The Budapest Connectionby Henry C. Lee, Jerry Labriola
On a dank fall night at the Brooklyn Marine Terminal in New York City, police uncover a grisly scene: the naked corpses of three murdered young women lying on the pier. Weirdly, their bodies are neatly arranged to form a perfect triangle, each face up with one eye glued open and the other shut. A gunshot wound to the side of each woman’s head confirms the
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On a dank fall night at the Brooklyn Marine Terminal in New York City, police uncover a grisly scene: the naked corpses of three murdered young women lying on the pier. Weirdly, their bodies are neatly arranged to form a perfect triangle, each face up with one eye glued open and the other shut. A gunshot wound to the side of each woman’s head confirms the initial impression that this was an execution-style killing.
Dr. Henry Liu—a brilliant forensic scientist—calls together the Global Interactive Forensics Team (GIFT) to investigate these brutal murders. Composed of the very best in the profession, this eclectic group of four men and one woman works together as a forensics SWAT team to solve bizarre and insidious crimes around the globe. So begins the intricate, suspense-filled plot of this exciting murder mystery, written by world-renowned forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee and critically acclaimed mystery writer Jerry Labriola, M.D.
Dr. Liu and his group boldly pursue leads that are fraught with danger and bloodshed. They encounter an assortment of strange and suspicious characters—including a descendent of the real life Dracula (who proudly displays his chain collection). Despite receiving a barrage of threats—as well as overtures from the frankly seductive Dr. Gail Merriday, a detective in his own group—Dr. Liu remains focused on the aim of his quest: to discover the identity of Mr. or Ms. Big—a top international criminal.
Fans of mystery novels, true crime, and forensic dramas like CSI, will not be able to put down this entertaining and suspenseful page-turner.
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THE BUDAPEST CONNECTIONa novel
By HENRY C. LEE JERRY LABRIOLA
Prometheus BooksCopyright © 2006 Dr. Henry C. Lee and Jerry Labriola, MD.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16 8 PM
Dr. Henry Liu had never seen anything like it. Three nude dead bodies arranged into the shape of a perfect triangle. All white female. All young. All in their late teens. They lay face-up, each with one eye open, one closed. He spotted a single gunshot wound at each girl's left temple.
Dr. George Silvain, a noted forensic pathologist from New York City's east side, had been summoned to the crime scene at the edge of the Brooklyn Marine Terminal, a complex running two miles along the waterfront. Surveying the bodies, he in turn requested the assistance of the other four members of GIFT, the Global Interactive Forensics Team. They had been winding down their regular monthly meeting at Baderro's, a four-star restaurant in midtown Manhattan.
"They're like winks," George said. "The killer's scoffing, don't you think?"
"No, they have more meaning than that," Henry replied, peering down at the women. "Even the triangle does." He walked carefully around the bodies, his hands clasped behind his back, conscious of the "give" in the wooden dock. "How about it, Ed? Rings a bell?"
Ed Blegan, a state police sergeant, had driven him to the scene. Ed looked at the bodies. "Don't tell me the Triads?" he whispered. "We were just talking about them last week."
"Uh-huh," Henry said, his attention divided. He glanced back at their car, then to the right toward a short wooden jetty. There, he couldn't account for twin shadows that swept over the open water and dissolved into the blackness beyond. Or, in a fleeting moment, another shadow he caught in the corner of his eye; it disappeared behind the nearest harbor building.
"The handiwork of the Chinese Mafia?" Silvain finally interjected.
"Maybe I'll explain later," Henry replied. "Ed, do me a favor. Get the camera. Take a distant shot of the full bodies from right here. Then a closer shot of each one and a close-up of their faces."
The sergeant left for the parking lot. Henry shouted, "And bring some gloves."
Since the inception of GIFT, Ed was a bodyguard to the group when assembled and to Henry in particular. He became Henry's sidekick, confidant, and most reliable sounding board. Barely forty-at six foot four and 250 pounds with probing eyes and hollow cheeks-he was a remarkable Clint Eastwood look-alike, except a bit heavier. And Henry reminded him of it regularly.
"Does that make your day?" Ed would ask and he'd laugh at his own comment as if he never made it before.
"But wouldn't it really make your day if you could squeeze into your uniform?" Henry once teased.
"Why should I?"
"Why shouldn't you?"
"Because Eastwood never shows his muscles."
