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Every Dead Thing

John Connolly




  “A truly harrowing murder plot…. An ambitious foray…deep into Hannibal Lecter territory…. The extravagantly gifted Connolly, living up to his title, is never too busy for another flashback to Bird’s violent past en route to his final confrontation with the Traveling Man.”

  —Kirkus Reviews

  “For me, the best thing about an author’s first novel is its untarnished honesty. John Connolly’s EVERY DEAD THING has that reckless intensity. Set against the gritty canvas of a serial killer loose in New York City, John Connolly’s writing is as lilting and refreshing and as tempestuous as an Irish rainstorm. Warning: Don’t start this book unless you have time to finish it.”

  —Paul Lindsay, former FBI agent and author of

  Witness to the Truth

  “Classic American crime fiction; it’s hard to believe that John Connolly was born and raised on the Emerald Isle.”


  “[A] darkly ingenious debut novel…. The New Orleanssequence of the novel sing[s]…. The rural Virginia town is petty, bitter perfection: no mean feat for a native Dubliner. The prose rings of ’40s L.A. noir, à la Chandler and Hammett, but the grisly deaths, poetic cops, and psychic episodes set this tale apart.”

  —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  “An ambitious, moral, disturbing tale with a stunning climax…. In many ways its terror quotient exceeds that of Thomas Harris’ great work.”

  —The Times (London)

  “Connolly writes with confidence, a swaggering self-assurance that is almost breathtaking in a first novel.”

  —Dublin Evening Herald (Ireland)

  “A debut novel of stunning complexity…. The tension starts on the first page and continues right through the last, concluding in a dramatic and ambiguous way that could disturb readers’ thoughts for days. A work of fiction that stays with you long after the book is closed is a rare and beautiful thing. This one goes right up there on the year’s list of the best.”

  —St. Petersburg Times (FL)

  “A nonstop, action-packed tale that also has a warm side where love and loyalty (not DNA) make a person human.”


  “Shades of The Silence of the Lambs here—but this debut book by Dubliner Connolly also has echoes of James Crumley, Patricia Cornwell, and Lawrence Block…. A terrifying finale…. Connolly manages to keep the tension simmering right to the very end.”

  —Express & Star (UK)

  “Absolutely spellbinding…. This is not a book for the timid.”

  —Naples Daily News (FL)

  “A big, meaty, often superbly written novel—astonishing, for a first-time author, in its scope and apparent veracity…. A book of sudden, horrifying violence and no-holds-barred explicit scene-of-the-crime detail…. A painstakingly researched crime novel, impressive both in terms of its driven central character [and] its scrupulously evoked geography…. Impressive, too, is the superior, topflight prose and sheer momentum of the plot.”

  —Tangled Web (UK)

  “[An] exciting, scary, and darkly humorous story that deserves to be a success.”

  —Irish News

  “A highly intelligent and exciting novel, with almost enough action and story for two books. The grim and grisly events are emotionally balanced by the book’s dark humor and Bird’s vulnerability.”

  —Library Journal

  “[A] stunning debut…. Painstaking research, superb characterization, and an ability to tell a story that’s chilling and thought-provoking make this a terrific thriller.”

  —The Mirror (UK)

  “Brilliant…. While Thomas Harris’ Hannibal is the year’s most anticipated thriller, John Connolly’s EVERY DEAD THING might just be the best…. A real adrenaline rush…. Simply too good to be missed—or to put down.”

  —The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, MS)

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents 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.

  A Pocket Star Book published by

  POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.

  1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

  Copyright © 1999 by John Connolly

  Originally published in Great Britain in 1999 by Hodder and Stoughton

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

  ISBN: 1-4165-1725-1

  Visit us on the World Wide Web:

  POCKET STAR BOOKS and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster Inc.


  For I am every dead thing…I am re-begot

  Of absence, darknesse, death; things which are not.

  John Donne

  “A Nocturnall Upon S. Lucies Day”


  IT IS COLD in the car, cold as the grave. I prefer to leave the a/c on full, to let the falling temperature keep me alert. The volume on the radio is low but I can still hear a tune, vaguely insistent over the sound of the engine. It’s early R.E.M., something about shoulders and rain. I’ve left Cornwall Bridge about eight miles behind and soon I’ll be entering South Canaan, then Canaan itself, before crossing the state line into Massachusetts. Ahead of me, the bright sun is fading as day bleeds slowly into night.

  The patrol car arrived first on the night they died, shedding red light into the darkness. Two patrolmen entered the house, quickly yet cautiously, aware that they were responding to a call from one of their own, a policeman who had become a victim instead of the resort of victims.

  I sat in the hallway with my head in my hands as they entered the kitchen of our Brooklyn home and glimpsed the remains of my wife and child. I watched as one conducted a brief search of the upstairs rooms while the other checked the living room, the dining room, all the time the kitchen calling them back, demanding that they bear witness.

  I listened as they radioed for the Major Crime Scene Unit, informing them of a probable double homicide. I could hear the shock in their voices, yet they tried to communicate what they had seen as dispassionately as they could, like good cops should. Maybe, even then, they suspected me. They were policemen and they, more than anyone else, knew what people were capable of doing, even one of their own.

