The front, p.1
The Front, p.1Patricia Cornwell
Table of Contents
Also by PATRICIA CORNWELL
Book of the Dead
The Last Precinct
Point of Origin
Cause of Death
From Potter’s Field
The Body Farm
Cruel and Unusual
All That Remains
Body of Evidence
Portrait of a Killer:
Jack the Ripper—Case Closed
ANDY BRAZIL SERIES
Isle of Dogs
Ruth, A Portrait:
The Story of Ruth Bell Graham
Food to Die For:
Secrets from Kay Scarpetta’s
Life’s Little Fable
Scarpetta’s Winter Table
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Cornwell, Patricia Daniels.
The front/Patricia Cornwell.
eISBN : 978-1-440-63705-6
1. Police—Massachusetts—Fiction. 2. Massachusetts—Fiction. I. Title.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibilty for author or third-party websites or their content.
TO URSULA MACKENZIE, who publishes me so brilliantly in the UK
Win Garano sets two lattes on a picnic table in front of the John F. Kennedy School of Government. It’s a sunny afternoon, mid-May, and Harvard Square is crowded. He straddles a bench, overdressed and sweaty in a black Armani suit and black patent-leather Prada shoes, pretty sure the original owner of them is dead.
He got a feeling about it when the saleslady in the Hand-Me-Ups shop said he could have the “gently worn” outfit for ninety-nine dollars. Next she pulled out suits, shoes, belts, ties, even socks. DKNY, Hugo Boss, Gucci, Hermès, Ralph Lauren. All from the same celebrity whose name I can’t tell you, and it occurred to Win that not so long ago, a wide receiver for the Patriots got killed in a car wreck. One eighty, six feet tall, muscular but not a moose. In other words, about Win’s size.
He sits alone at the picnic table, more self-conscious by the moment. Students, faculty, the elite—most of them in jeans, shorts, carrying knapsacks—cluster at other tables, deep in conversations that include very few comments about the dull lecture District Attorney Monique Lamont just gave at the Forum. No Neighbor Left Behind. Win warned her it was a confusing title, not to mention a banal topic for such a prestigious political venue. She’s not going to appreciate that he was right. He doesn’t appreciate that she ordered him here on his day off so she could boss him around, belittle him. Make a note of this. Make a note of that. Call so and so. Get her a coffee. Starbucks. Latte with skim milk and Splenda. Wait for her outside in the heat while she hobnobs inside the air-conditioned Littauer Center.
He sullenly watches her emerge from the brick building, escorted by two plainclothes officers from the Massachusetts State Police, where Win is a homicide investigator currently assigned to the Middlesex County District Attorney’s detective unit. In other words, assigned to Lamont, who called him at home last night and said effective immediately, he’s on leave from his regular duties. I’ll explain after my lecture at the Forum. See you at two. No further details.
She pauses to give an interview to the local ABC affiliate, then to NPR. She talks with reporters from The Boston Globe, the AP, and that Harvard student, Cal Tradd, who writes for the Crimson, thinks he’s from The Washington Post. The press loves Lamont. The press loves to hate her. No one is indifferent to the powerful, beautiful DA—today, conspicuous in a bright green suit. Escada. This year’s spring collection. Seems she’s been on quite the shopping spree of late, a new outfit practically every time Win sees her.
She continues talking to Cal as she walks confidently across the brick plaza, past massive planters of azaleas, rhododendrons, and pink and white dogwoods. Blond, blue-eyed, pretty-boy Cal, so cool and collected, so sure of himself, never flustered, never frowns, always so damn pleasant. Says something while scribbling on his notepad, and Lamont nods, and he says something else, and she keeps nodding. Win wishes the guy would do something stupid, get himself kicked out of Harvard. Flunking out would be even better. What a friggin’ pest.
Lamont dismisses Cal, signals for her plainclothes protection to give her privacy, and sits across from Win, her eyes hidden by reflective gray-tinted glasses.
“I thought it went well.” She picks up her latte without thanking him for it.
“Not much of a turnout. But you seemed to make your point,” he says.
