The Grief Shopby Vicki Stiefel
Tally Whyte has seen a lot of dead bodies in her years with the Massachusetts Grief Assistance Program, but this is the first time a murder victim has been brought there by the murderer himself. During the night, someone broke into the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, aka the Grief Shop, and left behind a tragic calling card - the body of a young girl, bearing
Tally Whyte has seen a lot of dead bodies in her years with the Massachusetts Grief Assistance Program, but this is the first time a murder victim has been brought there by the murderer himself. During the night, someone broke into the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, aka the Grief Shop, and left behind a tragic calling card - the body of a young girl, bearing a message that reads: Sins of the Fathers.
The girl�s playmate is also missing. Could she be another victim? Or can Tally still save her before the killer strikes again? As the mysteries multiply and Tally�s life is threatened, she scrambles to prevent yet another child from falling prey to a madman�s warped sense of justice.
- Leisure Books
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- 4.20(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.20(d)
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The Grief Shop
By Vicki Stiefel
Copyright © 2006
All right reserved.
My phone chimed and the screen read the Office of the Chief
Medical Examiner. The Grief Shop's call wasn't unexpected. The
extension read the Massachusetts Grief Assistance Program, my
I'm MGAP's director, with a staff that's second to none.
Although we rent space at OCME, we are a private, non-profit
organization. Our job is to aid the bereaved when their loved
one is the victim of a homicide. We walk with them during the
aftermath of their devastating loss, we counsel them-often for
many, many years-and we also help them deal with more
practical stuff, such as legal matters, the courts, the press
and the cops.
Fewer than sixty professional homicide counselors exist in the
United States. I'm proud to be one of them
The phone chimed again. Gert, my assistant director, could
handle it. So could Donna or any other staff member. I looked
up and caught the receptionist staring. She knew what I did
for a living, and her expression said she wondered if the call
was another corpse.
Pretty much everyone found my career choice weird.
Another chime. Damn, the office again. I flipped open the
phone. "Tally Whyte here."
"S'me," Gert said.
"Wazzup? I'm with Penny at the vet's and -"
"Ya gotta come back. Now."
"You can handle it, Gertie. You can handleanything that I
"What's wrong with Penny?" she said, her voice an octave
"Nothing. Not really. Just ... procedure."
"You're lyin'," she said, her Brooklynese thickening. "You
still gotta get your butt over here. We got a real problem."
"Believe me, Gert, you're up to any challenge."
"Mostly, I guess. But it's not MGAP. Something Twilight Zone's
going on with OCME."
I started pacing. "I don't get it. What do you mean, Gert?"
"I dunno what I mean," she said. "We're in lockdown, like some
prison. Nobody'll talk ta me. We got crime scene tape over the
doors. Nobody's allowed to come in or leave. And the lobby's
fillin' up like a cop convention."
"I dunno. Dr. Barrow isn't here. Nobody'll say squat. It's
creepy. And we got some poor couple whose kid got knifed
trapped here like sardines."
I looked at the receptionist, who held my eyes. "I will call
you," she said. "The minute Penny is out of X-ray."
"Okay, Gert, I'm on my way."
* * *
The Grief Shop houses the administrative offices and
operations for Massachusetts medical examiner system.
We're on Albany Street in a bland, three-story brick building
dwarfed by the campuses of Boston City Hospital, Boston
University Medical Center, and Boston University Schools of
Medicine, Dentistry, and Public Health. We're also smack at
the crossroads of Boston's South End and Roxbury
Medical pathologists, a forensic anthropologist,
administrative staff, and an elite State Police Crime Scene
Services unit work out of the Grief Shop, as does Chief
Medical Examiner Dr. Veda Barrow, who also happens to be my
The ME's office includes a forensic pathology center, a large
and a small autopsy theater, the large cooler and a small
decomp cooler, a trace evidence room, and MGAP's suite of
rooms for family counseling and identifying human remains.
The Grief Shop sounds scientific and unemotional. That's only
part of the story.
* * *
When I blew through OCME's doors, I met chaos. The lobby's
pervasive calm was percolating with people milling about, some
detectives and a bunch of Crime Scene Services guys. One of
the MEs was racing around, white coat flapping. I didn't see
Veda, who had to be out back where the real action of the ME's
office took place.
