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In The Graves, former prosecutor turned television writer Pamela Wechsler delivers a tense and enthralling Boston-set thriller about the intersection of power, privilege, and justice.
Abby Endicott, the chief of the District Attorney’s homicide unit in Boston, returns in the heart-racing follow-up to Mission Hill. Things are looking good for Abby: she’s top pick to be the next District Attorney, and her musician boyfriend Ty has moved in, despite her upper crust family’s objections. But a serial killer is on the loose, and with two college-aged girls dead and another missing, time is running out.
When the sons of a prominent government official are linked to the murders, Abby pushes back, stopping at nothing to find justice for the girls. This time, the killer could be right under her nose, and she may be the next victim.
About the Author
PAMELA WECHSLER grew up in the Boston area and is a graduate of Tufts University and Boston University School of Law. After spending seventeen years as a criminal prosecutor at the local, state and federal levels, she moved to Los Angeles to work as a legal consultant, writer, and producer for network television shows. Her credits include: Law and Order; Law and Order: Criminal Intent; Law and Order: Trial by Jury; Conviction; Canterbury's Law; Doubt; and Bull. She is the author of the Abby Endicott novels, including Mission Hill and The Graves, and a writer and producer on the CBS show Bull.
Read an Excerpt
By Pamela Wechsler
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Pamela Wechsler
All rights reserved.
Ten years in the district attorney's office has taught me to never let down my guard, even here on Beacon Hill. Walking on West Cedar Street, I detect the first signs of danger — footsteps and cigarette smoke. No one from this neighborhood smokes anymore, at least not in public. It could be a stray tourist, checking out the gas lanterns and cobblestone streets, but I reach in my tote and search for my canister of pepper spray — just in case. A gloved hand covers my mouth. I start to pivot around but someone yanks my shoulder and pulls me in.
"Give it up," he says.
I'm relieved. It's just a mugging. The man doesn't even seem to be armed. I palm the pepper spray and surrender my tote, which he passes to a second man, who rifles through it and tosses the contents. The key to my Prius lands under an iron boot scraper. A bottle of Chanel No. 5 shatters and splatters on the brick sidewalk.
The second man opens my wallet and pulls out the bills.
"Twenty-five bucks? You gotta have more than that," he says.
"Take the bag, it's Prada," I say.
"It's probably fake."
"It's real, worth over a thousand dollars. I have a Rolex, too."
The first man takes the bait. As soon as he loosens his grip on my body and twists my wrist to inspect my watch, I aim the pepper spray at his eyes and press down hard on the nozzle. Nothing happens. The can is empty, something neither of us expected.
I run into the street but only make it a few steps before my heel catches on a jagged brick. I fall forward, directly into the path of an oncoming bike messenger, and we both go down hard. The cyclist looks at me and adjusts his helmet. He hesitates, shrugs, and climbs back on his bike. I watch him speed away.
I look up, see my attacker's face for the first time, and he sees mine. I don't know who's more surprised.
I'm furious. "Freddie, what the hell are you doing?"
He's mortified. "Ms. Endicott? Oh, man, it's not what you think."
Although I haven't prosecuted Freddie Craven before, many of my colleagues have. He's a midlevel drug dealer who moonlights as an informant. He was a witness for me last year, in one of my murder cases. Freddie is not the most upstanding citizen, but prosecutors don't get to choose our witnesses. In most cases, we're lucky if we have witnesses at all.
"Freddie, we talked about this," I say.
"I didn't know it was you," he says.
"That's not the point."
He puts his arm under my elbow and helps me to my feet. There are specks of blood on the hemline of my slate-gray skirt, my stockings are shredded, and pieces of gravel are embedded in my knees.
Freddie activates the flashlight on his phone, and we search for my belongings. My prescription for Ativan blew into a planter full of purple pansies. My gold badge landed on a sewer grate.
"You have to stop mugging people," I say, "at least until our case has gone through the appeals process."
"I wasn't. I won't. I swear," he says.
