Book by Tess Gerritsen
Les informations fournies dans la section « Synopsis » peuvent faire référence à une autre édition de ce titre.
Dr. Maura Isles had not smelled fresh air all day. Since seven that morning she had been inhaling the scent of death, an aroma so familiar to her that she did not recoil as her knife sliced cold skin, as foul odors wafted up from exposed organs. The police officers who occasionally stood in the room to observe postmortems were not so stoic. Sometimes Maura caught a whiff of the Vicks ointment that they dabbed in their nostrils to mask the stench. Sometimes even Vicks was not enough, and she’d see them suddenly go wobbly and turn away, to gag over the sink. Cops were not accustomed, as she was, to the astringent bite of formalin, the sulfurous aroma of decaying membranes.
Today, there was an incongruous note of sweetness added to that bouquet of odors: the scent of coconut oil, emanating from the skin of Mrs. Gloria Leder, who now lay on the autopsy table. She was fifty years old, a divorcee with broad hips and heavy breasts and toenails painted a brilliant pink. Deep tan lines marked the edges of the bathing suit she had been wearing when she was found dead beside her apartment swimming pool. It had been a bikini—not the most flattering choice for a body sagging with middle age. When was the last time I had the chance to put on my bathing suit? Maura thought, and she felt an absurd flash of envy for Mrs. Gloria Leder, who’d spent the last moments of her life enjoying this summer day. It was almost August, and Maura had not yet visited the beach or sat by a swimming pool or even sunbathed in her own backyard.
“Rum and Coke,” said the young cop standing at the foot of the table. “I think that’s what she had in her glass. It was sitting next to her patio chair.”
This was the first time Maura had seen Officer Buchanan in her morgue. He made her nervous, the way he kept fussing with his paper mask and shifting from foot to foot. The boy looked way too young to be a cop. They were all starting to look too young.
“Did you retain the contents of that glass?” she asked Officer Buchanan.
“Uh . . . no, ma’am. I took a good whiff. She was definitely drinking a rum and Coke.”
“At nine A.M.?” Maura looked across the table at her assistant, Yoshima. As usual, he was silent, but she saw one dark eyebrow tilt up, as eloquent a comment as she would get from Yoshima.
“She didn’t get down too much of it,” said Officer Buchanan.
“The glass was still pretty full.”
“Okay,” said Maura. “Let’s take a look at her back.”
Together, she and Yoshima log-rolled the corpse onto its side.
“There’s a tattoo here on the hip,” noted Maura. “Little blue butterfly.”
“Geez,” said Buchanan. “A woman her age?”
Maura glanced up. “You think fifty’s ancient, do you?”
“I mean—well, that’s my mom’s age.”
Careful, boy. I’m only ten years younger.
She picked up the knife and began to cut. This was her fifth postmortem of the day, and she made swift work of it. With Dr. Costas on vacation, and a multivehicle accident the night before, the cold room had been crammed with body bags that morning. Even as she’d worked her way through the backlog, two more bodies had been delivered to the refrigerator. Those would have to wait until tomorrow. The morgue’s clerical staff had already left for the evening, and Yoshima kept looking at the clock, obviously anxious to be on his way home.
She incised skin, gutted the thorax and abdomen. Removed dripping organs and placed them on the cutting board to be sectioned. Little by little, Gloria Leder revealed her secrets: a fatty liver, the telltale sign of a few too many rums and Cokes. A uterus knobby with fibroids.
And finally, when they opened the cranium, the reason for her death. Maura saw it as she lifted the brain in her gloved hands. “Subarachnoid hemorrhage,” she said, and glanced up at Buchanan. He was looking far paler than when he had first walked into the room. “This woman probably had a berry aneurysm—a weak spot in one of the arteries at the base of the brain. Hypertension would have exacerbated it.”
Buchanan swallowed, his gaze focused on the flap of loose skin that had been Gloria Leder’s scalp, now peeled forward over the face. That’s the part that usually horrified them, the point at which so many of them winced or turned away—when the face collapses like a tired rubber mask.
“So . . . you’re saying it’s a natural death?” he asked softly.
“Correct. There’s nothing more you need to see here.”
The young man was already stripping off his gown as he retreated from the table. “I think I need some fresh air . . .”
So do I, thought Maura. It’s a summer night, my garden needs watering, and I have not been outside all day.
But an hour later she was still in the building, sitting at her desk reviewing lab slips and dictated reports. Though she had changed out of her scrub suit, the smell of the morgue still seemed to cling to her, a scent that no amount of soap and water could eradicate, because the memory itself was what lingered. She picked up the Dictaphone and began to record her report on Gloria Leder.