  And so they remained silent, one by the car and the other in the hallway beside me, until the detectives pulled up outside, the ambulance following, and they entered our home, the neighbors already gathering on their stoops, at their gates, some moving closer to find out what had happened, what could have been visited on the young couple beyond, the couple with the little blond girl.

  “Bird?” I ran my hands over my eyes as I recognized the voice. A sob shuddered through my system. Walter Cole stood over me, McGee farther back, his face bathed by the flashes of the patrol car lights but still pale, shaken by what he had seen. Outside there was the sound of more cars pulling up. An EMT arrived at the door, distracting Cole’s attention from me. “The medical technician’s here,” said one of the patrolmen as the thin, whey-faced young man stood by. Cole nodded and gestured toward the kitchen.

  “Birdman,” Cole repeated, this time with greater urgency and a harder tone to his voice. “Do you want to tell me what happened here?”

  I pull into the parking lot in front of the flower shop. There is a light breeze blowing and my coattails play at my legs like the hands of children. Inside, the store is cool, cooler than it should be, an
d redolent with the scent of roses. Roses never go out of style, or season.

  A man is bending down, carefully checking the thick waxy leaves of a small green plant. He rises up slowly and painfully as I enter.

  “Evening,” he says. “Help you?”

  “I’d like some of those roses. Give me a dozen. No, better make it two dozen.”

  “Two dozen roses, yessir.” He is heavy-set and bald, maybe in his early sixties. He walks stiffly, hardly bending his knees. The joints of his fingers are swollen with arthritis.

  “Air-conditioning is playing up,” he says. As he passes by the ancient control unit on the wall, he adjusts a switch. Nothing happens.

  The store is old, with a long glass-fronted hothouse along the far wall. He opens the door and begins lifting roses carefully from a bucket inside. When he has counted twenty-four, he closes the door again and lays them on a sheet of plastic on the counter.

  “Gift wrap ’em for ya?”

  “No. Plastic is fine.”

  He looks at me for a moment and I can almost hear the tumblers fall as the process of recognition begins.

  “Do I know you from someplace?”

  In the city, they have short memories. Farther out, the memories last longer.

  Supplemental Crime Report


  Case Number: 96-12-1806




  Susan Parker, W/F

  Jennifer Parker, W/F


  1219 Hobart Street, kitchen


  Dec. 12, 1996


  Around 2130 hrs




  Edged weapon, possibly knife (not found)

  Reporting Officer:

  Walter Cole,

  Detective Sergeant

  Details: On December 13, 1996, I went to 1219 Hobart Street in response to a request by Officer Gerald Kersh for detectives to work a reported homicide.

  Complainant Detective Second Grade Charles Parker stated he left house at 1900 hrs following argument with wife, Susan Parker. Went to Tom’s Oak Tavern and remained there until around 0130 hrs on December 13. Entered house through front door and found furniturein hallway disturbed. Entered kitchen and found wife and daughter. Stated that wife was tied to kitchen chair but daughter’s body appeared to have been moved from adjacent chair and arranged over mother’s body. Called police at 0155 hrs and waited at scene.

  Victims, identified to me by Charles Parker as Susan Parker (wife, 33 years old)and Jennifer Parker (daughter, 3 years old), were in kitchen. Susan Parker was tied to a kitchen chair in center of floor, facing door. A second chair was placed beside it, with some ropes still attached to rear struts. Jennifer Parker was lying across her mother, faceup.

  Susan Parker was barefoot and wearing blue jeans and white blouse. Blouse was ripped and had been pulled down to her waist, exposing breasts. Jeans and underwear had been pulled down to her calves. Jennifer Parker was barefoot, wearing a white nightdress with blue flower pattern.

  I directed Crime Scene Technician Annie Minghella to make a full investigation. After victims were confirmed dead by Medical Examiner Clarence Hall and released, I accompanied bodies to hospital. I observed Dr. Anthony Loeb as he used rape kit and turned it over to me. I collected following items of evidence:

  96-12-1806-M1: white blouse from body of Susan Parker (Victim No. 1)

  96-12-1806-M2: blue denim jeans from body of Victim 1

  96-12-1806-M3: blue cotton underwear from body of Victim 1

  96-12-1806-M4: combings from pubic hair of Victim 1

  96-12-1806-M5: washings from vagina of Victim 1

  96-12-1806-M6: scrapings from under Victim 1’s fingernails, right hand

  96-12-1806-M7: scrapings from under Victim 1’s fingernails, left hand

  96-12-1806-M8: combings from Victim 1’s hair, right front

  96-12-1806-M9: combings from Victim 1’s hair, left front

  96-12-1806-M10: combings from Victim 1’s hair, right rear

  96-12-1806-M11: combings from Victim 1’s hair, left rear

  96-12-1806-M12: white/blue cotton nightdress from body of Jennifer Parker Victim No. 2)

  96-12-1806-M13: washings from vagina of Victim 2

  96-12-1806-M14: scrapings from under Victim 2’s fingernails, right hand

  96-12-1806-M15: scrapings from under Victim 2’s fingernails, left hand

  96-12-1806-M16: combings from Victim 2’s hair, right front

  96-12-1806-M17: combings from Victim 2’s hair, left front

  96-12-1806-M18: combings from Victim 2’s hair, right rear

  96-12-1806-M19: combings from Victim 2’s hair, left rear

  It had been another bitter argument, made worse by the fact that it followed our lovemaking. The embers of previous fights were stoked back into glowing life: my drinking, my neglect of Jenny, my bouts of bitterness and self-pity. When I stormed from the house, Susan’s cries followed me into the cold night air.

