Jessica watched the show from the back of the Crystal Room. The speaker at the lectern was a pathologist from Toledo, formerly with the Ohio Bureau of Investigation. He was talking about a cold case that took place in a suburb of Toledo in 1985, a case involving a woman and her elderly mother who were bludgeoned to death with a long piece of steel, believed to be the support beam of a single bed frame.
Behind the lecturer, photographs of the crime scene were projected on a screen.
Jessica watched the photographs come and go. She realized that the man could have been from Tucson or Toronto or Tallahassee. In some ways it was all the same. But not to the families of the victim. And not to the investigators whose task it was to root out the people responsible for the crime and bring them to justice. She had been at it long enough, and knew enough people in her line of work, to know that an unsolved crime eats away at your soul until it is either closed or replaced by a new horror, a new puzzle. And even then it does not disappear, but rather makes room.
She thought about Joseph Novak's diary.
What was his connection? All she could find on Marcato LLC was that it had been formed nearly fifteen years earlier, and listed as its primary business the publishing of music. Joseph Novak, by all accounts, had a partner. But no one at any bank had any record of anyone other than Novak.
A man's voice. Close. Jessica spun around. It was Frederic Duchesne, the dean of Prentiss Institute. He had approached without a sound. Not good. She was distracted, which meant she was vulnerable. She took a deep breath, tried to fashion a smile.
'I'm sorry if I frightened you,' Duchesne said.
Frightened wasn't the word, Jessica thought. Provoked would be a better term. 'Not a problem,' she said, meaning something else. 'What can I do for you, Mr. Duchesne?'
'Frederic,' she said. She glanced around the room. All was well. For the time being.
'I was wondering if you received the material I sent.'
'Yes, we did. Thank you very much.'
'Do you have a moment to talk?'
Jessica glanced at the clock over the door. It was just slightly little less rude than looking at her watch. She had a little bit of time. 'Sure.'
They walked to a quiet corner of the room.
'Well, when you were in, your partner asked about program music. Symphonic poems.'
'Yes,' Jessica said. 'Do you have further thoughts on this?'
'I do,' Duchesne said. 'Aesthetically, the tone poem is in some ways related to opera, the difference being that the words are not sung to the audience. There are examples of absolute music that contain narrative of sorts.'
Jessica just stared.
'Okay, what I'm getting at is that, while there may be nothing in the music itself, a lot of times material has been written as an adjunct to the music - a poetic epigraph, if you will.'
'You mean, written after the fact?'
Duchesne looked out over the room, then back.
'Are you a fan of classical music, detective?'
Jessica sneaked a covert glance at her watch. 'Sure,' she said. 'I can't say I know too much about it, but I know what I like when I hear it.'
'Tell me,' Duchesne began, 'do you ever go to concerts?'
'Not too often,' she said. 'My husband is not a big classical-music fan. He's more of a Southside Johnny guy.'
Duchesne shot a quick glance at Jessica's left hand. She never wore her wedding ring - or any jewelry, for that matter - when she was in the field. Too many opportunities to lose it, not to mention having it give away your position when you needed silence.
'That was terribly forward of me,' Duchesne said. 'Please forgive me.'
'No harm done,' Jessica said.
'No, I've made a fool of myself. Mea culpa.'
Jessica needed a way to wrap this up. 'Mr. Duchesne - Frederic - I really do appreciate this information. I'll pass it along to the other detectives working the case. You never know. It might lead to something.'
Duchesne seemed to be a bit flustered. He was probably not used to being shot down. He was not bad-looking in a Julian Sands kind of way, cultured and refined: probably a hell of a catch in his social circle. 'Please feel free to call me anytime if you think of something else that might be helpful,' Jessica added.
Duchesne brightened a little, although it was clear he realized what she was doing - trying to placate him. 'I certainly will.'
'By the way, what brings you here tonight?'
Duchesne pulled a visitor badge out of his pocket, clipped it to his sport coat. 'I've done some work as a forensic audiologist,' he said. 'Strictly on a contract basis. My specialty is physical characteristics and measurement of acoustic stimuli.'
You never know, Jessica thought. She extended her hand. They shook. 'Have fun.'
As she watched Duchesne walk across the room, her cellphone vibrated. She looked at the screen. It was Byrne.