The sky was overcast, the moon pale. To the far left, the sign for Pier 6 could be made out on a stanchion. Its light cut through wisps of vapor usually seen at daybreak. Several cargo ships lay moored nearby, dockside cranes with dangling nets silhouetted above their poles. The combined sounds of a distant foghorn and barking dog seemed rehearsed. There was no fishy smell, which Henry would have expected on such an unseasonably warm night, and no stevedores around, which he wouldn't have. Back in the adjacent lot, six blue and white police cruisers were angled haphazardly, their strobe lights still flashing, doors open, radio transmissions spewing police-code jargon. Several nondescript cars were grouped alongside. Thirty feet from the bodies, a mobile unit of lights flooded the area like a highway construction site at midnight. Half a dozen uniformed police officers stood at attention along a strip of yellow tape that formed a wide cordon at the periphery, while a handful of plainclothes detectives quietly milled about its center, not far from Henry. Twice as many news reporters craned over the tape.
"No picture taking, folks," a police lieutenant exclaimed, "or we confiscate your cameras."
A short, bald detective, Harold Latimore, eased up to Henry. They had worked together before. "What do you think, doc? Any ideas?"
"Hal, you know my stock answer at this stage of the game.... So, who found the bodies?"
"Two of our men were cruising the area and they saw a car speeding away. It shot right out of the rear driveway of the parking lot. Out of sight like that," he said, snapping his fingers. "They thought they'd better investigate rather than chase after the car."
Henry looked back. "One driveway," he said. "Two parking lots. The one we all parked in, and over the scrub brush to the right of that, probably one for overflow. Did the officers say they saw the car leave from one of the lots or just from the driveway?"
"From the lot, as a matter of fact."
"I see," Henry said, running a finger over his lower lip. "Could they identify the make of the car?"
"No, too far away, but they said it was a sedan. Dark color."
"So they searched the area, saw the bodies, and radioed in?"
"Correct. Then we dispatched our uniform and detective divisions. I.D. should be here any minute."
Henry nodded politely. He signaled George over and said, "The police called you directly?"
"Yeah, I was halfway to the meeting-got a late start. Figured I'd hightail it here, then call you guys."
A tall, paunchy sixty-year-old, George's hair was bushy at the sides, as if to compensate for the bald spot on top. Even his clothes appeared bushy, or at least baggy. His serious demeanor and rationed smile were at odds with his inclination to hug anyone he knew more than casually, whether female or male.
"Where are the others?" he asked.
"Karl, Gail, Jay. Didn't they come with you?"
Henry stared at his colleague. "C'mon, George, when was the last time you saw us hang together once we got to a scene?" He looked around. "There's Jay-with Gail, of course. I guess that's a detective they're talking to. And Karl with his goddamn camera over there-like always, drawn first to peripheral things. What the hell he's doing taking a picture of a cargo net, I haven't a clue."
Ed returned with a pair of latex gloves and moved to take photos of the three women. Henry snapped on the gloves, waited for Ed to complete his work, and leaned his six-foot-one frame over each body, concentrating on each victim's head.
He was proud of his build-far taller than his parents. He theorized that it must be a genetic mutation. He had their black hair and brown eyes, but, in contrast to other family members, he was the only male who appeared top-heavy, with the upper-body contour of a less towering man, perhaps a boxer. Under different circumstances, his smile was rich and beguiling and would pleat the skin around his eyes.
After a cursory inspection, he looked up at Ed and said, "Amazing. Such similarity: young, blonde, pretty, nude, heavy lipstick, polished nails, no jewelry, no distinguishing marks, the eyelid thing. Even the cause of death."
"Left temple on all."
Henry studied one victim's wound with the larger of the two magnifying glasses he always carried in the right inside pocket of his blue blazer. He once joked that they provided balance, since on his left side was a Smith and Wesson snubby in a shoulder rig. Henry was partial to blazers and had a half dozen or so in his closet-brown, green, blue, off-brown, off-green, off-blue. He maintained it was buttons that made a jacket, and all of his were gold. And there was always a supply of wrapped hard candies in one of the side pockets.
He was particular about shoes, too; his best were loafer-types, easy to slip off wherever and whenever: under a desk, on a plane, at the theater.
Henry put his hand to the side of the victim's jaw and neck; it was cool to touch. The muscles there felt stiff as compared to those below. A slender ribbon of dark crimson lay caked along her left shoulder and upper arm. Midway between the corresponding eye and ear, at a point an inch above a line drawn between their upper margins, was a bullet entrance wound. It was round with blackened and seared margins. There was no exit wound and no spent shell casings around. "Professional job," he muttered.
He straightened and, while still staring at the body, ran through several mental sequences:
Body cool to touch.
Early rigor mortis in small muscles of jaw and neck.
