Excerpt from The Coffin Dancer by Jeffery Deaver, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Coffin Dancer

By Jeffery Deaver

The Coffin Dancer
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  • Hardcover: Jul 1998,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 1999,
    255 pages.

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Rhyme said, "So he knew you were getting close and he wanted to ditch something linking him to the killings." He was beginning to see why they wanted him. Some seeds of interest here. "Air Traffic Control track him?"

"LaGuardia had him for a while. Straight out over Long Island Sound. Then he dropped below radar for ten minutes or so."

"And you drew a line to see how far he could get over the Sound. There're divers out?"

"Right. Now, we knew that soon as Hansen heard we had the three witnesses he was gonna rabbit. So we managed to put him away till Monday. Federal Detention."

Rhyme laughed. "You got a judge to buy probable cause on that?"

"Yeah, with the risk of flight," Sellitto said. "And some bullshit FAA violations and reckless endangerment thrown in. No flight plan, flying below FAA minimums."

"What'd Mis-ter Han-sen say?"

"He knows the drill. Not a word to the arrestings, not a word to the prosecutors. Lawyer denies everything and's preparing suit for wrongful arrest, yadda, yadda, yadda...So if we find the fucking bags we go to the grand jury on Monday and, bang, he's away."

"Provided," Rhyme pointed out, "there's anything incriminating in the bags."

"Oh, there's something incriminating."

"How do you know?"

"Because Hansen's scared. He's hired somebody to kill the witnesses. He's already got one of 'em. Blew up his plane last night outside of Chicago."

And, Rhyme thought, they want me to find the duffel bags...Fascinating questions were now floating into his mind. Was it possible to place the plane at a particular location over the water because of a certain type of precipitation or saline deposit or insect found crushed on the leading edge of the wing? Could one calculate the time of death of an insect? What about salt concentrations and pollutants in the water? Flying that low to the water, would the engines or wings pick up algae and deposit it on the fuselage or tail?

"I'll need some maps of the Sound," Rhyme began. "Engineering drawings of his plane -- "

"Uhm, Lincoln, that's not why we're here," Sellitto said.

"Not to find the bags," Banks added.

"No? Then?" Rhyme tossed an irritating tickle of black hair off his forehead and frowned the young man down.

Sellitto's eyes again scanned the beige ECU box. The wires that sprouted from it were dull red and yellow and black and lay curled on the floor like sunning snakes.

"We want you to help us find the killer. The guy Hansen hired. Stop him before he gets the other two wits."

"And?" For Rhyme saw that Sellitto still had not mentioned what he was holding in reserve.

With a glance out the window the detective said, "Looks like it's the Dancer, Lincoln."

"The Coffin Dancer?"

Sellitto looked back and nodded.

"You're sure?"

"We heard he'd done a job in D.C. a few weeks ago. Killed a congressional aide mixed up in arms deals. We got pen registers and found calls from a pay phone outside Hansen's house to the hotel where the Dancer was staying. It's gotta be him, Lincoln."

On the screen the grains of sand, big as asteroids, smooth as a woman's shoulders, lost their grip on Rhyme's interest.

"Well," he said softly, "that's a problem now, isn't it?"

Copyright © 1998 by Jeffery Deaver.

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