Authors: Tess Gerritsen
“Where in Vermont? We need to be able to check on you.”
“Burlington. Her name is Connie Pulcillo. But you can always reach me on my cell phone.”
“Good,” said Frost. “And I assume you won’t do anything as foolhardy as hiking all alone again.”
Josephine managed a weak smile. “I won’t be doing that anytime soon.”
“You know, that’s something I wanted to ask you about,” said Jane. “That little hike you took today.”
Josephine’s smile faded, as though she realized that Jane could not be so easily charmed. “It wasn’t a wise thing to do, I know,” she admitted.
“A rainy day. Muddy trails. Why on earth would you want to be there?”
“I wasn’t the only one in the park. That family was there, too.”
“They’re out-of-towners and their dog needed a walk.”
“So did I.”
“Judging by your muddy boots, you did more than take just a stroll.”
“Rizzoli,” said Frost, “what are you getting at?”
Jane ignored him and kept her focus on Josephine. “Is there something else you want to tell us, Dr. Pulcillo, about why you were up at Blue Hills Reservation? On a Thursday morning, when I assume you’re supposed to be at work?”
“I’m not due at work until one.”
“The rain didn’t discourage you?”
Josephine’s face took on the expression of a hunted animal. She’s scared of me, thought Jane. What am I not getting about this picture?
“It’s been a really hard week,” said Josephine. “I needed to get outside, just to think. I’d heard the park was a pretty place to walk, so I went.” She straightened, her voice now stronger. More assured. “That’s all it was, Detective. A walk. Is there something illegal about that?”
The two women locked eyes for a moment. A moment that confused Jane because she did not understand what was really going on.
“No, there’s nothing illegal about it,” said Frost. “And I think we’ve pressed you hard enough today.”
Jane saw the young woman abruptly look away. And she thought:
We haven’t pressed hard enough.
“Who appointed you the Good Cop?” said Jane as she and Frost slid into her Subaru.
“What do you mean?”
“You were so busy making goo-goo eyes at Pulcillo, you forced me to play the Bad Cop.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Can I make you a cup of coffee?”
Jane snorted. “Are you a detective or a butler?”
“What’s your problem? The poor girl just got the crap scared out of her. Her keys were stolen, a body’s in her trunk, and we’ve impounded her car. Doesn’t that sound like someone who needs a little sympathy? You were treating her like a suspect.”
“Sympathy? Is that all you were giving her in there? I was waiting for you to ask her out on a date.”
In all the time they’d worked together, Jane had never seen Frost truly angry at her. So to witness the fury that suddenly flared up in his eyes was more than unsettling; it was almost scary. “Fuck you, Rizzoli.”
“You’ve got some real issues, you know that? What is it about her that ticks you off? The fact that she’s pretty?”
“Something about her doesn’t add up. Something doesn’t feel right.”
“She’s scared. Her life’s just been turned upside down. That’s got to freak a person out.”
“And you want to swoop right in and rescue her.”
“I’m trying to be a decent human being.”
“Tell me you’d be acting this way if she looked like a dog.”
“Her looks have nothing to do with this. Why do you keep suggesting I’ve got other motives?”
Jane sighed. “Look, I’m just trying to keep you out of trouble, okay? I’m Mama Bear, doing her duty and keeping you safe.” She thrust the key into the ignition and turned on the engine. “So when’s Alice coming home? Hasn’t she been visiting her parents long enough?”
He shot her a suspicious look. “Why are you asking about Alice?”
“She’s been gone for weeks. Isn’t it about time she came home?”
That elicited a snort. “Jane Rizzoli, marriage counselor. I kind of resent it, you know.”
“That you think I’d ever go off the rails.”
Jane pulled away from the curb and merged into traffic. “I just thought I should say something. I’m all for heading off trouble.”
“Yeah, that strategy worked
well on your dad. Is he talking to you these days, or did you piss him off for good?”
At the mention of her father, her grip on the steering wheel tightened to a stranglehold. After thirty-one years of apparent marital bliss, Frank Rizzoli had suddenly developed a hankering for cheap blondes. Seven months ago, he had walked out on Jane’s mother.
“I only told him what I thought about his bimbo.”
Frost laughed. “Yeah. Then you tried to beat her up.”
“I did not beat her up. We had words.”
“You tried to arrest her.”
“I should have arrested
for acting like a middle-aged moron. It’s so frigging embarrassing.” She stared grimly at the road. “Now my mom’s doing a pretty good job embarrassing me, too.”
