Choose Me Page 1

Author: Tess Gerritsen

Genres: Thriller , Mystery



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 clean 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 probably 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.


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


“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 clues to her own daughters’ misbehavior: the wet boots in the closet after they sneaked out one rainy night. The distinct scent of marijuana clinging 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 clearly 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 password 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 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 clean 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 something. Don’t turn away yet.