Badlands: A Novel Of Suspense by Richard MontanariBadlands: A Novel Of Suspense by Richard Montanari

Badlands: A Novel Of Suspense

byRichard Montanari

Mass Market Paperback | August 25, 2009

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A teenage runaway’s body is found in the basement of a rancid tenement building in the desolate, dangerous North Philly district dubbed the Badlands. The inexplicable cause of death: drowning. Months later, this dormant homicide case stirs back to life. A confession to the bizarre murder sends Philadelphia police detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano rushing to make an arrest. But what they find will chill these hardened veterans to the bone. As the body count grows, a terrifying design literally takes shape. Pieces of a gruesome puzzle are being set into place by a madman using the city as his game board. His playthings are the innocent, and his opponents–and pawns–are Byrne and Balzano, who must, before time runs out, decipher the truth about a shadowy house of horrors and its elusive master.
Richard Montanari is a novelist, screenwriter, and essayist. His work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and scores of other national and regional publications. He is the OLMA- winning author of the internationally acclaimed thrillers Merciless, The Skin Gods, The Rosary Girls, Kiss of Evil...
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Title:Badlands: A Novel Of SuspenseFormat:Mass Market PaperbackProduct dimensions:416 pages, 7 × 4.2 × 0.86 inShipping dimensions:7 × 4.2 × 0.86 inPublished:August 25, 2009Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345492439

