Ursula P. Archer Five

ISBN 13: 9780099583868

Five

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9780099583868: Five

A series of co-ordinates tattooed on the feet of a murder victim lead the police to a box containing body parts -- and a note from the killer with a series of cryptic clues to the identity of the next victim. A nail-biting, page-turning thriller that will send shivers down your spine.
     Every corpse is a clue.
     A woman is found murdered in a field. Tattooed on her feet is a strange combination of numbers and letters. 
     Detective Beatrice Kaspary quickly identifies these as map co-ordinates, which lead the police to a 'treasure box' containing several severed body parts -- and a note from the killer with a series of cryptic clues to the identity of the next victim. 
     So begins a desperate scavenger hunt in which Beatrice herself becomes a pawn in the killer's game of cat and mouse, as she risks all to uncover the murderer.

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About the Author:

URSULA P. ARCHER was born in Vienna in 1968, and worked as an editor at a publishing house. After the success of her first young adult novel, she now dedicates much of her time to writing fiction. She lives with her family in Vienna. Five is her first thriller for adults.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

 

 

 

N47° 46.605 E013° 21.718

The early morning mist enveloped her like a damp shroud. The dead woman was lying on her stomach, the grass beneath her soaked with dew and blood. The cows were taking care not to graze there, which was easy enough; the meadow was large, and the thing lying there in the shadow of the rock face unsettled them. A brown cow had ventured over shortly after sunrise, lowering her heavy head and licking the flaxen strands of hair with her rough tongue. But finding her discovery to be unpalatable, she had soon returned to the rest of the herd.

They kept their distance. Most of them just lay there, chewing their cud and staring out at the river. But even the ones that were still grazing avoided straying too close. The scent of death made them uneasy. They much preferred to stay where the first beams of sunlight were pushing through the mist, etching bright patterns onto the meadow.

The brown cow trotted across to drink from the trough. With every step, the clapper in her bell struck against the metal, producing a tinny sound. The rest of the herd didn’t even swivel their ears. They just stared stoically at the water, their lower jaws grinding constantly, their tails lashing to swat away the first flies of the day.

A gentle gust of wind swept over the meadow, brushing the woman’s hair aside and exposing her face. Her small, upturned nose. The birthmark next to the right-hand corner of her mouth. Her lips, now far too pale. Only her forehead remained covered, where her hair and skin were matted with blood.

The morning mist slowly frayed out to form isolated veils. These eventually wafted away, clearing the view of the meadow, the cattle, and the unwanted gift which had been left there for them. The brown cow’s muffled lowing greeted the new day.

*   *   *

As always, Beatrice took the stairs two steps at a time. She skidded along the corridor, racing past the second door on the left. Just seven steps to go. Six. Reaching her office, she saw that no one was there but Florin. Thank God for that.

“Has he been in yet?” she asked, slinging her rucksack onto the revolving chair and her folder onto the desk.

“Good morning to you too!”

How did Florin always manage to stay so upbeat? She hurled her jacket toward the coatrack, missed, and swore loudly.

“Sit yourself down and catch your breath, I’ll get that.” Florin stood up, picked her jacket up from the floor and hung it carefully on one of the hooks.

“Thank you.” She turned her computer on and hurriedly emptied the contents of the folder onto her desk. “I would have been on time, but Jakob’s teacher caught me.”

Florin went over to the espresso machine and started pressing buttons. She saw him nod. “What was it this time?”

“He had a temper tantrum, and the class mascot caught the brunt of it.”

“Oh. Was it a living thing, dare I ask?”

“No. A stuffed owl called Elvira. But you wouldn’t believe what a huge drama it caused. At least ten children in the class were in floods of tears. I offered to send a crisis intervention team across, but the teacher wasn’t amused. Anyway, now I need to arrange a substitute Elvira before Friday.”

“That sounds like quite a challenge.”

He frothed the milk, pressed the button for double espresso, and then crowned his work with a little dusting of cocoa. Florin’s calm demeanor was gradually starting to work its magic on Beatrice. As he put the steaming cup down in front of her, she realized she was smiling.

He sat down at the opposite side of their desk and surveyed her thoughtfully. “You look as though you didn’t get much sleep.”

