Chapter 39


    Jessica looked at her partner. She wasn't sure how long she had been staring at him without saying anything, her mouth open, eyebrows raised. Then all she could muster was one word. 'Wow.'

    Byrne said nothing.

    'I remember her,' Jessica said. 'I mean, I remember the story. I think my father talked about it. Plus, it was all over the news for a while.' Although she'd been in high school at the time she and her friends had discussed the case, mainly because it involved sex, violence and celebrity.

    In November 1990 a woman named Christa-Marie Schönburg, a cellist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, was arrested and charged in the murder of a man named Gabriel Thorne. According to the news reports, Thorne was Christa-Marie's psychiatrist, but there was a great deal of speculation at the time as to whether or not they were romantically involved, even though Thorne had been Christa-Marie's caregiver since she was a child and was three decades her senior. If Jessica remembered correctly, Christa-Marie confessed to second-degree murder, diminished capacity, and was sentenced to twenty-to-life in the women's facility at the State Correctional Institution at Muncy.

    'That was your first case?' Jessica asked.

    Byrne nodded. 'My first as a lead detective, yeah. I was partnered with Jimmy.'

    Jimmy Purify, his rabbi in the homicide unit, had been Byrne's partner before Jessica.

    'I don't understand,' Jessica said. 'Is Christa-Marie still in Muncy?'

    'No,' Byrne said. 'She was released a few years ago. The last I heard she's still living in the Chestnut Hill house.'

    Jessica decided not to ask her partner why he knew all this. It was not all that uncommon for detectives to keep track of people they had arrested and convicted of crimes. What surprised Jessica was that she had known none of this.

    'Have you spoken to her since her release?'


    'Has she tried to contact you before this?'

    'Not that I know of.'

    Jessica took a few beats. She looked again at the handwriting on the note. It did not look like the penmanship of someone deranged. 'Is she, how do I put this ... better now?'

    Byrne shrugged. 'I don't know. The murder was pretty brutal, and she went through a battery of psychological tests at the time of the hearings. I saw some of the reports. Chronic depression. Borderline bipolar. It never came to anything because she pled out. There never was a trial.'

    'Were you called at the hearing?'

    'I was.'

    'Did you testify?'

    Byrne hesitated before answering. Jessica sensed a feeling of regret. 'Yes.'

    Jessica tried to arrange the timeline in her mind. 'When was that card postmarked?'

    Byrne looked at the envelope. 'Last Thursday.'

    Jessica did the math. 'So she sent it—'

    'Before the murders.'

    Jessica felt her breath catch. She tried to process all this. It wasn't often that she was thrown such a curve. 'Is she capable of something like this? I mean, physically capable?'

    Jessica knew that at least part of her question was rhetorical. The woman was a convicted murderer, after all. Obviously she was capable of violence. But violence committed in the throes of rage or passion didn't necessarily lead to cold blooded, well-calculated murder. And then there were the physical elements.

    'She's capable,' Byrne said. 'The logistics? She's not a big woman, Jess, and she's obviously a lot older now. I don't think she could have done all this without some help.'

    Jessica was silent for a moment. 'Okay. Maybe it's just a coincidence. The lion and the rooster and the swan.'

    Byrne just glared.

    'Okay, it was worth a shot.' Jessica glanced at her watch. 'Do you want to go now or in the morning?'

    'Go where?'

    'Kevin. We need to talk to her.'

    Byrne took the note card from her, slipped it back into the envelope. 'I should probably talk to her alone.'

    Byrne was probably right, but that didn't make Jessica want to go along any less. 'You have to tell the boss, Kevin. You have to share it with the team.'

    Byrne glanced around the small, cramped room. There wasn't really anything to look at besides a beaten-up coffee maker and the two-way mirror looking into one of the interview rooms. He looked back at his partner.

    'Tomorrow,' he said.

    Jessica started to object, but Byrne continued.

    'Look, this is connected with the Kenneth Beckman case, and I'm working that case. How it's connected, I have no idea. But if it turns out to be something, I'll post it. If it doesn't, then there's no need to drag all this into the mix.'

    'How could it not be connected, Kevin? It's not as if Christa-Marie could have just now learned any of this from anyone here. She wrote the note before the murders happened.'

    'If I tell Dana right now, what is she going to do? Send a couple of detectives to interrogate Christa-Marie? I know Christa-Marie. I'm the one Dana would send, anyway. There's no reason to turn this woman's life upside down until we know what this is all about.'

    'So you're going to talk to her off the record?'

    Byrne said nothing.

