Read Blunt Impact Online

Authors: Lisa Black

Blunt Impact

Table of Contents

The Theresa MacLean series by Lisa Black

Title Page



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Notes and Acknowledgments


The Theresa MacLean series by Lisa Black








* available from Severn House

Lisa Black



This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.



First published in Great Britain and the USA 2013 by


9 – 15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.

eBook edition first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital

an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited.

Copyright © 2013 by Lisa Black.

The right of Lisa Black to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Black, Lisa, 1963-

Blunt impact.

1. MacLean, Theresa (Fictitious character)–Fiction.

2. Women forensic scientists–Ohio–Cleveland–Fiction.

3. Murder–Investigation–Fiction. 4. Detective and

mystery stories.

I. Title


ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8252-3 (cased)

ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-382-2 (Epub)

Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

This ebook produced by

Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

To my parents
because I can never thank them enough


he dew had barely settled on the body when Theresa approached the site, camera and basic crime-scene kit in hand. The skeletal landscape of concrete and steel spread before her, populated with men in hard hats with too-bright lights who used noisy equipment without apparent concern for sleeping neighbors or that one of their own had just been found dead. But then, completion date penalties were completion date penalties and there weren’t too many residential units in the heart of downtown Cleveland anyway. Theresa took a deep breath full of concrete dust and went to find her cousin.

The construction area took up the entire city block between Rockwell and St Clair and showed a remarkable lack of security for a place that would eventually house burglars, drug dealers and killers. The wide gate in the chain-link fence gaped open and Theresa traveled around unencumbered save for the chaotic maze of trucks the size of tractor-trailers, large metal storage sheds and piles of steel beams that towered over her. The men working there continued to work and did not question her presence. She found one of the (few) advantages of passing forty to be the ability to pass a group of construction workers without eliciting a single comment. They stared, yes, but she told herself that was due to the ‘Medical Examiner’s Office’ stenciled across the back of her windbreaker.

Moving through a hard hat area without a hard hat did not seem to concern them, but it concerned her. She stopped every few feet to glance upward at the building’s frame, reaching impossibly high into the air. At times it seemed to her that humans were searching the air the same way they’d explored the earth, one foot at a time.

For the most part it formed a simple rectangle, but a shorter stack of floors extended off the west side and then another, shorter still, its levels split from the first stack. In the main section the series of beams and concrete platforms stretched up at least thirty floors and would get higher, but nothing seemed to be falling off at the moment.

Theresa climbed up a short hill of dirt to the foundation, then balanced on the edge to scrape the wet Ohio clay off her shoes. It joined other dried and half-dried clumps along the sharp concrete edge. Spring in Cleveland stayed plenty damp.

‘They’re over there,’ someone said. A wiry, dark-haired man carrying a beam that looked longer than he was gestured toward the interior, where her cousin spoke to more men in hard hats. She thanked the man but the words were drowned out as a jackhammer started up somewhere in their quadrant. He smiled anyway, watching her go.

Her cousin, Frank Patrick, worked as a detective in the homicide unit, which made her wonder why he had responded to an industrial accident. She found him with a man of medium height and medium complexion, whose curly brown hair was already beginning to part ways with itself at the top of his head. He wore an ID badge on a lanyard around his neck and his slight paunch would grow to a full-blown pregnancy in the next ten to twenty years. Despite that he appeared fully capable of picking her up with one hand.

‘This is Chris Novosek,’ Frank greeted her. ‘Project manager.’

The man nodded at her. ‘Thank you for coming.’

I’m a single forty-one year old with an empty nest, she thought. What else do I have to do? Besides, it’s my job.

She nodded back.

Novosek seemed calm, but as if he had to work on it. ‘When are you going to move her? It’s not right, her just laying there like that.’

‘I understand,’ Theresa said as gently as she could manage while still having to shout the words over the jackhammer. ‘We’ll be as prompt as we can.’ A lot to promise when she had no idea of the situation beyond that a construction worker had apparently fallen from a significant height. She followed tall, sandy-haired Frank, noting that while his navy suit jacket had begun to pill at the cuffs he had finally bought some new pants. He kept the department-issue mustache, of course, trimmed to perfection.

A slab large enough for a small suburban home spread across the ground at the north-east corner of the building. It had a few spines of rebar sticking out of each corner, but no other clues as to its purpose. The body lay almost exactly in its center.