You can say that again. “Everything’s fine,” she mumbled, staring intently at her coffee in the hope that Florin would be content with her brief response.

“No nocturnal calls?”

There certainly had been. One at half past eleven, and another at three in the morning. The second had woken Mina, who hadn’t gone back to sleep again for an hour afterward.

Beatrice shrugged. “He’ll give up eventually.”

“You have to change your number, Bea, it’s been going on long enough. Don’t keep giving him the opportunity to wear you down. You are the police, for heaven’s sake! There are steps you can take.”

The coffee was perfect. In the two years they had been working together, Florin had gradually perfected the ideal blend of coffee beans, milk, and sugar. Beatrice leaned back and closed her eyes for a few seconds, longing for just one moment of relaxation, however brief it might be.

“If I change the number, he’ll be on my doorstep before I can count to ten. And he is their father, after all, he has a right to contact his children.”

She heard Florin sigh. “By the way,” he said, “Hoffman’s already been in.”

Shit. “Really? So why isn’t my monitor covered in Post-its?”

“I appeased him by saying you’d phoned and were on an outside call. He pulled a sour face, but didn’t say a word. The good news is that we’ll have some peace from him today because he’s in meetings.”

That was fantastic news. Beatrice put her cup down, tried to relax her tensed shoulder muscles, and started to sort through the files on her desk. She would finally get a chance to work on her report about the stabbing; Hoffmann had been nagging her to do it for ages. She glanced over at Florin, who was staring intently at his monitor with an expression of utter confusion. A strand of his dark hair fell forward, almost into his eyes. Clickclickclick. Beatrice’s gaze was drawn to his hand as it clasped the mouse. Strong, masculine hands: her old vice.

“Problem?” she asked.

“Unsolvable.”

“Anything I can help with?”

A thoughtful crease formed between his eyebrows. “I don’t know. The selection of antipasti is a serious matter.”

She laughed. “Ah, I see. So when does Anneke arrive?”

“In three days’ time. I think I’ll make vitello tonnato. Or maybe bruschetta? Damn it, I wish I knew whether she’s eating carbs at the moment.”

Discussing menu planning wasn’t a good idea; Beatrice’s stomach immediately made itself heard. Quickly thinking back over what she had eaten so far today—an inventory that amounted to two biscuits—she decided she was perfectly entitled to feel hungry.

“I’d vote for vitello tonnato,” she said, “and a quick trip downstairs to the café.”

“Already?” He caught her gaze and smiled. “Okay then. I’ll just print this out and then—”

The telephone rang, interrupting him. Once he answered the call, it was only a few seconds before his dark expression told Beatrice to forget about the tuna fish baguette she had been dreaming of.

“We’ll be there right away.” He hung up the phone and looked at her. “We’ve got a body, female, near Abtenau. It seems she fell from the rock face.”

“Oh shit. Sounds like a climbing accident.”

Florin’s eyebrows knitted together, forming a dark beam over his eyes. “Hardly. Not unless she was climbing with her hands tied.”

*   *   *

The corpse, a bright stain against the green, was flanked by two uniformed policemen. A tall man, bare-chested under his dungarees, looked at them curiously. He stood in the adjacent field, holding a small herd of cows in check. He raised his hand, as if wanting to wave at Beatrice and Florin, but then lowered it again.

A rocky crag with an almost vertical twenty-meter drop towered over the meadow, jutting out in stark contrast to the idyllic landscape.

The forensic investigators, Drasche and Ebner, clearly had arrived just a few minutes before them. They were already clad in their protective suits, busying themselves with their instruments, and only nodded briefly in greeting.

A man was kneeling down right next to the pasture fence, filling out a form. He was using his doctor’s case as a makeshift desk. “Good morning,” he said, without even looking up. “You’re from the criminal police office, I take it?”

“Yes. I’m Florin Wenninger, and this is my colleague Beatrice Kaspary. Is there anything you can already tell us about the deceased?”

The doctor pushed the top back onto his pen with a sigh. “Not much. Female, around thirty-five to forty years old. My guess would be that someone pushed her off the rock face last night. Cause of death probably head trauma or aortic rupture, the neck wasn’t broken in any case. You’ll need to ask the coroner for more detailed information.”

