deaver, for being there throughout it all.


  Too Many Ways to Die

  No hawk can be a pet. There is no sentimentality. In a way, it is the psychiatrist's art. One is matching one's mind against another mind with deadly reason and interest.

  The Goshawk,

  T. H. White

  . . . Chapter One

  When Edward Carney said good-bye to his wife, Percey, he never thought it would be the last time he'd see her.

  He climbed into his car, which was parked in a precious space on East Eighty-first Street in Manhattan, and pulled into traffic. Carney, an observant man by nature, noticed a black van parked near their town house. A van with mud-flecked, mirrored windows. He glanced at the battered vehicle and recognized the West Virginia plates, realizing he'd seen the van on the street several times in the past few days. But then the traffic in front of him sped up. He caught the end of the yellow light and forgot the van completely. He was soon on the FDR Drive, cruising north.

  Twenty minutes later he juggled the car phone and called his wife. He was troubled when she didn't answer. Percey'd been scheduled to make the flight with him--they'd flipped a coin last night for the left-hand seat and she'd won, then given him one of her trademark victory grins. But then she'd wakened at 3 A.M. with a blinding migraine, which had stayed with her all day. After a few phone calls they'd found a substitute copilot and Percey'd taken a Fiorinal and gone back to bed.

  A migraine was the only malady that would ground her.

  Lanky Edward Carney, forty-five years old and still wearing a military hairstyle, cocked his head as he listened to the phone ringing miles away. Their answering machine clicked on and he returned the phone to the cradle, mildly concerned.

  He kept the car at exactly sixty miles per hour, centered perfectly in the right lane; like most pilots he was conservative in his car. He trusted other airmen but thought most drivers were crazy.

  In the office of Hudson Air Charters, on the grounds of Mamaroneck Regional Airport, in Westchester, a cake awaited. Prim and assembled Sally Anne, smelling like the perfume department at Macy's, had baked it herself to commemorate the company's new contract. Wearing the ugly rhinestone biplane brooch her grandchildren had given her last Christmas, she scanned the room to make sure each of the dozen or so employees had a piece of devil's food sized just right for them. Ed Carney ate a few bites of cake and talked about tonight's flight with Ron Talbot, whose massive belly suggested he loved cake though in fact he survived mostly on cigarettes and coffee. Talbot wore the dual hats of operations and business manager and he worried out loud if the shipment would be on time, if the fuel usage for the flight had been calculated correctly, if they'd priced the job right. Carney handed him the remains of his cake and told him to relax.

  He thought again about Percey and stepped away into his office, picked up the phone.

  Still no answer at their town house.

  Now concern became worry. People with children and people with their own business always pick up a ringing phone. He slapped the receiver down, thought about calling a neighbor to check up on her. But then the large white truck pulled up in front of the hangar next to the office and it was time to go to work. Six P.M.

  Talbot gave Carney a dozen documents to sign just as young Tim Randolph arrived, wearing a dark suit, white shirt, and narrow black tie. Tim referred to himself as a "copilot" and Carney liked that. "First officers" were company people, airline creations, and while Carney respected any man who was competent in the right-hand seat, pretension put him off.

  Tall, brunette Lauren, Talbot's assistant, had worn her lucky dress, whose blue color matched the hue of the Hudson Air logo--a silhouette of a falcon flying over a gridded globe. She leaned close to Carney and whispered, "It's going to be okay now, won't it?"

  "It'll be fine," he assured her. They embraced for a moment. Sally Anne hugged him too and offered him some cake for the flight. He demurred. Ed Carney wanted to be gone. Away from the sentiment, away from the festivities. Away from the ground.

  And soon he was. Sailing three miles above the earth, piloting a Lear 35A, the finest private jet ever made, clear of markings or insignia except for its N registration number, polished silver, sleek as a pike.

  They flew toward a stunning sunset--a perfect orange disk easing into big, rambunctious clouds, pink and purple, leaking bolts of sunlight.

  Only dawn was as beautiful. And only thunderstorms more spectacular.

  It was 723 miles to O'Hare and they covered that distance in less than two hours. Air Traffic Control's Chicago Center politely asked them to descend to fourteen thousand feet, then handed them off to Chicago Approach Control.

  Tim made the call. "Chicago Approach. Lear Four Niner Charlie Juliet with you at one four thousand."

  "Evening, Niner Charlie Juliet," said yet another placid air traffic controller. "Descend and maintain eight thousand. Chicago altimeter thirty point one one. Expect vectors to twenty-seven L."

  "Roger, Chicago. Niner Charlie Juliet out of fourteen for eight."

  O'Hare is the busiest airport in the world and ATC put them in a holding pattern out over the western suburbs of the city, where they'd circle, awaiting their turn to land.

  Ten minutes later the pleasant, staticky voice requested, "Niner Charlie Juliet, heading zero nine zero over the numbers downwind for twenty-seven L."

  "Zero nine zero. Nine Charlie Juliet," Tim responded.

  Carney glanced up at the bright points of constellations in the stunning gunmetal sky and thought, Look, Percey, it's all the stars of evening . . .

  And with that he had what was the only unprofessional urge of perhaps his entire career. His concern for Percey arose like a fever. He needed desperately to speak to her.

  "Take the aircraft," he said to Tim.

  "Roger," the young man responded, hands going unquestioningly to the yoke.

  Air Traffic Control crackled, "Niner Charlie Juliet, descend to four thousand. Maintain heading."

  "Roger, Chicago," Tim said. "Niner Charlie Juliet out of eight for four."

  Carney changed the frequency of his radio to make a unicom call. Tim glanced at him. "Calling the Company," Carney explained. When he got Talbot he asked to be patched through the telephone to his home.

