Large Print. Chapter 1 The Connoisseurs of Murder The great hall was filled with the lingering aroma of pork and mallard duck sausage as black-vested waiters appeared, shouldering cups of vanilla bean blancmange. Connoisseurs sat at tables between the hearths under glittering eighteenth-century chandeliers, chatting amiably in several languages. When the coffee arrived, a fine Colombian supremo steaming in its pots, the image of the corpse of a young man of uncommon beauty, lying on his back, materialized in the center of the room. A gray winter light slanted into the hall, as the midday sun had sailed beyond the city, and the image on the large screen was crisp.
The young man's blond locks were matted in a corona of dried blood, his sculpted cheekbones reduced to a pulp. The police photograph had been taken at night in a restaurant alley, and the surrounding scene was obscured in darkness. Yet the strobe light had thrown the young man's face into sharp relief.
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Out of the shadows of a distant southern night, the stark, wide-open eyes loomed over the room. It was shortly before one o'clock in the afternoon, and the fifth and final course had been served to the connoisseurs of the Vidocq Society. Patting her mouth with a napkin, she excused herself from the table and, a hand over her mouth, hurried to the door. William Fleisher, a big man in a magnificent blue suit, WLF embroidered on his custom shirt, sadly shook his large, bearded head. Richard Walter, his gaunt cheekbones sunken in the wan light, glared at the departing figure.
Frank Bender—clad in a tight black T-shirt and jeans, the only man in the hall not wearing a suit—whispered to the detective next to him, "Nice legs. Fleisher shook his head in wonderment at the two eccentric, moody geniuses with whom he had thrown in his lot. His partners were criminologists without peer or precedent in his thirty years with the feds. Forensic psychologist Richard Walter was the coolest eye on murder in the world.
Tall and acerbic, he spoke with a clipped propriety that had earned him the moniker the Englishman from certain criminal elements. Walter had spent twenty years treating the most violent psychopaths in the state of Michigan at the largest walled penitentiary in the world, in Jackson, and at one of the toughest, the old Romanesque castle in Marquette on Lake Superior. His habit of peering over the top of his owlish black glasses and boring into the souls of inmates was known as the "Marquette stare," and it was a look to be avoided at all costs.
Walter was unsurpassed in his understanding of the darkest regions of the heart.
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In his spare time, moonlighting as a consulting detective, he was one of the small group of American criminologists who invented modern criminal profiling in the s and '80s to battle serial killers. At Scotland Yard, which used him on the most extreme murder cases, he was known as the "Living Sherlock Holmes"—an epithet that horrified him.
Frank Bender was the most celebrated forensic artist working at that time, perhaps in history. The wiry ex-boxer was muscled and balding, with a Van Dyke beard and piercing hazel eyes. For the occasion, he wore long sleeves that concealed his Navy tattoos. Bender, who grew up in tough North Philadelphia with bullets hitting the row house wall, was high school-educated, blunt-spoken, happily sex-addicted, and a psychic—a gift he was shy about in the roomful of cops. But cops were awed by his ability to keep six or seven girlfriends happy as well as his wife, and to catch Most Wanted mass murderers with a sketchpad and scalpel.
Now you'll just get shot in the back. The tall, melancholy, deductive Walter and the manic, intuitive Bender were blood brothers and partners on major cases. A detective duo without precedent, the psychologist and artist were capable of penetrating secrets of the living and the dead. When they could stand each other.
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Bender saw dead people; Walter was contemptuous of spiritualism. The artist counted his sexual conquests in the hundreds; the psychologist, divorced, shrank from the touch of man, woman, child, dog, and cat. Walter was the most orderly mind on a murder, Bender the most chaotic. William Lynn Fleisher was the glue that held the three together—the one, friends said, "with a sail attached to the mast.