“Because she’s dating?” Frost shook his head. “You see? You’re so damn judgmental, you’re gonna piss her off as well.”
“She’s acting like a teenager.”
“Your dad dumped her and now she’s dating, so what? Korsak’s a good guy, so let her have some fun.”
“We weren’t talking about my parents. We were talking about Josephine.”
were talking about Josephine.”
“There’s something about her that bothers me. Do you notice how she hardly looks us in the eye? I think she couldn’t wait to get us out of her apartment.”
“She answered all our questions. What more did you expect?”
“She didn’t give us everything. She’s holding something back.”
“I don’t know.” Jane stared ahead at the road. “But it wouldn’t hurt to find out a little more about Dr. Pulcillo.”
From her window above the street, Josephine watched the two detectives climb into the car and drive away. Only then did she open her purse and pull out her ankh key ring, the one she’d found hanging on the apple tree. She’d said nothing to the police about the return of these keys. If she’d mentioned it, then she would also have had to tell them about the note directing her there, the note addressed to Josephine Sommer. And Sommer was a name they must never know about.
She gathered together the notes and envelopes addressed to Josephine Sommer and ripped them up, wishing that at the same time she could rip away the part of her life she’d been trying all these years to forget. Somehow it had caught up with her, and no matter how hard she tried to outrun it, it would always be part of who she was. She brought the shredded bits of paper into the bathroom and flushed them down the toilet.
She had to leave Boston.
Now was the logical time to get out of town. The police knew she was frightened by what had happened today, so her departure would rouse no suspicions. Perhaps later, they might ask questions, search records, but for now they had no reason to examine her past. They would assume she was who she said she was: Josephine Pulcillo, who lived quietly and modestly, who’d worked her way through college and grad school while waitressing at the Blue Star cocktail lounge. All of that was true. All of that would check out fine. As long as they didn’t dig deeper or earlier, as long as she gave them no reason to, she would never trip any alarms. She could slip away from Boston with no one the wiser.
But I don’t want to leave Boston.
She stared out the window at a neighborhood she’d grown attached to. Rain clouds had given way to splashes of sunshine, and the sidewalks sparkled, fresh and clean. When she’d arrived to take the job, it had been March and she’d been a stranger to these streets. She’d trudged through the icy wind, thinking that she wouldn’t last long here, believing that, like her mother, she was a warm-weather creature, bred for desert heat, not a New England winter. But one April day after the snow had melted, she’d walked through the Boston Common, past budding trees and the golden blush of daffodils, and she’d suddenly realized she belonged here. That in this city where every brick and stone seemed to resonate with the echoes of history, she felt at home. She’d walked the cobblestones of Beacon Hill and could almost hear the clatter of horses’ hooves and carriage wheels. She’d stood on the pier at Long Wharf and imagined the call of the fishmongers, the laughter of seamen. Like her mother, she had always been more interested in the past than in the present, and in this city, history still breathed.
Now I’ll have to leave it. And leave behind this name, as well.
The apartment buzzer startled her. She crossed to the intercom, pausing to calm her voice before she pressed the speaker button. “Yes?”
“Josie, it’s Nicholas. Can I come up?”
She could think of no way to gracefully decline his visit, so she buzzed him in. A moment later he was at her door, his hair sparkling with rain, his gray eyes pinched with worry behind drizzle-fogged glasses.
“Are you all right? We heard what happened.”
“How did you find out?”
“We were waiting for you to come into work. Then Detective Crowe told us there’d been some trouble. That someone broke into your car.”
“It’s a lot worse than that,” she said, and sank down wearily on the couch. He stood watching her, and for the first time his gaze made her uneasy; he was studying her far too closely. Suddenly she felt as exposed as Madam X, her protective wrappings stripped away to reveal the ugly reality underneath.
“Someone had my keys, Nick.”
“The ones you misplaced?”
“They weren’t misplaced. They were stolen.”
“You mean—on purpose?”
“Theft usually is.” She saw his perplexed expression and thought: Poor Nick. You’ve been trapped too long with your musty antiquities. You have no idea how ugly the real world is. “It probably happened while I was at work.”
“The museum keys weren’t on the ring, so you don’t have to worry about the building. The collection’s safe.”
