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His hand on the dead-man throttle, the driver of the Serbian Rail diesel felt the thrill he always did on this particular stretch of railway, heading north from Belgrade and approaching Novi Sad. This was the route of the famed Arlberg Orient Express, which ran from Greece through Belgrade and points north from the 1930s until the 1960s. Of course, he was not piloting a glistening Pacific 231 steam locomotive towing elegant mahogany-and-brass dining cars, suites and sleepers, where passengers floated upon vapors of luxury and anticipation. He commanded a battered old thing from America that tugged behind it a string of more or less dependable rolling stock packed snugly with mundane cargo. But still he felt the thrill of history in every vista that the journey offered, especially as they approached the river, his river. And yet he was ill at ease. Among the wagons bound for Budapest, containing coal, scrap metal, consumer products and timber, there was one that worried him greatly. It was loaded with drums of MIC—methyl isocyanate—to be used in Hungary in the manufacture of rubber. The driver—a round, balding man in a well-worn cap and stained overalls—had been briefed at length about this deadly chemical by his supervisor and some idiot from the Serbian Safety and Well-being Transportation Oversight Ministry. Some years ago this substance had killed eight thousand people in Bhopal, India, within a few days of leaking from a manufacturing plant there. He’d acknowledged the danger his cargo presented but, a veteran
railway man and union member, he’d asked, “What does that mean for the journey to Budapest . . . specifically?” The boss and the bureaucrat had regarded each other with the eyes of officialdom and, after a pause, settled for “Just be very careful.” The lights of Novi Sad, Serbia’s second-largest city, began to coalesce in the distance, and ahead in the encroaching evening the Danube appeared as a pale stripe. In history and in music the river was celebrated. In reality it was brown, undramatic and home to barges and tankers, not candlelit vessels filled with lovers and Viennese orchestras—or not here, at least. Still, it was the Danube, an icon of Balkan pride, and the railway man’s chest always swelled as he took his train over the bridge. His river . . . He peered through the speckled windscreen and inspected the track before him in the headlight of the General Electric diesel. Nothing to be concerned about. There were eight notch positions on the throttle, number one being the lowest. He was presently at five and he eased back to three to slow the train as it entered a series of turns. The 4,000-horsepower engine grew softer as it cut back the voltage to the traction motors. As the cars entered the straight section to the bridge the driver shifted up to notch five again and then six. The engine pulsed louder and faster and there came a series of sharp clangs from behind. The sound was, the driver knew, simply the couplings between wagons protesting at the change in speed, a minor cacophony he’d heard a thousand times in his job. But his imagination told him the noise was the metal containers of the deadly chemical in car number three, jostling against one another, at risk of spewing forth their poison. Nonsense, he told himself and concentrated on keeping the speed steady. Then, for no reason at all, except that it made him feel better, he tugged at the air horn.
C hapte r 2
Lying at the top of a hill, surrounded by obscuring grass, a man of serious face and hunter’s demeanor heard the wail of a horn in the distance, miles away. A glance told him that the sound had come from the train approaching from the south. It would arrive here in ten or fifteen minutes. He wondered how it might affect the precarious operation that was about to unfurl. Shifting position slightly, he studied the diesel locomotive and the lengthy string of wagons behind it through his night-vision monocular. Judging that the train was of no consequence to himself and his plans, James Bond turned the scope back to the restaurant of the spa and hotel and once again regarded his target through the window. The weathered building was large, yellow stucco with brown trim. Apparently it was a favorite with the locals, from the number of Zastava and Fiat saloons in the car park. It was eight forty and the Sunday evening was clear here, near Novi Sad, where the Pannonian Plain rose to a landscape that the Serbs called “mountainous,” though Bond guessed the adjective must have been chosen to attract tourists; the rises were mere hills to him, an avid skier. The May air was dry and cool, the surroundings as quiet as an undertaker’s chapel of rest.Bond shifted position again. In his thirties, he was six feet tall and weighed 170 pounds. His black hair was parted on one side and a comma of loose strands fell over one eye. A three-inch scar ran down his right cheek. This evening he’d taken some care with his outfit. He was wearing a dark green jacket and rainproof trousers from the American company 5.11, which made the best tactical clothing on the market. On his feet
were well-worn leather boots that had been made for pursuit and sure footing in a fight. As night descended, the lights to the north glowed more intensely: the old city of Novi Sad. As lively and charming as it was now, Bond knew the place had a dark past. After the Hungarians had slaughtered thousands of its citizens in January 1942 and flung the bodies into the icy Danube, Novi Sad had become a crucible for partisan resistance. Bond was here tonight to prevent another horror, different in nature but of equal or worse magnitude. Yesterday, Saturday, an alert had rippled through the British intelligence community. GCHQ, in Cheltenham, had decrypted an electronic whisper about an attack later in the week.
meeting at noah’s office, confirm incident friday night, 20th, estimated initial casualties in the thousands, british interests adversely affected, funds transfers as discussed.
Not long after, the government eavesdroppers had also cracked part of a second text message, sent from the same phone, same encryption algorithm, but to a different number.
meet me sunday at restaurant rostilj outside novi sad, 20:00. i am 6+ feet tall, irish accent.
