Chapter 1

Monday, June 7th, 7:30 A.M. New York City

John Cocchi and Kathy Rynn had worked together for six years doing day tours in the 34th Precinct's Sector Eddie. Like most partners, they had developed a routine that made casual conversation unnecessary. Each usually knew what the other was thinking. They made their arrests, gave their summonses, and handled all the radio runs assigned to them with few words passing between them. They had a stoic attitude about their job, but that didn't slow them down. In a tough precinct they were known as good cops who weren't afraid to work.
     And work they did, most of the time. The 34th Precinct covered Washington Heights, a poor neighborhood at the northern tip of Manhattan where the vast majority of the residents were immigrants from the Dominican Republic, many of them illegal aliens. It was a tough life for the new arrivals. Most had learned to live by their wits, but there were always those prepared to prey on their neighbors. Consequently, crime was a sad daily fact of life for the good people and a livelihood for the bad.
     As usual, Rynn and Cocchi expected that they would spend the day "tied to the radio," going from one call to the next if they didn't run into an arrest. However, like most radio car teams throughout the the city, they tried to reserve to themselves the first half hour of the tour. They bought their coffee and bagels and headed for their spot in Fort Tryon Park, under the Cloisters. Although it wasn't in their sector, they had used the spot for years and considered it their own secret preserve.
     Rynn drove into the park, up the steep road leading to the Cloisters, the medieval castle perched overlooking the Hudson River. A quarter mile before the Cloisters, Rynn left the road and drove across a small meadow and into the woods on a narrow dirt track. Their spot was a hundred yards into the woods, where the road ended at a steeply pitched hill that ran straight down to the New York Central Rail Road tracks paralleling the Hudson. There was another car in their spot, a late model two-door red BMW. The passenger door was open, but they didn't see anybody sitting in the car. What immediately caught their attention was the rear license plate, NYC-9. Cocchi and Rynn naturally assumed that the politically important occupants of the BMW were trespassing and otherwise engaged in the backseat, using their spot as a lovers lane. That wasn't allowed.
     "Let's be nice to the big shot when we break up his session," Cocchi said as he got out of the radio car.
     "Let's," Rynn said. She approached the car from the driver side and Cocchi headed for the passenger side. Then Rynn stopped and motioned for Cocchi to do the same.
     "Problem?" he asked softly.
     "Maybe," she answered, pointing to the driver's door. "Window's shattered and there's glass on the ground. Be careful."
     Both cops unholstered their guns and reached their positions at the sides of the BMW, nerves on edge and ready for anything. They relaxed a bit when they saw the body. He had been behind the wheel, but the force of the bullet fired into his head through the closed window had knocked his upper torso across the front seat. He was white, about thirty years old, and dressed casually in tan slacks and a green shirt. Death had caught him in an embarrassing position. His pants were pulled down to his knees and his eyes were wide open in shock. Hours before, a small puddle of blood had flowed onto the seat from his head wound. The blood had congealed and hardened.
     "He looks Irish. Unusual for this neighborhood," Cocchi observed.
     "Probably grew up around here in the old days, when the Irish were still in charge in the Heights. That's how he knew about this place," Rynn surmised.
     "Probably," Cocchi agreed. "Let's go find the other body, if there is another one."
     "Okay. But remember crime scene protocol. No need to give ourselves more problems than we already have."
     She didn't have to say more. Both had been around long enough to know that many crime scenes were damaged and evidence inadvertently destroyed by the first officers on the scene. They prided themselves on doing the job right. Their problem would be explaining how they had stumbled on the BMW, deep in the woods and out of their sector. Both knew that they were headed for some grief from their cranky old sergeant, but what bothered them more was that their wonderful spot would no longer be a secret.
     It took them only a minute to find the woman's ripped and bloody clothes at the edge of the hill and another minute to sight her body. They couldn't get to her. The killer had thrown her down the almost-vertical incline and the body had tumbled down until hitting a large rock protruding from the hill.
     Even from a distance, Cocchi and Rynn could see that she was dead. She had come to rest face up, she had deep slashes all over her torso, her face was battered, and they were sure that her neck was broken.
     "That poor girl surely suffered before she died," Rynn observed.
     "You got that right. There's a real sick bastard responsible for this mess," Cocchi answered. "You ready yet for our own dose of misery?"
     "Not really, but let's get the ball rolling and get this over with. I feel a fit of depression coming on."

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