Cover image for Top ten
Title:
Top ten
Author:
Pearson, Ryne Douglas.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1999.
Physical Description:
311 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780399144998
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Item Holds
Searching...
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

"Michaelangelo is an unusual killer, a man tortured by a painful past, mesmerized by a bizarre artistic vision, who believes he is an artist of transcendent and consummate talent. The FBI, frantic to discover something about his motives after he strikes at a small-town post office in upstate New York, assigns Ariel Grace to its task force. When Ariel sees the security video taken at the crime scene, she is convinced she's found the twisted logic behind his rage: his all-consuming shame at appearing at number ten on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List." "Unknown to either Michaelangelo or Grace, a deep-undercover FBI agent is posing as criminal number five, and he appears next in Michaelangelo's sights. Once the chase ensues and Grace learns she is the only one who can save her fellow agent, all three become desperate to catch their quarry before they are caught themselves."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One DOTS God's gray rain fell on Damascus, New York.     Special Agent Bernard Jaworski, stern and sticklike, bald and yellowed by the chemo and radiation the whitecoats were hopeful would do a number on the tumor raging low in his back, sat at his desk midmorning on Monday, the weather glazing the window behind him, and read the orders just handed him for a third time.     "I don't get it." He looked up to the person who'd brought the orders with her. "Why is Atlanta sending me personnel?"     "I've been reassigned to you," Ariel Grace told him, though to her a more proper term would be "exiled." She'd thought that from the minute she saw the orders Saturday morning. Expecting Jack Hale to shift her to FEDBOMB for her perceived failure to get DeVane, or maybe have her sitting on a wire, or at worst running background on clearance applications, she'd instead gotten a letter with a plane ticket attached. And here she was, standing before her new boss, pissed as hell and unable to do anything about it but curse Jack Hale under her breath and move on.     "From Atlanta?" Jaworski asked, puzzled. A cough shook his wasting frame. He took a long sip of ice water. Ariel thought his fingers looked like dying twigs wrapped around the sweating glass.     "The orders were approved by Washington," Ariel said. And mustn't that have been a trick for Jack Hale to arrange overnight.     "I can see the signature, Agent Grace, but what I can't see is why I'm getting you from all the way down south. I've requested additional personnel, but usually they get pulled from somewhere close."     "I didn't request this, sir. But I'm here, and I'm ready to work."     "Sit down, Agent Grace." She took the only other seat, a government issue facing Jaworski's desk, stiff and gray, vinyl and metal. He looked at the orders again as she shifted for a comfortable position. "What did you work in Atlanta?"     "I ran Task Force Five," she said, surprised that he didn't know that.     Jaworski looked to her, squinting a bit. "You ran a Most Wanted task force?"     "Looking for Mills DeVane, sir."     He considered her for a moment. Businesslike, she was, in matching blue blazer and slacks. Her hair was brown and fell just below the collar, coiffed very proper. Voice clear, blue gaze steady. She was trying hard to not be something. To not be seen as something.     "How old are you, Agent Grace?"     There was the briefest pause before she replied. "I'll be thirty in December, sir."     "Twenty-nine, then, are you?"     She nodded to his "clarifying" query.     "Twenty-nine and running a task force," he said as comment. "How long have you been with the Bureau?"     "Six years, sir," she told him. No hesitation this time. "I was fully capable of doing the job."     He nodded. "So why aren't you still?"     That pause stalled her again. Jaworski had her number. She wasn't sure she liked that.     "One of my warrant services went bad," she told him. That was one man's opinion, anyway.     Lines cleaved his brow. Hell, he'd been living and breathing his own task force, number ten, night and day, but he hadn't been that disconnected from Bureau happenings, had he? "People get hurt?"     She shook her head.     Now he was really lost. "No one was hurt. So what went bad about it?"     "DeVane wasn't there." Would have been, except for that car ... that car that was and wasn't there.     "Wait," Jaworski said, sitting back, letting the chair's soft cushion nearly swallow him. "You got yanked and spanked because your guy wasn't there? Because you missed him?"     That might seem the reason, but Ariel knew better. Knew as soon as she'd read her orders Saturday morning. The orders that also mentioned her replacement.     "ASAC Hale made the call, sir. It's his task force now."     "I see that," Jaworski said. Right there, in the orders, it was spelled out. And wasn't that odd? Why in the hell was the number-two agent in Atlanta taking on a task force? There had to be something more to this.     But whatever that might be, it was not Jaworski's concern. He had no time for it. More pressing matters were at hand. Like catching his own freak, who was very much out there and very much active. And now he had one more body to throw at his boy. One more body that he had to get up to speed. Fast.     "You're all squared away, then, Grace?"     "Sir?"     "Ride, place to stay? The FO get you what you need?"     "Yes, sir." She'd flown in on Sunday and had been issued a Bureau Taurus by the Albany Field Office, and vouchers for the Bright I Motor Hotel here in Damascus. She'd spent a restless night there watching an old horror flick on the tube and eating take-out Chinese. When sleep finally dragged her down she dreamt of Jack Hale. He was getting the shit stomped out of him by some Frankensteinish fiend.     "All right, then," Jaworski said, and pushed himself up using both arms of his chair. With a grimace and some difficulty he stood and came around his desk, heading for the door. "Your learning curve here is going to look like the steep side of the Matterhorn."     "I can handle that," Ariel said. She stood and followed her new boss out of his office. They made a quick left through an outer office, and a right after that, heading down a long, dim hallway. Stacks of boxes yet to be unpacked crowded the passage, creating chokepoints through which one had to slip sideways. Jaworski took those walking straight on.     He moved fairly quick, considering, Ariel thought. But then, maybe being up was better than being down. A physical thing. Maybe mental, too.     Her mother had done housework all through her chemo. Called it her "therapy." She did the dishes the day she died, looking better than the man walking ahead of Ariel right then. Walking as he started talking.     "Welcome to Task Force Ten, Agent Grace," Jaworski said. "Around here we call it Base Ten. Someone nicked it that. I don't know why." At an intersection with another passage they turned left. More boxes cramped their way. A lone window in the distance washed the corridor with dim and dirty light. They walked toward it. "The Bureau rented it for our operations when we outgrew the space at the Utica RA." The RA, or resident agency, was the Bureau equivalent of a police substation, a local presence maintained in areas from which a field office was too distant, or where one was deemed necessary. "The building is vacant except for us and the rats."     "How many agents are you running?" Ariel asked. The bulge of her hip-holstered weapon snagged a box as she squeezed by and almost sent it tumbling.     "Sixteen counting you."     "I only saw one agent at the door when I came in."     "I believe in fieldwork, Grace. Our freak is not going to walk in here and hold out his hands. This ain't Hollywood. People who work for me work leads. Cold, warm, or hot. That's how I run Task Force Ten. I only wish I could get out there more."     "Someone has to run things," Ariel reminded him.     "It's kind of you to put it that way," Jaworski said. "So how many did you run, Agent Grace?"     "Forty full-time."     "How long?"     "Ten months."     "So you were around for this numbering crap."     "I was," Ariel said.     "Tell me, did it `focus task force efforts' any more by having that number tacked on to DeVane?"     "It was crap, sir, like you said."     Jaworski glanced back at her as he walked. A smile flashed. "Glad to see me and the other five thousand or so people aren't alone in our thinking."     "Washington comes up with some beauts," Ariel said. She knew that now better than most.     They neared the window. It had once been clear but now was filmed opaque with grime. A heavy door was set into the wall to the right of it. Jaworski mustered all his strength and shoved it open, letting them into the stairwell. They started up.     "Did you take the elevator up to three, Grace?"     "Yes, sir."     "Use the stairs from now on. They don't break down twice a week."     "Thanks for the warning." They made it to four and passed through another heavy door and were in another hallway when a question came to Ariel. "Why are you on three, sir? If the building's vacant."     "The rats have one and two. They rarely come to three."     Ariel looked at the ground as they moved down this hallway and wondered how often they came by four.     "How much do you know about our freak, Grace?" Jaworski asked her. His pace had slowed. His breathing hadn't.     "Some."     "I'll give you the quickie on him before I show you something. He calls himself Michaelangelo. Like the artist, but he spells it wrong. One extra `a.' He thinks he's an artist, too. A master, even. He's killed six already. Two just this last Friday." Jaworski stopped suddenly, half propping himself against one wall with a stiff arm. He sucked a deep breath of stale air. A shallow, wet cough hacked up, and he swallowed its spawn back down again. He looked straight at Ariel. "Let me tell you something, Agent Grace--off the subject. They may save my life, but until the day I do kick I will hate every doctor who ever lived for practically killing me with this cure."     She made no comment to what he'd said. Simply let him take a few more breaths and compose himself.     "Four men, two women," Jaworski went on. "All found in either Jersey, Pennsylvania, or our dear Empire State. He ... uses them. Makes `art' out of them. And I'm not talking re-creating the David . This freak goes for shock value." He paused, took one more deep breath, and continued on down the hall. "He treats the men and women differently."     "How?"     "Couple of ways. There's mutilation of the males' genitalia. ISU and some outside shrinks have looked at everything and decided either he's gay or not, afraid he's gay or afraid he's not, was abused or was an abuser. You get the picture, Grace?"     "He's not easily profiled."     "I hate that term, Jesus. Sometimes there are just monsters. Freaks. Evil pieces of human garbage that need to be hunted down. The only pigeonhole this guy fits into is fucked up ... pardon my Polish."     "Pardoned, sir," she said, smiling at his back. "So he doesn't mutilate the women?"     "Oh, hell, he'll mutilate the hell out of them. But he's not interested in their genitalia. Plus we don't get any letters on the women."     "He writes?"     "After each male murder a letter arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art addressed to the chief curator. Gives us the `titles' of his `works.'" Jaworski shook his head. "Since the first one we've been able to intercept them."     "Prints?"     Jaworski stopped again, this time outside a door just before another intersection of corridors. His breathing was not terribly labored.     "Oh, he's not afraid of leaving prints. We've got them by the hundred."     "So he's never been arrested, in the military, or had certain jobs."     "He's been a careful boy," Jaworski said, and reached into his pocket for a small ring of keys.     Ariel looked to the door they stood at and noticed now a makeshift sign tacked above it: GALLERY.     "Did you eat breakfast, Agent Grace?"     Ariel shook her head.     "That's probably a good thing."     He inserted a key into the lock on the door but didn't turn it. "That agent you saw on your way in ..."     "Yes...."     "That was Vargas. He's the gatekeeper. No one gets into this building unless they have business here. Any tabloid photographer worth his salt would give a limb to get shots of what's behind this door."     "More rats to deal with," she observed, and Jaworski turned the key and opened the door to a darkened room.     "After you."     She stepped in and heard the door close behind her, making the space black for a second before Jaworski switched on the lights and set the walls to screaming.     "Dear God," Ariel exclaimed softly, as though to speak too loudly might stir the madness fixed upon three of the room's four walls to life.     Jaworski himself gave the room a long look, taking it in yet again. It stoked the fire. Helped him to hate the freak that was his to catch.     Ariel was in the center of the room, her eyes tracking from right to left, vibrant and vicious hues assaulting her from dozens upon dozens of stills the Bureau photographers had captured. A visual symphony of horror.     In one a man's penis had been grafted to his forehead, making him a unicorn.     Jaworski saw where she was looking and stepped that way. He tapped the photo holding her rapt. "Calvis Winkler, the one our freak made into a unicorn, was victim number one. Twenty-three years old, an auto mechanic from Shakes Ferry." He pointed to a less-prominent photo of the crime scene. "His body was found on Valentine's Day in a Utica motel room standing before a mirror."     "Standing?" Ariel asked, looking closely at the indicated photo. There was Calvis Winkler, standing at the vanity in a motel room, hands planted on either side of the single-bowl sink, his boxer shorts and white T-shirt wet red nightmares. He seemed to be intently gazing at the mirror. At the dead perversion of himself.     "Rebar," Jaworski said in response to the question her puzzled expression was asking. "Those metal rods they put in concrete to strengthen it."     Ariel nodded.     "I hope to God he was dead already."     "He sculpted him," Ariel observed. "He made himself a human sculpture on a frame."     Jaworski nodded. "His letter told us he called it `Reflections Of A Myth.'"     "The unicorn is a mythical figure," Ariel said. "But here he gave it a reflection."     "Don't chew on it, Grace," Jaworski warned her. "Don't try and figure him out that way. Let the shrinks and the gurus at Quantico handle that end of it. Focus on the tangible. Be a cop, not a psychoanalyst."     She looked to him. "Those methods have worked, sir."     He allowed a nod and looked to the pictures. "I don't think it's going to be that way with this freak. I just don't."     She turned toward the next set of photos in line as Jaworski moved to them. In all the photos an older man sat naked in a chair, his right hand fixed over his mouth, his left over his eyes. "Ricardo Lomanico, sixty, a retired army master sergeant. Found dead in his house in Jersey City in early March by his painter who was touching up the trim around his bedroom window. His uvula had been removed and the object of their killer's rage attached in its place, blocking his windpipe."     Ariel grimaced, but stayed focused on the photos. "He couldn't have been alive...."     "Traces of a muscle paralyzer called napoxcypharin were found in his system. And in Calvis Winkler's. It was found in all the men. The medical examiner said this drug paralyzes the voluntary muscles, but lets you breath and lets your heart beat." Jaworski glanced at Ricardo Lomanico's hideously abused face. "It also allows one to still feel pain. But not scream."     A shiver scampered up her spine. Agony without expression. The cry withheld. She wondered if that could drive one mad.     "This creation is called `Hear My Evil.' Try and pick that one apart."     Jaworski took a step down and was now on a new wall, the one opposite the door. He touched the picture of a heavyset woman whose breasts had been removed. Her head rested on a lamp whose shade had been removed. The burning bulb glowed through her gaping mouth. "Susan Rollins, age forty-one, she was from Trenton, New Jersey, but was found in a motel room just outside of Centre Hall, Pennsylvania. Her body was found in the bathtub, here." Ariel looked where directed. "Fully clothed but drained of blood. We found about four pints in the toilet tank."     Stone , Ariel thought. Be stone. It was hard. She felt her stomach churning.     "Like I said, we didn't get a letter for this victim or the other woman, but he did leave what I guess you'd call messages at each scene. This one he left in lipstick on the bathroom mirror."     Ariel saw the photo nearby. "`Women bleed.'"     "You think that means something other than the disgustingly obvious?"     "It might," Ariel replied.     Jaworski shook his head and tapped the wall in a random succession of spots. "Connect the dots, Grace. Connect the dots."     "When was she found?"     "April second, though we know she was killed on the first."     "April Fools' Day," Ariel said. "The second significant day with Valentine's Day."     "And March fourth, Agent Grace?" Jaworski challenged her. "What day of significance is that, other than the day that Ricardo Lomanico died?"     There was no answer to be had. She was thinking too fast here. Taking in too much all at once and trying to put it in place, without knowing what the places were. She was trying a puzzle without having a picture for reference. That would not work. She had to see all the dots before trying to connect them.     "Who was next?" Ariel asked, signaling her readiness to go on. Jaworski obliged.     "This one is called `Taken For A Ride,'" Jaworski said. The accompanying photos showed the naked upper torso of a man seemingly grafted to a horse lying on its side, both dead. "The guy was James Ondatter, victim number four. He drove a taxi in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania. He was found in the same area. The mount he's stuck to was called Lady Anne Green Apples. Her owner looked out a window in the morning last April third and saw Lady Anne galloping around the pasture. It looked like someone was riding her. Someone was."     "The horse was alive when he did this?" Ariel exclaimed more than asked.     "Police shot it when they got there. They found Ondatter's lower half attached to another horse wandering through open country outside of town. That one died before they could shoot it. Stress from a too-high dose of a veterinary tranquilizer called equipsyx."     "He has access to drugs."     "And surgical glues, sutures," Jaworski said. "But we've done those dots. Pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, doctors, et cetera, et cetera."     "You couldn't have checked everywhere," she said.     "You can never check everywhere, Agent Grace. And even if you could, there's no guarantee you'd see this guy. I doubt he's walking around drooling and showing off his collection of catgut and equipsyx."     Likely not, she knew, but he had to be getting his toys somewhere.     "He used duct tape on Susan Rollins," Jaworski added. "We ran the lot. It came back as shipping to over eight hundred outlets over a year. Maybe fifty thousand people bought it. Mostly cash transactions."     "Not much chance there," Ariel commented. A thought came to her. "Susan Rollins was from New Jersey--how'd she end up in Centre Hall one day before Ondatter was found?"     Jaworski tipped his head approvingly toward her. "Now, there are some dots, Agent Grace. Susan Rollins was in Centre Hall on business. Real estate business. A company she worked for back home was purchasing a tract of land in the area. She was there for an appraisal. She never showed up."     "So why kill her?"     "Dots, Agent Grace. Dots." Another step down the line, to the last two in the grisly series. "For six months our freak was quiet. Then these next two were killed. Close in proximity and even closer in time." He touched a photo. "Lew Bradford, fifty. A car salesman. Found in a field near Oneida, his hometown, on Friday morning. Not far from here. He was killed Thursday night. Napoxcypharin in his system, as well. Our freak hammered a sharpened piece of scrap iron about an inch thick into the ground so that about six feet of it stood proud like a flagpole. Then he positioned Lew Bradford on top and let gravity do the rest."     Ariel looked away, and her eyes fell upon the dismembered pieces of a woman suspended from a ceiling.     "Doris May," Jaworski began. "Victim number six. Thirty-eight. A postal worker. She was found cut up, photocopied, and hung like a mobile in a post office in Pembry late Friday night. Pembry's just up the road from Oneida. An hour before you got here this morning the letter concerning Mr. Bradford was flagged at the Metropolitan Museum. It came from this post office."     "He mailed it there, then killed her?" What sense did that make? Ariel wondered. Then again, what sense was there in any of the things she was seeing?     His sense, the answer came to her.     "No drugs, just like the other female victim. But unlike her, he didn't use duct tape."     Ariel was making mental notes as best she could. Later she'd put them on paper. Reduce what she was being shown, being told, to cold words. When this was all done, the next day, the next week, the next year, she could file them away. Or toss them. Make them gone.     If only the memories could be so easily dealt with.     "On the wall he wrote in her own blood `She Went To Pieces.' "Jaworski showed her the photo. Ariel looked. Made it a memory.     The light above dimmed briefly, then went back to bright. Ariel would have preferred it go black. She had seen enough.     "Someone's on the elevator," Jaworski said. "I have an appointment. Doctor here to give me a shot of insta-sick. Oh joy." He turned and opened the door. "Shall we?"     She was ready to leave. She wanted to leave. But when given the chance right then by the man who was now her boss, she did not. She could not.     "Agent Grace?"     The walls were still screaming at her.     "Agent Grace?"     Making memories.     "Agent Grace ?"     She turned finally away from the walls.     "I have work for you," he said.     "Right, sir."     The light clicked off. Darkness killed the screams. Chapter Two IMAGE MAKER We called her DoDo," Judy Bryce said between puffs on her smoke out behind the Pembry Post Office. Her eyes were teary. The sleeve of her postal uniform was damp. She'd been crying.     Ariel Grace stood close to her on the gravelly ground with a small notebook in hand. The rain had stopped, but a chilly wind blew.     "It was a joke kind of thing," Judy said, glancing upward and sniffling. She took a hard drag and spit the smoke toward the woods. "'Cause she was blonde, you know? But she wasn't dumb." She put the back of her hand to her mouth and stared at the ground. "She wasn't."     "I'm sorry," Ariel told the woman. The page in her notebook had Judy Bryce's name at the top. She'd written nothing else yet. Her pain was not notable.     "I can't believe she's gone," Judy said, puffing again. "I can't."     "It's difficult, Mrs. Bryce. I can imagine." It was time to move past sympathy. "I understand you were on vacation all last week."     Judy Bryce nodded. "My husband and I took the kids to Disney World." She sniffled. "DoDo always wanted to take Lucas there, but she never had the money. It's hard without a husband, you know."     Ariel nodded. She'd jotted Disney World without looking. "You returned when, Mrs. Bryce?"     "Last night. There was a message on my machine from Mr. Hayes...."     "Hayes?"     "He's the postmaster. He said that Doris had been killed and he needed me in this week."     "You were supposed to be off, then."     Judy Bryce nodded. "So here I am." Dry sobs shook her. "DoDo was working for me last week." Tears streamed down her cheeks. She put her cigarette shakily to her lips and drew on it. After a moment the spasm eased. "I'm sorry."     "It's all right," Ariel said. This was going fast to nowhere. Jaworski had sent her to talk to this woman, to pick up this one last interview of staff at the post office where Doris "DoDo" May had been cut up. But what could this woman possibly offer? She'd been out of town when the crime occurred. Out of town in the week leading up to it. What possible dots could be gleaned from her?     "Do you think she suffered?" Judy Bryce asked. Her wet eyes pleaded for a wanted truth.     "I don't think so," Ariel told her, giving her what she wanted. By any other name it was a lie. "Before you left on vacation, did Doris mention anything about anyone to you? Someone new in her life? A boyfriend? An admirer?"     Judy Bryce shook her head. "She had a steady guy. Mike DeRoy."     Who had been checked and cleared already, Ariel knew from the case notes Jaworski had given her. She'd read them while stopped for lunch en route to Pembry. There'd been no pictures included. She'd been able to finish half a sandwich before the cold words sparked new memories.     "He drives trucks across country," Judy told Ariel. "God, has anyone told him?"     "He's been talked to," Ariel assured her. Agents in Montana intercepted his rig and questioned him for two hours. They ended up taking him to a hospital. "So Doris had no one new in her life. Not even a new friend?"     "Everybody knows everybody around her," Judy said. "There's no one new to know."     Ariel nodded and clicked her pen shut. Tucked her notebook inside her blazer. Judy Bryce was a wash.     "I appreciate you talking to me, Mrs. Bryce. I'll walk you back in."     Judy Bryce took a last draw on her cigarette and tossed it to the ground. She crushed it out with a twist of her foot on the gravel and used her key to open the back door. A new lock had been installed over the weekend. One that locked automatically whenever the door closed.     Ariel followed Judy back through the post office. Through the back room and its mail sacks. Down the hall past the rooms where horrors had been done to Doris "DoDo" May. Both were closed off. The floor was shiny. It had been stripped and cleaned and waxed overnight. The place was spotless. Clean. But it would always be stained.     Judy walked Ariel behind the counter where another postal worker stood at the service window chatting softly with a woman buying stamps and mailing a package. The woman was slowly shaking her head.     "Thanks again," Ariel told Judy Bryce once they were in the main lobby. "I know it's hard to talk about."     "I know I wasn't much help," Judy said. Her arms were crossed tight across her chest as if there were a chill in the room. The heater was running at full bore.     "Everything helps," Ariel reassured her. It wasn't a lie, per se.     Judy Bryce looked around the lobby. The floor gleamed. One spot on the wall near the bulletin board had been scrubbed whiter than that which surrounded it. Word was the whole place was going to be painted. Rumor was it was going to be razed.     Ariel, too, took a look around the sanitized space. Muted afternoon light filled it through the doors that had been part of Michaelangelo's canvas. Only part. The walls, too, where he'd scrawled his message, were integral to the shock value he sought to ...     Camera.     Her survey of the room stopped cold on the surveillance camera pointing almost directly at her from behind the counter. She turned and looked behind. High above the door another one was mounted. A cable from it snaked through a hole in the ceiling.     