Then the Irishman—who’d courteously, if inadvertently, supplied his own nickname—had destroyed the phone or flicked out the batteries, as had the other text recipients. In London the Joint Intelligence Committee and members of COBRA, the crisis management body, met into the night to assess the risk of Incident 20, so called because of Friday’s date. There was no solid information on the origin or nature of the threat but MI6 was of the opinion that it was coming out of the tribal regions in Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda and its affiliates had taken to hiring Western operatives in European countries. Six’s agents in Kabul began a major effort to learn more. The Serbian connection had to be pursued, too. And so at ten o’clock last night the rangy tentacles of these events
had reached out and clutched Bond, who’d been sitting in an exclusive restaurant off Charing Cross Road with a beautiful woman, whose lengthy description of her life as an underappreciated painter had grown tiresome. The message on Bond’s mobile had read, NIACT, Call COS. The Night Action alert meant an immediate response was required, at whatever time it was received. The call to his chief of staff had blessedly cut the date short and soon he had been en route to Serbia, under a Level 2 project order, authorizing him to identify the Irishman, plant trackers and other surveillance devices and follow him. If that proved impossible, the order authorized Bond to conduct an extraordinary rendition of the Irishman and spirit him back to England or to a black site on the Continent for interrogation. So now Bond lay among white narcissi, taking care to avoid the leaves of that beautiful but poisonous spring flower. He concentrated on peering through the Restoran Rostilj’s front window, on the other side of ˇ which the Irishman was sitting over an almost untouched plate and talking to his partner, as yet unidentified but Slavic in appearance. Perhaps because he was nervous, the local contact had parked elsewhere and walked here, providing no number-plate to scan. The Irishman had not been so timid. His low-end Mercedes had arrived forty minutes ago. Its plate had revealed that the vehicle had been hired today for cash under a false name, with a fake British driving license and passport. The man was about Bond’s age, perhaps a bit older, six foot two and lean. He’d walked into the restaurant in an ungainly way, his feet turned out. An odd line of blond fringe dipped over a high forehead and his cheekbones angled down to a square-cut chin. Bond was satisfied that this man was the target. Two hours ago he had gone into the restaurant for a cup of coffee and stuck a listening device inside the front door. A man had arrived at the appointed time and spoken to the headwaiter in English—slowly and loudly, as foreigners often do when talking to locals. To Bond, listening through an app on his phone from thirty yards away, the accent was clearly mid-Ulster— most likely Belfast or the surrounding area. Unfortunately the meeting between the Irishman and his local contact was taking place out of the bug’s range.
Through the tunnel of his monocular, Bond now studied his adversary, taking note of every detail—“Small clues save you. Small errors kill,” as the instructors at Fort Monckton were wont to remind. He noted that the Irishman’s manner was precise and that he made no unnecessary gestures. When the partner drew a diagram the Irishman moved it closer with the rubber of a propelling pencil so that he left no fingerprints. He sat with his back to the window and in front of his partner; the surveillance apps on Bond’s mobile could not read either set of lips. Once, the Irishman turned quickly, looking outside, as if triggered by a sixth sense. The pale eyes were devoid of expression. After some time he turned back to the food that apparently didn’t interest him. The meal now seemed to be winding down. Bond eased off the hillock and made his way through widely spaced spruce and pine trees and anemic undergrowth, with clusters of the ubiquitous white flowers. He passed a faded sign in Serbian, French and English that had amused him when he’d arrived:
ˇ SPA AND RESTAURANT RO S T I L J L O CAT ED IN A DEC L ARED THER A PEU TI C R EGIO N , AN D IS R EC O M M E ND ED BY A LL FO R C O N VAL ESC EN C ES AFTER SU R G E R I E S, ESP EC IAL LY HEL P IN G FOR A C U TE A ND C HR O N IC DISEASES OF R E SPI R ATI ON O R GAN S, AN D AN EM IA. FU LL B A R .
He returned to the staging area, behind a decrepit garden shed that smelled of engine oil, petrol and piss, near the driveway to the restaurant. His two “comrades,” as he thought of them, were waiting here. James Bond preferred to operate alone but the plan he’d devised required two local agents. They were with the BIA, the Serbian Security Information Agency, as benign a name for a spy outfit as one could imagine. The men, however, were undercover in the uniform of local police from Novi Sad, sporting the golden badge of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Faces squat, heads round, perpetually unsmiling, they wore their hair close-cropped beneath navy-blue brimmed caps. Their woolen uniforms were the same shade. One was around forty, the other twenty-five. Despite their cover roles as rural officers, they’d come girded for battle. They carried heavy Beretta pistols and swaths of ammunition. In the backseat of their borrowed police car, a Volkswagen Jetta, there were two green-camouflaged Kalashnikov machine guns, an Uzi and a canvas bag of fragmentation hand grenades—serious ones, Swiss HG 85s. Bond turned to the older agent but before he spoke he heard a fierce slapping from behind. His hand moving to his Walther PPS, he whirled round—to see the younger Serb ramming a pack of cigarettes into his palm, a ritual that Bond, a former smoker, had always found absurdly self-conscious and unnecessary. What was the man thinking? “Quiet,” he whispered coldly. “And put those away. No smoking.” Perplexity sidled into the dark eyes. “My brother, he smokes all time he is out on operations. Looks more normal than not smoking in Serbia.” On the drive here the young man had prattled on and on about his brother, a senior agent with the infamous JSO, technically a unit of the state secret service, though Bond knew it was really a black-ops paramilitary group. The young agent had let slip—probably intentionally, for he had said it with pride—that big brother had fought with Arkan’s Tigers, a ruthless gang that had committed some of the worst atrocities in the fighting in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. “Maybe on the streets of Belgrade a cigarette won’t be noticed,” Bond muttered, “but this is a tactical operation. Put them away.” The agent slowly complied. He seemed about to say something to his partner, then thought better of it, perhaps recalling that Bond had a working knowledge of Serbo-Croatian. Bond looked again into the restaurant and saw that the Irishman was laying some dinars on the metal tray—no traceable credit card, of course. The partner was pulling on a jacket. “All right. It’s time.” Bond reiterated the plan. In the police car they would follow the Irishman’s Mercedes out of the drive and along the road until he was a mile or so from the restaurant. The Serbian agents
