“SHOT IN HIS DRIVEWAY as he was getting groceries out of his car between nine-forty-five and ten,” Marino says. “A neighbor noticed him
down on the pavement and called nine-one-one exactly one hour and eight minutes ago.”
“How do you know he was shot if you haven’t been to the scene yet?” I check my watch. It’s eight minutes past eleven.
“He’s got a nice hole in his neck and another one where his left eye used to be. Machado’s there and has already gotten the wife on the phone. She told him some weird shit’s been happening in the past month and Nari was concerned enough to start changing his patterns, even his car. At least that’s what Machado’s passed on to me.” That tone again.
Hostility, and it makes no sense. The two of them go to baseball and hockey games together. They ride Harleys, and Machado is largely respon- sible for convincing Marino to resign as my chief forensic investigator and go back to policing. This was last year. I’m still adjusting to his empty office at the CFC and his new habit of telling me what to do. Or thinking he can. Like right now. He’s demanding my presence at a death scene as if I have no say about it.
“I’ve already got a few emailed pictures,” Marino explains. “Like I said it reminds me of the lady killed in New Jersey two months ago, the one whose mother I went to high school with. Shot while she was waiting for the Edgewater Ferry, people everywhere and no one heard or saw a damn thing. Once in the back of the neck, once in the mouth.”
I remember hearing about the case and the original suspicion that it was a murder for hire, possibly domestic related.
“In December it was the guy getting out of his car at his restaurant in Morristown,” Marino continues as my mind jumps to the peculiar poem again. It was tweeted from a hotel in Morristown. Copperhead. My attention
wanders back to the seven pennies on the wall.
“And I was there for that one, during the holidays, hanging out with
some of my cop buddies, so I went to the scene. Shot once in the back of the neck, once in the gut. Solid copper bullets, high-speed velocities with so little frag we can’t do positive ballistics matching. But there’s a definite consistency in the two cases. We’re pretty sure the same rifle was used, an unusual one.”
We. At some point Marino inserted himself into an investigation that is outside of his jurisdiction. Serial murders, possibly sniper kills or at least that seems to be what he’s implying, and there’s nothing worse than an investigation launched by assumptions. If you already know the answer you torque everything to fit the theory.
“Let’s go slowly until we know exactly what we’re dealing with,” I say to him as I watch Benton watching me and checking his phone.
I suspect he’s skimming through news feeds and emails, trying to find out for himself what is going on. He continues to glance in the direction of the Academy of Arts and Sciences where he saw something flash like a camera flash, only duller. A glint, a flick of light, he said. The lens of a riflescope enters my mind. I think of the low dispersion glass or kill-flash devices used by snipers and competition shooters.
I meet Benton’s eyes and indicate we need to go inside the house slowly, calmly, as if nothing is the matter. I pause on the patio, checking the grill. I cover it with the lid, acting unflustered and unconcerned. If someone is watching us or has a riflescope trained on us there is nothing we can do about it.
Sudden movements or an impression of panic will make matters worse. Lucy and Janet didn’t notice anyone when they did an aerial recon but I don’t put much stock in that. The person could be camouflaged. Maybe he ducked out of sight when he heard the helicopter’s approach. Maybe he’s back.
“You know who Jack Kuster is?” Marino asks.
I tell him I don’t as Benton and I climb the back steps with Sock on our heels.
“Morristown,” Marino says. “Their lead investigator and a master fo- rensic firearms instructor. He’s suspicious we’re talking about a 5R like you see with sharpshooters and snipers who build their own rifles. My buddies there have been keeping me up to speed. And I got a personal interest.”
Marino grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey, and loves to attend concerts and sports events at the MetLife. This past February it was the Super Bowl. He claimed his cop friends with the Morris County Sheriff’s De- partment managed to get tickets.
“There’s copper frag at the scene, more of the same glitter where the bullet exited his body and slammed into the pavement,” Marino says.
“The body’s been moved?” That had better not be what he’s implying.
“Apparently some of the frag’s in blood that flowed out from under his head. Don’t worry. Nobody’s touched anything they shouldn’t.”
Benton shuts the screen door behind us, then the heavy wooden inner door, deadbolting it. I stand in the hallway on the phone while he disap- pears toward the kitchen. I end the call because someone else is trying me and I look to see who it is.
Then I have him in my earpiece.
“Remember the high school music teacher who made the big stink about being persecuted by the government and ended up having a beer and barbecue with Obama?” Bryce says right off and now I understand. “A real jerk to you, remember? Dissed you right in front of the president? Basically called you a body snatcher and a Nazi who sells skin, bones, eyes, livers, lungs to the highest bidder?”
Jamal Nari. My mood gets worse.
“Did I mention a shit storm?” Bryce says. “It’s already all over the news. Don’t ask me why they released his identity instantly. Waited what? An hour? Maybe ask Marino that?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I mean it’s no secret where Nari lives—or lived—obviously since there were news crews including CNN and Reuters and my fave GMA camped out there when that disastrous PR faux pas happened that landed him at the White House during happy hour. But they’re saying it’s him for sure. How did it happen that they released this all over the planet?”
I don’t have an answer.
“Are you going to the scene or should I tell Luke to head there? Before you answer? My opinion? It should be you,” adds my talkaholic chief of staff. “They’re already tweeting conspiracy theories. And get this? A tweet about a Cambridge man possibly murdered on Farrar Street? It’s been retweeted a million times since nine a.m.”
I don’t see how that’s possible. I recall Marino saying Nari was killed between nine-forty-five and ten. I tell Bryce to get transport to the scene ASAP and make sure they bring a barrier shelter and set it up. I don’t want people gawking and taking pictures with their phones.
“We release absolutely nothing to anyone,” I instruct. “Not one word. Alert the cleanup service, and as soon as we’ve documented the scene I want blood and any other biological material removed as if it was never there.”
“I’ll get right on it,” he says. “Oh yeah! And happy birthday, Doctor Scarpetta! I was going to sing it to you. But maybe later’s better . . . ?”