Extract: Listen to Me by Tess Gerritsen
The murder of Sofia Suarez is both gruesome and seemingly senseless. Why would anyone target a respected nurse who was well-liked by her friends and her neighbours? As Detective Jane Rizzoli and Forensic Pathologist Maura Isles investigate the baffling case, they discover that Sofia was guarding a dangerous secret – a secret that may have led the killer straight to her door.
Meanwhile, Jane’s watchful mother Angela Rizzoli is conducting an investigation of her own. She may be a grandmother, not a police detective, but she’s savvy enough to know there’s something very strange, perhaps even dangerous, about the new neighbours across the street. The problem is, no one believes her, not even her own daughter.
Immersed in the hunt for Sofia’s killer, Jane and Maura are too busy to pay attention to Angela’s fears. With no one listening to her, and danger mounting in her neighbourhood, Angela just may be forced to take action on her own…
Read on for the first two chapters of Listen to Me by Tess Gerritsen!
Listen to Me
I should have worn my boots, she thought as she stepped out of Snell Library and saw the fresh layer of sleet and slush covering the campus. When she’d left for school that morning it had been a balmy forty-nine degrees, one in a string of spring-like days that made her believe winter was finally over, and she had come to campus wearing blue jeans and a hoodie and brand-new pink flats made of buttery leather. But while she’d been inside all day working on her laptop, outside, winter had come roaring back. Now it was dark, and with this frigid wind sweeping across the courtyard, the pavement would soon be as slick as an ice rink.
With a sigh, she zipped up her hoodie and hauled her backpack, heavy with books and her laptop, onto her shoulders. There’s no way around it. Here we go. Gingerly she descended the library stairs and landed ankle-deep in slush. Her feet now wet and stinging, she forged ahead down the path between Haydn Hall and Blackman Auditorium. Well, these new shoes were ruined. Stupid, stupid. That’s what she got for not checking the forecast this morning. For forgetting that March in Boston could break a girl’s heart.
She reached Eli Hall and suddenly stopped. Turned. Were those footsteps she’d heard behind her? For a moment she stared at the alley that cut between the two buildings but all she saw was the deserted walkway, glistening beneath the lamplight. Darkness and bad weather had emptied out the campus and she heard no footsteps now, just the rattle of falling sleet and the distant whish of cars traveling down Huntington Avenue.
She hugged her hoodie tighter and kept walking.
The campus quadrangle was slick and gleaming with a crust of ice and her sadly inadequate shoes crunched through the rime into puddles, splashing her jeans with ice water. She could no longer feel her toes.
This was all Prof. Harthoorn’s fault. He was the reason she’d spent all day in the library, the reason she wasn’t at home right now, eating dinner with her parents. But here she was, toes numb with impending frostbite, all because her senior thesis – the thirty-two-page paper she’d been working on for months – was incomplete, he’d said. Inadequate, he’d said, because she hadn’t addressed the pivotal event in Artemisia Gentileschi’s life, the life-changing trauma that imbued her paintings with such violent and visceral power: being raped.
As if women were formless lumps of clay, needing to be pummeled and abused to be shaped into something greater. As if what Artemisia needed to become an artist was a good old-fashioned sexual assault.
She felt more and more angry about Harthoorn’s comments as she walked across the quad, splashing through slush. What did a dried-up old man like him know about women and all the wearying and infuriating annoyances they had to tolerate? All the helpful advice foisted on them by men with their I know better voices.
She reached the crosswalk and stopped at the pedestrian light, which had just turned red. Of course it was red; nothing today had gone her way. Cars rolled past, tires spraying up water. Sleet clattered on her backpack, and she thought about her laptop and whether it was getting wet and she’d lose all the work she’d put in this afternoon. Yes, that would perfectly cap off her day. It’s what she deserved for not checking the forecast. For not bringing an umbrella. For wearing these stupid shoes.
The light was still red. Was it broken? Should she ignore it and just make a dash across the street?
She was so focused on the light that she wasn’t aware of the man standing behind her. Then something about him caught her attention. Perhaps it was the rustle of his nylon jacket, or the odor of alcohol drifting on his breath. All at once she knew someone was there and she turned to look at him.
