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Blood of Others
If Angels Fall
Blood of Others
Winner, Best Novel, 2003 Arthur Ellis Award
The chilling disappearance and ritualistic murder of a lonely San Francisco insurance clerk brings San Francisco Star crime reporter Tom Reed and legendary Homicide Inspector Walt Sydowski together again.
In Blood of Others, Reed and Sydowski take separate tracks in their pursuit of an ellusive, prolific killer. He is a brilliant psychopath, a master at luring solitary, vulnerable women out of their quiet worlds and into his nightmare as he races the clock and travels the globe in his search of the one woman fated to forgive the unforgiveable.
In the course of a widening investigation, Olivia Grant, a gift store manager desperate to escape her painful solitude, meets Ben Wyatt, an outcast San Francisco cop on the case who is gripped with self-doubt over the shooting of his former partner.
Blood of Others is a study of loneliness and human frailties; a story steeped in terrifying suspense that threatens to destroy the lives of those drawn into it as it rockets to a heart-pounding conclusion.
Iris Wood studied death every day of her life. Helping people confront it was what she did for a living. But tonight she was facing her own fears head-on. And she was losing.
Driving home after her first night course at San Francisco State University, Iris was adrift in the darkness. She rarely travelled this far south in the city. Her world was limited to the boundaries of her apartment in the Western Addition and her researcher’s job in a downtown office building on Montgomery.
Her decision to attend an introductory astronomy class at SFSU was a brave new personal step. Not because she was interested in the stars, but because she needed to venture beyond her solitary universe, something made painfully clear to her weeks ago at the last office party where the resident busybody cornered her before she could escape.
“You never stay at our parties, Iris. You’re so mousy in your cubicle, most of the time we don’t even know you are here. Have some wine, dear.”
“No, I really should be going. I have someone waiting at home.”
“Like who? You live alone, don’t you?”
“No. I don’t. I’m living with somebody. My boyfriend.”
“You have a boyfriend? Since when, Iris? You never told me.”
Miss Busybody grinned as she sipped her wine.
“Well, I —”
“What does he do?”
“Works at home. He’s the quiet type.”
“What’s his name?”
“Jack? We’d love to met him, you should — ”
“Really, I have to go.”
In the elevator Iris’s face reddened, stinging with the realization of how pathetic she was. That night at home she fought her tears while working on her computer. Jack, the four-legged male in her life, plopped himself in her lap, purring and nudging at Iris to overcome her shyness and wade into the real world.
Now, here she was, lost in it. This was exactly what she had feared. She left the map she had made back in the lecture hall. Her attempt to navigate from memory was futile after a dozen blocks or so. She took the wrong exit from the campus, meandering on Lake Merced, Middlefield, Sloat and Crestlake. How did this happen? Iris was hopeless at finding her way around.
The fog from the Pacific didn’t help. This was silly. Getting back should be a no brainer. If she could just get back on 19th Avenue, it would take her right to Golden Gate Park, from there she knew she could find Fulton, then east to her apartment near Alamo Square, in time to curl up and watch Sleepless in Seattle.
Where are you 19th Avenue?
Could ask somebody for directions but the streets seem deserted tonight.
Besides, she didn’t really want to approach anybody. She pressed the automatic lock button again before seeing a flashing emergency light in her rear view mirror. It came out of the shadows. She pulled her car over and was bathed in pulsating red from the dash-mounted police light of the unmarked car that stopped behind her.
Iris had never encountered traffic police before.
“Evening ma’am,” said the man’s voice from behind the intense flashlight beam.
“Did I do something wrong officer?” she squinted.
“Your license and registration, please.”
Iris switched on her dome light, producing the items from her wallet.
The officer put them on his small clipboard, then directed his flashlight on them.
“You drove through an intersection, missed the stop sign.”
Stop sign? What stop sign?
“I guess I didn’t see it. Sorry.”
“Happens all the time. Where are you coming from, tonight, ma’am?”
“A class at SFSU.”
“You consume any alcohol tonight?”
The flashlight was directed at her face.
She squinted. “No. I don’t drink.”
“Would you please shut off your ignition and step out of the car.”
“Roadside sobriety check, ma’am.”
Iris saw a pale half moon peeking through the clouds as she stood before the tall officer. His face was darkened by the night, distorted by the strobing red light of his patrol car. From what she could see amidst the fog, they were situated near a heavily treed park.
“Would you please count aloud backwards from one hundred while walking heel to toe in a straight line for me, ma’am?”
Iris accomplished it without difficulty.
“Thank you ma’am. I am going to have to cite you for the stop sign. You can wait in your car, or in my cruiser. It won’t take long, but I will require your signature after I run a check on your particulars.”
The area was a little creepy so Iris opted to wait in the police car then get directions home. The officer opened the rear right passenger door.
She thought it odd how the car did not seem to have a police radio crackling or any other police stuff like in the movies. In fact, it had that new car smell and a plastic recycle bag from a rental agency. The red emergency dash light was almost blinding. She still couldn’t see the officer’s face as he wrote up her ticket from behind the wheel.
“Ma’am, can I ask you a personal question?”
“I guess so.”
“What exactly do you look for in a man?”
She had heard this question before. But where?
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“Yes you do. Tell me something, Iris. How’s Jack?”
Iris Wood froze.
“Jack, the guy you’re living with. Or should I say, cat.”
She was dumbstruck. Paralyzed. How could he possibly know . . .
“I think I’ll wait in my car.”
“The back doors have child-safety locks. Won’t open from inside.”
Iris swallowed meeting his eyes in the rearview mirror.
“You know, Iris, people shouldn’t lie to other people. It always catches up with them in the end.”
Iris could not speak, her blood was pounding in her ears. The stranger grunted, turning in his seat, gripping a device that looked like an electric razor, suddenly pressing it against her neck, instantly overwhelming her neuromuscular system, disorienting her until she collapsed.
He switched off the red light then drove away, vanishing into the fog with Iris Wood in his backseat.