Early fixed lividity with no blanching.
Dead at least four to six hours.
Edges of wound black and seared.
No soot smudge or powder tattooing.
Hard contact by gun muzzle against temple.
Round, rather than stellate, entrance wound.
No exit wound.
Most likely a .22-caliber handgun.
Henry deduced that since there was no exit wound, the bullet lacked the velocity to penetrate bone a second time, instead ricocheting around within the skull cavity, inflicting fatal damage. He knew that a .22 was a good bet, no doubt a revolver, not a semiautomatic weapon. And, from the way the bodies had been neatly positioned-characteristic of an organized, staged, secondary crime scene-he believed that the women had been murdered elsewhere and transported to the dock. One step remained for confirmation.
"Let's check the overflow lot," he said.
On the way over, Henry was reasonably certain the "hits" were the work of the American Mafia. Their modus operandi seemed clear. But that didn't square with the triangle, for he was just as certain it pointed to the Chinese Triads. He remembered dealing with them when he was a police captain in Taiwan in the early 1960s. They often used a finger or a stick to fashion a triangle from their victim's blood, next to the body.
Was one criminal element trying to implicate the other? Or were they working together? An unlikely scenario.
They walked the length of the paved main lot-stopping to grab a searchlight from Henry's Chrysler 300M-and crossed through a path in the scrub brush. The smaller lot received scant illumination from a single lamppost near the jetty. Ed handled the searchlight like a watering hose as he preceded Henry among empty bottles, newspaper scraps, and tall weeds scattered in the soft dirt.
"Not used much," Henry said. "But there are the tire marks."
They followed the marks forward to the front edge of the lot. Edging closer to Ed and the searchlight, Henry said, "Here's where the car was parked and here's where we see some shoe prints. Looks like a single set on each side of the tracks. Both sets lead to the backseat. What else, Ed?"
"About these sets?"
"No scuff marks. Both sets leading straight to the car. None to the rear. None circling around."
"Therefore, if these two people brought the bodies to the dock, they didn't carry them from here."
"But you see something else, correct?"
"And that is?"
"A third set opposite the driver's door-but leading nowhere-like someone just stood there. Not very deep. Looks like the dirt is more compact there."
"Excellent. I agree with you. If I had any of my little gold deputy badges with me, I'd give you one."
Ed laughed and said, "If I had a badge for every time you've said that to me, I could make a living selling them."
Henry pretended not to hear. "So if not from this side, maybe from the other," he said.
They climbed three rotting wooden steps up to the dock and walked toward the water. Tied to the jetty-much like one behind a lakeside cottage-was a flat-bottom racing boat with an outboard engine.
"I'll be ..." Ed said, his voice lowered.
"Figured," Henry said. "It's a runabout. I'd guess fifteen feet."
"You mean you knew a motor boat would be here? How?"
"Two questions. Answer number one is that I didn't know for sure but, because of answer number two, it was a good bet. If we had a choice of hauling three bodies by either land or sea around here, I'd take sea. It's safer. No traffic jams, for example."
"But why escape in a car and not the boat?"
"Less vulnerable in a car if the bodies are found quickly. Plus, it could have been a matter of fuel. They knew they'd be stealing the boat-from somewhere-and if the only boat they could find had a fuel gauge that registered low, they might not be able to make it back to shore. So someone else was waiting in the car for them. Very care- fully planned."
"Why not see if the key is still there and read the gauge?" Ed asked. He hunched over as if to drop into the boat.
"Wait," Henry said, grasping his arm. "Crime scene, remember? Let's let the crime scene people do their job."
Ed stopped short, his grin sheepish.
"But," Henry added, "I'll wager you my whole supply of gold badges that they find some blonde hair in the boat." He motioned with his head that they should return to the others.
On the way, Ed stopped to ask, "Where do you think they came from?"
"Staten Island. Manhattan. Who knows?"
Back near the bodies, the other four GIFT members were talking among themselves and, as Henry approached, Gail broke away from the group, past earshot.
"We've just taken a vote," she said, in her upper-crust British accent, holding out her hand. "Congratulations. You're of course the lead on this case."
"Thanks a lot," Henry said, taking hold of her hand and kissing it. "What if I refuse?"
"You can't. You know more about the Triads than any of us, so it's a no-brainer."
He smacked his lips. "You perfume your hands with Shalamar?"
Ed wandered off.