would then pull the car over, telling him it matched a vehicle used in a drug crime in Novi Sad. The Irishman would be asked politely to get out and would be handcuffed. His mobile phone, wallet and identity papers would be placed on the boot of the Mercedes and he’d be led aside and made to sit facing away from the car. Meanwhile Bond would slip out of the backseat, photograph the documents, download what he could from the phone, look through laptops and luggage, then plant tracking devices. By then the Irishman would have caught on that this was a shakedown and offered a suitable bribe. He’d be freed to go on his way. If the local partner left the restaurant with him, they’d execute essentially the same plan with both men. “Now, I’m ninety percent sure he’ll believe you,” Bond said. “But if not, and he engages, remember that under no circumstances is he to be killed. I need him alive. Aim to wound in the arm he favors, near the elbow, not the shoulder.” Despite what one saw in the movies, a shoulder wound was usually as fatal as one to the abdomen or chest. The Irishman now stepped outside, feet splayed. He looked around, pausing to study the area. Was anything different? he’d be thinking. New cars had arrived since they’d entered; was there anything significant about them? He apparently decided there was no threat and both men climbed into the Mercedes. “It’s the pair of them,” Bond said. “Same plan.” “Da.” The Irishman started the engine. The lights flashed on. Bond oriented his hand on his Walther, snug in the D. M. Bullard leather pancake holster, and climbed into the backseat of the police car, noticing an empty tin on the floor. One of his comrades had enjoyed a Jelen Pivo, a Deer Beer, while Bond had been conducting surveillance. The insubordination bothered him less than the carelessness. The Irishman might grow suspicious when stopped by a cop with beer on his breath. Another man’s ego and greed can be helpful, Bond believed, but incompetence is simply a useless and inexcusable danger. The Serbs got into the front. The engine hummed to life. Bond tapped the earpiece of his SRAC, the short-range agent communica-
tion device used for cloaked radio transmissions on tactical operations. “Channel two,” he reminded them. “Da, da.” The older man sounded bored. They both plugged in earpieces. And James Bond asked himself yet again: Had he planned this properly? Despite the speed with which the operation had been put together, he’d spent hours formulating the tactics. He believed he’d anticipated every possible variation. Except one, it appeared. The Irishman did not do what he absolutely had to. He didn’t leave. The Mercedes turned away from the drive and rolled out of the car park on to the lawn beside the restaurant, on the other side of a tall hedge, unseen by the staff and diners. It was heading for a weed-riddled field to the east. The younger agent snapped, “Govno! What he is doing?” The three men stepped out to get a better view. The older one drew his gun and started after the car. Bond waved him to a halt. “No! Wait.” “He’s escaping. He knows about us!” “No—it’s something else.” The Irishman wasn’t driving as if he were being pursued. He was moving slowly, the Mercedes easing forward, like a boat in a gentle morning swell. Besides, there was no place to escape to. He was hemmed in by cliffs overlooking the Danube, the railway embankment and the forest on the Fruska Gora rise. ˇ Bond watched as the Mercedes arrived at the rail track, a hundred yards from where they stood. It slowed, made a U-turn and parked, the bonnet facing back toward the restaurant. It was close to a railway work shed and switch rails, where a second track peeled off from the main line. Both men climbed out and the Irishman collected something from the boot. Your enemy’s purpose will dictate your response—Bond silently recited another maxim from the lectures at Fort Monckton’s Specialist Training Center in Gosport. You must find the adversary’s intention. But what was his purpose? Bond pulled out the monocular again, clicked on the night vision
and focused. The partner opened a panel mounted on a signal beside the switch rails and began fiddling with the components inside. Bond saw that the second track, leading off to the right, was a rusting, disused spur, ending in a barrier at the top of a hill. So it was sabotage. They were going to derail the train by shunting it on to the spur. The cars would tumble down the hill into a stream that flowed into the Danube. But why? Bond turned the monocular toward the diesel engine and the wagons behind it and saw the answer. The first two cars contained only scrap metal but behind them, a canvas-covered flatbed was marked OPASNOSTDANGER! He saw, too, a hazardous-materials diamond, the universal warning sign that told emergency rescuers the risks of a particular shipment. Alarmingly, this diamond had high numbers for all three categories: health, instability and inflammability. The W at the bottom meant that the substance would react dangerously with water. Whatever was being carried in that car was in the deadliest category, short of nuclear materials. The train was now three-quarters of a mile away from the switch rails, picking up speed to make the gradient to the bridge. Your enemy’s purpose will dictate your response. . . . He didn’t know how the sabotage related to Incident 20, if at all, but their immediate goal was clear—as was the response Bond now instinctively formulated. He said to the comrades, “If they try to leave, block them at the drive and take them. No lethal force.” He leaped into the driver’s seat of the Jetta. He pointed the car toward the fields where he’d been conducting surveillance and jammed down the accelerator as he released the clutch. The light car shot forward, engine and gearbox crying out at the rough treatment, as it crashed over brush, saplings, narcissi and the raspberry bushes that grew everywhere in Serbia. Dogs fled and lights in the tiny cottages nearby flicked on. Residents in their gardens waved their arms angrily in protest. Bond ignored them and concentrated on maintaining his speed as he drove toward his destination, guided only by scant illumination: a partial moon above and the doomed train’s headlight, far brighter and rounder than the lamp of heaven.
THE RULES OF PLAY
THE MAN WHO wanted to kill the young woman sitting beside me was
three-quarters of a mile behind us, as we drove through a pastoral setting of tobacco and cotton ﬁelds this humid morning. A glance in the rearview mirror revealed a sliver of car, moving at a comfortable pace with the trafﬁc, piloted by a man who by all appearances seemed hardly different from any one of a hundred drivers on this recently resurfaced divided highway. “Ofﬁcer Fallow?” Alissa began. Then, as I’d been urging her for the past week: “Abe?” “Yes.” “Is he still there?” She’d seen my gaze. “Yes. And so’s our tail,” I added for reassurance. My protégé was behind the killer, two or three car lengths. He was not the only person from our organization on the job. “Okay,” Alissa whispered. The woman, in her midthirties, was a whistle-blower against a government contractor that did a lot of work for the army. The company was adamant that it had done nothing wrong and claimed it welcomed an investigation. But there’d been an attempt on Alissa’s life a week ago and—since I’d been in the army with one of the
senior commanders at Bragg—Defense had called me in to guard her. As head of the organization I don’t do much ﬁeldwork any longer but I was glad to get out, to tell the truth. My typical day was ten hours at my desk in our Alexandria ofﬁce. And in the past month it had been closer to twelve or fourteen, as we coordinated the protection of ﬁve high-level organized crime informants, before handing them over to Witness Protection for their face-lifts. It was good to be back in the saddle, if only for a week or so. I hit a speed dial button, calling my protégé. “It’s Abe,” I said into my hands-free. “Where is he now?” “Make it a half mile. Moving up slowly.” The hitter, whose identity we didn’t know, was in a nondescript Hyundai sedan, gray. I was behind an eighteen-foot truck, carolina poultry processing company painted on the side. It was empty and being driven by one of our transport people. In front of that was a car identical to the one I was driving. “We’ve got two miles till the swap,” I said. Four voices acknowledged this over four very encrypted com devices. I disconnected. Without looking at her, I said to Alissa, “It’s going to be ﬁne.” “I just . . .” she said in a whisper. “I don’t know.” She fell silent and stared into the side-view mirror as if the man who wanted to kill her were right behind us. “It’s all going just like we planned.” When innocent people ﬁnd themselves in situations that require the presence and protection of people like me, their reaction more often than not is as much bewilderment as fear. Mortality is tough to process. But keeping people safe, keeping people alive, is a business like any other. I frequently told this to my protégé and the others in the ofﬁce, probably irritating them to no end with both the repetition and the stodgy tone. But I kept on saying it because you can’t forget, ever. It’s a business, with rigid procedures that we study the way surgeons learn to slice ﬂesh precisely and pilots learn to keep tons of metal safely aloft. These techniques have been honed over the years and they worked. Business . . . Of course, it was also true that the hitter who was behind us at the