“Obviously, most people, including you, don’t grasp the enormity of the problem.” That flat tone she uses when her narcissism has been insulted. “The decline of neighborhoods is potentially as destructive as global warming. Citizens have no respect for law enforcement, no interest whatsoever in helping us or each other. This past weekend I was in New York, walking through Central Park, and noticed a backpack abandoned on a bench. Do you think a single person thought to call
“The world’s going to hell, Monique.”
“People have slipped into complacency, and here’s what we’re going to do about it,” she says. “I’ve set the stage. Now we create the drama.”
Every day with Lamont is a drama.
She toys with her latte, looks around to see who’s looking at her. “How do we get attention? How do we take people who are jaded, desensitized, and make them care about crime? Care so much they decide to get involved at a grass-roots level? Can’t be gangs, drugs, carjackings, robberies, burglaries. Why? Because people want a crime problem that’s, let’s be honest, front-page news but happens to others, not to them.”
“I wasn’t aware people actually want a crime problem.”
He notices a skinny young woman with kinky red hair loitering near a Japanese maple not far from them. Dressed like Raggedy Ann, right down to her striped stockings and clunky shoes. Saw her the other week, in downtown Cambridge, loitering around the courthouse, probably waiting to go before a judge. Probably some petty crime like shoplifting.
“An unsolved sexual homicide,” Lamont is saying. “April fourth, 1962, Watertown.”
“I see. Not a cold case this time but a frozen one,” he says, keeping his eye on Raggedy Ann. “I’m surprised you even know where Watertown is.”
In Middlesex County, her jurisdiction—along with some sixty other modest municipalities she doesn’t give a damn about.
“Four square miles, population thirty-five thousand, very diverse ethnic base,” she says. “The perfect crime that just so happens to have been committed in the perfect microcosm for my initiative. The chief will partner you up with his lead detective. . . . You know, the one who drives that monstrous crime scene truck. Oh, what is it they call her?”
“That’s right. Because she’s short and fat.”
“She has a prosthesis, a below-the-knee amputation,” he says.
“Cops can be so insensitive. I believe the two of you know each other, from the little grocery store around the corner where she works a second job. So that’s a good start. Helps to be friends with someone you’re going to spend a lot of time with.”
“It’s an upscale gourmet shop, and isn’t just a second job, and we’re not friends.”
“You sound defensive. The two of you go out, maybe not get along? Because that could be a problem.”
“Nothing personal between us, never even worked a case with her,” Win says. “But I would think you have, since Watertown has plenty of crime and she’s been around as long as you have.”
“Why? Has she talked about me?”
“Usually we talk about cheese.”
Lamont glances at her watch. “Let’s get to the facts of the case. Janie Brolin.”
“Never heard of her.”
“British. She was blind, decided to spend a year in the States, chose Watertown, most likely because of Perkins, probably the most famous school for the blind in the world. Where Helen Keller went.”
“Perkins wasn’t located in Watertown back in the Helen Keller days. It was in Boston.”
“And why would you know trivia like that?”
“Because I’m a trivial person. And obviously you’ve been planning this drama for a while. So why did you wait until the last minute to tell me about it?”
“This is very sensitive and must be handled very discreetly. Imagine being blind and realizing there’s an intruder inside your apartment. That horror factor and something far more important. I think you’re going to discover she very well may have been the Boston Strangler’s first victim.”
“You said early April 1962?” Win frowns. “His alleged first murder wasn’t until two months later, in June.”
“Doesn’t mean he hadn’t killed before, just that earlier cases weren’t linked to him.”
“How do you propose we prove the Janie Brolin murder—or the Strangler’s other thirteen alleged murders, for that matter—was committed by him when we still don’t really know who he was?”
“We have Albert DeSalvo’s DNA.”
“No one’s ever proved he was the Strangler, and more to the point, do we have DNA from the Janie Brolin case for comparison?”
“That’s for you to find out.”
He can tell by her demeanor there’s no DNA and she damn well knows it. Why would there be, some forty-five years later? Back then, there was no such thing as forensic DNA or even a thought that there might be someday. So forget proving or disproving anything, as far as he’s concerned.
“It’s never too late for justice,” Lamont pontificates—or Lamonticates, as he calls it. “It’s time to unite citizens and police in fighting crime. To take back our neighborhoods, not just here but worldwide.” Same thing she just said in her uninspiring lecture. “We’re going to create a model that will be studied everywhere.”
