Fear Nothing (Detective D.D. Warren #7) - Lisa Gardner


Rockabye, baby, on the treetop . . .

The body was gone, but not the smell. As Boston homicide detective D. D. Warren knew from experience, this kind of scene could hold the stench of blood for weeks, even months to come. The crime scene techs had removed the bedding, but still, blood had a life of its own. Seeping into drywall. Slipping behind wooden trim. Pooling between floorboards. Twenty-eight-year-old Christine Ryan used to have approximately 4.7 liters of blood pumping through her veins. Now most of it saturated the bare mattress occupying center stage of this grim, gray space.

When the wind blows, the cradle will rock . . .

The call had come in shortly after 9:00 A.M. Good friend Midge Roberts had grown concerned when Christine hadn’t answered the knocks on her front door or the texts to her cell phone. Christine was the responsible kind. Didn’t oversleep, didn’t run off with a cute bartender, didn’t come down with the flu without providing a heads-up to her best bud, who picked her up promptly at seven thirty each weekday morning for their joint commute to a local accounting firm.

Midge had contacted a few more friends. All agreed no one had heard from Christine since dinner the night before. Midge gave in to instinct and summoned the landlord, who finally agreed to open the door.

Then vomited all over the upstairs hall upon making the find.

Midge hadn’t come up the stairs. Midge had stood in the foyer of the narrow duplex, and, as she’d reported to D.D.’s squad mate Phil, she’d known. Just known. Probably, even from that distance, she’d caught the first unmistakable whiff of drying blood.

Rockabye, baby . . .

Upon her arrival, the scene had immediately struck D.D. with its marked contrasts. The young female victim, sprawled spread-eagle on her own bed, staring up at the ceiling with sightless blue eyes. Pretty features appearing nearly peaceful as her shoulder-length brown hair pooled softly upon a stark white pillow.

Except then, from the neck down . . .

Skin, peeled off in thin, curling ribbons. D.D. had heard of such things. At eleven this morning, she got to see them firsthand. A young woman, flayed in her own bed. With a bottle of champagne on her nightstand and a single red rose placed across her bloody abdomen.

Next to the bottle of champagne, Phil had discovered a pair of handcuffs. The kind purchased in high-end sex shops and fur lined for comfort. Taking in the cuffs, the sparkling wine, the red rose . . .

Lovers’ tryst gone awry, Phil had theorized. Or, given the level of violence, a jilted boyfriend’s final act of vengeance. Christine had broken up with some sorry sucker, and last night, the sorry sucker had returned to prove once and for all who was in charge.

But D.D. wasn’t on board. Yes, there were handcuffs, but not on the victim’s wrists. Yes, there was uncorked champagne, but none poured into waiting flutes for drinking. Finally, sure, there was the rose, but not in a florist’s wrap for gifting.

The scene felt too . . . deliberate to her. Not a crime of passion or a falling-out between consenting adults. But a carefully staged production that involved months, years, perhaps even a lifetime of careful planning and consideration.

In D.D.’s opinion, they weren’t looking at just a crime scene. They were looking at a killer’s deepest, darkest fantasy.

And while this might be the first scene they were investigating, a homicide this heavily ritualized was probably not the last.

When the wind blows . . .

D.D.’s squad, the crime scene techs, the ME’s office, not to mention a plethora of other investigators, had spent six hours working the space. They’d documented, dusted, diagramed and discussed until the sun had set, the dinner commute was on and tempers were flaring. As lead detective, D.D. had finally sent everyone home with orders to refresh, then regroup. Tomorrow was another day, when they could search federal databases for other murders matching this description, while building the profiles of their victim and killer. Plenty to do, many angles to investigate. Now get some rest.

Everyone had listened. Except, of course, D.D.

It was nearly 10:00 P.M. She should be returning home. Kissing her husband hello. Checking in on her three-year-old son, already tucked into bed at this late hour. Working on her own good night’s sleep, versus hanging out at a darkened crime scene with her toddler’s current favorite nursery rhyme running through her head.

But she couldn’t do it. Some instinct—insight?—had driven her