Chapter 86


    Drummond called back ten minutes later.

    'Michael,' Jessica said. 'What do you have for me?'

    There were a few seconds of silence. At first Jessica thought the call had been dropped. She looked at the screen. They were still connected. She put the phone back to her ear. It was now quiet in the background on Drummond's end. He had either left or stepped away from his Halloween party.

    'I don't know how to say this, Jess.'

    This was not good, whatever it was. 'Just say it, Michael.'

    Another pause. Jessica heard the rustling of paper. 'I just heard from the Hudson County prosecutor's office. They issued a search warrant yesterday to the Mailboxes USA location in Jersey City.'

    Drummond was talking about the location to which the tattoos had been mailed from World Ink.

    'Do we have something?' Jessica asked.

    'We do. But it's not good news.'

    'What did they say?'

    'They got the records of where the material was forwarded to from Box 1606. The tattoos from World Ink. The package went to an address in South Philly.'

    Jessica waited. And waited. 'Michael.'

    'It was Kevin Byrne's address. The tattoos went to his home address.'

    Jessica felt the ground shift beneath her. She wanted to speak, but her breath had not yet caught up to her words. 'It's not possible.'

    'It's the only piece of mail the location ever forwarded from this box, under this registration. It was sent about a month ago.'

    Another long pause. Drummond continued. 'Half the department is looking for him, Jessica. If I take this warrant request to the chief they're going to use it to locate Kevin and bring him in.'

    'Okay, Michael. I understand,' Jessica said. 'But I have a favor to ask.'

    'What is it?'

    'I need a head start. There's an explanation for all of this. I just need to get to Kevin first.'

    Silence for a moment. 'I can't break the law, Jess. You know and I know that there is now a record of us having this conversation.'

    'I'm not asking you to break the law. I just need some time. Besides, who's to say what we talked about? Maybe we talked about the Phillies.'

    'How about that Chase Utley, eh?'

    Jessica took a moment, her mind spinning. 'All I'm asking for is a little window. Kevin is innocent. Let me bring him in.'

    The next few seconds were excruciating. Finally: 'If the office brings me into this I'm going to have to drop the hammer. You know that, right?'

    'I know.'

    'But maybe it doesn't have to be immediately. Maybe I can't get a cellphone signal. Maybe my phone was off.'

    Jessica felt a cool wave of relief. 'Thanks, Michael.'

    'Good luck, detective.'

    Jessica clicked off. She filled in Josh Bontrager on the parts of the conversation that he had not heard. She began to pace. The rain began to fall a little harder. She barely noticed.

    'Okay,' Jessica said. 'The killer was working toward this night for a reason.'

    'Danse Macabre,' Bontrager said. 'Midnight on Halloween.'

    'Right. The killer is doing this for Christa-Marie. Why?'

    Bontrager thought for a moment. 'If he is true to form he's going to kill one more person to fill in the last note.'

    'If this is all coming down to Christa-Marie, there must be a connection.'

    'She can't be a target, though. She was convicted of murder. She didn't get away with anything, not like the other victims.'

    'Unless there's something we don't know about,' Jessica said.

    'I'm scared that I made a mistake,' Byrne had said.

    Jessica took out her phone again. She called a man named Gary Peters, a friend of hers who worked the city desk at the Inquirer. They got their pleasantries quickly out of the way.

    'What do you need?'

    'I need you to check something for me.'


    'I need you to look up an obituary,' Jessica said. 'It would be in November 1990.'

    'What's the name?'

    'Gabriel Thorne.'

    'Okay,' Peters said. 'What am I looking for?'

    'I just need the notice.'

    'Got it,' he said. 'Do you want me to fax it to you?'

    'Can you email it to me?'

    'Not a problem.'

    Jessica gave him her email address. 'ASAP, okay?'

    'On the case, detective.'

    Two minutes later Jessica's phone dinged with the arrival of the email. She tapped it, opened it. It was a .pdf file from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Prominent Psychiatrist Dead at 58.

    Jessica quickly skimmed the obituary, soon finding what she was looking for.

    '"Services will be held at St. Stanislaus, followed by interment at the Briarcliff Cemetery,'" she read out.

    'Does it have an address?' Bontrager asked.

    Jessica had to enlarge the image. Her eyes scanned the file. 'Here it is. It's at 122 Sawmill Road.'

    They looked at each other. 'Any ideas where that is?' Bontrager asked.

    'No,' Jessica said. 'Hang on.'

    She tapped over to her Google Maps app, put in the address. Soon a map appeared with a big red push pin at the center.

    'Oh hello.'

    'Where is it?' Bontrager asked.

    Briarcliff Cemetery was a small suburban graveyard that abutted a number of large estates. One of them belonged to Christa-Marie Schönburg.


    They turned onto Sawmill Road. The darkness was complete. A fine mist coated the ground; the headlights barely cut through the miasma. The road was serpentine, and more than once Jessica had to slow the car to a crawl. According to the GPS the back entrance to Briarwood Cemetery was approximately a mile ahead.

    They took a slow bend to the right.

    'Stop!' Bontrager yelled.

    Jessica hit the brakes. 'What is it?'

    'Back up.'

    Jessica put the car in reverse. She backed up slowly for fifty feet or so. As she did, she saw what had caught Josh's eye. On the right side of the road were tire tracks cutting through the high grass, leading into the woods. A pair of small trees had been recently knocked over and splintered. Jessica angled the car so the headlights shone into the forest. There, about twenty feet in, was a vehicle, its motor still running. The lights were off but they could see warm exhaust spilling into the cold night air.

    Jessica looked over at Bontrager. They drew their weapons, exited the car, walked down the culvert, up the other side. As they stepped closer to the vehicle Jessica saw more of it. It was a van.

    A familiar van.

The Echo Man
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