  It was a twenty-minute walk to the bar. When the first shot of Wild Turkey hit my stomach, the tension dissipated from my body and I relaxed into the familiar routine of the drunk: angry, then maudlin, sorrowful, remorseful, resentful. By the time I left the bar only the hard core remained, a chorus of drunks and sots battling with Van Halen on the jukebox. I stumbled at the door and fell down the steps outside, barking my knees painfully on the gravel at their base.

  And then I stumbled home, sick and nauseous, cars swerving wildly to avoid me as I swayed onto the road, the faces of the drivers wide with alarm and anger.

  I fumbled for my keys as I arrived at the door, and scraped the white paint beneath the lock as I struggled to insert the key. There were a lot of scrapes beneath the lock.

  I knew something was wrong as soon as I opened the front door and stepped into the hall. When I had left, the house had been warm, the heating on full blast because Jennifer especially felt the winter cold. She was a beautiful but fragile child, as delicate as a china vase. Now the house was as cold as the night outside. A mahogany flower stand lay fallen on the carpet, the flowerpot broken in two pieces amid its own soil. The roots of the poinsettia it had contained were exposed and ugly.

  I called Susan’s name once, then again, louder this time. Already the drunken haze was clearing and I had my foot on the first step of the stairs to the bedrooms when I heard the back door bang against the sink unit in the kitchen. Instinctively I reached for my Colt DE but it lay upstairs on my desk, upstairs where I had discarded it before facing Susan and another chapter in the story of our dying marriage. I cursed myself then. Later, it would come to symbolize all of my failures, all of my regrets.

  I moved cautiously toward the kitchen, the tips of my fingers glancing against the cold wall on my left. The kitchen door was almost closed and I edged it open slowly with my hand. “Susie?” I called as I stepped into the kitchen. My foot slid gently on something sticky and wet. I looked down and I was in Hell.

  In the florist’s, the old man’s eyes are narrowed in puzzlement. He shakes his finger good-naturedly in front of me.

  “I’m sure I know you from someplace.”

  “I don’t think so.”

  “You from around here? Canaan, maybe? Monterey? Otis?”

  “No. Someplace else.” I give him a look that tells him this is a line of inquiry he doesn’t want to pursue, and I can see him backing off. I am about to use my credit card but decide not to. Instead, I count out the cash from my wallet and lay it on the counter.

  “Someplace else,” he says, nodding as if it has some deep, inner meaning for him. “Must be a big place. I meet a lot of fellers from there.”

  But I am already leaving the store. As I pull away, I can see him at the window, staring after me. Behind me, water drips gently from the rose stems and pools on the floor of the car.

  Supplemental Crime Report (Contd.) Case Nu
mber: 96-12-1806

  Susan Parker was seated in a pine kitchen chair, facing north toward the kitchen door. Top of the head was ten feet, seven inches from north wall and six feet, three inches from east wall. Her arms were pulled behind her back and…

  tied to the bars at the back of the chair with thin cord. Each foot was in turn tied to a leg of the chair, and I thought her face, mostly concealed by her hair, seemed so awash with blood that no skin could be seen. Her head hung back so that her throat gaped open like a second mouth, caught in a silent, dark red scream. Our daughter lay splayed across Susan, one arm hanging between her mother’s legs.

  The room was red around them, like the stage of some terrible revenger’s tragedy where blood was echoed with blood. It stained the ceiling and the walls as if the house itself had been mortally wounded. It lay thick and heavy on the floor and seemed to swallow my reflection in a scarlet darkness.

  Susan Parker’s nose had been broken. Injury was consistent with impact against wall or floor. Bloodstain on wall near kitchen door contained fragments of bone, nasal hair, and mucus…

  Susan had tried to run, to get help for our daughter and herself, but she had made it no farther than the door. Then he had caught her, had grabbed her by the hair and smashed her against the wall before dragging her, bleeding and in pain, back to the chair and to her death.

  Jennifer Parker was stretched, facing upward, across her mother’s thighs, and a second pine kitchen chair was positioned beside that of her mother. Cord wrapped around the back of the chair matched marks on Jennifer Parker’s wrists and ankles.

  There was not so much blood around Jenny, but her nightdress was stained by the flow from the deep cut in her throat. She faced the door, her hair hanging forward, obscuring her face, some strands sticking to the blood on her chest, the toes of her naked feet dangling above the tiled floor. I could only look at her for a moment because Susan drew my eyes toward her in death as she had in life, even amid the wreckage of our time together.