Authors: Vicki Stiefel
“Tally is a compelling protagonist—edgy, compassionate and vulnerable—with a clipped narrating style that keeps the tricky plot in focus. Stiefel’s latest shows—again—that she can hold her own against genre heavyweights like John Sanford and Patricia Cornwell.”
“It’s hard to put down
The Grief Shop
because there are so many subplots and intricacies; you have to see what’s going to happen next. . . . The mystery is good and the author is excellent at characterization. . . . I can definitely recommend this mystery.”
The Dead Stone
is a powerful psychological mystery that will leave you wanting more from this talented author.”
Affaire de Coeur
“Here’s to Vicki Stiefel, a talented new writer who’s clearly going places!”
—Barbara Shapiro, author of
The Safe Room
“A great mystery.”
RT Book Reviews
“High on suspense, this wonderfully gripping tale is just about impossible to put down. [A] wild and entertaining ride throughout.”
—New Mystery Reader
“Stiefel is destined to become a mainstay in the genre of the psychological thriller. . . . Twists and turns abound making it a delightful whodunit, guaranteed to keep you guessing until the very end.”
“Drawing inspiration from the likes of Mary Higgins Clark and Sue Grafton, Stiefel creates a tenacious but vulnerable heroine in Massachusetts homicide counselor Tally Whyte.”
“Stiefel has the psychological thriller down so well you might think she invented it. An original, brilliant novel of the human experience worthy of anything James M. Cain could have done.”
“Tally Whyte is full of warmth and wit—and she’ll keep you turning pages through this engrossing mystery thriller.”
—Jan Brogan, author of
A Confidential Source
“An interesting read that concludes in an unexpected, dramatic fashion.”
RT Book Reviews
I moved closer and tried to peer around Didi to see the reconstruction of the skull’s face. There wasn’t enough room. “Why the screen?”
“It’s been hell,” she said without turning. “Goddamned hell. Press. Indians. Smithsonian boobies. The woman’s getting no peace.”
“So it’s a woman. I’d like to see.”
“Just one sec.” Her hands flew over the face molded with clay and resin and intuition, and she moved them lightly, tweaking here and massaging there.
Her shoulders slumped. “Almost there. Try like hell, I can’t make an Indian out of this skull. You look.”
Didi backed off, and the light beamed down onto a strikingly beautiful face.
I suddenly felt dizzy. I knew that face. “Omigod.”
I walked closer to Didi’s clay reconstruction. It seemed to pulse beneath Didi’s single spotlight. I raised my hand, but didn’t touch. The hair was pulled back, tight, and she wore bangs. Her cheekbones were high, the whole face angular, right down to her jutting chin. Her lips were thin and sculpted and wore an almost-kiss. Her large eyes tilted up at the corners, just a bit. She was exquisite in every way, and I knew her. . . .
Other books by Vicki Stiefel:
THE GRIEF SHOP
THE DEAD STONE
Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.
200 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Copyright © 2007 by Vicki Stiefel
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
ISBN 13: 978-1-4285-1090-6
The “DP” logo is the property of Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.
Printed in the United States of America.
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To Peter and Kathleen.
Family is more than blood. Love you.
Without the following people, I could never have written this book. Blame me for any errors, not them.
To my darling husband, Bill Tapply, for his invaluable critiques and even more invaluable love; To my beloved family—I could never, ever write these books without you: Blake and Ben and Sarah and Mike and Melissa; Mum T; Peter, Kathleen, and Summer.
To my dear friend, Donna Cautilli, whose spirit and homicide counseling experience continues to inspire me; Dr. Rick Cautilli, for sharing his exceptional medical expertise; Mass. State Police Detective Lieutenant Richard D. Lauria, for his invaluable insight and assistance.
To Lynette Esalio of Zuni, who answered so many questions. To Bob McCuen, owner of Zuni Mountain Lodge, Thoreau, NM; Pam Lujan of the Cibola County Beacon in Grants, NM, who helped with all sorts of nitpicks that I needed to get right; and thanks to Sheila Grant.
Hats off to Dispatcher Alvita Sarracino of the Cibola County Sheriffs Department; to Martha’s Vineyard realtor Cathy Goudy; to Phil and Shirley Craig, who introduced me to their wonderful island; to Sarah Tapply, whose help and patience with Salem locales was fantastic.
To Mandy Harmon, National Park Ranger at Chaco Canyon. Mandy helped me with everything from pots and petroglyphs to the roads and the apartments at Chaco.
To the members of Mass. State Police Canine Corps, human and canine, who enable Penny to continue her work; the MEs, Crime Scene Services teams and support staff of the Office of the Mass. Chief Medical Examiner. To Dave Badger of the Badger Funeral Home; Wanda Henry-Jenkins and Paul T.