Fleisher was obsessed with the truth, had made himself a scholar of the history of truth-finding and an expert at distinguishing the truth from a lie. He used the polygraph to try to peer into the hearts of men to judge them, but really what he wanted to do was redeem them—both the criminals whose psychophysiological signs spiked with guilt, and their tragic victims whose suffering society forgot. The big man, it was said by his special agents, had gained a hundred pounds to make room for his heart.
Bender and Walter were the most astonishing investigative team Fleisher had ever seen, equal parts reason and revelation, when they turned their combustible gifts on a killer and not on each other, like a man trying to extinguish his own shadow.
THE MURDER ROOM by Michael Capuzzo | Kirkus Reviews
The stout federal agent was the administrator who allowed them to take shape and function in the world. They had met that morning in Bender's hall of bones, where a legendary and especially terrifying mob hit man had been the force that first brought them together, bonded in their fierce and awkward way, to create a private club of forensic avengers.
Fleisher was sipping coffee with Bender at the kitchen table when the thin man entered the warehouse studio, nose wrinkled in disapproval "at the cat smells and whatever else. It was an enormous, brightly colored oil portrait of one of his many girlfriends, rendered in paint as thick as cake frosting. It was an eight-foot frontal nude; from the left nipple dangled a real brass ring.
Walter stood with his nose upturned, which pushed his mouth into a frown, studying the painting for a long moment. Walter glared at him. You're using sex as an antidote to depression. As I have tried to explain, at our age it is not healthy for one to live as if one is poised before a mirror ringed with stage lights. One day the lights will go out and you will look in the mirror and see nothing at all. Now with Fleisher in the great hall, Bender and Walter greeted each other warmly. The three men radiated an energy that seemed to animate the room.
The habitual sadness in Fleisher's brown eyes lifted like a mist as he looked proudly across the gathering. All morning forensic specialists from around the globe had been quietly arriving at Second and Walnut streets in Philadelphia. They had gathered as they arrived in the high-ceilinged Coffee Room and Subscription Room on the first floor of the tavern, where colonists had once discussed politics, trade, and ship movements over the latest magazines and Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette.
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Fleisher had felt the heady buzz of reunited friends, peers, and rivals. But now as he studied the assembly of sleuths from seventeen American states and eleven foreign countries, he sensed that something special was happening.
Each man and woman was more renowned than the next. Ressler was never far from his cohort Richard Walter. They were two of the greatest profilers in the world. Of equal distinction were the forensic pathologists. Their table included Dr.
Hal Fillinger of Philadelphia, who had proven that the "Unicorn Killer," fugitive Ira Einhorn, had murdered his girlfriend Holly Maddux; Fillinger had arrived in his big white Cadillac with the "Homicide Hal" vanity plates. Next to him sat Dr. Richard Froede of Arizona, who would autopsy the remains of kidnapped CIA agent William Buckley, tortured, murdered, and dumped at a Beirut roadside by Islamic jihadists. Among the Philadelphia cops was Frank Friel, the former homicide captain who solved the assassination of mob underboss Philip "Chicken Man" Testa, immortalized in Bruce Springsteen's song "Atlantic City": "…they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night…" Fleisher saw noted investigators of the JFK and Martin Luther King assassinations, and a CIA friend who was leading the bureau's secret war on Afghanistan, sitting with a colleague, a young blond female "spook" who loathed to show her face in public, even here.
The chamber on the second floor of the City Tavern was the historic Long Room, forty-four feet long and narrow with a soaring chapel ceiling, the first ballroom in the New World, where General George Washington had toasted his election to the presidency as cannons boomed across the city and Madeira glasses smashed.
By modern standards it was austere, a pale green chamber with chair rails and candle sconces. But now it had been arranged to re-create the spirit of a second-floor chamber in Paris in In the upstairs room of No. It was the first room in history designed for a group of men to systematically deduce and brainstorm solutions to murder cases. The wide, arrogant face was stippled in shadows from the heavy green drapes, beneath crossed French and American flags.
In the room at No. They discussed motive and modus operandi in greater detail than ever before in history.
They made plaster casts of shoe impressions and studied bullets to link them to crimes.