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       The Charlie Parker Collection 1, p.1

           John Connolly
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The Charlie Parker Collection 1


  The Charlie Parker Collection 1-4

  Every Dead Thing, Dark Hollow, The Killing Kind, White Road

  John Connolly

  www.hodder.co.uk

  First published in Great Britain in 2013 by Hodder & Stoughton

  An Hachette UK company

  Copyright © John Connolly 2013

  The right of John Connolly to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

  A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library

  ISBN 978 1 444 77904 2

  Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

  338 Euston Road

  London NW1 3BH

  www.hodder.co.uk

  CONTENTS

  Title

  Copyright

  About the Author

  Also by John Connolly

  Every Dead Thing

  Dark Hollow

  The Killing Kind

  The White Road

  Also by John Connolly

  The Charlie Parker Stories

  Every Dead Thing

  Dark Hollow

  The Killing Kind

  The White Road

  The Reflecting Eye (Novella in the Nocturnes Collection)

  The Black Angel

  The Unquiet

  The Reapers

  The Lovers

  The Whisperers

  The Burning Soul

  The Wrath of Angels

  Other Works

  Bad Men

  The Book of Lost Things

  Short Stories

  Nocturnes

  The Samuel Johnson Stories (For Young Adults)

  The Gates

  Hell’s Bells

  Non-Fiction (as editor, with Declan Burke)

  Books to Die For: The World’s Greatest Mystery Writers on the World’s Greatest Mystery Novels

  To find out about these and future titles, visit www.johnconnollybooks.com

  About the Author

  John Connolly was born in Dublin in 1968. His debut – EVERY DEAD THING – swiftly launched him right into the front rank of thriller writers, and all his subsequent novels have been Sunday Times bestsellers. He is the first non-American writer to win the US Shamus award. In 2007 he was awarded the Irish Post Award for Literature. He keeps a website at www.johnconnollybooks.com and can be found on Facebook and twitter.com/JohnConnolly

  EVERY DEAD THING

  John Connolly

  www.hodder.co.uk

  First published in 1999 by Hodder & Stoughton

  An Hachette UK company

  Copyright © 1999 by John Connolly

  The right of John Connolly to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

  All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library

  Epub ISBN 978 1 84456 838 3

  Book ISBN 978 1 444 70468 6

  Hodder and Stoughton

  338 Euston Road

  London NW1 3BH

  www.hodder.co.uk

  Part One

  I am every dead thing . . . I am re-begot

  Of absence, darknesse, death; things which are not.

  John Donne, ‘A Nocturnall Upon S. Lucies Day’

  Prologue

  It is cold in the car, cold as the grave. I prefer to leave the a/c on full, to let the falling temperature keep me alert. The volume on the radio is low but I can still hear a tune, vaguely insistent over the sound of the engine. It’s early REM, something about shoulders and rain. I’ve left Cornwall Bridge about eight miles behind and soon I’ll be entering South Canaan, then Canaan itself, before crossing the state line into Massachusetts. Ahead of me, the bright sun is fading as day bleeds slowly into night.

  The patrol car arrived first on the night they died, shedding red light into the darkness. Two patrolmen entered the house, quickly yet cautiously, aware that they were responding to a call from one of their own, a policeman who had become a victim instead of the resort of victims.

  I sat in the hallway with my head in my hands as they entered the kitchen of our Brooklyn home and glimpsed the remains of my wife and child. I watched as one conducted a brief search of the upstairs rooms while the other checked the living room, the dining room, all the time the kitchen calling them back, demanding that they bear witness.

  I listened as they radioed for the Major Crime Scene Unit, informing them of a probable double homicide. I could hear the shock in their voices, yet they tried to communicate what they had seen as dispassionately as they could, like good cops should. Maybe, even then, they suspected me. They were policemen and they, more than anyone else, knew what people were capable of doing, even one of their own.

  And so they remained silent, one by the car and the other in the hallway beside me, until the detectives pulled up outside, the ambulance following, and they entered our home, the neighbours already gathering on their stoops, at their gates, some moving closer to find out what had happened, what could have been visited on the young couple beyond, the couple with the little blonde girl.

  ‘Bird?’ I ran my hands over my eyes as I recognised the voice. A sob shuddered through my system. Walter Cole stood over me, McGee further back, his face bathed by the flashes of the patrol-car lights but still pale, shaken by what he had seen. Outside there was the sound of more cars pulling up. An EMT arrived at the door, distracting Cole’s attention from me. ‘The medical technician’s here,’ said one of the patrolmen, as the thin, whey-faced young man stood by. Cole nodded and gestured towards the kitchen.

  ‘Birdman,’ Cole repeated, this time with greater urgency and a harder tone to his voice. ‘Do you want to tell me what happened here?’

  I pull into the parking lot in front of the flower shop. There is a light breeze blowing and my coat tails play at my legs like the hands of children. Inside, the store is cool, cooler than it should be, and redolent with the scent of roses. Roses never go out of style, or season.

