The Angel Maker


By Ridley Pearson

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around August 14, 2012. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Urban legend, or frightening fact? “One of the better fictional detectives ever penned,” Seattle’s Lou Boldt, and forensic psychologist Dephne Matthews suspect illegal organ harvesting is behind recent assaults on teenage runaways. The trail leads them down dark streets and darker corners of the mind, as they find themselves pursuing a twisted surgeon with his own ideas of mortality and social justice.

Packed with action, The Angel Maker takes the reader on a joy ride from Seattle’s homeless to an abandoned homesteading cabin and kennel hidden away in the forests of the Northwest. Daphne Matthews, intent on rescuing a teenage runaway from the madman’s scalpel, puts her own life on the line, finding herself face to face with the Angel Maker.

“Award-winning author Ridley Pearson carves out and serves up a thriller that will make you look twice at your local veterinarian.” — Book Magazine



February 1


The young woman's pale, lifeless expression cried out to Daphne Matthews from across the room. Nearly all of the kids who sought out The Shelter were high on something. The hollow cheeks and dirty hair were common to all the runaways, as were the torn jeans, the soiled T-shirts, and the disturbing smell.

The windowless basement room in the King Center Baptist Church on South Jackson held thirteen beds and was void of any color except for the odd assortment of unframed art posters. The beds, arranged in perfect rows, were each covered with a gray wool blanket atop which had been placed a white towel and a dull green cardboard box containing a toothbrush, comb, bar of soap, a package of condoms, and a leaflet on AIDS.

The boys' dorm, across the hall and next to the room where the choir robes were kept, held only eight beds, because teenage boys were less likely to seek help from such places and because girls between the ages of thirteen and eighteen accounted for a larger percentage of the runaways who wandered Seattle's streets.

The other volunteers at The Shelter welcomed Daphne's expertise as a psychologist as much as her being a member of the Seattle Police Department, though this latter qualification was rarely called upon and never mentioned in front of the girls. For Daphne, each young woman who passed through The Shelter's door represented a challenge, each had her own unique, often terrifying story. By coming here they called out for help. Homeless. Penniless. Distrustful. Addicted. Pregnant. Filthy. Diseased. The job of each volunteer was to reverse all of that, to connect the runaway with counselors, doctors, halfway houses, government funds, jobs, housing, recovery programs and safety. To rescue and rebuild a life.

Daphne sat down quietly and slowly on the bed opposite the girl and forced a welcoming smile that made her feel cheap and dishonest: There was nothing to smile about here. She noticed a tiny scab on the inside of the girl's elbow joint and felt her heart sink. To her relief, she didn't see any other needle marks. Perhaps this was the girl's first time. With any luck, her last.

The girl never looked at her; she just stared off into the room in a catatonic daze.

Daphne suggested gently, "Would you like to lie down?"

The girl nodded slightly. Daphne moved aside the towel and box and supported her head as it traveled to the pillow. Some of the drunks felt this hot, some of the druggies, but this contact gave Daphne a sickening feeling in her stomach that told her this was something worse. Exactly what, she wasn't sure. She wasn't even sure she wanted to find out.

The girl cried out sharply as she leaned back, clutching her side.

Daphne cleared the tangled hair from her face, wincing as she noticed a pink circle on the girl's temple. Without looking, she knew there would be an identical mark opposite this: electroshock.

"Cold," the girl complained in a dry, raspy voice.

Daphne covered her with a blanket, told her she would "be right back," and hurried over to Sharon Shaffer, who had just arrived. Sharon, a remarkably petite woman with large gray eyes and an oversized mouth, a former graduate of The Shelter, was now its spokesperson, working the circuit of Rotary Clubs and ladies' luncheons in fund-raising efforts. To both the volunteers and the community, she was a symbol of everything right about The Shelter, its leader and patron saint. To Daphne, she was a dear friend.

Daphne asked one of the other volunteers to check the hospitals for a psych ward discharge or escapee. She briefed Sharon on the recent arrival as the two of them crossed the room: the needle mark, the evidence of electroshock therapy, the girl clutching her side.

"Are you thinking restraints?" Sharon asked. She had a way of reading Daphne's thoughts. Before Daphne could answer, Sharon said, "Let's hold off on that, okay? There's nothing more frustrating than a tie-down. It's horrible. I've been there." Daphne didn't argue. Reaching the girl, they perched themselves on opposite sides of her bed.

"Where am I?" the girl wondered aloud. "Why am I here?"

"The only requirement for being here," Sharon explained in a comforting voice, "is your desire to be off the streets." She hesitated. "Okay?"