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moment, intent on killing the woman next to me, treated his job as a business too. I knew this sure as steel. He was just as serious as I was, had studied procedures as diligently as I had, was smart, IQ-wise and streetwise, and he had advantages over me: His rules were unencumbered by my constraints—the Constitution and the laws promulgated thereunder. Still, I believe there is an advantage in being in the right. In all my years of doing this work I’d never lost a principal. And I wasn’t going to lose Alissa. A business . . . which meant remaining calm as a surgeon, calm as a pilot. Alissa was not calm, of course. She was breathing hard, worrying her cuff as she stared at a sprawling magnolia tree we were passing, an outrider of a or chestnut forest, bordering a huge cotton ﬁeld, the tufts bursting. She was uneasily spinning a thin diamond bracelet—a treat to herself on a recent birthday. She now glanced at the jewelry and then her palms, which were sweating, and placed her hands on her navy blue skirt. Under my care, Alissa had worn dark clothing exclusively. It was camouﬂage but not because she was the target of a professional killer; it was about her weight, which she’d wrestled with since adolescence. I knew this because we’d shared meals and I’d seen the battle up close. She’d also talked quite a bit about her struggle with weight. Some principals don’t need or want camaraderie. Others, like Alissa, need us to be friends. I don’t do well in that role but I try and can generally pull it off. We passed a sign. The exit was a mile and a half away. A business requires simple, smart planning. You can’t be reactive in this line of work and though I hate the word “proactive” (as opposed to what, antiactive?), the concept is vital to what we do. In this instance, to deliver Alissa safe and sound to the prosecutor for her depositions, I needed to keep the hitter in play. Since my protégé had been following him for hours, we knew where he was and could have taken him at any moment. But if we’d done that, whoever had hired him would simply call somebody else to ﬁnish the job. I wanted to keep him on the road for the better part of the day—long enough for Alissa to get into the U.S. Attorney’s ofﬁce and give him sufﬁcient information via deposition so that she would no longer be at risk. Once the testimony’s down, the hitter has no incentive to eliminate a witness. The plan I’d devised, with my protégé’s help, was for me to pass the
E dg e / 3
Carolina Poultry truck and pull in front of it. The hitter would speed up to keep us in sight but before he got close the truck and I would exit simultaneously. Because of the curve in the road and the ramp I’d picked, the hitter wouldn’t be able to see my car but would spot the decoy. Alissa and I would then take a complicated route to a hotel in Raleigh, where the prosecutor awaited, while the decoy would eventually end up at the courthouse in Charlotte, three hours away. By the time the hitter realized that he’d been following a bogus target, it would be too late. He’d call his primary—his employer—and most likely the hit would be called off. We’d move in, arrest the hitter and try to trace him back to the primary. About a mile ahead was the turnoff. The chicken truck was about thirty feet ahead. I regarded Alissa, now playing with a gold and amethyst necklace. Her mother had given it to her on her seventeenth birthday, more expensive than the family could afford but an unspoken consolation prize for the absence of an invitation to the prom. People tend to share quite a lot with those who are saving their lives. My phone buzzed. “Yes?” I asked my protégé. “The subject’s moved up a bit. About two hundred yards behind the truck.” “We’re almost there,” I said. “Let’s go.” I passed the poultry truck quickly and pulled in behind the decoy—a tight ﬁt. It was driven by a man from our organization; the passenger was an FBI agent who resembled Alissa. There’d been some fun in the ofﬁce when we picked somebody to play the role of me. I have a round head and ears that protrude a fraction of an inch more than I would like. I’ve got wiry red hair and I’m not tall. So in the ofﬁce they apparently spent an hour or two in an impromptu contest to ﬁnd the most elf-like ofﬁcer to impersonate me. “Status?” I asked into the phone. “He’s changed lanes and is accelerating a little.” He wouldn’t like not seeing me, I reﬂected. I heard, “Hold on . . . hold on.” I would remember to tell my protégé to mind the unnecessary verbal ﬁller; while the words were scrambled by our phones, the fact there’d been a transmission could be detected. He’d learn the lesson fast and retain it.
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“I’m coming up on the exit. . . . Okay. Here we go.” Still doing about sixty, I eased into the exit lane and swung around the curve, which was surrounded by thick trees. The chicken truck was right on my bumper. My protégé reported, “Good. Subject didn’t even look your way. He’s got the decoy in sight and the speed’s dropping back to the limit.” I paused at the red light where the ramp fed into Route 18, then turned right. The poultry truck turned left. “Subject is continuing on the route,” came my protégé’s voice. “Seems to be working ﬁne.” His voice was cool. I’m pretty detached about operations but he does me one better. He rarely smiles, never jokes and in truth I don’t know much about him, though we’ve worked together, often closely, for several years. I’d like to change that about him—his somberness—not for the sake of the job, since he really is very, very good, but simply because I wish he took more pleasure in what we do. The endeavor of keeping people safe can be satisfying, even joyous. Especially when it comes to protecting families, which we do with some frequency. I told him to keep me updated and we disconnected. “So,” Alissa asked, “we’re safe?” “We’re safe,” I told her, hiking the speed up to ﬁfty in a forty-ﬁve zone. In ﬁfteen minutes we were meandering along a route that would take us to the outskirts of Raleigh, where we’d meet the prosecutor for the depositions. The sky was overcast and the scenery was probably what it had been for dozens of years: bungalow farmhouses, shacks, trailers and motor vehicles in terminal condition but still functioning if the nursing and luck were right. A gas station offering a brand I’d never heard of. Dogs toothing at ﬂeas lazily. Women in stressed jeans, overseeing their broods. Men with beer-lean faces and expanding guts, sitting on porches, waiting for nothing. Most likely wondering at our car—containing the sort of people you don’t see much in this neighborhood: a man in a white shirt, dark suit and tie and a woman with a business haircut. Then we were past the residences and on a road bisecting more ﬁelds. I noted the cotton plants, shedding their growth like popcorn, and I thought of how this same land 150 years ago would have been carpeted with an identical crop; the Civil War, and the people for whom it was fought, were never far from one’s mind when you were in the South.