  As he waited, Carney and Tim went through the litany of the pre-landing check.

  "Flaps approach . . . twenty degrees."

  "Twenty, twenty, green," Carney responded.

  "Speed check."

  "One hundred eighty knots."

  As Tim spoke into his mike--"Chicago, Niner Charlie Juliet, crossing the numbers; through five for four"--Carney heard the phone start to ring in their Manhattan town house, seven hundred miles away.

  Come on, Percey. Pick up! Where are you?

  Please . . .

  ATC said, "Niner Charlie Juliet, reduce speed to one eight zero. Contact tower. Good evening."

  "Roger, Chicago. One eight zero knots. Evening."

  Three rings.

  Where the hell is she? What's wrong?

  The knot in his gut grew tighter.

  The turbofan sang, a grinding sound. Hydraulics moaned. Static crackled in Carney's headset.

  Tim sang out, "Flaps thirty. Gear down."

  "Flaps, thirty, thirty, green. Gear down. Three green."

  And then, at last--in his earphone--a sharp click.

  His wife's voice saying, "Hello?"

  He laughed out loud in relief.

  Carney started to speak but, before he could, the aircraft gave a huge jolt--so vicious that in a fraction of a second the force of the explosion ripped the bulky headset from his ears and the men were flung forward into the control panel. Shrapnel and sparks exploded around them.

  Stunned, Carney instinctively grabbed the unresponsive yoke with his left hand; he no longer had a right one. He turned toward Tim just as the man's bloody, rag-doll body disappeared out of the gaping hole in the side of the fuselage.

  "Oh, God. No, no . . . "

  Then the entire cockpit broke away from the disintegrating plane and rose into the air, leaving the fuselage and wings and engines of the Lear behind, engulfed in a ball of gassy fire.

  "Oh, Percey," he whispered, "Percey . . . " Though there was no longer a microphone to speak into.

  . . . Chapter Two

  Big as asteroids, bone yellow.

  The grains of sand glowed on the computer screen. The man was sitting forward, neck aching, eyes in a hard squint--from concentration, not from any flaw in vision.

  In the distance, thunder. The early morning sky was yellow and green and a storm was due at any moment. This had been the wettest spring on record.

  Grains of sand . . .

  "Enlarge," he commanded, and dutifully the image on the computer doubled in size.

  Strange, he thought.

  "Cursor down . . . stop."

  Leaning forward again, straining, studying the screen.

  Sand, Lincoln Rhyme reflected, is a criminalist's delight: bits of rock, sometimes mixed with other material, ranging from .05 to 2 millimeters (larger than that is gravel, smaller is silt). It adheres to a perp's clothing like sticky paint and conveniently leaps off at crime scenes and hideouts to link murderer and murdered. It also can tell a great deal about where a suspect has been. Opaque sand means he's been in the desert. Clear means beaches. Hornblende means Canada. Obsidian, Hawaii. Quartz and opaque igneous rock, New England. Smooth gray magnetite, the western Great Lakes.

nbsp; But where this particular sand had come from, Rhyme didn't have a clue. Most of the sand in the New York area was quartz and feldspar. Rocky on Long Island Sound, dusty on the Atlantic, muddy on the Hudson. But this was white, glistening, ragged, mixed with tiny red spheres. And what are those rings? White stone rings like microscopic slices of calamari. He'd never seen anything like this.

  The puzzle had kept Rhyme up till 4 A.M. He'd just sent a sample of the sand to a colleague at the FBI's crime lab in Washington. He'd had it shipped off with great reluctance--Lincoln Rhyme hated someone else's answering his own questions.

  Motion at the window beside his bed. He glanced toward it. His neighbors--two compact peregrine falcons--were awake and about to go hunting. Pigeons beware, Rhyme thought. Then he cocked his head, muttering, "Damn," though he was referring not to his frustration with this uncooperative evidence but at the impending interruption.

  Urgent footsteps were on the stairs. Thom had let visitors in and Rhyme didn't want visitors. He glanced toward the hallway angrily. "Oh, not now, for God's sake."

  But they didn't hear, of course, and wouldn't have paused even if they had.

  Two of them . . .

  One was heavy. One not.

  A fast knock on the open door and they entered.


  Rhyme grunted.

  Lon Sellitto was a detective first grade, NYPD, and the one responsible for the giant steps. Padding along beside him was his slimmer, younger partner, Jerry Banks, spiffy in his pork gray suit of fine plaid. He'd doused his cowlick with spray--Rhyme could smell propane, isobutane, and vinyl acetate--but the charming spike still stuck up like Dagwood's.

  The rotund man looked around the second-floor bedroom, which measured twenty by twenty. Not a picture on the wall. "What's different, Linc? About the place?"


  "Oh, hey, I know--it's clean," Banks said, then stopped abruptly as he ran into his faux pas.

  "Clean, sure," said Thom, immaculate in ironed tan slacks, white shirt, and the flowery tie that Rhyme thought was pointlessly gaudy though he himself had bought it, mail order, for the man. The aide had been with Rhyme for several years now--and though he'd been fired by Rhyme twice, and quit once, the criminalist had rehired the unflappable nurse/assistant an equal number of times. Thom knew enough about quadriplegia to be a doctor and had learned enough forensics from Lincoln Rhyme to be a detective. But he was content to be what the insurance company called a "caregiver," though both Rhyme and Thom disparaged the term. Rhyme called him, variously, his "mother hen" or "nemesis," both of which delighted the aide no end. He now maneuvered around the visitors. "He didn't like it but I hired Molly Maids and got the place scrubbed down. Practically needed to be fumigated. He wouldn't talk to me for a whole day afterwards."