The girl squinted painfully. It hurt Daphne to see that kind of pain—psychological or physical?—and it worried her too: The druggies usually felt nothing. Again, the combination of electroshock and that needle mark warned Daphne of an institution. Her policewoman instincts kicked in—this girl could turn violent without warning.

Sharon said calmly, "You're safe now. My name is Sharon. I'm a runaway. This is Daphne. We're all women here. Okay? We can keep you warm. We can feed you. We want nothing from you. Nothing at all." The girl began to cry. "We are not going to notify the police or your parents—you're home. You're safe here. Whatever you have done is behind you. Here, you are safe. If you need medical attention, you will have it. We want nothing more of you than your name. Something to call you. A first name is all. Can you tell us your name?"

"Cindy," the girl answered. "Can't you stop them?" she asked desperately.

Sharon repeated, "You're safe here, Cindy." She reached out and took the girl's limp hand.

The girl attempted to sit up. She cried out painfully, once again clutching her abdomen, and then shielded her ears. "Can't you stop them?" she pleaded.

The blanket fell away from her. A wet bloodstain colored her side. A stabbing? Daphne wondered. How had she missed the wound earlier? The girl pleaded, "Do you hear that barking? Can't you stop that barking?"

Daphne reached out and lifted the girl's shirt. Her skin was colored an iodine-brown from surgery. At the center of this stain was a three-inch incision laced with broken stitches. It was so fresh, it had yet to scab. She was losing an enormous amount of blood.

"Call 911!" Sharon shouted across the room. "We need an ambulance, pronto!" She caught eyes with Daphne then and whispered, "What the hell is this?"


Daphne's fingers gripped the handle, but she couldn't quite bring herself to open the door. From inside the nightclub came the muted melody of his jazz piano. She had carefully avoided coming to The Big Joke because new lives came at a price, and that price was distance. Two years had passed since that evening spent with him. A single evening, a single event long since over, but her nearly tactile memory of it remained. She had her feet firmly on the ground now; and he had a family. Why challenge any of that? She answered herself: She needed the best cop available; she needed Lou Boldt, retired or not.

A car pulled up. A young couple climbed out and approached. She had to make up her mind—turn back or go through with it. There were other people to whom she could turn. Not as good as Boldt, but certainly qualified.

To hell with it! She went inside. A short, stocky doorman with no head hair but a moustache waxed like an airplane propeller requested a two-dollar cover charge for the piano player. The piano player, she thought. The sergeant, she felt like correcting. The most celebrated cop in this city to ever walk away from the job—so important to Homicide that his departure was still technically termed an extended leave. She intended to play upon that fact. She handed the doorman the money. Cheap, at twice the price.

The club was dingier than she remembered. Its low ceiling hung over a roomful of small, cigarette-scarred tables and an army of armless chairs. Inset into the brick wall was a handsome fireplace. It was fake. So were the bricks.

The piano's sounds filled a pair of overhead speakers. To her left some guys were busy playing video games. To her right the piano, and the man behind it, remained hidden on the other side of an imitation Chinese screen, perched on the far left of a small stage where comedians performed stand-up on the weekends. She crossed the room toward the tables, nervous and even a little afraid. A single blue light shone down on him, his head trained on the keys in strict concentration. He shouldn't be in blue light, she thought, because it makes him look older than his forty-five. So did the thinning hair—a shade more gray if the light could be trusted. If there had been any question about the identity of the player, the half-empty glass of milk answered it. With his eyes in shadow, he looked kind of like an owl up there. This was how she thought of him, she realized, as an owl up on a branch, out of reach, wise, silent, even majestic. Terrifying to some, inspiring to others, he was both to her.

She negotiated her way through the tight furniture. Not a very good crowd tonight. Boldt was the kind to take that personally. She wondered if this was something to use in her attempt to win his help with her investigation.

The walnut bar had been imported from a British pub by the owner, Bear Berenson. Attached to the mirror using a decal from a local brewery, a happy-hour menu advertised peanuts, french fries and fresh oysters. A hard-faced woman wearing too much makeup stood watch behind beer taps, a hopeful gaze fixed on her customers, like that of a fisherman scanning the sea.

Daphne slipped into an empty chair and flagged down the room's only waitress, a tall black woman built like a dancer. In the process, Daphne caught Boldt's attention as well. He looked up, and their eyes met.

God, how she'd missed him.

Boldt felt her presence before he saw her, as close friends or former lovers often do. As they caught eyes he dropped a stitch, necessitating the recovery of the lost beat in the next measure. He felt himself blush—everyone had noticed the error, everyone but the bartender, Mallory, who never noticed anything but an empty glass or a waiting tip.

