Read Girl Missing Online

Authors: Tess Gerritsen

Tags: #Mystery, #Romantic Suspense, #Medical, #Mystery & Suspense, #Thriller & Suspense, #United States, #Women Sleuths, #Thrillers, #Literature & Fiction, #Romance

Girl Missing

BOOK: Girl Missing
5.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Praise for Tess Gerritsen

“Gerritsen has a knack for creating great characters and mysterious plots that seem straightforward but also dazzle with complexity and twists.”

—The Washington Post

“[Gerritsen’s] books should be mandatory reading for all mystery lovers.”

—Miami Examiner

“One of the most versatile voices in thriller fiction today.”

—Providence Journal

“Tess Gerritsen is a damn fine storyteller.”

—Hartford Books Examiner

“Suspense doesn’t get smarter than this. Not just recommended but mandatory.”


“[Gerritsen] has an imagination that allows her to conjure up depths of human behavior so dark and frightening that she makes Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft seem like goody-two-shoes.”

—Chicago Tribune

“Crime writing at its unputdownable, nerve-tingling best.”


“Gerritsen is a master technician.”

—Portland Press Herald

Girl Missing
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

2014 Ballantine Books eBook Edition

Copyright © 1994 by Tess Gerritsen

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

and the H
colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.

First published in the United States in 1994 by HarperPaperbacks, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, under the title
Peggy Sue Got Murdered

First published in Great Britain in 2009 by Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld Publishers.

ISBN 978-0-345-54962-4
eBook ISBN 978-0-345-54963-1

Cover design: Scott Biel
Cover photo: © Yolande de Kort / Arcangel Images



Title Page
An Introduction from the Author
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Other Books by This Author

An Introduction from the Author

a thriller writer, I had another life—as a romantic suspense author. Fans of my crime novels may be surprised to learn that I launched my career by writing stories in which romance shared equal billing with murder, where characters struggled with both fear and sexual tension. At the time, I was working as a doctor in a hospital, a job in which I saw far too much pain and heartbreak. At the end of the day, I drew comfort from reading—and writing—romance novels.

But over the course of writing nine of those novels, I found that the thriller elements began to dominate my plots. I was evolving into a crime writer, and in
Girl Missing
(first published in 1994 under the title
Peggy Sue Got Murdered
), that evolution is well under way. Yes, it’s a romance. But it’s also a crime novel, featuring a female medical examiner who must track down the cause of an epidemic of mysterious deaths. I consider it my “bridge” novel, a moment in time when I was poised to step from one genre into the next.

Recently updated for today’s readers,
Girl Missing
will give you a glimpse of the thriller writer I would one day become. I hope you enjoy the look back!

Tess Gerritsen

hour before she was even supposed to be there, they rolled the first corpse through the door.

Up until that moment, Kat Novak’s day had been going better than usual. Her car had started on the first turn of the key. Traffic had been sparse on Telegraph, and she’d hit all the green lights. She’d managed to slip into her office at five to seven, and for the next hour she could lounge guiltlessly at her desk with a jelly doughnut and today’s edition of the
Albion Herald
. She made a point of skipping the obituaries. Chances were she already knew all about them.

Then a gurney with a black body bag rolled past her doorway.
Oh Lord
, she thought. In
about thirty seconds Clark was going to knock at her door, asking for favors. With a sense of dread, Kat listened to the gurney wheels grind down the hall. She heard the autopsy room doors whisk open and shut, heard the distant rumble of male voices. She counted ten seconds, fifteen. And there it was, just as she’d anticipated: the sound of Clark’s Reeboks squeaking across the linoleum floor.

He appeared in her doorway. “Morning, Kat,” he said.

She sighed. “Good morning, Clark.”

“Can you believe it? They just wheeled one in.”

“Yeah, the
of them.”

“It’s already seven ten,” he said. A note of pleading crept into his voice. “If you could just do me this favor …”

“But I’m not here.” She licked a dollop of raspberry jelly from her fingers. “Until eight o’clock, I’m nothing more than a figment of your imagination.”

“I don’t have time to process this one. Beth’s got the kids packed and ready to take off, and here I am, stuck with another Jane Doe. Have a heart.”

“This is the third time this month.”

“But I’ve got a family. They expect me to spend time with them. You’re a free agent.”

“Right. I’m a divorcee, not a temp.”

Clark shuffled into her office and leaned his ample behind against her desk. “Just this once. Beth and I, we’re having problems, you know, and I want this vacation to start off right. I’ll return the favor sometime. I promise.”