'Kevin. Where are you?'
All she heard was the hiss of silence. She wasn't sure Byrne was still there. Then: 'I've got to go in for more tests.'
It didn't register. 'What are you talking about?'
Another pause. 'They read my MRI. They want me to go back for more tests.'
'Did they say what it was about?'
'They don't want you back because everything is all right, Jess.'
'Okay,' Jessica said. 'We'll deal with it. I'll go with you.'
More silence. Then Jessica heard a bell on Byrne's end. Was that the sound of an elevator? 'Where are you?'
'Kevin?' The silence was maddening. 'When do they want you to—'
'The original homicides. The cold cases. It was right in front of us. I didn't get it until I was driving up the parkway.'
Byrne was talking about Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
'What do you mean? What's on the parkway?'
'I drove by the hotel, and it all fell into place,' he said. 'You never know what's going to make sense, or when it's going to happen. It's what ties them together.'
Jessica got an earful of loud static. Byrne said something else, but she didn't understand it. She was just about to ask him to repeat what he'd said when she heard him loud and clear.
'There's a package for you with the concierge.'
'Kevin, you have to—'
'It's the music,' he said. 'It's always been about the music.'
And then he was gone. Jessica looked at the screen on her phone. The call had ended. She called Byrne right back, got his voicemail. She tried again. Same result.
There's a package for you with the concierge.
She walked out of the Crystal Room, across the lobby to the concierge desk. There was indeed a package for her. It was a pair of nine-by-twelve envelopes. Her name was on them, scrawled in Byrne's handwriting. She stepped away, looked inside each envelope. Files, notes, photographs, charts. It was not the official file, but rather a second one that Byrne had been keeping.
She raised Josh Bontrager on the handset. A few minutes later they met in a small meeting room on the first floor. Jessica closed the door, told Bontrager about her phone call from Byrne. Then she opened one of the envelopes, put the material on the table.
The first four pages on the top of the pile were photocopies of the death certificates for Lina Laskaris, Marcellus Palmer, Antoinette Chan and Marcia Jane Kimmelman.
Why had Byrne dropped off this information? She'd seen all of it before. What was in here that he wanted her to notice?
Jessica scanned the pages, taking in the relevant data: Name, date of birth, address, parents, cause of death, date of death.
Date of death.
Her gaze shifted from document to document.
'It's the dates, Josh,' Jessica said. 'Look.'
Bontrager ran his finger down each page, stopping at the entry for date of death. 'Marcellus Palmer was killed on June 21. Lina Laskaris and Margaret van Tassel were killed on September 21. Antoinette Chan was killed on March 21. Marcia Jane Kimmelman was killed on December 21.'
'Those are all the first days of the seasons,' Jessica said. 'The killer picked these cases because the original homicides took place on the first days of spring, summer, fall and winter.'
'This is what Kevin meant when he said it came to him when he drove by the hotel. He was talking about the Four Seasons.'
The next documents in the file were copies of the photographs of the animal tattoos in situ. Jessica put the photographs side by side, six in all, spread across the table. 'These are all animals in the Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens.'
They looked at the photographs left to right. Six tattoos, six fingers. Six different fingers.
There was one other item in the first envelope. Jessica reached in, slid it out. And they had their answer.
Inside was a small booklet, about the size and shape of a Playbill. It bore a date from 1990. Jessica looked at the cover.
CHRISTA-MARIE SCHÖNBURG, CELLO
AN EVENING WITH SAINT-SAENS AND VIVALDI
SELECTIONS FROM THE FOUR SEASONS,
CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS AND DANSE MACABRE ARRANGED FOR THE CELLO BY SIR OLIVER MALCOLM
Jessica opened the booklet. The program began with brief selections from each part of The Four Seasons. After that were selections from Carnival of the Animals.
Et marche royale du Lion was the lion. Poules et Coqs was the rooster. Tortues was the tortoise. L'Elephant was the elephant. Kangourous was the kangaroo. Le Cygne was the swan. Aquarium was the fish. Volière was the bird.
There were eight selections in all.
'Someone is recreating her last performance,' Jessica said.
Bontrager pointed to the last part of the night's program. 'Danse Macabre?' he asked. 'What do you know about it?'