Theresa stepped the six inches down to the slab, checking where she put her feet. Blood had squirted upon impact like water from a burst balloon, and drops were everywhere. Several people had crossed this space before her and mixed the drops into the dust and dirt and some of last fall’s brown leaves. The noise and activity behind her faded from her notice.

The dead woman was slim, in her late twenties, dressed in well-fitting jeans, a long-sleeved blue T-shirt and scuffed athletic shoes. All her limbs were still attached but fingers, feet and her right arm were flung at angles which seemed to indicate that the bones were no longer connected to each other. She faced the sky, brown eyes open and staring. A crown of blood radiated outward from her head, and Theresa knew that although the woman didn’t look that gruesome at the moment, when they tried to move the body the back of her skull would probably come apart into shattered pieces of bone and shredded brain tissue. That would have killed her instantly, even before the broken ribs cut open her lungs and heart and liver, before the femur and its artery snapped open, leaving all her blood to pool on the perfectly level concrete slab.

Theresa looked up. Nothing above them but the cobalt sky, and slightly to the side, thirty-odd floors with no walls. ‘No one saw anything?’

‘If they did, they didn’t pick up a phone.’

Across East Sixth street stood an office building, which might have been largely empty after regular business hours, and an alley that, oddly enough, bore her name: Theresa Court. To the south sat the historic Cleveland public library which she knew closed at six. In-between the two and catty-corner to the construction site was the Federal Reserve Bank, a beautiful building she still couldn’t look at without a shudder. They would work bankers’ hours, but might have video cameras . . . would almost certainly have video cameras.

Frank followed her line of sight. ‘Yeah. We thought of that too. Angela’s over there now, cap in hand. She’s a lot better with the Feds than I am.’

‘Never would have suspected that.’

‘Ha ha.’

The Convention Center took up the block to the north, almost certainly empty on a week night. To the east across the grassy lawns and the fountain of the mall towered the Marriott Hotel, but the victim’s fall would have been hidden from the view of any guests by the construction site itself.

The woman had died alone, with no one as witness.


Earlier that morning

host slid her window open, slowly and carefully. She kept the wooden tracks waxed with a piece of paraffin left over from when Nana made jelly, a trick she’d heard on some household hints TV show her grandmother always watched. She eased her slender body over the sill and out on to the roof, damp with dew, then shut the window almost all the way. She wore her backpack even though school wouldn’t begin for another five hours – no sense coming back for it. She’d find plenty to do and she knew from past experience that once she woke up there was no point to staying in bed. Nana said that children needed their sleep, but Ghost didn’t. Besides, her mother’s car had not returned to the driveway and looking for her gave Ghost an excuse to continue the search.

She crept along the shingles, having perfected the most noiseless path among them until she could both leave and enter her own home without making the slightest sound. At the edge she stepped down on to the heaviest branch of the maple tree in the yard, using two other branches as banisters. The leaves made a slight rustle, but between wind, squirrels and rats the trees always rustled. That wouldn’t alarm anyone.

From there she dropped down in the yard, quietly opened the gate and trotted down to the sidewalk. A deep breath. Free. She liked her house, loved her mother and grandmother, yet Ghost still felt this euphoric happiness only when standing alone out in the dark air, adored these dead hours of two and three and four sliding into five, when the world was quiet and still and the city glittered like a kingdom in a fairy tale. She could have thrown out her arms and done a quick twirl, but she didn’t, having grown too old for little-girl behavior. She turned to the north and set off, as silent as her namesake and nearly as pale.

Most of the houses were unlit, their inhabitants slumbering, but several had the shifting blue glow of a TV set dancing behind drawn curtains. Rusting cars sat in tiny overgrown driveways next to dented garbage cans. Next door the Walker place had two lights on and no less than five people milling about, in, out, sitting on the step and bouncing up to talk to people who stopped their cars before driving on. Near as Ghost had been able to determine, no one ever slept at the Walker house. She kind of liked that about them, that they had learned to appreciate the night like she did. One of the younger boys noticed her walking along the sidewalk and lifted a hand. She waved back and continued on.

Ghost set off a few dogs with her passage but the two outside ones had grown accustomed to her and merely lifted a head or an eyebrow. Nearing the intersection she saw two young women on their porch, smoking and griping about some unnamed enemy. One nursed a baby, the other drank from a can. Between that house and the one next to it there ran a narrow, overgrown passageway to the neighboring street, but Ghost never took it at night. Besides, she wanted to go in the other direction.

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