    Jessica wanted to remind her partner that Christa-Marie Schönburg was a confessed murderer, a woman who had spent more than fifteen years in prison. If he didn't have some sort of as-yet-unidentified emotional attachment to the woman and her case, and he'd heard that a confessed murderer had information on fresh homicides, he'd be charging that way with the cavalry and more.

    'Besides,' Byrne began, moving on to his closing argument, 'who's to say I didn't read this note tomorrow? Everyone knows I never open my mail.'

    Kevin Byrne's secrets were safe with Jessica, as were hers with him. She trusted his judgment more than anyone else she knew.

    'Okay,' Jessica said. 'Where do you want me on this?'

    'I'll drive up to Chestnut Hill first thing in the morning. I'll call you after.'

    Jessica nodded. They both went silent for a long time.

    Finally Jessica asked, 'Are you okay, Kevin?'

    Byrne opened the door of the coffee room, glanced out. The duty room was a ghost town. He turned back to his partner and said softly: 'I really don't know.'


    Twenty minutes later Jessica watched Byrne gather his things, close his briefcase, retrieve his weapon from the file cabinet, grab his coat and keys. He stopped at the door, turned, gave her a sad smile and a wave. As he disappeared around the corner Jessica knew there was something else going on with him, something other than the job, something other than the horror of the four bodies dumped ceremoniously around their city.

    Something he wasn't telling her.

