"Man, oh man," he groaned.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"You think maybe I picked up the stomach flu or something?"
"Or something." She'd always liked Frost, had always appreciated his sunny and uncomplaining nature, and she hated to see his pride laid so low. She gave him a pat on the shoulder, a motherly smile. Frost seemed to invite mothering, even from the decidedly unmaternal Rizzoli. "I'll just pack you a barf bag next time," she offered.
"You know," he said, trailing after her, "I really do think it's just the flu. . . ."
They reached the torso. Tierney grunted as he squatted down, his joints protesting the latest insult, and lifted the disposable sheet. Frost blanched and retreated a step. Rizzoli fought the impulse to do the same.
The torso had broken into two parts, separated at the level of the umbilicus. The top half, wearing a beige cotton shirt, stretched east to west. The bottom half, wearing blue jeans, lay north to south. The halves were connected by only a few strands of skin and muscle. The internal organs had spilled out and lay in a pulpified mass. The back half of the skull had shattered open, and the brain had been ejected.
"Young male, well nourished, appears to be of Hispanic or Mediterranean origin, in his twenties to thirties," said Tierney. "I see obvious fractures of the thoracic spine, ribs, clavicles, and skull."
"Couldn't a truck do this?" Rizzoli asked.
"It's certainly possible a truck could have caused massive injuries like these." He looked at Rizzoli, his pale-blue eyes challenging hers. "But no one heard or saw such a vehicle. Did they?"
"Unfortunately, no," she admitted.
Frost finally managed a comment. "You know, I don't think those are tire tracks on his shirt."
Rizzoli focused on the black streaks across the front of the victim's shirt. With a gloved hand, she touched one of the smears, and looked at her finger. A smudge of black had transferred to her latex glove. She stared at it for a moment, processing this new information.
"You're right," she said. "It's not a tire track. It's grease." She straightened and looked at the road. She saw no bloody tire marks, no auto debris. No pieces of glass or plastic that would have shattered on impact with a human body.
For a moment, no one spoke. They just looked at one another, as the only possible explanation suddenly clicked into place. As if to confirm the theory, a jet roared overhead. Rizzoli squinted upward, to see a 747 glide past, on its landing approach to Logan International Airport, five miles to the north-east.
"Oh, Jesus," said Frost, shading his eyes against the sun.
"What a way to go. Please tell me he was already dead when he fell."
"There's a good chance of it," said Tierney. "I would guess his body slipped out as the wheels came down, on landing approach.
That's assuming it was an inbound flight."
"Well, yeah," said Rizzoli. "How many stowaways are trying to get out of the country?" She looked at the dead man's olive complexion. "So he's coming in on a plane, say, from South America--"
"It would've been flying at an altitude of at least thirty thousand feet," said Tierney. "Wheel wells aren't pressurized. A stowaway would be dealing with rapid decompression. Frostbite. Even in high summer, the temperatures at those altitudes are freezing. A few hours under those conditions, he'd be hypothermic and unconscious from lack of oxygen. Or already crushed when the landing gear retracted on takeoff. A prolonged ride in the wheel well would probably finish him off."
Rizzoli's pager cut into the lecture. And a lecture it would surely turn into; Dr. Tierney was just beginning to hit his professorial stride. She glanced at the number on her beeper but did not recognize it. A Newton prefix. She reached for her cell phone and dialed.
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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