The second man pipes up. "Hey, I know you. You're that lady district attorney."
"You remember my cousin Martin." Freddie introduces us as though we're colleagues at a cocktail party. "You met him that time you came by my mother's house in Dorchester."
"Martin, you're on probation," I say. "You still have two years hanging over your head."
"You gonna lock us up?" Martin says.
"She can't," Freddie says. "She's not Five-O. She's a lawyer."
"I should report you both, but I'm not going to let you screw up my murder case, or my evening."
"Sorry about all this." Freddie takes my tote from Martin and hands it back to me. "It was just like a misunderstanding. You know what I'm saying?"
"Go home," I say. "A detective will be by in an hour to check on you. Be there."
"Sure, it's all good."
Freddie and Martin shuffle toward the Park Street subway station. I brush myself off, apply a fresh coat of lipstick, and continue toward the Liberty Hotel, where my boyfriend, Ty, and a glass of Malbec await.CHAPTER 2
The Liberty Hotel, née the Charles Street Jail, is a massive granite structure, built in 1851. Thousands of pretrial detainees, including Malcolm X and the Boston Strangler, have done time here. Now it's a luxury destination for tourists and business travelers, willing to pay upwards of $400 a night to sleep in refurbished jail cells. Real police mug shots of celebrities hang in the lounges: Clink, Alibi, the Yard. The place makes me feel right at home.
About a hundred well-heeled women and be suited men are lined up outside the hotel. I sneak to the front of the queue, prepared to badge my way inside, until I see Jimmy Vickers, stocky and balding, stationed at the front door. Jimmy and I met a couple of years ago when he was impaneled on one of my grand juries.
"Ms. Endicott, long time no see." He clocks my knees. "You're all cut up."
"It's nothing." I stretch the fabric of my skirt to cover the scrapes. "I'm clumsy."
"Someone came in here a while ago, asked me to keep an eye out for you. A black guy, about six foot two."
"That's my boyfriend, Ty. He's playing a gig."
"He said he'd be upstairs, in the Catwalk."
Jimmy unhitches the red velvet rope from the metal stanchion and steps aside. I go into the hotel; a steep escalator leads to an expansive atrium, underneath a ninety-foot-high rotunda, where a frenetic pickup scene is in progress. A thirtysomething, in a navy-blue blazer and gray flannel slacks, blocks my path.
"Buy you a drink?" he says. "Hey, wait, aren't you that —"
I cut him off before it becomes impossible to deny.
"No, I look like her, but I'm not."
He starts to challenge me, but gets distracted when a willowy brunette, in a slinky silver bridesmaid dress, glides by. I take the opportunity to disappear in the crowd.
Upstairs, Ty is seated at a table, drinking an Anchor Steam. He's wearing a black leather jacket and white button-down shirt. No matter the venue, Ty is always the most handsome man in the room.
He sees me walking toward him and stands.
"Babe, what happened?" he says.
"I fell," I say. "It's nothing."
I don't even try to sell the lie, and, kindly, Ty pretends to buy it. He wraps his arms around me and gives me a kiss. I relax for a moment, feel safe in his embrace.
There's a glass of red wine on the table; I take a sip, then quickly put the glass down.
"We can't afford decent wine anymore?" I say. "This tastes like something I'd pick up at the Clinique counter."
"Sorry, babe," he says. "The reds you like go for over twenty bucks a glass."
"We have twenty dollars."
"Not for a glass of wine."
Cash never used to be a problem. My family has plenty of money, too much money, and they've always been more than generous — until last year, when my life was threatened and Ty was almost killed. They issued an ultimatum: quit my job or forfeit my wealth. My parents never approved of my career choice. My mother called it unbefitting, and my father deemed it unsafe. The incident was the final straw.
It was an easy decision. I love what I do, can't imagine doing anything else, but it's been an adjustment. Living off my salary is no easy task, since I'm committed to a ridiculously expensive lifestyle. My condo fee alone eats up most of my income.