E dg e / 5
My phone rang and I answered. My protégé’s voice was urgent. “Abe.” Shoulders tense, I asked, “Has he turned off the highway?” I wasn’t too concerned; we’d exited over a half hour ago. The hitter would be forty miles away by now. “No, still following the decoy. But something just happened. He made a call on his mobile. When he disconnected, it was odd: He was wiping his face. I moved up two car lengths. It looked like he’d been crying.” My breath came quickly as I considered possible reasons for this. Finally one credible, disturbing scenario rose to the top: What if the hitter had suspected we’d try a decoy and had used one of his own? He’d forced somebody who resembled him—just like the elﬁn man in our decoy car—to follow us. The call my protégé had just witnessed might have been between the driver and the real perp, who was perhaps holding the man’s wife or child hostage. But this, then, meant that the real hitter could be somewhere else and— A ﬂash of white streaked toward us as a Ford pickup truck appeared from the driveway of a sagging, deserted gas station to the left and bounded over the highway. The truck, its front protected by push bars, slammed into our driver’s side and shoved us neatly through a tall stand of weeds into a shallow ravine. Alissa screamed and I grunted in pain and heard my protégé calling my name, then the mobile and the hands-free ﬂew into the car, propelled by the deploying airbag. We crashed down a ﬁve-foot descent and came to an undramatic stop at the soupy bottom of a shallow creek. Oh, he’d planned his attack perfectly and before I could even click the seat belt to get to my gun, he’d swung a mallet through the driver’s window, shattering it and stunning me with the same blow. My Glock was ripped off my belt and pocketed. Dislocated shoulder, I thought, not much blood. I spat broken glass from my mouth and looked to Alissa. She too was stunned but didn’t seem hurt badly. The hitter wasn’t holding his gun, only the mallet, and I thought that if she ﬂed now she’d have a chance to tumble through the underbrush and escape. Not much of a chance but something. She had to move immediately, though. “Alissa, run, to the left! You can do it! Now!” She yanked the door open and rolled out.
6 / J e ff e r y D e a v e r
I looked back at the road. All I could see was the white truck parked on the shoulder near a creek where you might hunt frogs for bait, like a dozen other trucks I’d seen en route. It perfectly blocked anyone’s view from the road. Just like I’d used a truck to mask my escape, I reﬂected grimly. The hitter was now reaching in to unlatch my door. I squinted in pain, grateful for the man’s delay. It meant that Alissa could gain more distance. My people would know our exact position through GPS and could have police here in ﬁfteen or twenty minutes. She might make it. Please, I thought, turning toward the path she’d be escaping down, the shallow creekbed. Except that she wasn’t running anywhere. Tears rolling down her cheeks, she was standing next to the car with her head down, arms crossed over her round chest. Was she hurt more badly than I’d thought? My door was opened and the hitter dragged me out onto the ground, where he expertly slipped nylon restraints on my hands. He released me and I sagged into the sour-scented mud, beside busy crickets. Restraints? I wondered. I looked at Alissa again, now leaning against the car, unable to look my way. “Please.” She was speaking to our attacker. “My mother?” No, she wasn’t stunned and wasn’t hurt badly and I realized the reason she wasn’t running: because she had no reason to. She wasn’t the target. I was. The whole terrible truth was obvious. The man standing over me had somehow gotten to Alissa several weeks before and threatened to hurt her mother—to force Alissa to make up a story about corruption at the government contractor. Because it involved an army base where I knew the commander, the perp had bet that I’d be the shepherd to guard her. For the past week Alissa had been giving this man details about our security procedures. He wasn’t a hitter; he was a lifter, hired to extract information from me. Of course: about the organized crime case I’d just worked. I knew the new identities of the ﬁve witnesses who’d testiﬁed at the trial. I knew where Witness Protection was placing them. Gasping for breath through the tears, Alissa was saying, “You told me. . . .”
E dg e / 7
But the lifter was ignoring her, looking at his watch and placing a call, I deduced, to the man in the decoy car, followed by my protégé, ﬁfty miles away. He didn’t get through. The decoy would have been pulled over, as soon as our crash registered through the mobile phone call. This meant the lifter knew he didn’t have as much time as he would have liked. I wondered how long I could hold out against the torture. “Please,” Alissa whispered again. “My mother. You said if I did what you wanted . . . Please, is she all right?” The lifter glanced toward her and, as an afterthought, it seemed, took a pistol from his belt and shot her twice in the head. I grimaced, felt the sting of despair. He took a battered manila envelope from his inside jacket and, opening it, knelt beside me and shook the contents onto the ground. I couldn’t see what they were. He pulled off my shoes and socks. In a soft voice he asked, “You know the information I need?” I nodded yes. “Will you tell me?” If I could hold out for ﬁfteen minutes there was a chance local police would get here while I was still alive. I shook my head no. Impassive, as if my response were neither good or bad, he set to work. Hold out for ﬁfteen minutes, I told myself. I gave my ﬁrst scream thirty seconds later. Another followed shortly after that and from then on every exhalation was a shrill cry. Tears ﬂowed and pain raged like ﬁre throughout my body. Thirteen minutes, I reﬂected. Twelve . . . But, though I couldn’t say for certain, probably no more than six or seven passed before I gasped, “Stop, stop!” He did. And I told him exactly what he wanted to know. He jotted the information and stood. Keys to the truck dangled in his left hand. In his right was the pistol. He aimed the automatic toward the center of my forehead and what I felt was mostly relief, a terrible relief, that at least the pain would cease. The man eased back and squinted slightly in anticipation of the gunshot, and I found myself w—
8 / J e ff e r y D e a v e r
The object of the game is to invade and capture the opponent’s Castle or slay his Royalty. . . .
