He straightened up, considering what else he might do to the still form in front of him.
"You're sure it was screaming?"
"Yeah....No," the security guard said. "Maybe not screaming, you know. Shouting. Upset. For just a second or two. Then it stopped."
Officer Diane Franciscovich, a portable working out of the Twentieth Precinct, continued, "Anybody else hear anything?"
The heavy guard, breathing hard, glanced at the tall, brunette policewoman, shook his head and flexed and opened his huge hands. He wiped his dark palms on his blue slacks.
"Call for backup?" asked Nancy Ausonio, another young patrol officer, shorter than her partner, blonde.
Franciscovich didn't think so, though she wasn't sure. Portables walking the beat in this part of the Upper West Side dealt mostly with traffic accidents, shoplifting and car theft (as well as holding the hands of distraught muggees). This was a first for them -- the two women officers, on their Saturday morning watch, had been spotted on the sidewalk and motioned urgently inside by the guard to help check out the screaming. Well, upset shouting.
"Let's hold off," the calm Franciscovich said. "See what's going on."
The guard said, "Sounded like it was comin' from 'round here somewhere. Dunno."
"Spooky place," Ausonio offered, oddly uneasy; she was the partner most likely to leap into the middle of a dispute, even if it involved combatants twice her size.
"The sounds, you know. Hard to tell. You know what I'm sayin'? Where they're coming from."
Franciscovich was focusing on what her partner had said. Damn spooky place, she added silently.
Seeming miles of dim corridors later, finding nothing out of the ordinary, the security guard paused.
Franciscovich nodded to a doorway in front of them. "What's through here?"
"Be no reason for students t'be there. It's only -- "
Franciscovich pushed the door open.
Inside was a small lobby that led to a door labeled Recital Hall A. And near that door was the body of a young woman, trussed up, rope around her neck, hands in cuffs. Eyes open in death. A brown-haired, bearded man in his early fifties crouched over her. He looked up, surprised at their entry.
"No!" Ausonio cried.
"Oh, Christ," the guard gasped.
The officers drew their weapons and Franciscovich sighted down on the man with what she thought was a surprisingly steady hand. "You, don't move! Stand up slow, move away from her and put your hands in the air." Her voice was much less firm than the fingers gripping the Glock pistol.
The man did as he was told.
"Lie face down on floor. Keep your hands in sight!"
Ausonio started forward to the girl.
It was then Franciscovich noticed that the man's right hand, over his head, was closed in a fist.
"Open your -- "
She went blind as a flash of searing light filled the room. It seemed to come directly from the suspect's hand and hovered for a moment before going out. Ausonio froze and Franciscovich went into a crouch, scrabbling backward and squinting, swinging the gun back and forth. Panicked, she knew the killer had kept his eyes shut when the flash went off and would be aiming his own weapon at them or charging forward with a knife.
"Where, where, where?" she shouted.
Then she saw -- vaguely thanks to her frizzled vision and the dissipating smoke -- the killer running into the recital hall. He slammed the door shut. There was a thud inside as he moved a chair or table against the door.
Ausonio dropped to her knees in front of the girl. With a Swiss army knife she cut the rope off her neck, rolled her over and, using a disposable mouthpiece, started CPR.
"Any other exits?" Franciscovich shouted to the guard.
From The Vanished Man by Jeffery Deaver. Copyright Jeffery Deaver 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher, Simon & Schuster
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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