In the twelve years I'd worked out of that office, I'd never
seen anything like it.
I made it down to the hall to MGAP's offices, found the
tearful couple with Gert, and offered them my office to make
any calls they wished or arrangements for their deceased son.
I left them in Gert's excellent hands.
I then skirted the lobby crowd and coded my way through the
touch-pad-locked door into the recesses of the building.
The back corridor was bizarrely crowded, too. I spotted a hulk
of a man in a rumpled blue suit- Sergeant Rob Kranak, the CSS
officer in charge at OCME. He waved me over.
"What the hell is going on, Rob?" I said.
"We got a corpse."
"Gee, that's odd for the medical examiner's office."
"Yeah, well it is." He cocked his head, and I followed him to
a bend in the corridor. He turned his back on the chaos and
leaned toward me. "It's bad shit, Tal."
"So where's Veda?" I said. "She'll handle it."
"Who the fuck knows where our esteemed chief medical examiner
is?" Kranak brushed a hand across his flattop. "She isn't
That bothered me. "She's always here. Whatever. What's with
the odd body?"
"Nothing odd about her. She's in the cooler. What's odd is how
she got here. One of the techs discovered her this morning."
He rocked back on his heels. "A-yup. She's an extra. We never
logged her in, never saw her before. No toe tag. No record. No
nothin'. Looks like something bad. From the signs, we're
seeing suffocation, maybe drugs. Too early to tell."
"So you're saying a homicide, one who just appeared in our
He nodded. "That's what I'm saying."
"It gets worse. The corpse is a kid."
* * *
Kranak's words goosebumped my arms. A murdered child was bad
enough, but one who'd materialized at OCME by magic felt
He shoved his hands deep into his pockets. "The damnedest
thing. A little girl ... a kid ... someone just fuckin' noticed
her this morning. I can't tell ya how much this sucks ... I've
been in there for a couple hours, taking snaps and all sorts
of samples, everything and anything. Never thought I'd see the
day when I treated the cooler as a crime scene."
"I'd like to go in and see her," I said.
"Yup. Once Fogarty's outta there."
"What's El Creepo up to?"
Kranak's bloodhound eyes slid to the stainless steel door,
behind which lay a nameless child on a gurney. "We couldn't
reach Veda this morning. Fogarty's second in command, Tal.
I snorted. "Never. Veda may be my foster mother, but I will
never understand what quality she sees in him. How long's he
been in there?"
"Ten minutes maybe." He grinned. "Get this. Fogarty's at some
frou-frou brunch or other. He had a fit when I called. See, I
didn't tell him exactly what was what. So he comes in all
pissed off and the cameras got him with a puss on his face. He
almost crapped his pants."
"Not nice, Rob."
He shrugged. "Yeah, well now he's lovin' it. Big smiles for
the press, then looking all solemn about this little one that
he could give a shit about. Look, soon as he's done, I'm gonna
wrap it up in there. I'll get ya inside then. As soon as I'm
set, they're gonna wheel her into the suite. So lemme tell ya
I rested a hand on his arm. "Don't. You know I'd like to see
her with fresh eyes. That's the best way."
What did she look like? White or black? Brown hair or blonde
or red? Short or tall or in between? Was she a child with a
sense of humor or a serious soul? Did she want to be an
astronaut or an artist? Was she ... God, who would murder a child
and stick her in the morgue? And how did he get her there?
Just then, the cooler door opened and Fogarty stormed out,
pausing to give me a disapproving look. In his wake, another
white-jacketed ME followed. Dr. Judy Ethridge, Fogarty's
sycophant, who banked on his being the next Chief Medical
Examiner for Massachusetts. I hoped not in my lifetime.
Kranak mouthed "come on," and we threaded our way through the
dozen people crowding the door.
Fogarty turned. "Not her. Not now."
I started to spew words, but Kranak touched my shoulder and
said "Yes, her. Tally has different eyes than we do, Fogarty."
And in we went.
Excerpted from The Grief Shop
by Vicki Stiefel
Copyright © 2006 by Vicki Stiefel .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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