Home > Left to Envy (Adele Sharp #6)(7)

Left to Envy (Adele Sharp #6)(7)
Author: Blake Pierce

Adele winced. “And the wound on the head you mentioned?”

The coroner nodded and carefully tipped the victim’s head. Adele winced, spotting a bloody wound in the back of his skull.

“Not enough to kill him. Just to knock him unconscious.”

Adele stared at the corpse, trying to think of it as the shell of a person. Once upon a time an American cardinal on holiday. He had come to Italy likely to see the sights, to enjoy some time off from the demands of the smock. And now… cold, lifeless… All the time off in the world.

Also, clean. No defensive wounds, no signs he’d even seen his killer. But also, death by strangulation, not the blow to the head. Most bodies Adele interacted with showed signs of putting up some defense, or—at the least—of death upon first strike. But this killer was different. Meticulous, cold, careful. He’d knocked the victim unconscious, somehow managing to drag the body—still unconscious—to the noose. Then, without bruising or scraping in any other fashion, he hung them.

Murders couldn’t be that clean. Could they?

Adele shivered as she stared at the corpse. This killer… this killer was treating the murders themselves with care and concern, not just their presentation.

She thought of the death in Notre Dame. Also a clean kill. No additional bruising, no defensive wounds. No sign whatsoever the victim had seen the killer coming. A completely different victim from the American cardinal—a tourist. Different appearance, different weight, height, different background. No connection at all between the two.

Adele spotted the only other injury on the body: angry, red-crusted puncture wounds along this man’s arms where small hooks had been latched through, to pose him where he dangled from the ceiling.

She shivered. They’d asked for her specifically… Had they made a mistake?

“What are you thinking?” Agent Leoni asked, quietly.

Adele glanced at the ever placid countenance of her temporary partner.

“I’m thinking,” she said, “that the victim was irrelevant. I don’t think the killer cares who he takes, but rather where he takes them.”

“The landmarks? With the riddles?”

Adele nodded. “The second riddle, did you see it?”

“Yes,” said Leoni. He cleared his throat, then recited from memory: “The high place of the Great, never the Virgin’s fault, met an empire’s fate, pillars of nations fall.”

Adele blinked, trying not to show that she was impressed. “Exactly.”

“What do you think it means?”

Adele turning pointedly away from the corpse. She tried to focus on Leoni rather than the other images swirling through her brain. “I think,” she said, hesitantly, “that our killer is playing games. Something about these locations is important to him.”

“Tourist attractions?”

“Maybe. The press is calling him the Monument Killer. But there are other connections between these places as well. For one, they’re old. Maybe something to do with history. Also, they’re both deeply religious.”

“Do you think the killer wants to be caught?”

Adele shook her head. “I don’t know. I imagine not. But I think he wants to play his game. He’s sending us a message. Not just the riddles but these murders. There’s some message hidden here. And it’s up to us to find out what that is.”

The coroner was no longer standing near them, having moved off to the other side of the room toward the sink.

Adele sighed through her mask, feeling the gloves crinkle against her fingers as she pressed a hand to her thigh. “All right, I’ve seen what I needed. We have to find out what the connection is between these places.”

Leoni nodded, his face creasing in thought. “Well, the cathedral, of course, was the first model of French Gothic architecture under the guidance of Monsieur De Sully, consecrated onto the Virgin Mary.” He nodded seriously. “The chapel, on the other hand, came nearly four hundred years later, originally known as the Capella Magna. Perhaps the years of consecration are relevant?” He glanced inquisitively at Adele.

Adele stared, blinking owlishly. “Did you just memorize that?”

He stared back and suddenly flushed, coughing into his hand in mild embarrassment. “Er, sorry. I mean… Just a thought. I have a bit of interest in history myself.” He waved a dismissive hand. “It’s funny the things you remember.”

Adele tried not to smile. Handsome, intelligent, and humble. If she wasn’t careful, she was going to become completely distracted from the case.

“Where to now?” Leoni asked.

Adele considered this for a moment. “For the killer to subdue the victim, to be able to drag the body into these places, after hours, and know the layout well enough to put a rope around their neck and hang them, then they must have a precise knowledge of the buildings themselves. Which means they’ve definitely visited before.”

“Maybe they found blueprints online?”

Adele shook her head. “Maybe, but if they’re this interested in these places, they will have scoped it out.”

“You seem quite certain.”

“Call it a hunch. Regardless, we ought to track any ledgers, payment information, or guest lists of anyone in common who has visited both places.”

“What if they used a fake name?”

“The killer left riddles for fun. Perhaps even if they used a fake name, we’ll be allotted a clue.”

Leoni nodded.

For a moment, Adele glanced off. She wanted to get out of the coroner’s as quickly as possible. She stared at the faucet by the floor-to-ceiling metal coolers. A single drop quavered at the tip of the faucet, seemingly refusing to tumble. She blinked, and realized Leoni had asked her something.

She shook her head, returning her attention to the Italian. “Sorry, what was that?”

He smiled patiently. “I was just saying you seem distracted. Is everything okay?”

Adele thought of her mother. She thought of the images in her mind. She thought of the copycat killer back in France. She thought of Agent Renee, wondering if he was on the case. For a moment, she considered texting him, asking how it was going.

But this would only distract her further. She needed her wits about her; she wanted to solve this one. So she shook her head and said, “It’s fine. I’m sure. At least, I hope so. We need to regroup—let’s go over guest and employee records. There has to be a connection somewhere—something to clue us in to the identity of this guy.”

Adele nodded to herself, feeling another bout of anxiety at the crime scene she’d left in Paris. That was history. This case, though? This was about her future. Her career. Her reputation. All eyes were watching. History would have to wait. The future beckoned.

Besides, if anyone could solve the case of the copycat without her, it would be John. She had to count on him; what other choice did she have?

 

 

CHAPTER SIX

 

 

Agent John Renee folded the leather wallet around his set of lockpicks. It had been a while since he’d had to use them, especially on the job.

The tall Frenchman stood in the hallway of the apartment building, glancing one way then the other. The neighbors hadn’t spotted him. So far, so good. He swallowed, placing the lockpick wallet back in his pocket, then reaching out tentatively toward the door handle.

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