Eight in the Box: A Novel of Suspense

CHAPTER 1

Richter slipped his arm down the cool shaft of the dryer vent, feeling the dampness of the metal through the latex glove. He slid the bolt lock, gave the door a shove and was inside. Locking the door behind him, he reattached the dryer hose to the vent cover. Let the police work a little to find out how he’d gotten in.

It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. Richter breathed in the basement smells of detergent and mold and was overpowered by the pungent odor from a cat litter box. A scant amount of light from the casement window outlined the stairs leading up to the first floor. The door at the top of the staircase had been left open for the cat.

Perfect.

How nicely the City of Boston’s streetlights lit up the first floor. A narrow hallway led to the living room with its French doors. Richter entered the room, careful not to bump into anything.

The walls were pale, although he couldn’t make out the color. Artwork by a child with some talent hung, carefully framed and matted, on each wall. A vase on the coffee table held dried roses and Queen Anne’s lace—a nice touch, the sort of thing Grandmother would have enjoyed. It was a comfortable room. He could see himself relaxing on the couch, watching one of his old movies.

He moved out of the light and stepped into the dining room, stopping to look at the family pictures on the mantel. The built-in hutch, with its leaded-glass doors, was filled with old-fashioned teacups and saucers. The dining room led into the kitchen and back around to the front hall where he had entered. He’d completed his private tour of the lovely old Victorian.

Now he had more important things to attend to.

Richter made his way up the stairs. The moonlight shining through the stained-glass window on the landing created a kaleidoscope of muted color on the pine floors. The stairs creaked, but at midnight Susan McCarthy would be in a deep sleep. Her bedroom light had gone out two hours earlier.

Richter walked down the carpeted hall. He turned the cold glass doorknob, and the door to Susan McCarthy’s bedroom yawned open.

CHAPTER 2

Assistant District Attorney Connie Darget sped through another red light before turning onto Prospect Hill Road in Roslindale, one of the old neighborhoods of Boston now being taken over by trust-fund babies. This was one of the few perks of his job. The pay was terrible, but who else besides a cop could fly around the city in the middle of the night with total disregard for traffic laws? He had activated his emergency lights, the wigwags, the strobes, the flashbacks. Driving to a murder scene made Connie feel alive, like a kid sledding down the Blue Hills, not knowing if he’d be able to stop before shooting out onto the highway below.

He stopped in the middle of the street, a few houses down from number twelve. That was as close as he could get. He left the flashbacks on so the cops wouldn’t tow the Crown Vic.

Two ambulances were situated in front of the house, with a half dozen police cruisers blocking incoming traffic. It was warm for February, close to fifty degrees at two o’clock in the morning. A suit jacket was all he needed over his shirt and tie. Most of the residents of the quiet, middle-class neighborhood were outside, but the extensive yellow tape kept them a good distance away.

Connie overheard the grumblings of the crowd as he made his way toward the scene. He played up to his audience, brushing past them with a practiced expression of intense focus.

“Why won’t they tell us anything?” a woman asked.

“I don’t know, but it’s a bad sign when the paramedics are still waiting on the sidelines,” said a man in pajama bottoms and a sweatshirt.

“They’re probably all dead!” the woman said, her voice rising. “I’ve seen this kind of thing on TV. If the victims are dead, then their bodies get treated like a crime scene.”

TV can teach you something after all, Connie thought.

The media had taken over the parts of the street that were not taped off. Television reporters were interviewing neighbors, fishing for sound bites for the morning news. Connie flashed his credentials to a uniformed cop and moved toward the crime scene.

As one of the young prosecutors handpicked by the district attorney to represent the office at all murder scenes, Connie had access to a world most