“Fifty-year-old white woman found slumped in a patio chair near her apartment swimming pool. She is a well-developed, wellnourished woman with no visible trauma. External exam reveals an old surgical scar on her abdomen, probably from an appendectomy. There is a small tattoo of a butterfly on her . . .” She paused, picturing the tattoo. Was it on the left or the right hip? God, I’m so tired, she thought. I can’t remember. What a trivial detail. It made no difference to her conclusions, but she hated being inaccurate.
She rose from her chair and walked the deserted hallway to the stairwell, where her footfalls echoed on concrete steps. Pushing into the lab, she turned on the lights and saw that Yoshima had left the room in pristine condition as usual, the tables wiped down and gleaming, the floors mopped clean. She crossed to the cold room and pulled open the heavy locker door. Wisps of cold mist curled out. She took in a reflexive breath of air, as though about to plunge into foul water, and stepped into the locker.
Eight gurneys were occupied; most were awaiting pickup by funeral homes. Moving down the row, she checked the tags until she found Gloria Leder’s. She unzipped the bag, slipped her hands under the corpse’s buttocks and rolled her sideways just far enough to catch a glimpse of the tattoo.
It was on the left hip.
She closed the bag again and was just about to swing the door shut when she froze. Turning, she stared into the cold room.
Did I just hear something?
The fan came on, blowing icy air from the vents. Yes, that’s all it was, she thought. The fan. Or the refrigerator compressor. Or water cycling in the pipes. It was time to go home. She was so tired, she was starting to imagine things.
Again she turned to leave.
Again she froze. Turning, she stared at the row of body bags. Her heart was thumping so hard now, all she could hear was the beat of her own pulse.
Something moved in here. I’m sure of it.
She unzipped the first bag and stared down at a man whose chest had been sutured closed. Already autopsied, she thought. Definitely dead.
Which one? Which one made the noise?
She yanked open the next bag, and confronted a bruised face, a shattered skull. Dead.
With shaking hands she unzipped the third bag. The plastic parted, and she saw the face of a pale young woman with black hair and cyanotic lips. Opening the bag all the way, she exposed a wet blouse, the fabric clinging to white flesh, the skin glistening with chilly droplets of water. She peeled open the blouse and saw full breasts, a slim waist. The torso was still intact, not yet incised by the pathologist’s knife. The fingers and toes were purple, the arms marbled with blue.
She pressed her fingers to the woman’s neck and felt icy skin. Bending close to the lips, she waited for the whisper of a breath, the faintest puff of air against her cheek.
The corpse opened its eyes.
Maura gasped and lurched backward. She collided with the gurney behind her, and almost fell as the wheels rolled away. She scrambled back to her feet and saw that the woman’s eyes were still open, but unfocused. Blue-tinged lips formed soundless words.
Get her out of the refrigerator! Get her warm!
Maura shoved the gurney toward the door but it didn’t budge; in her panic she’d forgotten to unlock the wheels. She stamped down on the release lever and pushed again. This time it rolled, rattling out of the cold room into the warmer loading area.
The woman’s eyes had drifted shut again. Leaning close, Maura could feel no air moving past the lips. Oh Jesus. I can’t lose you now.
She knew nothing about this stranger—not her name, nor her medical history. This woman could be teeming with viruses, yet she sealed her mouth over the woman’s, and almost gagged at the taste of chilled flesh. She delivered three deep breaths, and pressed her fingers to the neck to check for a carotid pulse.
Am I imagining it? Is that my own pulse I feel, throbbing in my fingers?
She grabbed the wall phone and dialed 911.
“This is Dr. Isles in the medical examiner’s office. I need an ambulance. There’s a woman here, in respiratory arrest—”
“Excuse me, did you say the medical examiner’s office?”
“Yes! I’m at the rear of the building, just inside the loading bay. We...
Those who vanish sometimes come back to us
The beautiful woman appears to be just another corpse in the morgue. But when medical examiner Maura Isles looks down at the body, she gets the fright of her life.
The corpse opens its eyes.
Now very much alive, the woman is rushed to the hospital, where she murders a security guard and seizes hostages, one of whom is the heavily pregnant homicide detective Jane Rizzoli.
But who is this woman, and what does she want? Only Jane can solve the mystery - if she survives the night.
'A twisting, terrifying tale' Sunday Express
'Gutsy, energetic and shocking' Manchester Evening Post
'A real page-turner. A read-in-one-go novel if ever there was one...an excellent thriller that goes straight to the top of my list' Independent on Sunday
'A classic page-turner full of moments of heightened tension. Gerritsen is a craftswoman' Daily Mirror
Les informations fournies dans la section « A propos du livre » peuvent faire référence à une autre édition de ce titre.
Description du livre Ballantine Books. Hardcover. État : New. 0345476972 Ships promptly from Texas. N° de réf. du libraire HGT8102.1ADGG022017H0032
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