Book ‘Choose Me’ by Tess Gerritsen

Read excerpt from 'Choose Me' by Tess Gerritsen
Taryn Moore is young, beautiful, and brilliant…so why would she kill herself? When Detective Frankie Loomis arrives on the scene to investigate the girl’s fatal plunge from her apartment balcony, she knows in her gut there’s more to the story. Her instincts are confirmed when surprise information is revealed that could have been reason enough for Taryn’s suicide — or a motive for her murder. To English professor Jack Dorian, Taryn was the ultimate fantasy: intelligent, adoring, and completely off limits. But there was also a dark side to Taryn, a dangerous streak that threatened those she turned her affections to — including Jack. And now that she’s dead, his problems are just beginning...
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (1 July 2021)  Pages: 290 pages  ISBN-10: 1542026156   ISBN-13‏: ‎978-1542026154  ASIN: ‎B08C6Z2C6G

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International bestselling author Tess Gerritsen took an unusual route to a writing career: it wasn’t until she was on maternity leave from her job as a physician that she began to write. Since then, she’s written twenty-eight suspense novels, with more than thirty million copies sold. Her books have been translated into forty languages, and her series featuring homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles inspired the hit TNT television series Rizzoli & Isles, starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander. Gerritsen now writes full-time and lives in Maine. Gary Braver―pen name of college professor Gary Goshgarian―is the bestselling author of eight critically acclaimed mysteries and thrillers, including Gray Matter and Flashback, the first thriller to win the Massachusetts Book Award. His work has been translated into several languages; two have been optioned for film, including Elixir. As Gary Goshgarian, he teaches science fiction, horror fiction, bestsellers, and fiction writing at Northeastern University. He lives with his family outside Boston.

Book excerpt

AFTER

CHAPTER 1

FRANKIE

There are dozens of ways to kill yourself, and in the course of her thirty-two years working for Boston PD, Detective Frances “Frankie” Loomis has probably come across them all. There was the mother of six, overwhelmed by the pandemonium of her household, who locked herself in a bathroom, slashed her wrists, and peacefully drifted unconscious in a bathtub of warm water. There was the bankrupt businessman who fastened his $500 ostrich-leather belt to a doorknob, looped the belt around his neck, and simply sat down, using his own weight to usher him down a painless road to oblivion. There was the over-the-hill actress, despondent over her dwindling prospects for new roles, who swallowed a handful of Dilaudid tablets, donned a pink silk nightgown, and stretched out on her bed, serene as Sleeping Beauty. They chose private, unspectacular exits and were considerate enough to leave behind a minimum of mess for the living to dean up.

Unlike this girl.

The body has already been bagged and removed by the ME, and the sidewalk, splattered with her blood, will eventually be washed clean by the falling rain, but Frankie can still see watery rivulets of it trickling toward the gutter. In the flashing rack lights of the police cruisers, those bloody streaks gleam as black as oil. It is now 5:45 a.m., an hour before sunrise, and she wonders how long the girl was lying here before the alert Lyft driver, passing by on his way home after dropping off his passenger at 3:15 a.m., spotted the body and realized it was not just a bundle of clothes on the sidewalk.

Frankie rises to her feet and peers up through the falling rain at the apartment balcony. It is a five-story drop straight down, clearly high enough to account for the trauma—the shattered teeth, the caved-in face. Gruesome details that prob-ably didn’t cross the girl’s mind when she climbed over the railing and made her fatal swan dive onto the sidewalk below. Frankie is the mother of twin eighteen-year-old daughters, so she knows firsthand how catastrophically impulsive young people can be. If only this girl had paused long enough to consider the alternatives to suicide. If only she’d thought about what happens to a body when it smashes into concrete and what such an impact does to a pretty face and perfect teeth.

“I think we’re done here. Let’s just go home,” says her partner, MacClellan. He holds a pink umbrella that clearly belongs to his wife, and he is shivering beneath the dripping paisley dome. “My shoes are soaked.”

“Has anyone found her cell phone?” she asks.

“Naw.”

“Let’s go back upstairs and check her apartment.”

“Again?”

“Her phone has to be around here somewhere.”

“Maybe she didn’t have one.”