—FROM THE INSTRUCTIONS TO THE BOARD GAME FEUDAL
“WE’VE GOT A bad one, Corte.”
“Go ahead,” I said into the stalk microphone. I was at my desk, on a hands-free. I set down the old handwritten note I’d been reading. “The principal and his family’re in Fairfax. There’s a go-ahead order for a lifter and seems like he’s under some time pressure.” “How much?” “A couple of days.” “You know who hired him?” “That’s a negative, son.” It was Saturday, early. In this business, we drew odd hours and workweeks of varying lengths. Mine had just begun a couple of days ago and I’d ﬁnished a small job late yesterday afternoon. I was to have spent the day tidying up paperwork, something I enjoy, but in my organization we’re on call constantly. “Keep going, Freddy.” There’d been something about his tone. Ten years of working with somebody, even sporadically, in this line of work gives you clues. The FBI agent, never known for hesitating, now hesitated. Finally: “Okay, Corte, the thing is . . . ?” “What?” “The lifter’s Henry Loving. . . . I know, I know. But it’s conﬁrmed.” After a moment, in which the only sounds I could hear were my heart and a whisper of blood through my ears, I responded automatically, though pointlessly, “He’s dead. Rhode Island.” “Was dead. Was reported dead.” I glanced at trees outside my window, stirring in the faint September
breeze, then looked over my desk. It was neat but small and cheaply made. On it were several pieces of paper, each demanding more or less of my attention, as well as a small carton that FedEx had delivered to the town house, only a few blocks from my ofﬁce, that morning. It was an eBay purchase I’d been looking forward to receiving. I’d planned to examine the contents of the box on my lunch hour today. I now slid it aside. “Go on.” “In Providence? Somebody else was in the building.” Freddy ﬁlled in this missing puzzle piece, though I’d almost instantly deduced—correctly, from the agent’s account—exactly what had happened. Two years ago the warehouse Henry Loving had been hiding in, after ﬂeeing a trap I’d set for him, had burned to the ground. The forensic people had a clear DNA match on the body inside. Even badly burned, a corpse will leave about ten million samples of that pesky deoxyribonucleic acid. Which you can’t hide or destroy so it doesn’t make sense to try. But what you can do is, afterward, get to the DNA lab technicians and force them to lie—to certify that the body was yours. Loving was the sort who would have anticipated my trap. Before he went after my principals, he’d have a backup plan devised: kidnapping a homeless man or a runaway and stashing him in the warehouse, just in case he needed to escape. This was a clever idea, threatening a lab tech, and not so far-fetched when you considered that Henry Loving’s unique art was manipulating people to do things they didn’t want to do. So, suddenly, a man a lot of other people had been content—I’d go so far as to use the word “happy”—to see die in a ﬁre was now very much alive. A shadow in my doorway. It was Aaron Ellis, the head of our organization, the man I reported to directly. Blond and ﬁercely broad of shoulder. His thin lips parted. He didn’t know I was on the phone. “You hear? Rhode Island—it wasn’t Loving after all.” “I’m on with Freddy now.” Gesturing toward the hands-free. “My ofﬁce in ten?” “Sure.” He vanished on deft feet encased in brown tasseled loafers, which clashed with his light blue slacks. I said to the FBI agent, in his ofﬁce about ten miles from mine, “That was Aaron.”
12 / J e f fe r y D e a v e r
“I know,” Freddy replied. “My boss briefed your boss. I’m brieﬁng you. We’ll be working it together, son. Call me when you can.” “Wait,” I said. “The principals, in Fairfax? You send any agents to babysit?” “Not yet. This just happened.” “Get somebody there now.” “Apparently Loving’s nowhere near yet.” “Do it anyway.” “Well—” “Do it anyway.” “Your wish, et cetera, et cetera.” Freddy disconnected before I could say anything more. Henry Loving . . . I sat for a moment and again looked out the window of my organization’s unmarked headquarters in Old Town Alexandria, the building aggressively ugly, 1970s ugly. I stared at a wedge of grass, an antique store, a Starbucks and a few bushes in a parking strip. The bushes lined up in a staggered fashion toward the Masonic Temple, like they’d been planted by a Dan Brown character sending a message via landscaping rather than an email. My eyes returned to the FedEx box and the documents on my desk. One stapled stack of papers was a lease for a safe house near Silver Spring, Maryland. I’d have to negotiate the rent down, assuming a cover identity to do so. One document was a release order for the principal I’d successfully delivered yesterday to two solemn men, in equally solemn suits, whose ofﬁces were in Langley, Virginia. I signed the order and put it into my out box. The last slip of paper, which I’d been reading when Freddy called, I’d brought with me without intending to. In the town house last night I’d located a board game whose instructions I’d wanted to reread and had opened the box to ﬁnd this sheet—an old to-do list for a holiday party, with names of guests to call, groceries and decorations to buy. I’d absently tucked the yellowing document into my pocket and discovered it this morning. The party had been years ago. It was the last thing I wanted to be reminded of at the moment. I looked at the handwriting on the faded rectangle and fed it into my burn box, which turned it into confetti.
E d g e / 13
I placed the FedEx box into the safe behind my desk—nothing fancy, no eye scans, just a clicking combination lock—and rose. I tugged on a dark suit jacket over my white shirt, which was what I usually wore in the ofﬁce, even when working weekends. I stepped out of my ofﬁce, turning left toward my boss’s, and walked along the lengthy corridor’s gray carpet, striped with sunlight, falling pale through the mirrored, bulletresistant windows. My mind was no longer on real estate values in Maryland or delivery service packages or unwanted reminders from the past, but focused exclusively on the reappearance of Henry Loving—the man who, six years earlier, had tortured and murdered my mentor and close friend, Abe Fallow, in a gulley beside a North Carolina cotton ﬁeld, as I’d listened to his cries through his still-connected phone. Seven minutes of screams until the merciful gunshot, delivered not mercifully at all, but as a simple matter of professional efﬁciency.