The Echo Man
The Echo Man_split_000.htm
The Echo Man_split_001.htm
The Echo Man_split_002.htm
The Echo Man_split_003.htm
The Echo Man_split_004.htm
The Echo Man_split_005.htm
The Echo Man_split_006.htm
The Echo Man_split_007.htm
The Echo Man_split_008.htm
The Echo Man_split_009.htm
The Echo Man_split_010.htm
The Echo Man_split_011.htm
The Echo Man_split_012.htm
The Echo Man_split_013.htm
The Echo Man_split_014.htm
The Echo Man_split_015.htm
The Echo Man_split_016.htm
The Echo Man_split_017.htm
The Echo Man_split_018.htm
The Echo Man_split_019.htm
The Echo Man_split_020.htm
The Echo Man_split_021.htm
The Echo Man_split_022.htm
The Echo Man_split_023.htm
The Echo Man_split_024.htm
The Echo Man_split_025.htm
The Echo Man_split_026.htm
The Echo Man_split_027.htm
The Echo Man_split_028.htm
The Echo Man_split_029.htm
The Echo Man_split_030.htm
The Echo Man_split_031.htm
The Echo Man_split_032.htm
The Echo Man_split_033.htm
The Echo Man_split_034.htm
The Echo Man_split_035.htm
The Echo Man_split_036.htm
The Echo Man_split_037.htm
The Echo Man_split_038.htm
The Echo Man_split_039.htm
The Echo Man_split_040.htm
The Echo Man_split_041.htm
The Echo Man_split_042.htm
The Echo Man_split_043.htm
The Echo Man_split_044.htm
The Echo Man_split_045.htm
The Echo Man_split_046.htm
The Echo Man_split_047.htm
The Echo Man_split_048.htm
The Echo Man_split_049.htm
The Echo Man_split_050.htm
The Echo Man_split_051.htm
The Echo Man_split_052.htm
The Echo Man_split_053.htm
The Echo Man_split_054.htm
The Echo Man_split_055.htm
The Echo Man_split_056.htm
The Echo Man_split_057.htm
The Echo Man_split_058.htm
The Echo Man_split_059.htm
The Echo Man_split_060.htm
The Echo Man_split_061.htm
The Echo Man_split_062.htm
The Echo Man_split_063.htm
The Echo Man_split_064.htm
The Echo Man_split_065.htm
The Echo Man_split_066.htm
The Echo Man_split_067.htm
The Echo Man_split_068.htm
The Echo Man_split_069.htm
The Echo Man_split_070.htm
The Echo Man_split_071.htm
The Echo Man_split_072.htm
The Echo Man_split_073.htm
The Echo Man_split_074.htm
The Echo Man_split_075.htm
The Echo Man_split_076.htm
The Echo Man_split_077.htm
The Echo Man_split_078.htm
The Echo Man_split_079.htm
The Echo Man_split_080.htm
The Echo Man_split_081.htm
The Echo Man_split_082.htm
The Echo Man_split_083.htm
The Echo Man_split_084.htm
The Echo Man_split_085.htm
The Echo Man_split_086.htm
The Echo Man_split_087.htm
The Echo Man_split_088.htm
The Echo Man_split_089.htm
The Echo Man_split_090.htm
The Echo Man_split_091.htm
The Echo Man_split_092.htm
The Echo Man_split_093.htm
The Echo Man_split_094.htm
The Echo Man_split_095.htm
The Echo Man_split_096.htm
The Echo Man_split_097.htm
The Echo Man_split_098.htm
The Echo Man_split_099.htm
The Echo Man_split_100.htm
The Echo Man_split_101.htm
The Echo Man_split_102.htm
The Echo Man_split_103.htm
The Echo Man_split_104.htm
The Echo Man_split_105.htm
The Echo Man_split_106.htm
The Echo Man_split_107.htm
The Echo Man_split_108.htm
The Echo Man_split_109.htm
The Echo Man_split_110.htm
The Echo Man_split_111.htm
The Echo Man_split_112.htm
The Echo Man_split_113.htm
The Echo Man_split_114.htm
The Echo Man_split_115.htm
The Echo Man_split_116.htm
The Echo Man_split_117.htm
The Echo Man_split_118.htm
The Echo Man_split_119.htm
The Echo Man_split_120.htm
The Echo Man_split_121.htm
The Echo Man_split_122.htm
The Echo Man_split_123.htm
The Echo Man_split_124.htm
The Echo Man_split_125.htm
The Echo Man_split_126.htm
The Echo Man_split_127.htm
The Echo Man_split_128.htm
The Echo Man_split_129.htm
The Echo Man_split_130.htm
The Echo Man_split_131.htm
The Echo Man_split_132.htm
The Echo Man_split_133.htm
The Echo Man_split_134.htm
The Echo Man_split_135.htm
The Echo Man_split_136.htm
The Echo Man_split_137.htm
The Echo Man_split_138.htm
The Echo Man_split_139.htm
The Echo Man_split_140.htm
The Echo Man_split_141.htm
The Echo Man_split_142.htm
The Echo Man_split_143.htm
The Echo Man_split_144.htm
The Echo Man_split_145.htm
The Echo Man_split_146.htm
The Echo Man_split_147.htm
The Echo Man_split_148.htm
The Echo Man_split_149.htm
The Echo Man_split_150.htm
The Echo Man_split_151.htm
The Echo Man_split_152.htm
The Echo Man_split_153.htm
The Echo Man_split_154.htm
The Echo Man_split_155.htm
The Echo Man_split_156.htm
The Echo Man_split_157.htm
The Echo Man_split_158.htm
The Echo Man_split_159.htm
The Echo Man_split_160.htm
The Echo Man_split_161.htm
The Echo Man_split_162.htm
The Echo Man_split_163.htm
The Echo Man_split_164.htm
The Echo Man_split_165.htm
The Echo Man_split_166.htm
The Echo Man_split_167.htm
The Echo Man_split_168.htm
The Echo Man_split_169.htm
The Echo Man_split_170.htm
The Echo Man_split_171.htm
The Echo Man_split_172.htm
The Echo Man_split_173.htm
The Echo Man_split_174.htm
The Echo Man_split_175.htm
The Echo Man_split_176.htm
The Echo Man_split_177.htm
The Echo Man_split_178.htm
The Echo Man_split_179.htm
The Echo Man_split_180.htm
The Echo Man_split_181.htm
The Echo Man_split_182.htm
The Echo Man_split_183.htm
The Echo Man_split_184.htm
The Echo Man_split_185.htm
The Echo Man_split_186.htm
The Echo Man_split_187.htm
The Echo Man_split_188.htm
The Echo Man_split_189.htm
The Echo Man_split_190.htm
The Echo Man_split_191.htm
The Echo Man_split_192.htm
The Echo Man_split_193.htm
The Echo Man_split_194.htm
The Echo Man_split_195.htm
The Echo Man_split_196.htm
The Echo Man_split_197.htm
The Echo Man_split_198.htm
The Echo Man_split_199.htm
The Echo Man_split_200.htm
The Echo Man_split_201.htm
The Echo Man_split_202.htm
The Echo Man_split_203.htm
The Echo Man_split_204.htm
The Echo Man_split_205.htm
The Echo Man_split_206.htm
The Echo Man_split_207.htm
The Echo Man_split_208.htm
The Echo Man_split_209.htm
The Echo Man_split_210.htm
The Echo Man_split_211.htm
The Echo Man_split_212.htm
The Echo Man_split_213.htm
The Echo Man_split_214.htm
The Echo Man_split_215.htm
The Echo Man_split_216.htm
The Echo Man_split_217.htm
The Echo Man_split_218.htm
The Echo Man_split_219.htm
The Echo Man_split_220.htm
The Echo Man_split_221.htm
The Echo Man_split_222.htm