Sighing, Kat folded up the
. “Okay,” she said. “What’ve you got?”

Clark was already pulling off his white coat, visibly shifting to vacation mode. “Jane Doe. No obvious trauma. Another body-fluid special. Sykes and Ratchet are in there with her.”

“They bring her in?”

“Yeah. So you’ll have a decent police report to work with.”

Kat rose to her feet and brushed powdered sugar off her scrub pants. “You owe me,” she said as they headed into the hall.

“I know, I know.” He stopped at his office and grabbed his jacket—a fly fisherman’s version, complete with a zillion pockets with little feathers poking out.

“Leave a few trout for the rest of us.”

He grinned and gave her a salute. “Into the
wilds of Maine I go,” he said, heading for the elevator. “See you next week.”

Feeling resigned, Kat pushed open the door to the autopsy room and went in.

The body, still sealed in its black bag, lay on the slab. Sergeant Lou Sykes and Detective Vince Ratchet, veterans of the local knife and gun club, were waiting for her. Sykes looked dapper as usual in a suit and tie—a black homicide detective who always insisted on mixing corpses with Versace. His partner, Ratchet, was, in contrast, a perpetual candidate for Slim-Fast. Ratchet was peering in fascination at a specimen jar on the shelf.

“What the hell is that?” he asked, pointing to the jar. Good old Vince; he was never afraid to sound stupid.

“That’s the right middle lobe of a lung,” Kat said.

“I would’ve guessed it was a brain.”

Sykes laughed. “That’s why she’s the doc and you’re just a dumb cop.” He straightened his tie and looked at her. “Isn’t Clark doing this one?”

Kat snapped on a pair of gloves. “Afraid I am.”

“Thought your shift started at eight.”

“Tell me about it.” She went to the slab and gazed down at the bag, feeling her usual reluctance to open the zipper, to reveal what lay beneath the black plastic.
How many of these bags have I opened?
she wondered.
A hundred, two hundred?
Each one contained its own private horror story. This was the hardest part, sliding down the zipper, unveiling the contents. Once a body was revealed, once she’d weathered the initial shock of its appearance, she could set to work with a scientist’s dispassion. But the first glimpse, the first reaction—that was always pure emotion, something over which she had no control.

“So, guys,” she said. “What’s the story here?”

Ratchet came forward and flipped open his notebook. It was like an extension of his arm, that notebook; she’d never seen him without it. “Caucasian female, no ID, age twenty to thirty. Body found four
this morning, off South Lexington. No apparent trauma, no witnesses, no nothing.”

“South Lexington,” said Kat, and images of that neighborhood flashed through her mind. She knew the area too well—the streets, the back alleys, the playgrounds rimmed with barbed wire. And looming above it all, the seven buildings,
as grim as twenty-story concrete headstones. “The Projects?” she asked.

“Where else?”

“Who found her?”

“City trash pickup,” said Sykes. “She was in an alley between two of the Project buildings, sort of wedged against a dumpster.”

“As if she was placed there? Or died there?”

Sykes glanced at Ratchet. “You were at the scene first. What do you say, Vince?”

“Looked to me like she died there. Just lay down, sort of curled up against the dumpster, and called it quits.”

It was time. Steeling herself for that first glimpse, Kat reached for the zipper and opened the bag. Sykes and Ratchet both took a step backward, an instinctive reaction she herself had to quell. The zipper parted and the plastic fell away to reveal the corpse.

It wasn’t bad; at least it appeared intact. Compared with some of the corpses she’d seen, this one was actually in excellent shape. The woman was a bleached blonde, about thirty, perhaps younger. Her face looked like marble, pale and cold. She was dressed in a long-sleeved purple pullover, some sort of polyester blend, a short black skirt with a patent-leather belt,
black tights, and brand-new Nikes. Her only jewelry was a dime-store friendship ring and a Timex watch—still ticking. Rigor mortis had frozen her limbs into a vague semblance of a fetal position. Both fists were clenched tight, as though, in her last moment of life, they’d been caught in spasm.

Kat took a few photos, then picked up a cassette recorder and began to dictate. “Subject is a white female, blond, found in alley off South Lexington around oh four hundred …” Sykes and Ratchet, already knowing what would follow, took off their jackets and reached into a linen cart for some gowns—medium for Sykes, extra large for Ratchet. The gloves came next. They both knew the drill; they’d been cops for years, and partners for four months. It was an odd pairing, Kat thought, like Abbott and Costello. So far, though, it seemed to work.

BOOK: Girl Missing
5.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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