“I’m not worried about the collection. I’m worried about
” He took in a deep breath, like a swimmer about to plunge deep underwater. “If you don’t feel safe here, Josephine, you could always…” Suddenly he straightened and boldly announced: “I have a spare bedroom in my house. You’re absolutely welcome to stay with me.”
She smiled. “Thank you. But I’m going to leave town for a while, so I won’t be coming in to work for a few weeks. I’m sorry to leave you in the lurch, especially now.”
“Where are you going?”
“It seems like a good time to visit my aunt. I haven’t seen her in a year.” She went to the window, where she looked out at a view that she would miss. “Thank you for everything, Nicholas,” she said.
Thank you for being the closest thing to a friend I’ve had in years.
“What’s really going on?” he asked. He came up behind her, close enough to touch her, yet he didn’t. He merely stood there, a quiet presence patiently hovering nearby, as he always did. “You can trust me, you know. No matter what.”
Suddenly she wanted to tell him the truth, tell him everything about her past. But she did not want to witness his reaction. He had believed in the bland fiction known as Josephine Pulcillo. He had always been kind to her, and the best way for her to repay that kindness was to maintain the illusion and not disappoint him.
“Josephine? What happened today?” he asked.
“You’ll probably see it on the news tonight,” she said. “Someone used my keys to get into my car. To leave something in my trunk.”
“What did they leave?”
She turned and faced him. “Another Madam X.”
Josephine awakened to the glare of the late-afternoon sun in her eyes. Squinting through the window of the Greyhound bus, she saw rolling green fields cloaked in the golden haze of sunset. Last night she had scarcely slept, and only after boarding the bus that morning had she finally nodded off from sheer exhaustion. Now she had no idea where she was, but judging by the time they must be close to the Massachusetts–New York State border. Had she been driving her own car, the entire journey would take only six hours. By bus, with transfers in Albany and Syracuse and Binghamton, the journey would take all day.
When they finally pulled into her last transfer stop in Binghamton, it was dark. Once again she dragged herself off the bus and made her way to a pay phone. Cell phone calls could be traced, and she’d left hers turned off since leaving Boston. Instead she reached into her pocket for quarters and deposited coins into the hungry phone. The same answering machine message greeted her, delivered in a brisk female voice.
“I’m probably out digging. Leave a number and I’ll call you back.”
Josephine hung up without saying a word. Then she hauled her two suitcases to the next bus and joined the short line of passengers waiting to board. No one spoke; they all seemed as drained as she was, and resigned to the next stage of their journey.
, the bus pulled into the village of Waverly.
She was the only passenger to step off, and she found herself standing alone in front of a dark mini-mart. Even a village this small had to have a taxi service. She headed toward a phone booth and was about to deposit quarters when she saw the
OUT OF SERVICE
note taped across the coin slot. It was the final blow at the end of an exhausting day. Staring at that useless pay phone, she suddenly laughed: a raw, desperate sound that echoed across the empty parking lot. If she couldn’t get a cab, she faced a five-mile hike in the dark, hauling two suitcases.
She weighed the risks of turning on her cell phone. Use it even once, and she could be tracked here. But I’m so tired, she thought, and I don’t know what else to do, or where else to go. I’m stranded in a small town and the only person I know here seems to be unreachable.
Headlights appeared on the road.
The car moved toward her—a patrol car with blue rack lights. She froze, unsure whether to duck into the shadows or to brazenly maintain her role of stranded passenger.
It was too late to run now; the police cruiser was already turning into the mini-mart parking lot. The window rolled down, and a young patrolman peered out.
“Hello, miss. Do you have someone coming to get you?”
She cleared her throat. “I was about to call a cab.”
“That phone’s out of order.”
“I just noticed.”
“Been out of order for six months. These phone companies hardly bother fixing them now that everyone’s got a cell.”
“I have one, too. I’ll just use it.”
He eyed her for a moment, no doubt wondering why someone who had a cell phone would fuss with a pay phone.
“I needed to use the directory,” she explained and opened the phone book that was hanging in the booth.
“Okay, I’ll just sit here till the cab arrives,” he said.
As they waited together, he explained that the previous month there’d been an unpleasant incident involving a young lady in this same parking lot. “She got off the eleven
bus from Binghamton, just like you,” he said. Since then, he’d made it a point to drive by just to make sure no other young ladies were accosted. Protect and serve, that was his job, and if she knew about the terrible things that sometimes happened, even in a little village like Waverly, population forty-six hundred, she’d never again be caught standing alone at a dark mini-mart.