Ty moves to the ballroom to set up and do a sound check. He's a musician, a brilliant tenor sax player, and he's worked with some of the best, in clubs like the Blue Note and Ronnie Scott's. Tonight, however, it's not about art. It's about paying the bills.
As soon as the coast is clear, I flag down the waitress, order a better glass of Pinot and an expensive cheese platter. She returns a few minutes later and hands me back my Visa.
"Sorry, it was rejected," she says. "Want to try another one?"
I have other credit cards, but the result will likely be the same.
"No, thanks," I say.
My stomach grumbles and I reach for the bowl of free cashews. Before I can pop one in my mouth, my phone vibrates. I consider sending it to voice mail, until I see the call is from a blocked line. It's probably work.
"Abby Endicott, homicide," I say.
Ty's amplifier squeaks loudly, startling me.
"Is that a cat? Where are you, the Angell Memorial?"
The caller doesn't have to identify himself, and he doesn't have to ask if he's interrupting. Kevin Farnsworth knows I'm always happy to hear from him.
"You may need to bone up on your detective skills, Detective," I say. "I'm not looking to take in a stray. I'm at the Liberty."
"Busman's holiday?" Kevin says.
"Ty's playing a wedding."
"You're still with that guy? What's it been, like two years?"
"That's twelve more than most of them last."
In the decade I've known Kevin, he's seen me bail on a lot of relationships. He knows the idea of a long-term commitment scares me more than most of my murderers. But Ty is different.
This past year, when my life was in danger, Ty stepped in front of a bullet that was intended for me. He spent hours in surgery, days in the hospital, and months in physical therapy. Whenever things between us start to feel permanent and I feel vulnerable, I go into default mode and search around for the eject button. Then I remember him, stretched out on a gurney, blood seeping from his chest.
My boss ordered me to stay away from the office for six months, to rest and recover. After I sat around my apartment for a couple of weeks, the boredom grew intolerable. I begged to return to work early, and my boss caved, but only under the condition that I avoid crime scenes and casework. I've been running the office training program for the past few months, which is a snooze, and I'm itching to get back to my murderers.
"Can you catch cases yet?" Kevin says. "Or are you still on super-secret probation?"
"What do you have?" I say.
"It's a good one. A woman, about twenty years old, strangled."
Ty's band starts to perform the couple's first song: "What a Wonderful World." I should hang up the phone, go and watch Ty play.
"Where was she found?" I say.
"In Eastie, buried under a pile of trash."
"Was she raped?"
The bride and groom, champagne glasses in hand, overhear as they pass by. The bride stops and looks at me, horrified.
"Someone was raped?" she says. "Here?"
"Don't worry, everything is fine," I say. "Enjoy your night. You look beautiful."
The bride has more questions, but the groom nudges her away.
"It's the same MO as Rose Driscoll's case," Kevin says. "The vic was stripped naked, dumped, and posed."
I put down my glass of sour wine. Last month, Rose Driscoll, a sophomore at Boston University, was found in King's Chapel Burying Ground, Boston's oldest cemetery, next to the grave of Elizabeth Pain, whom many believe to be the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Rose was sprawled out, naked, her eyes open and her arms crossed in front of her.
I feel the surge of adrenaline that comes with a new murder.
"I'm not supposed to catch cases," I say.
"The doer is a potential serial killer." Kevin knows how to reel me in. "You'd go bananas, sitting around and twiddling your thumbs, while someone else tries to chase him down."
I consider the consequences. Ty has been protective since the shooting; he'll worry if I take the case. And if Max finds out I was at a new crime scene, at best, he'll give me a stern lecture. At worst, he'll extend my leave of absence.
"Are you in?" Kevin says.
"I'm on my way," I say.CHAPTER 3
Black luxury vehicles idle in the circular driveway outside the Liberty. Jimmy signals the first in line, an Escalade, and helps a couple of honeymooners roll their luggage to the rear of the car. He ushers them into the backseat, wishes them safe travels, and pockets the tip.