  A man is bending down, carefully checking the thick, waxy leaves of a small, green plant. He rises up slowly and painfully as I enter.

  ‘Evening,’ he says. ‘Help you?’

  ‘I’d like some of those roses. Give me a dozen. No, better make it two dozen.’

  ‘Two dozen roses, yessir.’ He is heavy-set and bald, maybe in his early sixties. He walks stiffly, hardly bending his knees. The joints of his fingers are swollen with arthritis.

  ‘Air-conditioning is playing up,’ he says. As he passes by the ancient control unit on the wall, he adjusts a switch. Nothing happens.

  The store is old, with a long, glass-fronted hot-house along the far wall. He opens the door and begins lifting roses carefully from a bucket inside. When he has counted twenty-four, he closes the door again and lays them on a
sheet of plastic on the counter.

  ‘Gift wrap ’em for ya?’

  ‘No. Plastic is fine.’

  He looks at me for a moment and I can almost hear the tumblers fall as the process of recognition begins.

  ‘Do I know you from someplace?’

  In the city, they have short memories. Further out, the memories last longer.

  Supplemental Crime Report

  NYPD Case Number: 96–12–1806

  Offence: Homicide

  Victim: Susan Parker, W/F

  Jennifer Parker, W/F

  Location: 1219 Hobart Street, kitchen

  Date: 12 Dec 1996 Time: Around 2130 hrs

  Means: Stabbing

  Weapon: Edged weapon, possibly knife (not found)

  Reporting Officer: Walter Cole, Detective Sergeant

  Details:

  On 13 December 1996, I went to 1219 Hobart Street in response to a request by Officer Gerald Kersh for detectives to work a reported homicide.

  Complainant Detective Second Grade Charles Parker stated he left house at 1900 hrs following argument with wife, Susan Parker. Went to Tom’s Oak tavern and remained there until around 0130 hrs on December 13th. Entered house through front door and found furniture in hallway disturbed. Entered kitchen and found wife and daughter. Stated that wife was tied to kitchen chair but daughter’s body appeared to have been moved from adjacent chair and arranged over mother’s body. Called police at 0155 hrs and waited at scene.

  Victims, identified to me by Charles Parker as Susan Parker (wife, 33 years old) and Jennifer Parker (daughter, 3 years old), were in kitchen. Susan Parker was tied to a kitchen chair in centre of floor facing door. A second chair was placed beside it, with some ropes still attached to rear struts. Jennifer Parker was lying across her mother, face up.

  Susan Parker was barefoot and wearing blue jeans and white blouse. Blouse was ripped and had been pulled down to her waist, exposing breasts. Jeans and underwear had been pulled down to her calves. Jennifer Parker was barefoot, wearing a white nightdress with blue flower pattern.

  I directed Crime Scene Technician Annie Minghella to make a full investigation. After victims were confirmed dead by Medical Examiner Clarence Hall and released, I accompanied bodies to hospital. I observed Dr Anthony Loeb as he used rape kit and turned it over to me. I collected following items of evidence:

  96–12–1806–M1: white blouse from body of Susan Parker (Victim No. 1)

  96–12–1806–M2: blue denim jeans from body of Victim 1

  96–12–1806–M3: blue cotton underwear from body of Victim 1

  96–12–1806–M4: combings from pubic hair of Victim 1

  96–12–1806–M5: washings from vagina of Victim 1

  96–12–1806–M6: scrapings from under Victim 1’s fingernails, right hand

  96–12–1806–M7: scrapings from under Victim 1’s fingernails, left hand

  96–12–1806–M8: combings from Victim 1’s hair, right front

  96–12–1806–M9: combings from Victim 1’s hair, left front

  96–12–1806–M10: combings from Victim 1’s hair, right rear

  96–12–1806–M11: combings from Victim 1’s hair, left rear.

  96–12–1806–M12: white/blue cotton nightdress from body of Jennifer Parker (Victim No. 2)

  96–12–1806–M13: washings from vagina of Victim 2

  96–12–1806–M14: scrapings from under Victim 2’s fingernails, right hand

  96–12–1806–M15: scrapings from under Victim 2’s fingernails, left hand

  96–12–1806–M16: combings from Victim 2’s hair, right front

  96–12–1806–M17: combings from Victim 2’s hair, left front

  96–12–1806–M18: combings from Victim 2’s hair, right rear

  96–12–1806–M19: combings from Victim 2’s hair, left rear.

  It had been another bitter argument, made worse by the fact that it followed our lovemaking. The embers of previous fights were stoked back into glowing life: my drinking, my neglect of Jenny, my bouts of bitterness and self-pity. When I stormed from the house, Susan’s cries followed me into the cold night air.

  It was a twenty-minute walk to the bar. When the first shot of Wild Turkey hit my stomach the tension dissipated from my body and I relaxed into the familiar routine of the drunk: angry, then maudlin, sorrowful, remorseful, resentful. By the time I left the bar only the hard-core remained, a chorus of drunks and sots battling with Van Halen on the juke-box. I stumbled at the door and fell down the steps outside, barking my knees painfully on the gravel at their base.