When the taxi finally arrived, Officer Friendly had been bending her ear for so long she was afraid he might follow her home, just to continue the conversation. But his cruiser headed in the opposite direction and she sank back with a sigh and considered her next moves. The first order of business was a good night’s sleep, in a home where she felt safe. A home where she need not hide who she really was. She’d juggled truth and fiction for so long that she sometimes forgot which details of her life were real and which were fabrications. A few too many drinks, a moment of carelessness, and she might let slip the truth, which could send the whole house of cards tumbling down. In her college dormitory of partying students, she had remained the sober one, adept at meaningless chitchat that revealed absolutely nothing about herself.
I’m tired of this life, she thought. Tired of having to consider the consequences of every word before I say it. Tonight, at last, I can be myself.
The taxi pulled to a stop in front of a large farmhouse and the driver said, “Here we are, miss. Want me to carry those bags to the door?”
“No, I can handle them.” She paid him and started up the walkway, wheeling her suitcases toward the front steps. There she paused, as though searching for her keys, until the taxi drove away. The instant it vanished from sight, she turned and headed back to the road.
A five-minute walk brought her to a long gravel driveway that cut through thick woods. The moon had risen, and she could see the path just well enough not to stumble. The sound of the suitcase wheels plowing through the gravel seemed alarmingly loud. In the woods crickets had fallen silent, aware that a trespasser had entered their kingdom.
She climbed the steps to the dark house. A few knocks on the door, a few rings of the bell, told her what she’d already suspected. No one was home.
Not a problem.
She found the key where it was always hidden, wedged under the stack of firewood on the porch, and let herself in. Flipping on the light, she found the living room exactly as she remembered it since she’d last visited two years ago. The same clutter filled every available shelf and niche, the same photos framed in Mexican tin shadow boxes hung on the walls. She saw sunburned faces grinning from beneath broad-brimmed hats, a man leaning on a shovel in front of a crumbling wall, a redheaded woman squinting up from the trench where she knelt with trowel in hand. Most of the faces in those photos she did not recognize; they belonged to another woman’s memories, another woman’s lifetime.
She left her suitcases in the living room and went into the kitchen. There the same clutter reigned, blackened pots and pans hanging from ceiling racks, the windowsills a depository of everything from sea glass to bits of broken pottery. She filled a teakettle and put it on the stove. As she waited for it to boil, she stood in front of the refrigerator, studying all the snapshots taped to the door. In the midst of that jumbled collage was one face she did recognize. It was her own, taken when she was about three years old, seated in the lap of a raven-haired woman. She reached up and gently stroked the woman’s face, remembering the smoothness of that cheek, the scent of her hair. The kettle whistled, but Josephine remained transfixed by the photo, by those hypnotic dark eyes gazing back at her.
The whistle of the kettle abruptly cut off, and a voice said, “It’s been years since anyone’s asked me about her, you know.”
Josephine whirled around to face the lanky middle-aged woman who’d just shut off the burner. “Gemma,” she murmured. “You’re home after all.”
Smiling, the woman strode forward to give her a powerful hug. Gemma Hamerton was built more like a boy than a woman, lean but muscular, her silvery hair cropped in a practical bob. Her arms were ridged with ugly burn scars, but she brazenly showed them off to the world in a sleeveless blouse.
“I recognized your old suitcases in the living room.” Gemma stepped back to give Josephine a thorough perusal. “My God, every year you look more and more like her.” She shook her head and laughed. “That’s some formidable DNA you’ve inherited, kid.”
“I tried to call you. I didn’t want to leave a message on your answering machine.”
“I’ve been traveling all day.” Gemma reached into her purse and pulled out a newspaper clipping from the
International Herald Tribune.
“I saw that article before I left Lima. Does this have anything to do with why you’re here?”
Josephine looked at the headline:
CT SCAN OF MUMMY STUNS AUTHORITIES.
“So you know about Madam X.”
“News gets around, even in Peru. The world’s become a small place, Josie.”
“Maybe too small,” Josephine said softly. “It leaves me no place left to hide.”
“After all these years? I’m not sure you need to anymore.”
“Someone’s found me, Gemma. I’m scared.”
Gemma stared at her. Slowly she sat down across from Josephine. “Tell me what happened.”
Josephine pointed to the clipping from the
“It all started with her. With Madam X.”