She looked real good. High, strong cheekbones, heavy eyebrows and shoulder-length brown hair that in certain light held a rusty red. Intense, concentrating eyes, and an outdoors complexion. He knew damn well she'd been home to fix herself up, and that made him wonder, all of a sudden, about her intentions. She didn't wear silk blouses and pearl necklaces around the fourth floor, unless a hell of a lot had changed in the past two years. Would she comment about the way he looked? A jazz rat wearing the same pair of khakis for a week. You could track his meals on these pants. His shirt was on its second day. He generally did laundry Mondays and Thursdays.

It was kind of strange to see her again, strange to have not seen her for so long. Not that he hadn't kept up with her through others, but seeing her in the flesh was altogether different. Nice flesh at that. But he felt none of the lusty urges he had been caught up in two years earlier. She felt to him more like a high school sweetheart, someone from long ago whom he had known before the rules had changed. Of course, the rules hadn't changed, he thought; he had.

He and his wife, Liz, had rebuilt their relationship from the ashes of overwork, failed promises, and a disintegration of purpose, interest, and spirit. It had required enormous sacrifices on both their parts: Boldt had left the department; Liz had borne the burden of pregnancy and a difficult delivery to bring them a son. New roles now: Liz, the provider, mother, and lover; Boldt, part-time jazz rat, full-time house husband and Mr. Mom. Together they had found a new rhythm, carved out a new existence.

Now, here was Daffy glowing in the limited light of the cheap seats, nervous eyes seeking him out.

He bought himself a few precious moments by delaying the ending of the song with a long improvisation. It would all be improvisation from here on out. He rose from the bench and interrupted Mallory before she could complain about the length of the set. "Push drinks on them," he suggested, feeding her one instinct. "I'll stretch the next set to compensate." Mallory grimaced but didn't argue. Daphne would call that a learned behavior.

He finger-combed what hair he could find up there. She kept her eyes on him as he approached. He wiped his palms on his pants and offered a smile. Two years had passed, and all he could think to say was, "Hey there."

She grinned and nudged a chair away from the table with her foot.

He felt big and clumsy as he sat down in the chair. He had added a dozen pounds and knew he looked it. Not her. They shook hands, and he was thankful for that. No need to be weird about this. He said, "Can't even see the scar," though he wasn't sure what possessed him to do so.

She tugged at the scarf and revealed it to him: three or four inches long, still slightly pink. It would always be there to remind her. He remembered the knife held there as if it were yesterday. Daffy attempting to talk a known killer out of using the knife on her; Boldt, the one with the gun. She in the way of the bullet, her throat in the way of that blade. Her weapons were her words and they had failed her. Boldt wondered if she had recovered from that one yet. Those things tended to haunt you.

"That was a stupid thing to say," he admitted.

"Is this the new you? Looking for my flaws?"

"Let me tell you something: There are women who would kill to have flaws like yours." He hoped a compliment might erase his mistake.

"Keep your shorts on, Casanova. That's all behind us."

"Hey, you think I don't know? I'm a father now. Though that's probably news to you."

"I keep up," she said. "I didn't think it would have been too appropriate for me to throw you and Liz a baby shower."

"It must have taken some courage to break a two-year habit of staying away. This is no visit, is it? Not dressed like that, it isn't. Have you been somewhere? Going somewhere? Are you selling something? Why are you here? Not that I'm complaining."

"I heard the piano player is terrific."

"Mediocre on his best nights," Boldt replied. "You must be hanging around with some critically tone-deaf people."

"They're your friends!"

"My point exactly. Homicide, right? You are selling something."

"How is the baby?" she asked.

"Miles? Terrific, thanks." Just the mention of the boy made Boldt homesick.

"And Liz?"

That took some real courage.

"Fine," he answered honestly. "Happy, I think."

"And how about you?" she asked.

He nodded. "The same." Why should it feel odd to admit such a thing? "You?"

"I'm good. I'm volunteering at The Shelter now."

"So I've heard," he said. "I've kept up, too," he added, wanting her to hear this.

"Through Dixie," she said, referring to King County medical examiner Dr. Ronald Dixon, a close friend of Boldt's. A short silence fell between them.

"Are you going to tell me about it?" he asked. "The case," he added, trying to sound smart. It worked; she gave him one of those impressed looks.

"She's sixteen-years old."

"Is or was."