Raggedy Ann is sending text messages on her cell phone. What a whack job. Harvard Square’s full of them. The other day, Win saw some guy licking the sidewalk in front of the Coop.
“Obviously, nothing about this to the press until the case is solved. Then, of course, it comes from me. It’s too hot for May,” she complains, getting up from the picnic table. “Watertown tomorrow morning, ten sharp, the chief’s office.”
She leaves her barely touched latte for him to dutifully toss in the trash.
An hour later, Win is finishing his third rep on the leg press when his iPhone vibrates like a large insect. He picks it up, wipes his face with a towel, puts on the wireless earpiece.
“Sorry. You’re on your own,” Stump says, in response to the voice mail he left her.
“We’ll talk later.” He has no intention of discussing it in the middle of the Charles Hotel health spa, which he can’t afford but is allowed to use in exchange for his security expertise and connections.
In the locker room, he takes a quick shower, changes back into his same outfit except for his shoes, which he swaps out for motorcycle boots. He grabs his helmet, his armored mesh jacket, and gloves. His motorcycle is parked in front of the hotel, a red Ducati Monster, protected by traffic cones, in his reserved spot on the sidewalk. He’s tucking his gym bag inside the hard case, locking it, when Cal Tradd walks up.
Cal says, “I figured a guy like you would ride the Superbike.”
“Really? Why would you figure that?” Before he can catch himself.
The last thing he wants is to engage the spoiled little bastard, but he’s knocked off balance, would never have guessed Cal would know anything about motorcycles, certainly not a Ducati 1098 S Superbike.
“Always wanted one,” Cal says. “Ducati, Moto Guzzi, Ghezzi-Brian. But you start piano lessons when you’re five, forget even a skateboard.”
Win’s sick and tired of the reminder. The mini Mozart, giving recitals by the time he was five.
“So when are we going to ride around together?” Cal goes on.
“What’s so hard about the words no or never? I don’t have ridealongs and I hate publicity. And I’ve told you this . . . let’s see. About fifty times now?”
Cal digs in a pocket of his khakis, pulls out a folded piece of paper, hands it to him. “My numbers. Same ones you probably threw away last time I gave them to you. Maybe you’ll call me, give me a chance. Just like Monique said in her lecture. Cops and the community need to work together. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on out there.”
Win walks off without so much as a see you later, heads toward Pittinelli’s Gourmet Market, another place he can’t afford. It took some nerve to wander in a couple months ago, see if he could work out an arrangement with Stump, who he’d heard of but never met. They aren’t friends, probably don’t even get along, but have a mutually beneficial arrangement. She gives him discounts because he happens to be state police and hap
He opens the front door and runs into Raggedy Ann, on her way out, tossing an empty Fresca can into a trash bin. The freako acts as if she doesn’t see him, the same way she did a little while ago at the School of Government. Now that he thinks of it, she treated him as if he were invisible the other week, too, when she was hanging around the courthouse, and he passed within inches of her, even said “excuse me.” Close up, she smells like baby powder. Maybe it’s all the makeup she’s wearing.
“What’s going on?” he says, blocking her way. “Seems like we keep running into each other.”
She pushes past him, hurrying along the busy sidewalk, cuts through an alleyway. Gone.
Stump is stocking shelves with olive oil, the air pungent with the aroma of imported cheeses, prosciutto, salami. Some college kid is sitting behind the counter, lost in a paperback, the shop otherwise empty.
“What’s with Raggedy Ann?” Win asks.
Stump looks up from her crouched position in the aisle, hands him a corked bottle shaped like a flask. “Frantoio Gaziello. Unfiltered, a little grassy, with a hint of avocado. You’ll love it.”
“She was just in your shop? And right before that, she was hanging around Lamont and me at the School of Government. And I’ve seen her around the courthouse, too. A little coincidental, maybe?” He studies the bottle of olive oil, looking for the price. “Maybe she’s stalking me.”
“I certainly would if I were some pitiful, deranged street person who thinks she’s a rag doll. Probably from one of the local shelters,” Stump says. “In and out, never buys anything except Fresca.”
“Sure drank it fast. Unless she didn’t finish it. Tossed the can in the trash as she was coming out of your store.”
The Front by Patricia Cornwell / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on18 votes