ISBN - 13:9780345492432

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Chapter One The dead girl sat inside the glass display case, a pale and delicate curio placed on a shelf by a madman. In life she had been beautiful, with fine blond hair and cobalt blue eyes. In death her eyes pleaded for benediction, for the cold symmetry of justice.  The last thing they had seen was a monster. Her tomb was a stifling basement in an abandoned building in the Badlands, a five- square- mile area of desolate terrain and destroyed lives in North Philadelphia, running approximately from Erie Avenue south to Girard, from Broad Street east to the river.  Her name was Caitlin Alice O’Riordan. On the day of her murder, the day her brief story came to a close, she was seventeen.  For Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Hom i cide Unit, Caitlin’s story was just beginning.  There are three divisions in Philly Homicide— the Line Squad, which handles new cases; the Fugitive Squad; and the Special Investigations Unit, which handles, among other things, cold cases. To the detectives of SIU, all of whom were members of the Five Squad, an elite group of investigators handpicked by the captain based on their abilities, their closure rates, and their investigative skills, a cold case investigation represented a second chance to right a wrong, an ultimatum to the killers who arrogantly walked the streets of Philadelphia, a statement that said the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the City of Brotherly Love, were not done with them.  The Caitlin O’Riordan investigation was the first SIU case for Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano.  When the detectives arrived at the Eighth Street address there was no yellow tape ringing the property, no sector cars blocking traffic, none of the blue and white Crime Scene Unit vans, no officer guarding the entrance, crimescene log in hand. All this was long gone.  They had read the reports, seen the autopsy protocol, viewed the photographs and video. But they had not yet followed the path of the killer.  Both detectives believed that their investigation would truly begin the moment they stepped into the room where Caitlin O’Riordan had been found.  The building had been sealed four months earlier at the time of the initial investigation, the doors replaced and padlocked, the plywood over the windows secured with lag bolts. Originally a single- family row house, this corner building had been bought and sold many times. Its most recent incarnation was as a small grocery, a narrow, slipshod emporium hawking baby formula, chips, diapers, canned meats, magazines, lottery dreams. Its stock- in- trade, its lifeblood, had been the Holy Trinity of crack addiction: Chore Boy scouring pads, disposable plastic lighters, and individually packaged tea roses. The roses came in long, narrow glass tubes that, within a minute or two of leaving the store, became straight shooters, a fast and easy way to fire up a rock, the ashes from which were caught by the steel wool of the scouring pad. Every con ve nience store in the Badlands carried tea roses, which probably made this part of North Philly the most romantic place on earth. Hundreds of times a day someone bought a flower.  The bodega had closed more than three years earlier, and no tenant had moved in. The building’s façade was still a Day- Glo green, with a strange sign painted over the front window:  open 24 hours. days 12 to 8 pm.  Jessica unlocked the padlock on the corrugated metal door, rolled it up. They stepped inside and were immediately greeted with the unpleasant odor of mold and mildew, the chalky scent of damp plaster. It was late August and the temperature outside was eighty- eight degrees. Inside it had to be nearing a hundred.  The first floor was remarkably clean and tidy, except for a thick layer of dust on everything. Most of the trash had long ago been collected as evidence and removed. To their left was what was once the counter; behind it, a long row of empty shelves. Above the shelves lingered a few remaining signs—kools, budweiser, skoal— along with a menu board offering a half dozen Chinese takeout items.  The stairwell down was at the back of the building on the left. As Jessica and Kevin began to descend the steps, they clicked on their Maglites. There was no electricity here, no gas or water, no utilities of any kind. What ever thin sunlight seeped through the cracks between the sheets of plywood over the windows was instantly swallowed by the darkness.  The room where Caitlin O’Riordan was found was at the basement’s far end. Years ago, the small windows at street level had been bricked in. The gloom was absolute. In the corner of the room was a glass display case, a commercial beverage cooler used at one time for beer and soda and milk. It had stainless steel sides, and stood more than six feet tall. It was in this glass coffin that Caitlin’s body had been discovered— sitting on a wooden chair, staring out at the room, eyes wide open. She’d been found by a pair of teenage boys scrapping for copper.  Byrne took out a yellow legal pad and a fine point marker. Holding his flashlight under his arm, he made a detailed sketch of the subterranean room. In hom i cide work, the investigating detectives were required to make a diagram of every crime scene. Even though photographs and videotape rec ords of the scene were made, it was the investigator’s sketch that was most often referred to, even in the trial stage. Byrne usually made the diagram. By her own admission, Jessica couldn’t draw a circle with a compass.  “I’ll be upstairs if you need me,” Jessica said.  Byrne glanced up, the darkness of the room a black shroud around his broad shoulders. “Gee, thanks, partner.” Jessica spread out the files on the front counter, grateful for the bright sunlight streaming through the open door, grateful for the slight breeze.  The first page of the binder was a large photograph of Caitlin, a color eight- by- ten. Every time Jessica looked at the photograph she was reminded of the Gene Hackman movie Hoosiers, although she would be hard- pressed to explain why. Perhaps it was because the girl in the picture was from rural Pennsylvania. Perhaps it was because there was an openness to the girl’s face, a trusting countenance that seemed locked into the world of 1950s America— long before Caitlin’s birth, life, and death— a time when girls wore saddle shoes and kneesocks and vest sweaters and shirts with Peter Pan collars.  Girls didn’t look like this anymore, Jessica thought. Did they?  Not in this time of MySpace and Abercrombie & Fitch cata logs and rainbow parties. Not in this day and age when a girl could buy a bag of Doritos and a Coke, board a bus in Lancaster County, and ninety minutes later emerge in a city that would swallow her whole; a trusting soul who never had a chance.  The estimated time of Caitlin’s death was between midnight and 7 am on May 2, although the medical examiner could not be more precise, given that by the time Caitlin O’Riordan’s body had been discovered she had been dead at least forty- eight hours. There were no external wounds on the victim, no lacerations or abrasions, no ligature marks to indicate she may have been restrained, no defensive wounds that would suggest she struggled with an assailant. There had been no skin or any other kind of organic matter beneath her fingernails. At the time she was discovered, Caitlin had been fully clothed, dressed in frayed blue jeans, Reeboks, black denim jacket, and a white T-shirt. She also wore a lilac nylon backpack. Around her neck had been a sterling silver Claddagh, and although it was not particularly valuable, the fact that she wore it in death did not support any theory that she had been the victim of a robbery gone bad. Nor did the cause of the death.  Caitlin O’Riordan had drowned.

Editorial Reviews

“A satisfying puzzle and unexpected twists.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer


“Stunning . . . outstanding, truly memorable . . . Montanari seems poised to take his place on the top ranks of the mystery field.”—Booklist, starred review