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By Keith Ablow
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2005 Keith Ablow
All rights reserved.
AUGUST 10, 2005, 3:20 P.M.
A map of the United States glowed on the flat-panel monitor at the front of the room.
"You'll remember the first two bodies were found in Darien and Greenwich," FBI analyst Bob White, a forty-something former street cop, said.
Two stars glowed over Connecticut.
"August and October, 2003. Both deep in the woods. The bizarre condition of the corpses got headlines, but things quieted down within a couple months." He cleared his throat, but his gravelly voice didn't change. "Until last year," he said. "The third body. A twelve-year-old boy in Big Timber, Montana."
"He crossed state lines, we got involved. Now, two more in the last six months: Southampton, New York ..."
A fourth star.
"The press is all over us."
Forensic psychiatrist Frank Clevenger, forty-nine, looked over at Ken Hiramatsu, the agency's chief pathologist. "Tell me about the bodies."
Hiramatsu motioned the control room for the next series of images.
The screen filled with what looked like a photo from Gray's Anatomy.
"His dissection is beyond competent," Hiramatsu said, with what sounded like admiration. "In each victim, a different organ or vessel or joint is masterfully exposed. In Darien, it was the heart of a twenty-seven-year-old woman."
Clevenger could see the sternum and rib cage of the victim had been neatly cut away, the muscles and fascia beneath them held back by silver nails, giving a full view of the heart, freed even from the fibrous, pericardial sac that normally clings to it like a glove.
"He goes deep," Hiramatsu said, motioning the control room again. "He wants to see everything."
The image on screen changed to a close-up of forceps holding open a window cut into the left ventricle, revealing the aortic and mitral valves. It changed again to show a second window onto the tricuspid valve, inside the right ventricle.
"You get the idea," Hiramatsu said. He twirled a finger in the air. The slides began cycling.
Clevenger watched one image of meticulous carnage after another. A section of abdominal wall excised to reveal the kidney of a teenage boy, the renal artery and ureter brought into view by threads tied around them, pulled tight and anchored by silver nails. The right hip of a middle-aged woman open to show the neck and head of the femur, with the gluteus medius, quadratus femoris, and iliopsoas muscles stripped clean. The jugular veins and carotid arteries of a beautiful, thirty-something woman. The spine of a man face down in a bed of leaves.
"The spine is the one from Michigan," Hiramatsu said. "His most accomplished work."
Clevenger glanced at him.
"In its attention to detail," Hiramatsu said quickly. "Each and every spinal nerve tied off. The vertebral arteries pristinely dissected. Not one of them torn. Not even a nick."
"Any evidence of sexual abuse?" Clevenger asked.
"None," Hiramatsu said.
"Cause of death?" Clevenger asked.
"Poisoning." Hiramatsu said. "We found traces of chloroform and succinylcholine in every body."
Chloroform was a sedative-hypnotic agent. Succinylcholine was a potent paralytic. Just three milligrams would freeze every muscle in the body, including the heart.
"We've thought about a surgeon," Dorothy Campbell, an older, elegant woman who ran the PROFILER computer system, said. "The blade is consistent with a scalpel."
"You'd think he'd get enough in the O.R.," Clevenger said.
"Maybe some hotshot fired for drugs or malpractice," White said. "Out to show everyone just how competent he is."
"Possible," Clevenger said.
"What we know for sure," White said, "is that he's got a ticket. All five victims are from serious money, even the kid."
"He can't meet these people by chance," Campbell said. "They know him. They trust him."
"Do they know each other?" Clevenger asked.
"The husband of one victim and the father of another served on the board of National Petroleum together," White said. "We could never make anything of it."
"Other leads?" Clevenger asked, looking around the table.
A few seconds passed in silence before White cleared his throat again. He winked. "If we were making a lot of headway, you wouldn't be here."CHAPTER 2
Dr. Whitney McCormick, director of the FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit, had left instructions with her secretary to let Clevenger wait in her office.
He took the armchair opposite her grand mahogany desk and looked at a picture of himself on her credenza, beside others of her with her ex-U.S. congressman father, her mother and sister, her black Lab, her Nantucket cottage.
He focused on McCormick. She was just a teenager in the photo, with a girlish smile and hair down to her waist. Yet even then he could see the rare combination of wisdom and vulnerability in her eyes that attracted him so powerfully to her.
It was no secret that McCormick and he were on-again, off-again lovers, though no one at the agency could ever guess whether they were on or off on any given day. He wasn't always sure himself.
He knew they couldn't go a month without seeing one another, at least for a couple of hours in bed. He knew they couldn't go a whole season playing house, shuttling back and forth between his Chelsea loft outside Boston and her apartment in D.C. And he knew some of the reasons why.