He was so bundled up against the cold, with a scarf wrapped up to his chin and a wool cap pulled down to his eyebrows, that all she could really see of his face were his eyes. He didn’t avoid her gaze but looked straight back at her with a stare so piercing that she felt violated, as if that stare was vacuuming out her deepest secrets. He made no move toward her but his gaze was enough to make her uneasy.
She glanced across Huntington Avenue, at the businesses across the street. The taco shop was open, its windows brightly lit, and she could see half a dozen customers inside. A safe place, with people to turn to if she needed help. She could duck in there to get warm, and maybe call an Uber to take her home.
The light turned green at last.
She stepped too quickly off the curb and the sole of her leather flat instantly skidded across the ice-slicked road. Arms flywheeling, she fought to stay upright but the backpack threw her off-balance and down she went, her rump splashing down into slush. Soaked and shaken, she staggered back to her feet.
She never saw the headlights hurtling toward her.
Two Months Later
If you see something, say something. We’ve all heard that advice so many times that whenever we find a suspicious package where it shouldn’t be, or notice a stranger lurking in the neighborhood, we automatically pay attention. Certainly I do, especially since my daughter, Jane, is a cop, and my boyfriend, Vince, is a retired cop. I’ve heard all their horror stories and if I see something, you bet I’m going to say something. So it’s only second nature for me to keep an eye on my own neighborhood.
I live in the city of Revere, which strictly speaking isn’t in the city of Boston proper, but is more like Boston’s more affordable cousin to the north. Mine is a street of modest single-family homes tucked in side by side. Starter homes was what Frank (soon to be my ex-husband) called them when we moved here forty years ago, except that we never moved on to anything bigger. Neither did Agnes Kaminsky who still lives next door, or Glen Druckmeyer who died in the house across the street, which made it the opposite of a starter home for him. As the years went by, I watched families move in, then move out. The house to my right is once again vacant and for sale, waiting for the next family to cycle through. To my left lives Agnes, who used to be my best friend until I started dating Vince Korsak, which scandalized Agnes because my divorce isn’t final yet, and this made me a scarlet woman in her eyes. Even though Frank was the one who walked out of our marriage to be with another woman. A blonde. What really turned Agnes against me is the fact I enjoy myself so much now that Frank’s gone. I enjoy having a new man in my life and kissing him in my own backyard. What does Agnes think I’m supposed to do now that my husband’s left me? Drape myself in virtuous black and keep my legs crossed until everything down there dries up? She and I hardly talk anymore, but we don’t need to. I already know what she’s up to next door. The same things she’s always done: smoking her Virginia Slims, watching QVC, and overcooking her vegetables.
But that’s not for me to judge.
Across the street, starting at the corner, is the blue house owned by Larry and Lorelei Leopold, who’ve lived here for the past twenty or so years. Larry teaches English at the local high school, and while I can’t say we’re close, we do play Scrabble together every Thursday night so I’m well acquainted with the breadth of Larry’s vocabulary. Next to the Leopolds is the house where Glen Druckmeyer died, which used to be for rent. And next door to that, in the house directly across the street from me, lives Jonas, a sixty-two-year-old bachelor and former Navy SEAL who moved here six years ago. Lorelei recently invited Jonas to the Scrabble nights at my house, which should’ve been a group decision, but Jonas turned out to be an excellent addition. He always brings a bottle of Ecco Domani cabernet, he has a good vocabulary, and he doesn’t try to sneak in foreign words, which shouldn’t be allowed. Scrabble is, after all, an American game. I have to admit, he’s also a fine-looking fellow. Unfortunately he knows it, and he likes to mow his front lawn while shirtless, his chest puffed out, his biceps bulging. Naturally, I can’t help but watch him and he knows it. When he sees me at my window, he makes a point of waving to me, which makes Agnes Kaminsky think something’s going on between us, which isn’t true. I’m just everyone’s friendly neighbor, and if someone moves onto our street, I’m always the first at their door with a smile and zucchini bread. People appreciate that. They invite me into their homes, introduce their children, tell me where they’re from and what they do for a living. They ask me to recommend a plumber or a dentist. We exchange phone numbers and promises to get together soon.
That’s how it’s been with all my neighbors.
Until the Greens moved in.
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