14 / J e f fe r y D e a v e r
"How long did it take them to die?" The man this question was posed to didn't seem to hear it. H e looked in the rearview mirror again and concentrated on his driving. The hour was just past midnight and the streets in lower Manhattan were icy. A cold front had swept the sky clear and turned an earlier snow to slick glaze on the asphalt and concrete. The two men were in the rattling Band-Aidmobile, as Clever Vincent had dubbed the tan S U V It was a few years old; the brakes needed servicing and the tires replacing. But taking a stolen vehicle in for work would not be a wise idea, especially since two of its recent passengers were now murder victims. The driver—a lean man in his fifties, with trim black hair—made a careful turn down a side street and continued his journey, never speeding, making precise turns, perfectly centered in his lane. H e ' d drive the same whether the streets were slippery or dry, whether the vehicle had just been involved in murder or not. Careful, meticulous. How long did it take? Big Vincent—Vincent with long, sausage fingers, always damp, and a taut brown belt stretching the first hole—shivered hard. H e ' d been waiting on the street corner after his night shift as a wordprocessing temp. It was bitterly cold but Vincent didn't like the lobby
of his building. The light was greenish and the walls were covered with big mirrors in which he could see his oval body from all angles. So he'd stepped into the clear, cold December air and paced and ate a candy bar. Okay, two. As Vincent was glancing up at the full moon, a shockingly white disk visible for a moment through a canyon of buildings, the Watchmaker reflected aloud, " H o w long did it take them to die? Interesting." Vincent had known the Watchmaker—whose real name was Gerald Duncan—for only a short time but he'd learned that you asked the man questions at your own risk. Even a simple query could open the door to a monologue. Man, could he talk. A n d his answers were always organized, like a college professor's. Vincent knew that the silence for the last few minutes was because Duncan was considering his answer. Vincent opened a can of Pepsi. H e was cold but he needed something sweet. H e chugged it and put the empty can in his pocket. H e ate a packet of peanut butter crackers. Duncan looked over to make sure Vincent was wearing gloves. They always wore gloves in the Band-Aid-Mobile. Meticulous . . . "I'd say there are several answers to that," Duncan said in his soft, detached voice. "For instance, the first one I killed was twentyfour, so you could say it took him twenty-four years to die." Like, yeah . . . thought Clever Vincent with the sarcasm of a teenager, though he had to admit that this obvious answer hadn't occurred to him. "The other was thirty-two, I think." A police car drove by, the opposite way. The blood in Vincent s temples began pounding but Duncan didn't react. The cops showed no interest in the stolen Explorer. "Another way to answer the question," Duncan said, "is to consider the elapsed time from the moment I started until their hearts stopped beating. That's probably what you meant. See, people want to put time into easy-to-digest frames of reference. That's valid, as long as it's helpful. Knowing the contractions come every twenty seconds is helpful. So is knowing that the athlete ran a mile in three minutes, fifty-eight seconds, so he wins the race. Specifically how long it took them tonight to die . . . well, that isn't important, as long as it wasn't fast." A glance at Vincent. "I'm not being critical of your question." "No," Vincent said, not caring if he was critical. Vincent Reynolds 4 / Jeffery Deaver
didn't have many friends and could put up with a lot from Gerald Duncan. "I was just curious." "I understand. I just didn't pay any attention. But the next one,
I'll time it."
"The girl? Tomorrow?" Vincent's heart beat just a bit faster. H e nodded. "Later today, you mean." It was after midnight. With Gerald Duncan you had to be precise, especially when it came to time.
Hungry Vincent had nosed out Clever Vincent now that he was thinking of Joanne, the girl who'd die next. Later today . . . The killer drove in a complicated pattern back to their temporary home in the Chelsea district of Manhattan, south of Midtown, near the river. The streets were deserted; the temperature was in the teens and the wind flowed steadily through the narrow streets. Duncan parked at a curb and shut the engine off, set the parking brake. The men stepped out. They walked for a half block through the icy wind. Duncan glanced down at his shadow on the sidewalk, cast by the moon. "I've thought of another answer. About how long it took them to die." Vincent shivered again—mostly, but not only, from the cold. "When you look at it from their point of view," the killer said, "you could say that it took forever."
Moon / 5
What is that?
F r o m his squeaky chair in the warm office, the big man sipped coffee and squinted through the bright morning light toward the far end of the pier. H e was the morning supervisor of the tugboat repair operation, located on the Hudson River north of Greenwich Village. There was a Moran with a bum diesel due to dock in forty minutes but at the moment the pier was empty and the supervisor was enjoying the warmth of the shed, where he sat with his feet up on the desk, coffee cradled against his chest. H e wiped some condensation off the window and looked again. What is it? A small black box sat by the edge of the pier, the side that faced Jersey. It hadn't been there when the facility had closed at six yesterday, and nobody would have docked after that. H a d to come from the land side. There was a chain-link fence to prevent pedestrians and passersby from getting into the facility, but, as the man knew from the missing tools and trash drums (go figure), if somebody wanted to break in, they would. But why leave something? H e stared for a while, thinking, Its cold out, its windy, the coffees just right. Then he decided, Oh, hell, better check. H e
pulled on his thick gray jacket, gloves and hat and, taking a last slug of coffee, stepped outside into the breathtaking air. The supervisor made his way through the wind along the pier, his watering eyes focused on the black box. The hell is it? The thing was rectangular, less than a foot high, and the low sunlight sharply reflected off something on the front. H e squinted against the glare. The whitecapped water of the Hudson slushed against the pilings below. Ten feet away from the box he paused, realizing what it was. A clock. A n old-fashioned one, with those funny numbers— Roman numerals—and a moon face on the front. Looked expensive. H e glanced at his watch and saw the clock was working; the time was accurate. W h o ' d leave a nice thing like that here? Well, all right, I got myself a present. As he stepped forward to pick it up, though, his legs went out from under him and he had a moment of pure panic thinking he'd tumble into the river. But he went straight down, landing on the patch of ice he hadn't seen, and slid no further. Wincing in pain, gasping, he pulled himself to his feet. The man glanced down and saw that this wasn't normal ice. It was reddish brown. "Oh, Christ," he whispered as he stared at the large patch of blood, which had pooled near the clock and frozen slick. H e leaned forward and his shock deepened when he realized how the blood had gotten there. H e saw what looked like bloody fingernail marks on the wooden decking of the pier, as i f someone with slashed fingers or wrists had been holding on to keep from falling into the churning waters of the river. H e crept to the edge and looked down. N o one was floating in the choppy water. H e wasn't surprised; if what he imagined was true, the frozen blood meant the poor bastard had been here a while ago and, if he hadn't been saved, his body'd be halfway to Liberty Island by now. Fumbling for his cell phone, he backed away and pulled his glove off with his teeth. A final glance at the clock, then he hurried back to the shed, calling the police with a stubby, quaking finger. Before and After. The city was different now, after that morning in September, after the explosions, the huge tails of smoke, the buildings that disappeared. The Cold Moon / 7