“C’mon, Mac. Every kid her age has a phone practically grafted to their hands.”

“Maybe she lost it. Or some asshole passing by here picked it up off the sidewalk after she fell.”

Frankie looks down at the fading halo of blood, marking where the girl’s head landed. Unlike a human body, a cell phone in a hard case can survive a five-story fall. Perhaps Mac is right. Perhaps a passerby came upon the scene, a passerby whose first impulse wasn’t to render aid or call the police but to snatch the victim’s valuables. It should not surprise her; three decades as a cop have regularly shaken Frankie’s faith in humanity.

She points across the street to a security camera mounted on the building that’s facing them. “If someone did make off with her phone, that camera should have picked it up.”

“Yeah. Maybe.” Mac sneezes, clearly too miserable to care. “I’ll pull the video in the morning.”

“Let’s go back upstairs. See if we missed anything.”

“You know what I miss? My bed,” Mac whines, but he resignedly follows her around the corner to the apartment building’s entrance.

Like the building itself, the elevator is old and it’s painfully slow. As it climbs to the fifth floor, both Frankie and Mac are too weary and dispirited to say a word. The cold weather has inflamed Mac’s rosacea, and under the harsh elevator lights, his nose and cheeks are neon red. She knows he is sensitive about his condition, so she avoids looking at him and stares straight ahead, counting the floors until the door finally creaks open. A patrolman stands guarding the door to apartment 510, a numbingly boring task at this early hour, and he gives the two detectives a half-hearted wave. Yet another cop who’d rather be home in his own bed.

Inside the dead girl’s apartment, Frankie once again searches the living room—but this time more carefully and with a mother’s knowing eye. She’s become adept at spotting the dues to her own daughters’ misbehavior: the wet boots in the closet after they sneaked out one rainy night. The distinct scent of marijuana dinging to a cashmere sweater. The mysterious jump in mileage on the Subaru’s odometer. The twins complain she’s more like a prison guard than a cop, but that’s probably why her girls have survived their turbulent adolescence. Frankie used to believe that if she could keep them both alive until adulthood, then she would have accomplished her job as a parent, but whom was she kidding? A parent’s job never really ends. Even if she lives to be a hundred, her sixty-something daughters will still be keeping her awake at night.

It does not take long for Frankie to repeat her circuit of the apartment. It is a cramped unit, sparsely furnished with what look like thrift-store rejects. The sofa has dearly known more than a few owners, and the wood floor bears the scrapes and gouges from countless college-age tenants dragging furniture in and out. On the desk is an empty wineglass and a laptop, which Frankie has already powered on and discovered is pass-word protected. Beside it is the printed draft of an essay for a class at Commonwealth University: “Hell Hath No Fury: Violence and the Scorned Woman.”

It was written by the girl who lived here. The girl who is now on her way to a refrigerated drawer in the morgue.

Frankie and Mac have already combed through the girl’s purse, and in her wallet they found a Commonwealth student ID card, a Maine driver’s license, and eighteen dollars in cash. They know she is twenty-two years old; her hometown is Hobart, Maine; and she is five feet, six inches tall, weighs 122 pounds, and has brown hair and eyes.

Frankie and Mac have already combed through the girl’s purse, and in her wallet they found a Commonwealth student ID card, a Maine driver’s license, and eighteen dollars in cash. They know she is twenty-two years old; her hometown is Hobart, Maine; and she is five feet, six inches tall, weighs 122 pounds, and has brown hair and eyes.

Frankie moves into the kitchen, where they earlier found a single serving of Marie Callender’s mac and cheese in the microwave, lukewarm but unopened. Frankie finds it strange that the girl heated up a meal that she then never ate. What happened in the interim that made her turn away from her meal, walk out to her balcony, and jump to her death? Bad news? A distressing phone call? On the countertop lies a college textbook with a woman’s face on the cover, a woman with hair aflame, her mouth open in an angry roar.

Medea: The Woman behind the Myth.

Frankie knows she should be familiar with the myth of Medea, but her college years are decades behind her, and all she recalls is that it has something to do with vengeance. Inside the textbook, she finds a letter tucked under the flyleaf. It’s an acceptance letter to the graduate program in the fall, sent from the Department of English at Commonwealth University.