"Is," she confirmed. "She walked into The Shelter this afternoon in real bad shape. Drugs. Evidence suggesting the use of electroshock therapy. A fresh incision right here," she touched her side. "Too fresh. The bleeding kind of fresh. We thought she might be an escapee. We checked with hospitals and institutions. No one had record of her. Her stitches had popped, hence the blood. We admitted her to the Medical Center. I can't tell you what drew me to her, Lou. Not exactly. It was more than curiosity, more than sympathy. You run out of those after a few weeks at The Shelter. You're the one who taught me to listen to the victim—"

"Victim?" he interrupted. "They got her stitched back up, I take it." Exactly what was Daffy after? Why the compliments? She was a professional manipulator—he had to watch that. She knew her way around the human mind. Dealing with her was like playing blackjack with someone who could count cards.

She answered, "They stitched her back up. But they took X-rays. She's missing a kidney." She let it hang there a second. "No hospital record of any such operation. She has no memory of any surgery. None. No explanation at all. I'm looking for the explanation."

"Phil went along with this?" he asked curiously. As staff psychologist, Daphne reported to Lieutenant Phil Shoswitz, Homicide, the logic of which was known only to the upper brass. If there were to be an investigation and she part of it, it would more than likely be overseen by Shoswitz.

"He doesn't even know about it yet," she admitted, looking away—an uncommon gesture for her. "That's one of the reasons I've come to you," she added. "I need your help, your expertise."

Trouble! He knew her too well. "Help?"

"Her name is Cindy Chapman. She's been on the road for seven months. Left Arizona last winter after her stepfather sexually abused her. She went through Flagstaff, Salt Lake City, and ended up here about a month ago. Her long-term memory is fine. But she's lost a twenty-four-hour period during which she was exposed to electroshock and her kidney was removed. Let me tell you this: No two medical procedures could be less related to one another. I've studied this stuff, Lou. This is my turf. But investigating it? That's why I'm here."

He felt the stability of his marriage was at stake. Police work swallowed him whole. He and Liz had come to certain agreements. "What are you saying? Someone stole her kidney?"

"If a hospital or an institution is involved, it has to be local. These kids stick to a pretty small area. They develop small societies of self-help or self-abuse. When they move away, it's forever. On to Portland, San Francisco, L.A. You champion the cause of the victim. It's the victim that can tell you the most about a case, dead or alive. Right? You're the expert on the victim."

More compliments. He fought like hell to maintain his guard.

"She may have been raped. She won't admit to consensual sex. The evidence is there, but she doesn't remember. That's the electroshock. You see?"

She was beginning to frighten him. "No," he admitted, "I don't see."

A commotion at the front door attempted to steal his attention but failed. Daphne's eyes—convincing, terrified, searching, hopeful—held him firmly.

"Someone cut this girl open and stole her kidney. I'm convinced of it. The electroshock was used to ensure she didn't remember anything about it." Fire filled her eyes. "I can't prove it. Not yet." She placed her hand on her chest. "But I feel it in here. You know that feeling, don't you? I know you do."

He resented being cornered by her. Yes, he knew that feeling. Yes, he had been forced to defend it on a dozen occasions; and no, there was no real sense to it. But this was her feeling, not his, he reminded himself; her case, her instincts, not his. "What evidence is there?" he asked coldly.

She winced. "I'm not an investigator. I can't even take this to Shoswitz until I have something convincing. Hell, he's Homicide. He may not want it even then: She's alive after all. What do I do? Where do I turn?"

"The helpless female? I don't buy it."

She glared. "This young woman was violated in the worst, most heinous sense. Some monster"—monster was not a word that Daphne Matthews, the psychologist, often used—"cut her open, reached inside her, and removed an organ—a physical part of her! My God! Phil Shoswitz may be committed more to the dead than the living, but you? After they stole her kidney, they burned her short-term memory with electroshock. Am I getting through? Maybe one of them raped her just for fun. Evidence? Do I need probable cause, Sergeant, in order to investigate, or just the suspicion that a crime has been committed?" She stared him down. "Will you help me or not?" she asked, adding, "If for no other reason than as a parent."

He couldn't help but picture Miles—Einstein, the nickname belonging to his blond, curly haired son—involuntarily under the knife of such a butcher. She interrupted his thoughts. "The electroshock may have done permanent damage to her memory, not to mention her mind: She hears a constant barking."

"I'm out of the business. I'm off the force. My badge is collecting dust in Shoswitz's drawer."

"You're on extended leave."

"That's just Phil's way of holding a carrot out to me, of keeping my chance at twenty alive. That's the way it reads on paper, Daffy, but in here?" he said, repeating her gesture of placing his hand on his chest. "In here, I'm a father and a hack pianist."