At first the words came haltingly; it had been a long time since Josephine had spoken freely, and she was accustomed to catching herself, to weighing the dangers of every revelation. But with Gemma, all secrets were safe, and as she spoke, she found the words spilling faster in a torrent that could no longer be held back. Three cups of tea later, she finally fell silent and slumped back in her chair, exhausted. And relieved, although her situation had scarcely changed. The only difference was that now she no longer felt alone.
The story left Gemma stunned and staring. “A body turns up in your car? And you left out that little detail about the notes you got in the mail? You didn’t tell the police?”
“How could I? If they knew about the notes, they’d find out everything else.”
“Maybe it’s time, Josie,” said Gemma quietly. “Time to stop hiding and just tell the truth.”
“I can’t do that to my mother. I can’t pull her into this. I’m just glad she isn’t here.”
“She’d want to be here.
the one she’s always tried to protect.”
“Well, she can’t protect me now. And she shouldn’t have to.” Josephine rose and carried her cup to the sink. “This has nothing to do with her.”
“She was never in Boston. She never had anything to do with the Crispin Museum.” Josephine turned to Gemma. “Did she?”
Gemma shook her head. “I can’t think of any reason why the museum should have those links to her. The cartouche, the newspaper.”
much coincidence.” Gemma wrapped her hands around her teacup, as though to ward off a sudden chill. “What about the body in your car? What are the police doing about it?”
“What they’re supposed to do in a murder case. They’ll investigate. They’ve asked me all the questions you’d expect. Who might be stalking me? Do I have any sick admirers? Is there anyone from the past I’m afraid of? If they keep asking questions, it’s only a matter of time before they find out who Josephine Pulcillo really is.”
“They may not bother to dig that up. They’ve got murders to solve, and you’re not the one they’re interested in.”
“I couldn’t take that risk. That’s why I ran. I packed up and left a job I loved and a city I loved. I was happy there, Gemma. It’s an odd little museum, but I liked working there.”
“And the people? Is there any chance one of them might be involved?”
“I don’t see it.”
“They’re completely harmless. The curator, the director—they’re both such kind men.” She gave a sad laugh. “I wonder what they’ll think of me now. When they find out who they really hired.”
“They hired a brilliant young archaeologist. A woman who deserves a better life.”
“Well, this is the life I got.” She turned on the faucet to rinse her cup. The kitchen was organized exactly as it had always been, and she found the dish towels in the same cabinet, the spoons in the same drawer. Like any good archaeological dig, Gemma’s kitchen stood preserved in a state of domestic eternity. What a luxury to have roots, thought Josephine as she placed the clean cup back on the shelf. What would it be like to own a home, to build a life she would never have to abandon?
“What are you going to do now?” asked Gemma.
“I don’t know.”
“You could go back to Mexico. She’d want that.”
“I’ll just have to start over again.” The prospect of that suddenly made Josephine sag against the countertop. “God, I’ve lost twelve years of my life.”
“Maybe you haven’t. Maybe the police will drop the ball.”
“I can’t count on that.”
“Watch and wait. See what happens. This house will be empty for most of the summer. I need to be back in Peru in two weeks, to oversee the excavation. You’re welcome to stay here as long as you need to.”
“I don’t want to cause you any trouble.”
“Trouble?” Gemma shook her head. “You have no idea what kind of trouble your mother saved
from. Anyway, I’m not convinced the police are as clever as you think they are. Or as thorough. Think how many cases go unsolved, how many mistakes we hear about in the news.”
“You haven’t met this detective.”
“What about him?”
“It’s a her. The way she looks at me, the questions she asks—”
“A woman?” Gemma’s eyebrow twitched upward. “Oh, that’s too bad.”
“Men are so easily distracted by a pretty face.”
“If Detective Rizzoli keeps digging, she’s eventually going to end up here. Talking to you.”
“So let them come. What are they going to find out?” Gemma waved at her kitchen. “Look around! They’ll walk in here, get a look at all my herbal teas, and dismiss me as some harmless old hippie who couldn’t possibly tell them anything useful. When you’re a fifty-year-old woman, no one really bothers to look at you anymore, much less value your opinion. It’s hard on the old ego. But damn, it does make it easy to get away with a lot.”
Josephine laughed. “So all I have to do is wait till I’m fifty and I’m home free?”
“You may be home free already, as far as the police are concerned.”
Josephine said softly: “It’s not just the police who scare me. Not after those notes. Not after what was left in my car.”