Jaworski hadn't said anything about cameras. The case notes he'd given her hadn't mentioned any. But certainly they had been noticed.     "Mrs. Bryce, the cameras there and there ..."     "Bob said your people took the tapes and the recording decks." Judy Bryce motioned to her coworker commiserating with the customer. Her face went sullen. "I don't know if I want them to have seen anything."     Ariel could understand without agreeing. "Again, Mrs. Bryce, I'm very, very sorry. You'll take care, right?"     Judy nodded. "Oh. Wait. Did you bring a new bulletin for us?"     "Excuse me?"     "When the person from your office called and said you'd be stopping by, I thought maybe you'd be bringing a new Most Wanted bulletin."     Ariel looked over to the bulletin board. A faded spot where something had been posted showed like a sore on the nearly covered corkboard.     "Bob said he asked if you could."     Ariel was still staring at the bare spot.     "Miss?"     She turned quickly back to Judy Bryce. "Yes? No. No, I didn't bring one. I'm ..." Why would that be missing? "... sorry."     "Could you put in a request, or whatever, so we could get one?" Judy Bryce asked.     Spot of blood on it, maybe, Ariel thought. Kept as evidence? Thrown away?     "Miss?"     She was seeing what was before her again, not the stored image of that bare spot off to the left. "I'll request one for you. You try and have a good day, Mrs. Bryce."     "I won't," Judy Bryce told her. The Bureau Taurus was parked on the street half a block down Roseland Road from the Pembry Post Office. Ariel Grace sat in the passenger seat with the door open and one leg hanging out as she took the cell phone from its holder. She began to dial, then pressed the END button, shaking her head. She was calling the Atlanta field office, less the area code. Likely she would have gotten some pizza place or a confused old woman who'd curse her for not being more careful. She paused, flipped through the case notes that she'd opened atop the dash, and found something with Jaworski's number on it. She dialed and waited through three rings.     "Jaworski."     "Agent Grace, sir."     "What do you want, Grace?" It was five past two, but he sounded as though he'd been waked from a dead sleep.     "There are cameras at the post office," she said. The immediate reply she got was silence.     "If you're calling to tell me that there are cameras, Agent Grace, I have to tell you I'm disappointed in you."     Tired and testy, she thought, then remembered his appointment. The doctor had come and gone, she suspected, but left her boss with a reminder of their time together. She wondered if there was a spare wastebasket close by his desk like the one her mother had kept near the bed.     "No, sir, I know you know about the cameras. I'm wondering about the tapes." She could sense his head shaking during the brief pause before he spoke.     "I've seen them. There's nothing usable on them."     "They didn't get it?"     "They got it all, but they didn't get anything clear of him. Unless you call dark clothing, dark baseball-style cap, and turned-up collar, all things we knew already. We had surveillance pictures of him before, Agent Grace, or didn't you read what I gave you?"     It wasn't him talking. Ariel knew that better than most, though she would have given the world not to. "At the stables, sir, yes. But I'm not thinking about seeing him. I want to see what happened in there."     "I have, Grace. There's nothing useful. Trust me."     He was a wall. She doubted he knew that he was. But still she had to get through. "I would really appreciate it, sir, if you'd let me see the tapes. I know it may be disturbing, but if I'm going to be part of your team then I need to be' able to access the evidence."     "The tapes are in Washington, Grace," Jaworski told her. He sounded as if he simply wanted her to go away. "The lab has them. They're going to try for an enhancement. They won't get it."     "Can I see the raw tapes, sir?"     "They're in D.C., I just told you."     Easy push. Easy push. Just like what the doctors would be doing and telling him. One more, Mr. Jaworski. One more round might just do it. Might just get this sucker.     "The lab makes copies of the raw tapes, sir. They could send copies of those copies."     A breath hissed over the connection. Exasperated. Dog tired. "Do you want me to get you copies, Grace? Do you?"     "I would appreciate it."     "Fine," Jaworski said. She was listening to electric silence a split second later. Copyright © 1999 Ryne Douglas Pearson. All rights reserved.