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«The Surgeon», Tess Gerritsen

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I owe a very special thanks to:

Bruce Blake and Detective Wayne R. Rock of the Boston Police Department, and to Chris Michalakes, M.D., for their technical assistance.

Jane Berkey, Don Cleary, and Andrea Cirillo for their helpful comments on the first draft.

My editor, Linda Marrow, for gently pointing the way.

My guardian angel, Meg Ruley. (Every writer needs a Meg Ruley!)

And to my husband, Jacob. Always, to Jacob.

Prologue

Today they will find her body.

I know how it will happen. I can picture, quite vividly, the sequence of events that will lead to the discovery. By nine o’clock, those snooty ladies at the Kendall and Lord Travel Agency will be sitting at their desks, their elegantly manicured fingers tapping at computer keyboards, booking a Mediterranean cruise for Mrs. Smith, a ski vacation at Klosters for Mr. Jones. And for Mr. and Mrs. Brown, something different this year, something exotic, perhaps Chiang Mai or Madagascar, but nothing too rugged; oh no, adventure must, above all, be comfortable. That is the motto at Kendall and Lord: “Comfortable adventures.” It is a busy agency, and the phone rings often.

It will not take long for the ladies to notice that Diana is not at her desk.

One of them will call Diana’s Back Bay residence, but the phone will ring, unanswered. Maybe Diana is in the shower and can’t hear it. Or she has already left for work but is running late. A dozen perfectly benign possibilities will run through the caller’s mind. But as the day wears on, and repeated calls go unanswered, other, more disturbing possibilities, will come to mind.

I expect it’s the building superintendent who will let Diana’s coworker into the apartment. I see him nervously rattling his keys as he says, “You’re her friend, right? You sure she won’t mind? ’Cause I’m gonna have to tell her I let you in.”

They walk into the apartment, and the coworker calls out: “Diana? Are you home?” They start up the hall, past the elegantly framed travel posters, the superintendent right behind her, watching that she doesn’t steal anything.

Then he looks through the doorway, into the bedroom. He sees Diana Sterling, and he is no longer worried about something as inconsequential as theft. He wants only to get out of that apartment before he throws up.

I would like to be there when the police arrive, but I am not stupid. I know they will study every car that creeps by, every face that stares from the gathering of spectators on the street. They know my urge to return is strong. Even now, as I sit in Starbucks, watching the day brighten outside the window, I feel that room calling me back. But I am like Ulysses, safely lashed to my ship’s mast, yearning for the sirens’ song. I will not dash myself against the rocks. I will not make that mistake.

Instead I sit and drink my coffee while outside, the city of Boston comes awake. I stir three teaspoons of sugar into my cup; I like my coffee sweet. I like everything to be just so. To be perfect.

A siren screams in the distance, calling to me. I feel like Ulysses straining against the ropes, but they hold fast.

Today they will find her body.

Today they will know we are back.

One

One year later

Detective Thomas Moore disliked the smell of latex, and as he snapped on the gloves, releasing a puff of talcum, he felt the usual twinge of anticipatory nausea. The odor was linked to the most unpleasant aspects of his job, and like one of Pavlov’s dogs, trained to salivate on cue, he’d come to associate that rubbery scent with the inevitable accompaniment of blood and body fluids. An olfactory warning to brace himself.

And so he did, as he stood outside the autopsy room. He had walked in straight from the heat, and already sweat was chilling on his skin. It was July 12, a humid and hazy Friday afternoon. Across the city of Boston, air conditioners rattled and dripped, and tempers were flaring. On the Tobin Bridge, cars would already be backed up, fleeing north to the cool forests of Maine. But Moore would not be among them. He had been called back from his vacation, to view a horror he had no wish to confront.

He was already garbed in a surgical gown, which he’d pulled from the morgue linen cart. Now he put on a paper cap to catch stray hairs and pulled paper booties over his shoes, because he had seen what sometimes spilled from the table onto the floor. The blood, the clumps of tissue. He was by no means a tidy man, but he had no wish to bring any trace of the autopsy room home on his shoes. He paused for a few seconds outside the door and took a deep breath. Then, resigning himself to the ordeal, he pushed into the room.

The draped corpse lay on the table — a woman, by the shape of it. Moore avoided looking too long at the victim and focused instead on the living people in the room. Dr. Ashford Tierney, the Medical Examiner, and a morgue attendant were assembling instruments on a tray. Across the table from Moore stood Jane Rizzoli, also from the Boston Homicide Unit. Thirty-three years old, Rizzoli was a small and square-jawed woman. Her untamable curls were hidden beneath the paper O.R. cap, and without her black hair to soften her features, her face seemed to be all hard angles, her dark eyes probing and intense. She had transferred to Homicide from Vice and Narcotics six months ago. She was the only woman in the homicide unit, and already there had been problems between her and another detective, charges of sexual harassment, countercharges of unrelenting bitchiness. Moore was not sure he liked Rizzoli, or she him. So far they had kept their interactions strictly business, and he thought she preferred it that way.