Clements, whose work with Philadelphia’s GAP is legend; Dr. Barbara Schildkrout, for her psychiatric expertise; Andrea Urban for traveling so many miles.
To John and Kim Brady, for their continuing support; to Danielle and Henry Pedreira for my wild Carmen. To Kate Mattes of Kate’s Mystery Books, Willard Williams of the Toadstool Bookshops, and all the book stores and libraries that support the work of writers everywhere.
To Lisa Souza, Susan Gray and so many other dear friends. Without their encouragement and patience, I couldn’t write these novels; to the fabulous Hancockites who create a writing environment beyond compare; to Carolyn Boiarsky, Saundra Pool, Barbara Fitzgerald, and the Wannabes (D, Linda, CJ, Pat & Suzanne), all of whom support my writing in myriad ways.
To Barbara Shapiro, Bunny Frey, Tamar Hosansky, Pat Sparling, Jan Brogan, friends and critiquers; my amazing editor, Don D’Auria; and Dorchester’s terrific Brianna Yamashita; editor Leah Hultenschmidt, and to Diane Stacy, Carol Ann and the gang—you’re the best.
To my agent, Peter Rubie, for his continuing work and faith in my writing.
To the many incredible Zuni fetish carvers and traders of Zuni art including carvers Fred Bowannie, Thelma and Lorandina Sheche, Aaron Chapella, Lena Boone, Alonzo Esalio, Gibbs Othole, Jeff Tsalabutie, Dee Edaakie, and many more; and traders Harry Theobald of Zuni Mountain Trading, Kent and Laurie McMannis of Greydog Trading, Corilee Sanders and Melissa Casa-grande, Janet and Diane of Zuniart.com, and Darlene and Dave of Zuni Spirits, Greg Hofmann, and so many more . . . I wish I could name them all.
Finally, to my beloved Maggie Roe, Cindy Johnson, Dorothea Ham, Joni Hullinghorst, and Phil, dear Phil. We’ll meet again.
I thank each and every one of you for helping to make this book a reality.
No Massachusetts Grief Assistance Program exists within Boston’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, whereas Philadelphia’s Grief Assistance Program continues to work out of the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office. There are many grief assistance programs throughout the U.S., and they continue to do amazing work with the families of victims of violent death. I applaud them all. Please remember that Tally and her gang at MGAP live in a world of fiction.
No trumpets sound when the important
decisions of our life are made.
Destiny is made known silently.
—Agnes de Mille
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.
“A fight is going on inside me,” he says to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
The boy nodded, and the old man continued, “The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too.”
“Which wolf will win?” the grandson asks.
The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.”
More than 365 days had passed since Veda died. One whole year had flown by since my foster mother, the only mother I’d ever known, left this earth. I still didn’t understand her death. Not at all.
How could such a vibrant person die?
A friend said that energy never disappears. It just takes another form. I liked believing that. On good days, I did.
In the past year, I’d left MGAP, the Massachusetts Grief Assistance Program I’d founded. I’d ignored the invitation to create a grief assistance program in New Mexico. I’d also tabled a similar position from the state of Maine.
Instead, I’d hung out.
Ah, you’re thinking that I was so sunk in grief that depression held me prisoner.
In fact, with the substantial sum of money and property left to me by Veda, I’d traveled to Greece, visited New Zealand, and driven across country with my faithful former Canine Corps dog, Penny, at my side.
I’d scuba dived and sky dived and parasailed and sailed. I’d ballroom danced and fly fished and skeet shot.
At the moment, I’d gotten off my merry merry-go-round and begun to look for a place to buy, an expensive one, in Boston. For now, I still lived in my rented first-floor brownstone apartment in the South End. My apartment was nice. Very nice, in fact. But what the hell? Why not, right? Go for the gusto. Spend the filthy lucre. Live it up.
I had no homicides to deal with. No weeping families. No revenge-choked husbands. No newspapers chomping for a “blood and guts” story. No watching victims sliced and diced during autopsies. No helping families ID the bodies of their loved ones. No cops, no killers, no lawyers, no rapists, no rampaging crazies. No nasty Acting Chief Medical Examiner Fogarty nipping at my heels. None of it.
How would I not love this life? Except I didn’t. Everything felt hollow as hell after the dozen years I’d counseled the families of homicide victims. Boring, too. Tough to trump that one. True, normal people wouldn’t have a problem with this stuff. Me? I found it bizarre living what others might call a traditional life.
I should love it. My problem was that I missed my former life. All of it.
Which was really messed up.
I had to face reality, a reality I found deeply disturbing: I was
a carefree-type person.
I couldn’t decide between Maine or New Mexico. Certainly Penny was no help at all. I wasn’t much in the mood to ask anyone else.