The bestselling author of The Surgeon returns—and so does that chilling novel’s diabolical villain. Though held behind bars, Warren Hoyt still haunts a helpless city, seeming to bequeath his evil legacy to a student all-too-diligent . . . and all-too-deadly.
It is a boiling hot Boston summer. Adding to the city’s woes is a series of shocking crimes, in which wealthy men are made to watch while their wives are brutalized. A sadistic demand that ends in abduction and death.
The pattern suggests one man: serial killer Warren Hoyt, recently removed from the city’s streets. Police can only assume an acolyte is at large, a maniac basing his attacks on the twisted medical techniques of the madman he so admires. At least that’s what Detective Jane Rizzoli thinks. Forced again to confront the killer who scarred her—literally and figuratively—she is determined to finally end Hoyt’s awful influence . . . even if it means receiving more resistance from her all-male homicide squad.
But Rizzoli isn’t counting on the U.S. government’s sudden interest. Or on meeting Special Agent Gabriel Dean, who knows more than he will tell. Most of all, she isn’t counting on becoming a target herself, once Hoyt is suddenly free, joining his mysterious blood brother in a vicious vendetta. . . .
Filled with superbly created characters—and the medical and police procedural details that are her trademark—The Apprentice is Tess Gerritsen at her brilliant best. Set in a stunning world where evil is easy to learn and hard to end, this is a thriller by a master who could teach other authors a thing or two.
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Already the flies were swarming. Four hours on the hot pavement of South Boston had baked the pulverized flesh, releasing the chemical equivalent of a dinner bell, and the air was alive with buzzing flies. Though what remained of the torso was now covered with a sheet, there was still much exposed tissue for scavengers to feast on. Bits of gray matter and other unidentifiable parts were dispersed in a radius of thirty feet along the street. A skull fragment had landed in a second-story flower box, and clumps of tissue adhered to parked cars.
Detective Jane Rizzoli had always possessed a strong stomach,but even she had to pause, eyes closed, fists clenched, angry at herself for this moment of weakness. Don't lose it. Don't lose it. She was the only female detective in the Boston P.D. homicide unit, and she knew that the pitiless spotlight was always trained on her. Every mistake, every triumph, would be noted by all. Her partner, Barry Frost, had already tossed up his breakfast in humiliatingly public view, and he was now sitting with his head on his knees in their air-conditioned vehicle, waiting for his stomach to settle. She could not afford to fall victim to nausea. She was the most visible law enforcement officer on the scene, and from the other side of the police tape the public stood watching, registering every move she made, every detail of her appearance. She knew she looked younger than her age of thirty-four, and she was self-conscious about maintaining an air of authority. What she lacked in height she compensated for with her direct gaze, her squared shoulders. She had learned the art of dominating a scene, if only through sheer intensity.
But this heat was sapping her resolve. She had started off dressed in her usual blazer and slacks and with her hair neatly combed. Now the blazer was off, her blouse was wrinkled, and the humidity had frizzed her dark hair into unruly coils. She felt assaulted on all fronts by the smells, the flies, and the piercing sunlight. There was too much to focus on all at once. And all those eyes were watching her.
Loud voices drew her attention. A man in a dress shirt and tie was trying to argue his way past a patrolman.
"Look, I gotta get to a sales conference, okay? I'm an hour late as it is. But you've got your goddamn police tape wrapped around my car, and now you're saying I can't drive it? It's my own friggin' car!"
"It's a crime scene, sir."
"It's an accident!"
"We haven't determined that yet."
"Does it take you guys all day to figure it out? Why don't you listen to us? The whole neighborhood heard it happen!"
Rizzoli approached the man, whose face was glazed with sweat. It was eleven-thirty and the sun, near its zenith, shone down like a glaring eye.
"What, exactly, did you hear, sir?" she asked.
He snorted. "Same thing everyone else did."
"A loud bang."
"Yeah. Around seven-thirty. I was just getting outta the shower. Looked out my window, and there he was, lying on the sidewalk. You can see it's a bad corner. Asshole drivers come flying around it like bats outta hell. Must've been a truck hit him."
"Did you see a truck?"
"Hear a truck?"
"And you didn't see a car, either?"
"Car, truck." He shrugged. "It's still a hit-and-run."
It was the same story, repeated half a dozen times by the man's neighbors. Sometime between seven-fifteen and seven-thirty A.M., there'd been a loud bang in the street. No one actually saw the event. They had simply heard the noise and found the man's body. Rizzoli had already considered, and rejected, the possibility that he was a jumper. This was a neighborhood of two-story buildings, nothing tall enough to explain such catastrophic damage to a jumper's body. Nor did she see any evidence of an explosion as the cause of this much anatomical disintegration.