Yet another detail that puzzles Frankie.

She returns to the balcony door, which is now closed. When the building supervisor first let them into the apartment, this door was wide open, and rain and sleet had blown in. Water still sparkles on the wood floor. She opens the door, steps outside, and stands under the shelter of the overhanging balcony above. Two Boston PD cruisers are parked below, the hypnotic flash of their rack lights reflected in the windows across the street. In another hour it will be daylight, the cruisers will be gone, and the sidewalk will be washed dean by rain. Pedestrians will never know they are walking across the spot where only hours ago a young woman’s life flickered out.

Mac joins her on the balcony. “Looks like she was a pretty girl. What a waste,” he sighs.

“If she were ugly, it’d still be a waste, Mac.”

“Yeah, okay.”

“And she was just accepted to grad school. The acceptance letter’s on the kitchen counter.”

“Shit, really? What the hell goes through a kid’s head?”

Frankie looks out at the silvery sheets of rain. “I ask myself that question all the time.”

“At least your girls have their heads screwed on right. They’d never do something like this.”

No, Frankie cannot imagine it. Suicide is a form of surrender, and her twins are fighters, iron willed and rebellious.

She peers down at the street. “God, it’s a long drop.”

“I’d rather not look, thank you.”

“She must have been desperate.”

“So you’re ready to call it suicide?”

Frankie stares at the street, trying to identify what is bothering her. Why her instincts are whispering: You missed some-thing. Don’t turn away yet.

“Her cell phone? she says. “Where is it?”

There’s a knock on the door. They both turn as the patrol-man pokes his head into the apartment. “Detective Loomis? Got a neighbor out here. You want to speak to her?”

Standing in the hallway is a young Asian woman who tells them she lives in the apartment next door. Judging by her bathrobe and flip-flops, she’s just rolled out of bed, and she keeps glancing at the dead girl’s apartment, as if the dosed door hides some unimaginable horror.

Frankie pulls out her notepad. “And your name is?”

“Helen Ng. That’s spelled N-G. I’m a student at Common-wealth. Like hen”

“Did you know your neighbor very well?”

“Just in passing. I moved into this building only five months ago.” She pauses, looking at the closed door. “God, I can’t believe it.”

“That she’d take her own life?”

“That it happened right next door. When my parents hear about this, they’re going to go nuts. Make me move back home with them.”

“Where do they live?”

“Just down the road in Quincy. They wanted me to save money and commute to school, but that’s not a real college experience. It’s not like having your own apartment and—”

“Tell us about your neighbor,” Frankie cuts in.

Helen thinks about this and gives a helpless shrug. “I know she’s—she was—a senior. Comes from some little town up in Maine. She was pretty quiet, for the most part.”

“Did you hear anything unusual last night?”

“No. But I have this cold, so I popped a few Benadryls. I woke up just a little while ago, when I heard the police radio in the hallway.” Helen glances again at the apartment. “Did she leave a note or anything? Did she say why she did it?”

“Do you know why?”

“Well, she did seem depressed a few weeks ago, after she broke up with her boyfriend. But I thought she got over that.”

“Who was her boyfriend?”

“His name’s Liam. I’ve seen him here a few times, before they broke up.”

“You know his last name?”

“I don’t remember, but I know he’s from her hometown. He goes to Commonwealth too.” Helen pauses. “Have you called her mother? Does she know?”

Frankie and Mac exchange looks. This is a call neither one of them wants to make, and Frankie knows exactly how Mac will palm off the task. You’re a woman; you’re better at this son of thing is his usual excuse. Mac has no children, so he can’t imagine, the way Frankie can imagine, the heartbreak of get-ting such news. He can’t imagine how hard these calls are for her to make.

Mac has also been jotting down the information, and he looks up from his notes. “So this ex-boyfriend’s name is Liam, he’s from Maine, and he attends Commonwealth.”

“That’s right. He’s a senior.”

“He shouldn’t be too hard to track down.” He doses his notebook. “That should do it,” Mac says, and Frankie can read the look he gives her. Boyfriend left her. She was depressed. What more do we need?