“Time of death?”

The doctor blew out his cheeks. “Between two and four in the morning, I’d say, but don’t hold me to that. All I’m supposed to do here is certify the death.”

Drasche trudged over, carrying his forensics kit. “Did anyone here touch the body?”

One of the policemen spoke up hesitantly. “The doctor. And me. But just to feel for a pulse. I looked for ID or a wallet too, but couldn’t find anything. We didn’t alter her position.”

“Okay.” Drasche beckoned to Ebner, who was poised with his camera at the ready. While the forensics team took photographs and collected samples, sealing them in small containers, Beatrice’s gaze rested on the dead woman. She tried to fade out everything else around her: her colleagues, the traffic noise from the main road, the chiming of the cowbells. Only the woman mattered.

She was laid on her stomach, her head turned to the side. Her legs were bent out to the right, as though she had been paralysed mid-sprint. Her hands were behind her back, her wrists lashed together tightly with cable tie.

Eyes closed, mouth half open, like death had caught up with her while she was still speaking.

Beatrice’s mind instinctively filled with images. The woman being dragged along through the darkness. The precipice. She struggles, digs her heels into the ground, pleads for her life, but her murderer grips her tightly, pushes her toward the edge, waits until she can feel the depths of the abyss beneath her. Then, just a light push in the back.

“Everything okay?” Florin’s hand touched her arm for a second.

“Sure.”

“I’m just going to talk to the others. I’m guessing you want to immerse yourself for a bit, right?”

That’s what he called it. Immersing oneself. Beatrice nodded.

“Don’t go too deep.”

She watched as he walked over to the two officers and engaged them in conversation. She took a deep breath. It didn’t smell of death here, just cow dung and meadow flowers. She watched Drasche as he pulled a plastic bag around the woman’s hands. Ideally, she would have liked to climb over the fence to have a closer look at the body, but forensics wouldn’t take too kindly to that; Drasche in particular could get very touchy. Without taking her eyes off the dead woman, she walked in a small arc along the pasture fence, trying to find another vantage point. She focused her attention on the woman’s clothing: a bright red silk jacket over a floral-patterned blouse. Expensive jeans. No shoes; the soles of her feet were dirty and speckled with blood, as if she had walked a long way barefoot. Amid the dirt, there were dark flecks on each foot. Small, black marks. Or perhaps something else …

Beatrice knelt down, squinting, but she couldn’t see clearly from this distance. “Hey, Gerd!”

Drasche didn’t stop what he was doing for even the blink of an eye. “What?’

“Could you take a look at the victim’s feet for me?”

“Just a second.” He fastened the transparent bag with adhesive tape before moving down to look at the lower end of the corpse.

“What the hell?”

“There’s something there, isn’t there? Characters of some kind, am I right?”

Drasche gestured to Ebner, who snapped a series of close-ups of the feet.

“Tell me!” She lifted the barbed wire fence and ducked underneath. “What is it?”

“Looks like numbers. There’s a series of numbers on each foot. Could you please stay where you are?”

Beatrice struggled against the temptation to move closer. “Can I see the photos?”

Drasche and Ebner exchanged a glance that betrayed both irritation and resignation.

“Show her,” said Drasche, clearly disgruntled. “It’s the only way she’ll leave us in peace.”

Ebner put his camera in viewing mode and held it out for Beatrice to see.

Numbers. But not exclusively—the first character on the left foot looked like an N. Written in an unsteady hand, the oblique line tailed off in the middle before starting again. It reminded her of Mina’s handwriting back in kindergarten, the strokes leaning precariously against one another like the walls of a ramshackle old hut. The N was followed by a four, a seven, and something that looked like either a zero or a lower-case o. Then another four, a six, another six, a zero and a five. Black, irregular strokes.

She zoomed in. “Are they painted on? With a waterproof pen maybe?”

She looked at the other foot. Again a letter first, then a series of numbers. An E with crooked horizontal lines, followed by a zero, a one, a three. Then another of the little circles. A brief gap, then five more numbers. Two, one, seven, one, eight.

“No, they’re not painted on.” Drasche’s voice sounded hoarse. “I’d say they were tattooed.”

