Night Kills by John Lutz

Night Kills
Author: John Lutz
Pub Date : September 30, 2008
Imprint : Pinnacle
Format : Paperback

On The Trail Of A Bloody Killer…Frank Quinn is sure he is hunting for a madman: someone who is shooting young women in the heart, defiling their bodies, leaving only the torsos to be found. Quinn, a former NYPD detective, is called into the case by an ambitious chief of police and mobilizes his team of brilliant law-enforcement misfits. But in the concrete canyons of New York, this shocking serial murder case is turning into something very different…

A Cop And A Victim Fight Back….Jill Clark came to the city with too many hopes and too little cash. Now a seemingly deranged woman is telling her an extraordinary story. New to an exclusive dating service, Jill is warned that other women have died on their dates-and that she could be next. Struggling against a death trap closing in around her, Jill has a powerful ally in Frank Quinn. But no one knows the true motives behind a rampage of cold-blooded murder-or how much more terrifying this is going to get…

“Lutz is one of the masters.”–Ridley Pearson “A major talent.”–John Lescroart

“I’ve been a fan for years.”–T. Jefferson Parker

A multiple Edgar and Shamus Award winner—including the Shamus Lifetime Achievement Award—John Lutz is the author of over forty books. His novel SWF Seeks Same was made into the hit movie Single White Female, and The Ex was a critically acclaimed HBO feature. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

(source :


Chapter OneMadeline was on the run.

She should have known better. She really should have.

An insect—a large bee or wasp—whizzed past close to her ear as she skidded around a corner, her right foot almost slipping out of her low-cut sneaker. An instant later came a flat Blam! She knew he was shooting at her.

No doubt now as to what he’d had in mind in the car.

He’s trying to kill me!

Why? What did I do?

She was gasping for breath now, beginning to stumble from exhaustion as she ran down the dark street. Even late as it was, even in this neighborhood, somebody must be awake who would help her. Anyone!

Terror propelled her. Terror and the steady, relentless pounding of his footsteps behind her.

What caused this?

What’s this about?

If he gets close enough to take another shot…

Her right side was aching now. The pain was an enemy trying to bend her body forward so she could no longer run, no longer live. Her legs weren’t merely tired. They were be coming so numb that she could hardly feel any contact with the sidewalk.

Madeline was ready to surrender to the inevitable, and then she saw a shifting of shadow and a brightening at the next dark intersection.

A car’s coming!

Behind her, closer, the gun fired again. It sounded like the flat of one huge palm slapping against another. There was a finality to the sharp report.

It signaled the end of something.

Chapter TwoRetired homicide detective Frank Quinn was having strong black coffee after his breakfast at the Lotus Diner on Amsterdam when a saggy-jowled man who looked like a well-tailored bloodhound sat down opposite him.

“I know I’m late,” the bloodhound growled.

“How so?” Quinn asked, sipping his coffee.

“If it were up to you, I’d have been here much sooner.”

Quinn didn’t answer. Overconfident people bored him.

The two men were almost exact opposites. The bloodhound, who was New York Police Commissioner Harley Renz, was not only saggy jowled but saggy bodied. He’d put on about forty pounds in the past few years, and the expensive chalk-stripe blue suit didn’t disguise it as workable muscle. All vertical stripes did for Renz was zigzag.

Quinn, on the other hand, was tall and rangy, with a firm jaw, a nose broken once too often, and disconcerting flat green eyes. His straight, gray-flecked dark hair was cut short, and recently, but, as always, looked as if a barber should shape it to suit a human head. If Renz was the bloodhound, there was something of the wolf in Quinn.

“You’re glad to see me,” Renz went on, “because you don’t like rotting in retirement at the age of fifty-five.”

Thel the waitress came over and Quinn said, “A coffee for my antagonist.”

“I haven’t had breakfast,” Renz said. “I’ll have a waffle, too. Diet syrup.”

“Stuff tastes like tree sap,” Thel said. She was a dumpy, middle-aged woman who’d never been pretty, so substituted being frank. It worked pretty well for her.

“The real stuff, then,” Renz said, grateful to be nudged off his diet.

Quinn listened for a moment to Upper West Side traffic flowing past on Amsterdam. Somebody just outside shouted an obscenity. Somebody leaned on a car horn and shouted back. New York.

“I’m rotting fast,” he said. “Why don’t you get to the point?”

“Sure. I need you and your team again.”