'Nothing,' Jessica said.
Bontrager sat down at the computer, launched a web browser. In seconds he had a hit.
The wild entry gave them the basics. Danse Macabre was written by Camille Saint-Saens originally as an art song for voice and piano. What had Duchesne said?
'A lot of times material has been written as an adjunct to the music - a poetic epigraph, if you will:
'See if there's a narrative that goes with this,' Jessica said.
Bontrager did a search. He soon got hits. 'Yeah,' he said. 'There is. It was originally a poem by a guy named Henri Cazalis.' Bontrager hit a few more keys. In a moment the poem appeared on the screen.
The poem began:
Zig, zig, zig, Death in cadence,
Striking a tomb with his heel,
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune,
Zig, zig, zag, on his violin.
It all began to make sense. Striking a tomb with his heel explained the bodies found in the cemeteries, their legs broken. Zig, zig, zig was on Joseph Novak's computer. Jessica's gaze continued down the page, a symmetry forming.
Zig zig, zig, Death continues
The unending scraping on his instrument.
A veil has fallen! The dancer is naked.
Jessica thought: The dancer is naked. The shaved bodies.
'Is there an explanation for this?' Jessica asked. 'Some sort of source material?'
Bontrager scrolled down. 'It says the poem was based on an old French superstition. Hang on.' He did another search. He soon had the synopsis of the original superstition.
'According to the superstition, Death appears at midnight every year on Halloween, and has the power to call forth the dead from their graves to dance for him while he plays his fiddle. His skeletons dance for him until the first break of dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next year.'
The two detectives looked at each other, at their watches. It was 9:50.
According to what they were reading, there were two hours and ten minutes left. And they had no idea where or whom the killer was going to strike.
Jessica opened the second envelope. Inside were six transparencies. The clear plastic sheets were 8½ by 11 inches. At first it was not clear what was printed on them. Jessica looked at the lower right-hand corner of one. There she saw a number she recognized as the homicide case file number. She soon realized that it was a transparency of the forensic photograph of the wounds to Kenneth Beckman's forehead, a photograph of the white paper band that encircled the victim's head.
Jessica took the transparency, held it up to the white wall. There was the Rorschach blot of blood on the left, which had come from the mutilated ear, a shape she had originally thought of as a rough figure eight. There was the straight line across the top, as well as the oval of blood underneath. In this format, a photographic transparency, the blood looked black.
Why had Byrne made these into transparencies?
She held up the next sample. The second transparency was from Preston Braswell's head. It was identical. She looked at the third sheet, this time the evidence photograph of Eduardo Robles. Identical. There was no doubt in her mind, or in the mind of anyone else investigating these homicides, that the signature for each of these murders was identical, and all but confirmed a single killer.
Except that they were not identical.
'Josh, bring that lamp closer.'
Bontrager got up and pulled the table lamp across the desk. Jessica sorted through the transparencies, her heart beating faster. She put them all in the order that made the most sense at that moment.
'Turn off the overhead light.'
Bontrager crossed the room, shut off the fluorescents. When he returned, Jessica held the stack of transparencies up to the bright lampshade.
And then they saw it.
There were five lines, but they were in slightly different places, one above the other. The puncture wounds were in different places, too. On the left side, the bloodstains left by the killer's mutilation of the victims' ears formed a stylized clef.
'My God,' Jessica said. The clarity was almost painful. 'It's a musical staff. He's writing music on the dead bodies, one note at a time.'
Bontrager sat back down. He entered the search phrase: 'Danse Macabre sheet music.'
In seconds they had a visual representation of the sheet music. The two detectives compared the samples with the transparencies. They were identical. The killer was carving the final measure of Danse Macabre on his victims.
He was done with The Four Seasons. He wasn't quite done with Carnival of the Animals. There were two notes yet to write in the measure.
Jessica glanced back at the poem. The answer was in there. She read it all again.
Her stare fell on a phrase in the middle.
A lustful couple sits on the moss
So as to taste long-lost delights.
Is the lustful couple Christa-Marie Schönburg and Kevin Byrne? Is their killer taking them back to the night they met?
Jessica looked at her watch. It was 10:00. They had less than two hours to figure it all out.
And Kevin Byrne was nowhere to be found.