He had never dared speak the words aloud, had seldom even thought them, for he wasn't one to lie, and he couldn't be sure this was the truth: "It's over." It felt sacrilegious to say such a thing. Just hearing it spoken confirmed its falsehood. He felt a terrifying loss of control, as if hitting a patch of ice on a dangerous curve. It wasn't over, was it? Someone out there had torn the guts out of a young girl. What surprised him most of all was the way he took to it so quickly. He wanted whatever evidence she had. He wanted the pieces of the puzzle. He wanted to put a stop to it before it happened again. Cop instincts—she was counting on them. Perhaps it was because the victim was alive.

A voice—a man's, big and thunderous—reverberated through the club. "Party's over, everyone. No more drinks. I'm going to have to ask you all to leave." Boldt looked over his shoulder expecting to see some drunk on the stage, but instead he saw a crew cut wearing a ten-year-old gray suit and scuffed wingtips with worn heels. A badge hung out of the breast pocket of the suit. Four or five clones of the man swept quickly into the club, fanning out to various responsibilities. It felt like a bank job to Boldt, an organized robbery. But when this guy announced, "Treasury Department," he realized what it was. The man continued, "These premises are being sealed." He repeated loudly over protests, "I'm going to have to ask you all to leave."

"Your idea?" Boldt asked her, nodding toward the T-man. "Trying to pressure me into this?"

She grimaced, looking past him toward the stage.

One of the suits was screwing a padlock clasp into the piano's keyboard cover. Boldt could feel the screws biting into the wood as if they were drilling into his own flesh. He rose angrily, Daphne following.

"What the hell?" Boldt hollered as he closed the distance. "That's a musical instrument, goddamn it!" The one with the big voice was smart enough to step aside. The assistant kept right on twisting the screwdriver. "Stop that! Now!"

"Don't make any trouble, pal," the assistant cautioned. The screw chewed more deeply into the wood.

"You don't do that to a musical instrument," Boldt repeated, wrapping one of his big hands around the boy's wrist. "You just don't do that."

The agent threatened, "You want me to call the cops?"

"I am a cop," Boldt declared. His eyes met Daphne's; she wasn't going to let him live that one down. Boldt released the man.

"So am I," Daphne informed the agent, producing her identification. "I'd sure as hell like to see the warrant that authorizes the destruction of private property in the process of seizure. You want to show me that document, please, Agent—" she craned forward to read his I.D."—Campbell?"

The man's face went crimson. He looked first at her then at Boldt, then over at his superior. "You want to see warrants, you'll have to talk to Agent Majorksi. I got a job to do here."

"Leave it be," Boldt said definitively, grabbing his wrist again. Two screws had already violated the ebony.

Across the room, bartender Mallory struggled with one of the agents in an effort to lock the cash register, but lost. The agent took the key from her. They had practiced this drill well or had performed it enough times to execute it flawlessly. Piece by piece, stage by stage, the agents took control in a matter of minutes. Confused patrons were herded toward the door, several chugging beers on the way. Another commotion—Bear's arrest—grabbed Boldt's attention as the agent started twisting that screwdriver again.

The club owner was placed in handcuffs and read his rights. He glanced over at Boldt, shrugged, and smiled. "I should have hired H&R Block," Bear shouted over to Boldt. That was Bear: ever the comic. He threw a couple of one-liners at the agents who had him, but they didn't seem to appreciate the humor. "Drinks are on the house, fellas," he tried one last time as they escorted him toward the door.

"Hey, Monk," he called out, using his nickname for Boldt, "I thought all you badgers were on the same team. Hey, Elliot Ness," he called to the gray suit, Majorski, "this here is Lou Boldt. The


On Sale
Aug 14, 2012
Page Count
448 pages
Hachette Books

Ridley Pearson

About the Author

Ridley Pearson is the award-winning co-author, along with Dave Barry, of Peter and the Starcatchers, Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, Peter and the Sword of Mercy, Escape From the Carnivale, Cave of the Dark Wind, Blood Tide, and Science Fair. In addition to Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark, Kingdom Keepers: Disney at Dawn, Kingdom Keepers: Disney in Shadow, and Kingdom Keepers: Power Play, he is also the author of the young adult thrillers Steel Trapp: The Challenge and Steel Trapp: The Academy. He has written more than twenty best-selling crime novels, including Killer View and Killer Weekend. He was the first American to be awarded the Raymond Chandler/Fulbright Fellowship in Detective Fiction at Oxford University.

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