  And then I stumbled home, sick and nauseous, cars swerving wildly to avoid me as I swayed on to the road, the faces of the drivers wide with alarm and anger.

  I fumbled for my keys as I arrived at the door and scraped the white paint beneath the lock as I struggled to insert the key. There were a lot of scrapes beneath the lock.

  I knew something was wrong as soon as I opened the front door and stepped into the hall. When I had left, the house had been warm, the heating on full blast because Jennifer especially felt the winter cold. She was a beautiful but fragile child, as delicate as a china vase. Now the house was as cold as the night outside, as cold as the grave. A mahogany flower-stand lay fallen on the carpet, the flower-pot broken in two pieces amid its own soil. The roots of the poinsettia it had contained were exposed and ugly.

  I called Susan’s name once, then again, louder this time. Already the drunken haze was clearing and I had my foot on the first step of the stairs to the bedrooms when I heard the back door bang against the sink unit in the kitchen. Instinctively I reached for my Colt DE but it lay upstairs on my desk, upstairs where I had discarded it before facing Susan and another chapter in the story of our dying marriage. I cursed myself then. Later, it would come to symbolise all of my failure, all of my regrets.

  I moved cautiously towards the kitchen, the tips of my fingers glancing against the cold wall on my left. The kitchen door was almost closed and I edged it open slowly with my hand. ‘Susie?’ I called as I stepped into the kitchen. My foot slid gently on something sticky and wet. I looked down and I was in Hell.

  In the florist’s, the old man’s eyes are narrowed in puzzlement. He shakes his finger good-naturedly in front of me.

  ‘I’m sure I know you from someplace.’

  ‘I don’t think so.’

  ‘You from around here? Canaan, maybe? Monterey? Otis?’

  ‘No. Someplace else.’ I give him a look that tells him this is a line of inquiry he doesn’t want to pursue and I can see him backing off. I am about to use my credit card but decide not to. Instead, I count out the cash from my wallet and lay it on the counter.

  ‘Someplace else,’ he says, nodding as if it has some deep, inner meaning for him. ‘Must be a big place. I meet a lot of fellers from there.’

  But I am already leaving the store. As I pull away, I can see him at the window, staring after me. Behind me, water drips gently from the rose stems and pools on the floor.

  Supplemental Crime Report Contd.

  Case Number: 96–12–1806

  Susan Parker was seated in a pine kitchen chair, facing north towards the kitchen door. Top of the head was ten feet, seven inches from north wall and six feet three inches from east wall. Her arms were pulled behind her back and . . .

  tied to the bars at the back of the chair with thin cord. Each foot was in turn tied to a leg of the chair, and I thought her face, mostly concealed by her hair, seemed so awash with blood that no skin could be seen. Her head hung back so that her throat gaped open like a second mouth caught in a silent, dark-red scream. Our daughter lay splayed across Susan, one arm hanging between her mother’s legs.

  The room was red around them, like the stage of some terrible revenger’s tragedy where blood was echoed with blood. It stained the ceiling and the walls as if the house itself had been mortally wounded. It lay thick and heavy on the floor and seemed to swallow my reflection in a scarlet darkness.

&nb
sp; Susan Parker’s nose had been broken. Injury was consistent with impact against wall or floor. Bloodstain on wall near kitchen door contained fragments of bone, nasal hair and mucus . . .

  Susan had tried to run, to get help for our daughter and herself, but she had made it no further than the door. Then he had caught her, had grabbed her by the hair and smashed her against the wall before dragging her, bleeding and in pain, back to the chair and to her death.

  Jennifer Parker was stretched, facing upwards, across her mother’s thighs, and a second pine kitchen chair was positioned beside that of her mother. Cord wrapped around the back of the chair matched marks on Jennifer Parker’s wrists and ankles.

  There was not so much blood around Jenny, but her nightdress was stained by the flow from the deep cut in her throat. She faced the door, her hair hanging forward, obscuring her face, some strands sticking to the blood on her chest, the toes of her naked feet dangling above the tiled floor. I could only look at her for a moment because Susan drew my eyes towards her in death as she had in life, even amid the wreckage of our time together.

  And as I looked upon her I felt myself slide down the wall and a wail, half animal, half child, erupted from deep inside me. I gazed at the beautiful woman who had been my wife, and her bloody, empty sockets seemed to draw me in and envelop me in darkness.

  The eyes of both victims had been mutilated, probably with a sharp, scalpel-like blade. There was partial flensing of the chest of Susan Parker. The skin from the clavicle to the navel had been partially removed, pulled back over the right breast and stretched over the right arm.

  The moonlight shone through the window behind them, casting a cold glow over the gleaming countertops, the tiled walls, the steel faucets on the sink. It caught Susan’s hair, coated her bare shoulders in silver and shone through parts of the thin membrane of her skin pulled back over her arm like a cloak, a cloak too frail to ward off the cold.

 
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