The Bone Collector Excerpt

She wanted only to sleep.

The plane had touched down two hours late and there’d been a marathon wait for the luggage. And then the car service had messed up; the limo’d left an hour ago. So now they were waiting in line for a cab.

She stood in the line of passengers, her lean body listing against the weight of her laptop computer. John rattled on about interest rates and new ways of restructuring the deal but all she could think was: Friday night, 10:30. I wanna pull on my sweats and climb into bed.

Gazing at the endless stream of yellow cabs. Something about the color and the similarity of the cars . . . . they reminded her of insects. And she shivered with the creepy-crawly feeling she remembered from her childhood in the mountains when she and her brother’d find a gut-killed badger or kick over a red ant nest and gaze at the wet mass of squirming bodies and legs.

T.J. Colfax shuffled forward as the cab pulled up and squealed to a stop.

The cabbie only popped the trunk and stayed in the cab. They had to load their own luggage, which ticked John off. He was used to people doing things for him. Tammie Jean didn’t care; she was still occasionally surprised to find that she had a secretary to type and file for her. She tossed her suitcase in, slammed the trunk and climbed inside.

John got in after her, slammed the door and mopped his pudgy face and balding scalp as if the effort of pitching his suit bag in the trunk had exhausted him.

“First stop East Seventy Second,” John muttered through the divider.

“Then the Upper West Side,” T.J. added. The plexiglass between the front and back seats was badly scuffed and she could hardly see the driver. She wondered vaguely why he was wearing a stocking cap in this heat. He seemed thin and she wondered if maybe he was a cancer patient.

The cab shot away from the curb and was soon cruising down the expressway toward Manhattan.

“Look, that’s it,” John said. “Why all the crowds.”

He was pointing at a billboard welcoming delegates to the U.N. conference, which was starting on Monday. There were going to be ten thousand visitors in town. T.J. gazed up at the billboard — blacks and whites and Asians, waving and smiling. There was something wrong about the artwork, though. The proportions and the colors were off. And the faces were eerie.

T.J. muttered, “Body Snatchers.”

They sped onto the broad expressway, uneasily yellow under the highway lights. Past the old Navy yard, past the Brooklyn Piers.

John finally stopped talking and pulled out his Texas Instruments. He started crunching some numbers. T.J. sat back in the seat, looking at the steamy sidewalks and sullen faces of people sitting on the brownstones overlooking the highway. They seemed half-comatose in the heat.

It was hot in the cab too and T.J. reached for the button to lower the window. She wasn’t surprised to find that it didn’t work. She reached across John. His was broken too. It was then that she noticed that the door locks were missing.

And the door handles too.

Her hand slid over the door, feeling for the nub of the handle. No, it was as if someone had cut it off with a hacksaw.

“What?” John asked.

“Well, the doors. . . . How do we open them?”

John was looking from one to the other when the sign for the Midtown Tunnel came and went.

“Hey,” John rapped on the divider. “You missed the turn. Where’re you going?”

“Maybe he’s going to take the Queensboro,” T.J. suggested. The bridge meant a longer route but avoided the tunnel’s toll. She sat forward and tapped on the plexiglass, using her ring to make more noise.

“Are you taking the bridge?”

He ignored them.


And a moment later they sped past the Queensboro turnoff.

“Shit,” John cried. “Where’re you taking us? Harlem. I’ll bet he’s taking us to Harlem.”

T.J. looked out the window. A car was moving parallel to them, passing slowly. She banged on the window hard.

“Help!” she shouted. “Please…”

The driver glanced at her once, then again, frowning. He slowed and pulled behind them but with a hard jolt the cab skidded down at exit ramp into Queens, turned down an alley and sped through a deserted warehouse district. They must’ve been doing sixty miles an hour.”

“What’re you doing?”

T.J. banged on the divider. “Slow down. Where are?—

“Oh, God, no,” John muttered. “Look.”

The driver had pulled the stocking cap down; it was really a ski mask.

“What do you want?” T.J. shouted.

“Money? We’ll give you money.”

Still, silence from the front of the cab.

T.J. ripped open her Targa bag and pulled out her black laptop. She reared back and slammed the corner of the computer into the window. The glass held though the sound of the bang seemed to scare the hell out of the driver. The cab swerved and nearly hit the brick wall of the building they were speeding past.

“Money! How much? I can give you a lot of money!” John sputtered, tears dripping down his fat cheeks.

T.J. rammed the window again with the laptop. The screen flew off under the force of the blow but the window was uncracked.

She tried once more and the body of the computer split open and fell from her hands.

“Oh, shit…”

They both pitched forward violently as the driver skidded to a stop in a dingy, unlit alcove.

The driver climbed out of the cab, a small pistol in his hand.

“Please, no…” she muttered.