"Hey, can I get my car out now?" the man said. "It's that green Ford."
"That one with the brains splattered on the trunk?"
"What do you think?" she snapped, and walked away to join the medical examiner, who was crouched in the middle of the road, studying the asphalt. "People on this street are jerks," said Rizzoli. "No one gives a damn about the victim. No one knows who he is, either."
Dr. Ashford Tierney didn't look up at her but just kept staring at the road. Beneath sparse strands of silver hair, his scalp glistened with sweat. Dr. Tierney seemed older and more weary than she had ever seen him. Now, as he tried to rise, he reached out in a silent request for assistance. She took his hand and she could feel, transmitted through that hand, the creak of tired bones and arthritic joints. He was an old southern gentleman, a native of Georgia, and he'd never warmed to Rizzoli's Boston bluntness, just as she had never warmed to his formality. The only thing they had in common was the human remains that passed across Dr. Tierney's autopsy table. But as she helped him to his feet, she was saddened by his frailty and reminded of her own grandfather, whose favorite grandchild she had been, perhaps because he'd recognized himself in her pride, her tenaciousness. She remembered helping him out of his easy chair, how his stroke-numbed hand had rested like a claw on her arm. Even men as fierce as Aldo Rizzoli are ground down by time to brittle bones and joints. She could see its effect in Dr. Tierney, who wobbled in the heat as he took out his handkerchief and dabbed the sweat from his forehead.
"This is one doozy of a case to close out my career," he said. "So tell me, are you coming to my retirement party, Detective?"
"Uh . . . what party?" said Rizzoli.
"The one you all are planning to surprise me with."
She sighed. Admitted, "Yeah, I'm coming."
"Ha. I always could get a straight answer from you. Is it next week?"
"Two weeks. And I didn't tell you, okay?"
"I'm glad you did." He looked down at the asphalt. "I don't much like surprises."
"So what do we have here, Doc? Hit-and-run?"
"This seems to be the point of impact."
Rizzoli looked down at the large splash of blood. Then she looked at the sheet-draped corpse, which was lying a good twelve feet away, on the sidewalk.
"You're saying he first hit the ground here, and then bounced way over there?" said Rizzoli.
"It would appear so."
"That's got to be a pretty big truck to cause this much splatter."
"Not a truck," was Tierney's enigmatic answer. He started walking along the road, eyes focused downward.
Rizzoli followed him, batting at swarms of flies. Tierney came to a stop about thirty feet away and pointed to a grayish clump on the curb.
"More brain matter," he noted.
"A truck didn't do this?" said Rizzoli.
"No. Or a car, either."
"What about the tire marks on the vic's shirt?"
Tierney straightened, his eyes scanning the street, the sidewalks, the buildings. "Do you notice something quite interesting about this scene, Detective?"
"Apart from the fact there's a dead guy over there who's missing his brain?"
"Look at the point of impact." Tierney gestured toward the spot in the road where he'd been crouching earlier. "See the dispersal pattern of body parts?"
"Yeah. He splattered in all directions. Point of impact is at the center."
"It's a busy street," said Rizzoli. "Vehicles do come around that corner too fast. Plus, the vic has tire marks on his shirt."
"Let's go look at those marks again."
As they walked back to the corpse, they were joined by Barry Frost, who had finally emerged from the car, looking wan and a little embarrassed.
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.
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