Already the flies were swarming. Four hours on the hot pavement of South Boston had baked the pulverized flesh, releasing the chemical equivalent of a dinner bell, and the air was alive with buzzing flies. Though what remained of the torso was now covered with a sheet, there was still much exposed tissue for scavengers to feast on. Bits of gray matter and other unidentifiable parts were dispersed in a radius of thirty feet along the street. A skull fragment had landed in a second-story flower box, and clumps of tissue adhered to parked cars.
Detective Jane Rizzoli had always possessed a strong stomach, but even she had to pause, eyes closed, fists clenched, angry at herself for this moment of weakness. Don't lose it. Don't lose it. She was the only female detective in the Boston P.D. homicide unit, and she knew that the pitiless spotlight was always trained on her. Every mistake, every triumph, would be noted by all. Her partner, Barry Frost, had already tossed up his breakfast in humiliatingly public view, and he was now sitting with his head on his knees in their air-conditioned vehicle, waiting for his stomach to settle. She could not afford to fall victim to nausea. She was the most visible law enforcement officer on the scene, and from the other side of the police tape the public stood watching, registering every move she made, every detail of her appearance. She knew she looked younger than her age of thirty-four, and she was self-conscious about maintaining an air of authority. What she lacked in height she compensated for with her direct gaze, her squared shoulders. She had learned the art of dominating a scene, if only through sheer intensity.
But this heat was sapping her resolve. She had started off dressed in her usual blazer and slacks and with her hair neatly combed. Now the blazer was off, her blouse was wrinkled, and the humidity had frizzed her dark hair into unruly coils. She felt assaulted on all fronts by the smells, the flies, and the piercing sunlight. There was too much to focus on all at once. And all those eyes were watching her.
Loud voices drew her attention. A man in a dress shirt and tie was trying to argue his way past a patrolman.
"Look, I gotta get to a sales conference, okay? I'm an hour late as it is. But you've got your goddamn police tape wrapped around my car, and now you're saying I can't drive it? It's my own friggin' car!"
"It's a crime scene, sir."
"It's an accident!"
"We haven't determined that yet."
"Does it take you guys all day to figure it out? Why don't you listen to us? The whole neighborhood heard it happen!"
Rizzoli approached the man, whose face was glazed with sweat. It was eleven-thirty and the sun, near its zenith, shone down like a glaring eye.
"What, exactly, did you hear, sir?" she asked.
He snorted. "Same thing everyone else did."
"A loud bang."
"Yeah. Around seven-thirty. I was just getting outta the shower. Looked out my window, and there he was, lying on the sidewalk. You can see it's a bad corner. Asshole drivers come flying around it like bats outta hell. Must've been a truck hit him."
"Did you see a truck?"
"Hear a truck?"
"And you didn't see a car, either?"
"Car, truck." He shrugged. "It's still a hit-and-run."
It was the same story, repeated half a dozen times by the man's neighbors. Sometime between seven-fifteen and seven-thirty A.M., there'd been a loud bang in the street. No one actually saw the event. They had simply heard the noise and found the man's body. Rizzoli had already considered, and rejected, the possibility that he was a jumper. This was a neighborhood of two-story buildings, nothing tall enough to explain such catastrophic damage to a jumper's body. Nor did she see any evidence of an explosion as the cause of this much anatomical disintegration.
Excerpted from The Apprentice by Tess GerritsenCopyright 2002 by Tess Gerritsen. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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