"Hey, can I get my car out now?" the man said. "It's that green Ford."
"That one with the brains splattered on the trunk?"
"What do you think?" she snapped, and walked away to join the medical examiner, who was crouched in the middle of the road, studying the asphalt. "People on this street are jerks," said Rizzoli. "No one gives a damn about the victim. No one knows who he is, either."
Dr. Ashford Tierney didn't look up at her but just kept staring at the road. Beneath sparse strands of silver hair, his scalp glistened with sweat. Dr. Tierney seemed older and more weary than she had ever seen him. Now, as he tried to rise, he reached out in a silent request for assistance. She took his hand and she could feel, transmitted through that hand, the creak of tired bones and arthritic joints. He was an old southern gentleman, a native of Georgia, and he'd never warmed to Rizzoli's Boston bluntness, just as she had never warmed to his formality. The only thing they had in common was the human remains that passed across Dr. Tierney's autopsy table. But as she helped him to his feet, she was saddened by his frailty and reminded of her own grandfather, whose favorite grandchild she had been, perhaps because he'd recognized himself in her pride, her tenaciousness. She remembered helping him out of his easy chair, how his stroke-numbed hand had rested like a claw on her arm. Even men as fierce as Aldo Rizzoli are ground down by time to brittle bones and joints. She could see its effect in Dr. Tierney, who wobbled in the heat as he took out his handkerchief and dabbed the sweat from his forehead.
"This is one doozy of a case to close out my career," he said. "So tell me, are you coming to my retirement party, Detective?"
"Uh . . . what party?" said Rizzoli.
"The one you all are planning to surprise me with."
She sighed. Admitted, "Yeah, I'm coming."
"Ha. I always could get a straight answer from you. Is it next week?"
"Two weeks. And I didn't tell you, okay?"
"I'm glad you did." He looked down at the asphalt. "I don't much like surprises."
"So what do we have here, Doc? Hit-and-run?"
"This seems to be the point of impact."
Rizzoli looked down at the large splash of blood. Then she looked at the sheet-draped corpse, which was lying a good twelve feet away, on the sidewalk.
"You're saying he first hit the ground here, and then bounced way over there?" said Rizzoli.
"It would appear so."
"That's got to be a pretty big truck to cause this much splatter."
"Not a truck," was Tierney's enigmatic answer. He started walking along the road, eyes focused downward.
Rizzoli followed him, batting at swarms of flies. Tierney came to a stop about thirty feet away and pointed to a grayish clump on the curb.
"More brain matter," he noted.
"A truck didn't do this?" said Rizzoli.
"No. Or a car, either."
"What about the tire marks on the vic's shirt?"
Tierney straightened, his eyes scanning the street, the sidewalks, the buildings. "Do you notice something quite interesting about this scene, Detective?"
"Apart from the fact there's a dead guy over there who's missing his brain?"
"Look at the point of impact." Tierney gestured toward the spot in the road where he'd been crouching earlier. "See the dispersal pattern of body parts?"
"Yeah. He splattered in all directions. Point of impact is at the center."
"It's a busy street," said Rizzoli. "Vehicles do come around that corner too fast. Plus, the vic has tire marks on his shirt."
"Let's go look at those marks again."
As they walked back to the corpse, they were joined by Barry Frost, who had finally emerged from the car, looking wan and a little embarrassed.
"Man, oh man," he groaned.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"You think maybe I picked up the stomach flu or something?"
"Or something." She'd always liked Frost, had always appreciated his sunny and uncomplaining nature, and she hated to see his pride laid so low. She gave him a pat on the shoulder, a motherly smile. Frost seemed to invite mothering, even from the decidedly unmaternal Rizzoli. "I'll just pack you a barf bag next time," she offered.
"You know," he said, trailing after her, "I really do think it's just the flu. . . ."
They reached the torso. Tierney grunted as he squatted down, his joints protesting the latest insult, and lifted the disposable sheet. Frost blanched and retreated a step. Rizzoli fought the impulse to do the same.
The torso had broken into two parts, separated at the level of the umbilicus. The top half, wearing a beige cotton shirt, stretched east to west. The bottom half, wearing blue jeans, lay north to south. The halves were connected by only a few strands of skin and muscle. The internal organs had spilled out and lay in a pulpified mass. The back half of the skull had shattered open, and the brain had been ejected.