"You need a ride?" he says.
"Yes, but not a limo," I say. "Can you get me a taxi?"
"There's a half-hour wait time for cabs."
Jimmy whistles to a nearby Navigator. When the car pulls up, he introduces me to Chuck, the driver. Chuck looks uncomfortable in his ill-fitting uniform; his pant legs pool around his ankles, and the sleeves on his suit jacket stop about four inches north of his wrists.
"Nice to know you." Chuck adjusts the faux leather visor on his hat. "Where you headed?"
"East Boston," I say.
"Sure thing. Which airline?"
"I'm not going to the airport."
"Oh, sorry, Eastie usually means Logan."
Chuck opens the door to the backseat and I climb inside.
"I need to go to Public Alley 257," I say.
"Never heard of it. Is it a new club?"
"No, it's a just public alley, near the tunnel, behind the old candy factory."
Chuck turns to Jimmy and shrugs. "Sorry, I don't do drug runs anymore."
"She's not a drug dealer, numbskull," Jimmy says, "she's an attorney."
"Prosecutor," I say.
The distinction is important, a point of pride. Lest I be confused with other members of the bar, like corporate litigators, ambulance chasers, or worse, criminal defense attorneys.
"You oughta see her in court," Jimmy says. "She cross-examined a guy into a full-blown asthma attack. Don't mess with her."
I suppress a smile. Chuck closes the door, gets behind the wheel, and catches my eye in the rearview mirror.
"I always follow the rules of the road," he says.
"Drive as fast as you like," I say. "As long as you don't kill anyone, we'll get along fine."
We pass Faneuil Hall, a centuries-old meetinghouse, crowned by a four-foot-tall gilded grasshopper. George Washington, Sam Adams, and Oliver Wendell Holmes delivered speeches here about the importance of American independence, and liberty and justice for all. Politicians still hold public events here, but mostly it's a giant gift shop, surrounded by T-shirt vendors and a food court.
Chuck slams on his brakes and swerves to avoid hitting a group of drunk twentysomethings who are crossing busy Congress Street, in spite of the flashing red Do Not Walk sign.
"If you don't mind my asking," Chuck says, "why are you going to a vacant lot?"
"It won't be vacant tonight," I say.
When we arrive on scene, a cluster of reporters and a couple of lookie-loos are gathered outside the perimeter, which is bound by yellow tape.
"Can you pull up across the street, away from the cameras?" I say.
Chuck nods and moves the car away from the action.
"You want I should wait for you?" he says.
"No, thanks. I'll get a ride home from one of the detectives."
Before I can tell him not to, Chuck gets out and opens my door, chauffeur-style. Carl Ostroff, the least obnoxious of the local crime reporters, clocks me stepping out of the limo — exactly what I hoped to avoid.
Carl charges at me, microphone in hand, a camera light flashes on. Even though the glare is blinding, I can still make out his porcelain veneers, meticulously shaped eyebrows, and $400 haircut.
"Carl Ostroff, Channel 7 News, reporting from East Boston, where details of a grisly murder are unfolding. Abigail Endicott, chief of homicide in the district attorney's office, just arrived on scene. In a limousine, I might add. Abby, I can't help but comment on your mode of transportation this evening."
I give him the stink eye. "Shut it down, Carl."
"Did the legislature pass a rider to this year's budget that includes vouchers for limo rides?"
"You have something green stuck in your teeth."
Carl signals his cameraman; the light goes dark. He pulls back the corners of his lips to expose his uppers and lowers, and uses the mirror app on his phone to check for stray pieces of lettuce.
"Made you look," I say.
"I still got the money shot," he says.
I duck under the yellow tape.
Carl calls out to me. "Hey, Abby," he says, "it's nice to see you back on the job."
The medical examiner's van pulls up to the alley. Assistants open the back doors and slide the gurney out.
"It's good to be back," I say.
Excerpted from The Graves by Pamela Wechsler. Copyright © 2017 Pamela Wechsler. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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