They were extraordinarily well-matched intellectually, equally fascinated by the human psyche and its pathologies, with equally stubborn minds that worked problems ceaselessly until they were solved. And they were extraordinarily well-matched sexually. Lock and key. Clevenger liked taking control in the bedroom; McCormick liked yielding it.
They could talk for hours and they could make love for hours and they knew what a rare thing that is in this world. But, somehow, knowing it didn't trump the stuff that kept splitting them apart — this time for a little over three weeks.
"Get what you needed?" McCormick asked, walking in.
He turned to her, kept looking at her as she took a seat behind her desk. She was thirty-seven now, hair just off her shoulders, wearing black silk pants and a simple black camisole shirt under a black blazer. He noticed she'd taken off the diamond crescent moon necklace he'd given her for her birthday two years before. "I'm up to speed," he said. "Take any heat for bringing me on board?"
"I'd bring bin Laden on board if it meant catching this guy."
That put him in rare company. "Listen, I'm sorry," he said, leaning forward. "We should talk about —"
"The case. Let's talk about the case."
He settled back in his chair.
"Obviously, we're dealing with someone organized. He knows exactly who he wants to kill and exactly how."
"Beyond organized," Clevenger said. "Obsessive. Maybe, literally, OCD." He was getting lost in McCormick's deep brown eyes. "This is hard," he said.
"You can handle it." She waited a few seconds. "OCD ..."
He forced himself to focus. "I don't know about you, but my cadaver in med school didn't look like any of the photos I just saw. I was always in a rush to get where the dissection guide said to go. Things got messy. Not with this guy. He takes his sweet time. He's a perfectionist."
"Which goes with the way he disposes of the bodies — shallow graves, arms folded over their chests, wrapped in plastic sheets."
"Mummies. Clean, protected from the elements," Clevenger said. "He's not angry at these people. No overkill here. He puts them to sleep with chloroform first. He wants them dead, but he doesn't want them to suffer."
"How kind," McCormick said, smiling for the first time since she'd walked in the room. "And he only dissects one area of the body. Nice and neat."
"He loves human anatomy the way some people love fine wine. Savors every drop. He doesn't let himself get drunk on it."
"A connoisseur." She tilted her head, squinted at him.
"You haven't been drinking, have you?"
"Not lately," he said.
She kept looking at him, diagnosing.
"If you want to play doctor, I'll get undressed for you."
"'Not lately,' as in hours, or years?"
"I thought we were gonna stick to the case."
She stared at him.
He looked away, then back at her. "I miss you."
Her eyes went ice-cold. "Let me tell you something: If you're drinking and saying I'm to blame, you can get out right now. We could really use the help, but —"
"Don't flatter yourself," he shot back. "Two years sober. I don't miss you enough to blow that."
She didn't look convinced. "This isn't any easier for me than it is for you. But this time I'm sticking with what I said: I need things you can't give me. If you love me, you'll respect that."
"I do," Clevenger said. He paused, took a breath. "And I will."
"Thank you." She paused. "What do you need to get started?"
"Everything. All crime scene evidence back to 2003 — every fiber and drop of fluid, every photo. All police reports and agent field reports, including internal memos. Direct access to the bodies, if they haven't been buried. Maybe even if they have."
"No problem. For starters, you can go through the file before you leave. Order copies of whatever you want."
"And North Anderson comes aboard."
North Anderson, a former Baltimore cop and the first black chief of police on Nantucket, was Clevenger's partner in Boston Forensics — and one of his few friends.
"That's fine," McCormick said. She looked like she had something else to say.
"This can't leave the room. Two people at the agency know: me, and the director."
"I don't keep secrets from North."
"We're trying to keep this —"
"Ever," Clevenger said. "You know that."
She hesitated. "North, no one else," she said, finally. "Your word."
A few seconds passed in silence.
"He sent the president a note," she said.
"The president?" He leaned forward again. "Of the United States?"
"It was opened by a staffer at the White House five days after the first body."
"How do they know it was from him?" Clevenger asked.
"The victim's driver's license was enclosed."
Not subtle. "What did it say?"
"I guess the president has his support." She unlocked a drawer at the side of her desk and took out a sheet of paper. She handed it to Clevenger.
It was a photocopy of the card, words typed in the center, a simple cross drawn over them:
Keep faith. One country at a time or one family at a time, Our work serves one God.CHAPTER 3
West Crosse rang the bell at 11204 Beach Drive in Miami, then turned to the horizon, shielding his eyes from the sun, peering at the thick blue line of the Atlantic Ocean, broken only by crests of foam over distant sand bars. A wave of disgust washed over him. Everything was wrong, and he felt it at the core of his being. The roof over the doorway was a slab of white cantilevered concrete, too short to block the glare, yet weighty enough to fill him with the vague anxiety that he might be crushed to death. The marble under his feet was too white and too highly polished, suggesting that his very presence, the fact that he had lived life, that his shoes were used, their leather soles worn, would stain the premises. The walkway that stretched thirty yards to the street was straight and narrow, bordered on either side by a low-cut, square hedge that warned against strolling or gazing or chatting or thinking. Come and go, if you must. Do not linger.
