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Freaks By Tess Gerritsen


In the darkness above, something fluttered. Jane glanced up and shuddered as she spotted a shadow swooping high above. "There really are bats in the belfry," she said. "We noticed them flying around earlier."

"Bats?" said Maura with a startled laugh. "And an open coffin?"

"Wait. It gets better," said Jane, crossing to the coffin. "Take a look."

"Please don't tell me there's a vampire lying in there."

Jane shone her light into the coffin. On the satin pillow inside were half a dozen black strands of hair. "Someone's been lying in here. The question is, was he dead? Or was he just sleeping?" Jane gave a nervous laugh. "And are these hairs even human?"

Maura stood over the coffin, staring at the telltale strands. Suddenly she gave herself a shake, as if to cast off the spell that this place had spun around them all. "Jane, there's a logical explanation for this."

"You always say that."

Maura turned and pointed to puddles of melted wax on the floor. "Someone's been burning candles. And look, there's a big cardboard box over there, with blankets. Someone's been camping in here, that's all. Maybe the victim."

"Or the guy who slept in that coffin. Wherever he is now."

Maura crossed back to the body. "It too dark in here for me to properly examine her. We need to get her to the morgue for autopsy." She began dialing her cell phone. "This is Dr. Isles. We have a body to transport..."

One of the criminalists muttered: "Maybe we should drive a stake through her heart first. Just to be sure."

The chill had deepened, and Jane could see her own breath in the darkness, a ghostly cloud that dissipated into the shadows. Kimberly Rayner should be in high school, thought Jane, looking down at the body. A seventeen-year-old girl should be flirting with boys and applying to college and dreaming about her future. Not lying dead on an icy stone floor.

"Detective Rizzoli?" one of the criminalists called out. "I found a shoeprint."

Jane crossed to where he was crouched, his flashlight aimed at the muddy track. "Looks like a man's size eight or nine. Too big to be the victim's."

With her flashlight pointed to the floor, Jane followed the tracks backward until she reached a door -- not the door that the responding patrolman had entered. No, someone else had entered the building this way. The door hung ajar, and she felt icy wind seep through the opening.

Pushing through, she found herself outside, in an overgrown side yard littered with the debris of autumn leaves. The crack of a branch made her head snap up. She aimed her flashlight toward the sound.

A pair of eyes glowed back at her.