“Who will be doing them when they get there?” Hector asked.


Gilda Caropreso was an assistant medical examiner-and Hector’s fiancee.

“Did she do the in situ as well?”


“Who then?”

“That new guy, Whatshisname.”

“Plinio Setubal. Did he estimate time of death?”

“He did. The same for both. Between four and five this morning.”

“Both. So there are two of them?”

“Brilliant deduction. You a detective?”

Hector ignored the sarcasm. “Shot?”

“Shot. Small bore pistol. A. 22 would be my guess. No exit wounds. Come on, I’ll show you.”

In the kitchen, a wooden door leading to the garden had been battered in. Some fragments still hung from the hinges; the remainder, in pieces, was scattered across the white tile floor.

Through a door to his left, open and intact, Hector could see two beds, a wardrobe cupboard and a poster of a rock star. The maids’ quarters, apparently.

Near the sink, the dead women lay side by side, their blood mingled in a common pool.

“One bullet for each,” Lefkowitz said. “Point blank.”

“Yes,” Hector said. “I noticed.”

Hot gases, escaping from the murder weapon’s muzzle, had singed the hair around their wounds. Singeing occurred only when bullets were discharged at very close range.

“Execution style,” Lefkowitz said. “No passion here, nothing spontaneous, very deliberate. Poor things must have been scared to death. Look at that.”

Lefkowitz pointed. The women had been holding hands when they were shot. Their dead fingers were still entwined.

Hector felt a twinge of sympathy. No matter how hard he tried to maintain his objectivity, retain his distance, there were often little details about murder that touched his heart.

“Sisters,” Lefkowitz said, “from Salvador. Their purses and identity cards were in their room. The one on the left was Clara. She’d just turned nineteen.”

The floor around Clara’s body was sprinkled with shards of broken glass. Some were tinged with blood.

“What’s that?”

“It used to be a drinking glass. There are others in that cabinet over there. Intact ones, I mean.”

“She wouldn’t have bled like that if-”

“-her heart wasn’t pumping when she sustained the cuts. And a shot like that would have stopped her heart immediately. So, yes, she was cut before she was shot. See how this part of the pool is more red than brown? There was water in the glass. The blood that flowed into the water got diluted. It wasn’t able to fully coagulate.”

“Is that a dog?”

Hector pointed to a bundle of fur near one of the bodies.

“What’s left of one,” Lefkowitz said. “A toy poodle, a female. They broke her back.”

“Broke her back?”

“Stepped on her. Snapped her spine like a twig.”

“What kind of people do that to a dog?”

“What kind of people shoot young women in the head? In a moment, I’m going to sum it all up. Just one more thing: look at Clara’s face.”

Hector had to drop to one knee to see what Lefkowitz was talking about. He did it from a meter away, to avoid kneeling in the blood.

“Bruises,” he said.

“Pre-mortem, according to Doctor Whatshisname. And none on Clarice. Ready for a reading?”


“Okay. Here’s what I think happened: Clara got up in the early hours of the morning to drink some water. She took a glass out of the cabinet, went to the sink and filled it. The kidnappers came in and startled her. She dropped the glass, and it broke. She screamed, or tried to fight them off, or tried to run, and they hit her. She went down, landing on her back, cutting herself.”

“And her sister…”

“Heard the noise, jumped out of bed and came into the kitchen. Or maybe tried to hide, and the kidnappers found her. The fact that her face isn’t bruised suggests they were able to intimidate her without hitting her. Maybe just looking at what they’d done to Clara was enough. They made Clara get up. They made both of them kneel. And then they shot them in the back of their heads.”

Hector had been visualizing the progression of events and was experiencing a wave of nausea. He paused a beat before asking his next question.

“Which one first?”

“Clara,” Lefkowitz said, without hesitation.

“How can you-”

“Blood spatter analysis.”

“So Clarice knew it was coming?”

“Must have. But not for long.”

“For her sake, I hope you’re right. But why shoot them at all? Why not just tie them up?”

“You want a guess?”

“Tell me.”

“To forestall identification.”

“You think they came in here without masks? That would have been stupid.”

“We already know they’re vicious. What’s to say they’re not stupid? But there’s another possibility.”

“Which is?”

“Maybe they had masks, but hadn’t put them on. Maybe they’d planned to do that after they were inside. But then, surprise, surprise, there’s Clara standing in the darkened kitchen.” Hector shook his head. “I don’t buy it,” he said. “She would have heard them; she would have tried to run.”

“Ah, but how about if she didn’t hear them?”

“How could she not? They smashed that door over there. That’s how they got in, right?”

“That’s what we’re supposed to think. I think they smashed it on the way out.”


Lefkowitz held up a hand for patience. “Bear with me. Remember that commotion I mentioned? The one the neighbor heard? It was a loud bang, and it woke him up. Seconds later, he saw a car driving away. Between the bang, and the driving away, the killers wouldn’t have had time to do anything other than run up the ramp to the street. And, if they’d been lugging an unconscious woman, there wouldn’t even have been time for that. I figure they put her into the car first.”

“You’re saying the very last thing they did was smash the door? And then took off on a run? What would be the sense of that?”

“To make us think they didn’t have a key.”

“But you think they did.”

Lefkowitz nodded. “No other explanation computes. Clara had just filled a glass with water; she’d no sooner dropped it than they were on her. She probably started to scream, and that’s when they hit her. She went down on the shards of glass. None of that could have happened if they’d really done what they want us to think they did, which was to get into the house by battering their way through the door.”

“So you think this is an inside job?”

“That’s what I think. If it happened the way they want us to think it happened, wouldn’t Clara have taken off like a rabbit? Wouldn’t we have found her body somewhere else?”

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