"May I help you?" a woman with a Hispanic accent asked through the intercom.
He turned around, faced a set of nine-foot glass doors, tall enough for a knight on horseback, too tall to welcome anyone else. "West Crosse to see Mr. and Mrs. Rawlings." He held up a rolled sheet of architectural paper.
Half a minute later the door opened, and a woman about twenty-two, with long, platinum-blond hair, wearing a short white skirt and ribbed, white T-shirt smiled at him. "They're in the library."
"The library," Crosse said. That sounded hopeful. Maybe a touch of walnut or pine to feed his soul.
"I'm Maritza, Mr. Rawlings's assistant." She extended her hand.
Crosse took it, noting her long pink nails, her diamond tennis bracelet, a pavé diamond peace sign dangling from it. He looked into her eyes, much less sparkly. Then he looked down and watched her neck start to flush.
He knew women were moved by him. He was thirty-eight, six feet tall, with a sturdy frame, olive skin, jet black hair, gray-blue eyes, full lips. His features would have been, in fact, too perfect — making him unapproachable — were it not for a jagged scar that began over his left cheekbone and ran halfway to the corner of his lip. The effect was an irresistible combination of refinement and recklessness, strength and fragility. Women wanted to take care of him and be taken by him at the very same time.
He was no less moved by them, and he had designed his scar specifically with them in mind. At twenty, standing in front of a gilded, full-length mirror in his bedroom, realizing that God had given him too much of a good thing, he had cut himself with a straight razor, turning his head quickly to create the jagged line of the wound.
So intense was his determination to re-create himself, so certain his vision of what he had to do, that he had felt no pain.
"I'd be happy to show you in," Maritza said, sounding taken aback by what she was feeling. She slowly let go of his hand.
"After you, then," Crosse said.
He followed her into a low-ceilinged foyer dominated by a wall of glass, then down a long, cramped white corridor that dumped them into a sun-drenched, nondescript concrete box of a room. He glanced up at three massive, cylindrical skylights jutting six feet into the air like smokestacks.
"Mr. Crosse for you," Maritza announced. She turned and headed back toward the foyer.
Ken Rawlings and his wife, Heather, late forties, in designer jeans and matching, white Prada nylon jerseys, stood up from their seats at a glass conference table in the center of the room. He was about five-foot-eight, powerfully built, with silver hair and a deep tan. She was a full-figured, bleached blonde, an inch or so taller than he.
The money was hers, from Abicus, a diamond mining company she had inherited from her father. Ken Rawlings was an investment banker on the Morgan Stanley team that had taken it public. They had just purchased five thousand acres in Montana and were interviewing architects to design a main house and three guest houses, a total of more than twenty thousand square feet. Design fees alone would run close to a million dollars.
"Please, join us," Ken Rawlings said.
Crosse looked around the room. No walnut. No pine. A few thousand books, all of them nearly the same height, all of their bindings flush to one another, filled recessed shelves lined with varnished plywood. In front of them were eight pavillion chairs of black leather and tubular steel, designed by legendary architect Mies van der Rohe.
Ten, fifteen seconds passed.
"Mr. Crosse?" Ken Rawlings said.
Another few seconds. "I'm sorry," Crosse said, trying to focus on him. "I was taking in the space."
"We'd love your thoughts," Heather Rawlings said.
He looked at her. "I can be honest to a fault."
"So we've heard," Ken Rawlings said. "Fire away."
"Fair enough," Crosse told him. "It's dead space. Every inch of it."
Heather Rawlings's face went blank.
Ken Rawlings worked to keep his irritation from showing. "It's a particular thing, of course," he said. "But I guess you could say that about the whole international style. Our architect studied with Gropius himself. He stayed true to form."
Crosse smirked. He considered "international style" an oxymoron. German and French architects including Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier had spearheaded the movement during the first half of the twentieth century, proclaiming "less is more" and "form follows function." Fueled by a socialistic, antibourgeois vision of the world, they saw no reason for creature comforts, no place for indulgences like vaulted roofs, crown moldings, columns, cornices, bay windows, casings, plants, or draperies. No need even for color. As Le Corbusier put it, "The house is a machine for living in."
"You find something funny," Ken Rawlings said coldly.
Excerpted from The Architect by Keith Ablow. Copyright © 2005 Keith Ablow. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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