Gail Merriday was the newest team member and, at forty-two, the youngest. Unmarried, she seemed incongruous in her role as an inspector from Scotland Yard. Too pretty, for one thing. Disposed to wearing tight skirts for another-sometimes the mini variety. Or slacks that were form fitting. She was tall and leggy with short auburn hair, lavender eyes, and high cheekbones. To Henry's eye, she wore little or no makeup; she didn't need any. Known as a swinger in college, she had become a full-blown Romantic, often quoting the English poet William Blake, and his "see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wildflower," or flouting social conventions, or speaking against unjust political rule, or in support of Rousseau's "noble savage." A Romantic law enforcer! And she had the uncanny knack of keeping such professional and personal sides of her life insulated, one from the other. When questioned, she likened her love of Romanticism, whether in literature or painting or music, to an appreciation of artists plumbing the depths of human emotions and then evoking them, recreating them, stirring them in the listener. Not everyone understood and she would declare, "But you asked, didn't you?"
There was a small mole near the angle of her lips that Henry fixated on, as he frequently did. This time, Gail noticed.
"I have another mole," she said.
"I wouldn't dare touch that one," he countered.
She turned an ear toward him. "Did you say you wouldn't touch or you'd like to touch ...?"
"Wait a minute! I didn't mean it that way. I meant I wouldn't touch the subject matter, not the other mole."
"But the mole is the subject matter," she said playfully, "isn't it?"
"No, it's not. Touching it is." Henry felt hemmed in. "What are we talking about, anyway? This is a crime scene, a very unusual crime scene, and we're talking about moles and other subjects and ..."
"What subjects?" George said, walking over. Karl and Jay followed close behind. "And what about the Triads? You said you'd explain why you think they're involved."
"You're right, I did."
"Henry, my friend," Karl said, with only the hint of a German accent, "we believe you should assume most of the responsibility for this case."
"And, based on that assumption, what have you deduced thus far?"
Henry resisted the urge to mimic Karl Moser, a longtime colleague. He was the second forensic pathologist in the group and one Henry believed to be as disciplined as George Silvain was uninhibited. More than once Henry thought it revealing that George referred to GIFT as a "gang" while Karl called it a "unit." Henry preferred to stick with the term in the acronym itself: "team."
Jay Palmer, divorced after a brief teenage marriage, sidestepped his way to Gail. The dashing Canadian had never attempted to hide his attraction for her. He was the tallest of the five members of GIFT, having come to them from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Excerpted from THE BUDAPEST CONNECTION by HENRY C. LEE JERRY LABRIOLA Copyright © 2006 by Dr. Henry C. Lee and Jerry Labriola, MD.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Director, National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law, Professor of Law, Stetson University College of Law
Authors of "Remains Silent"
Host of TV series, "The Book Authority," and author
Meet the Author
Dr. Henry C. Lee (Branford, CT), professor of forensic science at the University of New Haven and chief emeritus in the Department of Public Safety in Meriden, CT, is a distinguished fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He is the author (with Jerry Labriola, M.D.) of Dr. Henry Lee’s Forensic Files and (with Thomas W. O’Neil) Cracking Cases and Cracking More Cases, among other works. Dr. Lee can be seen on Court TV’s Trace Evidence. He has also been a special news analyst on Court TV and a frequent guest on Larry King Live and many other national television programs.
Jerry Labriola, M.D. (Naugatuck, CT), is the coauthor with Dr. Lee of Dr. Henry Lee’s Forensic Files and Famous Crimes Revisited. He is the author of five mystery novels, including the recently released The Maltese Murders and the critically acclaimed Murders at Hollings General.
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In spite of too many gruesome crime scenes, criminologist Dr. Henry Liu and the four other members of the Global Interactive Forensics Team (GIFT) are stunned by what they see winking back at them lying at the Brooklyn Marine Terminal. Three naked late teen female corpses each having one eye opened and one shut arranged to form an equilateral triangle. The women were executed by a shot to their heads.------------------- GIFT begins its investigation informing NYPD that it is too soon to jump to conclusions. However as they start to follow the clues Dr. Liu and his three males and one female teammate run into a dangerous adversary who want Gift eliminated before they uncover the head of an international gang into all sorts of insidious activity including a white slave sex ring that leads them to Budapest.---------------------- The forensic science is terrific as the renowned Dr. Henry C. Lee and Dr. Jerry Labriola collaborate on an exciting global thriller. However, having the GIFT players also act as warriors seem over the top though it is fun to root for them as they kick butt. Still Dr. Liu and his squad provide readers with an interesting forensics investigation that takes the audience on a wonderful magical mystery tour from New York to THE BUDAPEST CONNECTION.----------------- Harriet Klausner