Quinn and the two detectives Renz had assigned to him on his last case had become media darlings by tracking down a serial killer aptly called the Butcher. Their success had also resulted in Renz’s swift climb up the promotional ladder to commissioner. He was, in fact, one of the most popular commissioners the city had ever known. In New York that meant he could do just about as he pleased, including yanking three detectives temporarily back into the NYPD as long as they were willing. He knew Quinn would be willing. And if Quinn was willing, so would be his two detectives. Like Renz, Quinn was a hard man to refuse.

“Why do you need us?”

Renz smiled. Still looked like a bloodhound. “In this city, Quinn, you’re Mister Serial Killer.”

“I’m not sure I like the way you put that.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Last time we went to work for you, you got promoted all the way to commissioner.”

“And you got your good name back and became a big hero. There’s something in this for both of us, Quinn. This for that. Tit for tat. That’s how the world works.”

“Your world.”

“Well, that’s the one I live in.”

“What’s next for you, Harley, mayor?”

Renz shrugged. “Who knows?” He seemed serious. Quinn couldn’t see Harley as mayor. But then he hadn’t been able to see him as police commissioner, and there he sat. Police commissioner.

“What are the terms?” Quinn asked.

“Work for hire. It won’t interfere with your settlement or interrupt your retirement pay.”

Quinn wasn’t worried about the pay. Soon after the Night Prowler case, he’d gotten a large settlement from the city after having been falsely accused of raping a fourteen-yearold girl. Another cop had done it, and Quinn proved it. There was noplace Quinn could go to get his reputation back, so he settled for enough money to pay his attorneys and support himself comfortably with or without his pension.

“If I’m going to do it,” he said, “it’s got to interest me.”

“Oh, it will.”

Thel came over with Renz’s coffee and waffle, and maple syrup in a container that looked like one of those little liquor bottles the airlines give you.

“This,” Thel said, tapping the bottle’s cap with a chipped, red-enameled nail, “is good stuff. Straight from the tree.”

“I believe you, sweetheart,” Renz said.

When she’d walked away, he slathered his waffle with butter, then poured the little bottle’s entire contents over it.

“We’ve got us a serial killer,” he said to Quinn, “but the media’s not onto it yet. Except for Cindy Sellers, who’s sitting on it.”

“How many victims?”

“Two women.”

“Doesn’t sound like enough to make a serial killer.”

“They were both killed in identical, distinctive ways.”

“Then you have the bodies.”

It wasn’t a question. Renz picked up knife and fork and attacked his breakfast. “Parts of them,” he said. “Well, that’s not quite accurate,” he amended through a mouthful of waffle. “We’ve got just their torsos.”

He swallowed, then smacked his lips together in appreciation. “This stuff is yummy.”

Which seemed a strange thing for a bloodhound to say, especially one who was police commissioner, but there it was.

Thel sashayed over with some more coffee immediately when Renz had forked in his last bite of waffle, probably because he’d called her sweetheart.

She returned to behind the counter.

“Shot with the same gun,” Renz said, pushing away his empty plate. He dipped a finger into the residue of syrup and licked, then took a sip of coffee. Not in a rush. Relishing his tale. “Twenty-two-caliber hollow point, through the heart.”

“Small gun.”

“Big enough. The M.E. says the wounds were fatal, but the victims might have taken a while to die. Could be they were finished off with shots to the head. Not having the heads, we wouldn’t know.”


“Nah. Pro wouldn’t go to all the trouble of dismembering the bodies.”

Quinn figured that was true. Then he cautioned himself not to come to any conclusions so soon.

“The other thing,” Renz said, “is that both women were sexually violated by a long, sharply pointed instrument. Not a knife, more like a stake.”

“Tell me that happened after they died,” Quinn said.

“It did according to Nift.” Nift was Dr. Julius Nift, a skillful but verbally brutal medical examiner. “Nift seemed disappointed by this glimmer of mercy in the killer.”

“More like convenience,” Quinn said. “Easier to bring down a victim with a bullet before going to work with a sharp instrument.”

“That’s why you the man,” Renz said. “You can slip right into the minds of these sick creeps.”

“Into yours, too.”

“You figure he does that thing with the sharp stake or whatever ’cause he can’t get it up?”

“There you go.”

Renz licked some more syrup off a finger and smiled at Quinn. “So whaddya say?”

“We’re on,” Quinn said. “I’ll call Feds and Pearl.”

Feds was retired homicide detective Larry Fedderman.

Pearl was…well, Pearl.

And that could be a problem.


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