“What?” She looked closer. Now that he’d said it, it suddenly seemed like the only plausible explanation. They were tattoos. But on such a sensitive part of the body, surely it was quite rare to have such a thing. So now the question was: Did she already have them, or had they been inflicted on her by the killer?.

She wrote the number combinations down in her notebook.

N47° 46.605

E013° 21.718

The pattern seemed familiar, but where from? It wasn’t anything connected to computing, and neither were they telephone numbers. “I feel like I should know this,” she murmured, more to herself than to her colleagues.

“You should indeed,” said Drasche through his face mask. “And if you promise to leave me in peace, I’ll enlighten you.”

“It’s a deal.”

“Those aren’t o’s, they’re degree symbols. Try putting the number combinations into your GPS. They’re coordinates.”

*   *   *

She wanted to tell Florin the latest developments right away, but could see he was in the process of questioning the farmer.

“I came out at half past six to bring the cows in for milking, and that’s when I saw her. I could tell right away that she had to be dead.”

“Were the cows in the meadow overnight?”

“Yes. I bring them out after the evening milking and back in again in the morning. My farm’s only a few hundred yards away, so it’s an easy job.”

So the animals had been stomping around in the meadow all night long. That meant forensics were unlikely to get any usable footprints from the perpetrator. If there had ever been any, that is. She positioned herself next to Florin and held her hand out to the farmer.

“Kaspary.”

“Pleased to meet you. Raininger.” He gripped her hand tightly, not letting it go. “Are you with the police too?”

“Yes. Why?”

He gave a wry smile. “Because you’re much too pretty for nasty work like this. Don’t you think?”

The last sentence was directed at Florin.

“I can assure you, Frau Kommissarin Kaspary is not only very pretty, but above all exceptionally intelligent. Which happens to be the deciding factor for our ‘nasty’ work.” His tone had become just a fraction cooler, but Raininger didn’t seem to notice. He carried on beaming at Beatrice, even after she had forcefully freed her hand from his grip.

“I’d like to continue, if you don’t mind.” Flor...

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Every corpse is a clue. N47- 46.605 E013- 21.718. A dismembered hand. N47- 48.022 E013- 10.910 Two severed ears. N47- 26.195 E013- 12.523. A mutilated corpse. A woman is found murdered. Tattooed on her feet is a strange combination of numbers and letters. Map co-ordinates. The start of a sinister treasure hunt by a twisted killer. Detective Beatrice Kaspary must risk all she has to uncover the killer in a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse. Thanks for the hunt. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099583868

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Book Description Vintage Books, 2014. Book Condition: New. A woman is found murdered. Tattooed on her feet is a strange combination of numbers and letters. Map co-ordinates. The start of a sinister treasure hunt by a twisted killer. Detective Beatrice Kaspary must risk all she has to uncover the killer in a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse. Translator(s): Searle, Jamie Lee. Num Pages: 448 pages. BIC Classification: FA; FYT. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 128 x 197 x 28. Weight in Grams: 320. . 2014. Paperback. . . . . . Bookseller Inventory # V9780099583868

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. EVERY CORPSE IS A CLUE N47 Degrees 46.605 E013 Degrees 21.718. A dismembered hand N47 Degrees 48.022 E013 Degrees 10.910 Two severed ears N47 Degrees 26.195 E013 Degrees 12.523 A mutilated corpse A woman is found murdered. Tattooed on her feet is a strange combination of numbers and letters. Map co-ordinates. The start of a sinister treasure hunt by a twisted killer. Detective Beatrice Kaspary must risk all she has to uncover the killer in a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse THANKS FOR THE HUNT. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099583868

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Book Description Vintage Books. Book Condition: New. A woman is found murdered. Tattooed on her feet is a strange combination of numbers and letters. Map co-ordinates. The start of a sinister treasure hunt by a twisted killer. Detective Beatrice Kaspary must risk all she has to uncover the killer in a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse. Translator(s): Searle, Jamie Lee. Num Pages: 448 pages. BIC Classification: FA; FYT. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 128 x 197 x 28. Weight in Grams: 320. . 2014. Paperback. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9780099583868

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