You couldn't deny it. You could talk about the resilience, the mettle, the get-back-to-work attitude of N e w Yorkers, and that was true. But people still paused when planes made that final approach to LaGuardia and seemed a bit lower than normal. You crossed the street, wide, around an abandoned shopping bag. You weren't surprised to see soldiers or police dressed in dark uniforms carrying black, military-style machine guns. The Thanksgiving Day parade had come and gone without incident and now Christmas was in full swing, crowds everywhere. But floating atop the festivities, like a reflection in a department stores holiday window, was the persistent image of the towers that no long were, the people no longer with us. And, of course, the big question: What would happen next? Lincoln Rhyme had his own Before and After and he understood this concept very well. There was a time he could walk and function and then came the time when he could not. One moment he was as healthy as everyone else, searching a crime scene, and a minute later a beam had snapped his neck and left him a C-4 quadriplegic, almost completely paralyzed from the shoulders down. Before and After. . . There are moments that change you forever. A n d yet, Lincoln Rhyme believed, if you make too grave an icon of them, then the events become more potent. A n d the bad guys win. Now, early on a cold Tuesday morning, these were Rhymes thoughts as he listened to a National Public Radio announcer, in her unshakable F M voice, report about a parade planned for the day after tomorrow, followed by some ceremonies and meetings of government officials, all of which logically should have been held in the nation's capital. But the up-with-New-York attitude had prevailed and spectators, as well as protesters, would be present in force and clogging the streets, making the life of security-sensitive police around Wall Street far more difficult. As with politics, so with sports: Play-offs that should occur in New Jersey were now scheduled for Madison Square Garden—as a display, for some reason, of patriotism. Rhyme wondered cynically if next year's Boston Marathon would be held in New
Before and After. . . Rhyme had come to believe that he himself really wasn't much different in the After. His physical condition, his skyline, you could say, had changed. But he was essentially the same person as in the Before: a cop and a scientist who was impatient, temperamental 8 / Jeffery Deaver
(okay, sometimes obnoxious), relentless and intolerant of incompetence and laziness. H e didn't play the gimp card, didn't whine, didn't make an issue of his condition (though good luck to any building owners who didn't meet the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for door width and ramps when he was at a crime scene in their buildings). As he listened to the report now, the fact that certain people in the city seemed to be giving in to self-pity irritated him. "I'm going to write a letter," he announced to Thorn. The slim young aide, in dark slacks, white shirt and thick sweater (Rhyme's Central Park West town house suffered from a bad heating system and ancient insulation), glanced up from where he was overdecorating for Christmas. Rhyme enjoyed the irony of his placing a miniature evergreen tree on a table below which a present, though an unwrapped one, already waited: a box of adult disposable diapers. "Letter?" H e explained his theory that it was more patriotic to go about business as usual. "I'm going to give 'em hell. The Times, I think." "Why don't you?" asked the aide, whose profession was known as "caregiver" (though Thorn said that, being in the employ of Lincoln Rhyme, his job description was really "saint"). "I'm going to," Rhyme said adamantly. "Good for you . . . though, one thing?" Rhyme lifted an eyebrow. The criminalist could—and did—get great expression out of his extant body parts: shoulders, face and
"Most of the people who say they're going to write a letter don't. People who do write letters just go ahead and write them. They don't announce it. Ever notice that?" "Thank you for the brilliant insight into psychology, Thorn. You know that nothing's going to stop me now." "Good," repeated the aide. Using the touchpad controller, the criminalist drove his red Storm Arrow wheelchair closer to one of the half dozen large, flatscreen monitors in the room. "Command," he said into the voice-recognition system, via a microphone attached to the chair. "Word processor." WordPerfect dutifully opened on the screen. "Command, type. 'Dear sirs.' Command, colon. Command, paragraph. Command, type, Tt has come to my attention—'" The doorbell rang and Thorn went to see who the visitor was. The Cold Moon / 9
Rhyme closed his eyes and was composing his rant to the world when a voice intruded. "Hey, Line. Merry Christmas." "Uhm, ditto," Rhyme grumbled to paunchy, disheveled L o n Sellitto, walking through the doorway. The big detective had to maneuver carefully; the room had been a quaint parlor in the Victorian era but now was chockablock with forensic science gear: optical microscopes, an electron microscope, a gas chromatograph, laboratory beakers and racks, pipettes, petri dishes, centrifuges, chemicals, books and magazines, computers—and thick wires, which ran everywhere. (When Rhyme began doing forensic consulting out of his town house, the power-hungry equipment frequently would blow circuit breakers. The juice running into the place probably equaled the combined usage by everyone else on the block.) "Command, volume, level three/' The environmental control unit obediently turned down N P R . "Not in the spirit of the season, are we?" the detective asked. Rhyme didn't answer. H e looked back at the monitor. "Hey, Jackson." Sellitto bent down and petted a small, longhaired dog curled up in an N Y P D evidence box. H e was temporarily living here; his former owner, Thorn's elderly aunt, had passed away recently in Westport, Connecticut, after a long illness. Among the young man's inheritances was Jackson, a Havanese. The breed, related to the bichon frise, originated in Cuba. Jackson was staying here until Thorn could find a good home for him. "We got a bad one, Line," Sellitto said, standing up. H e started to take off his overcoat but changed his mind. "Jesus, it's cold. Is this a record?" "Don't know. Don't spend much time on the Weather Channel." H e thought of a good opening paragraph of his letter to the editor. "Bad," Sellitto repeated. Rhyme glanced at Sellitto with a cocked eyebrow. "Two homicides, same M . O . More or less." "Lots of 'bad ones' out there, Lon. Why're these any badder?" As often happened in the tedious days between cases Rhyme was in a bad mood; of all the perps he'd come across, the worst was boredom. But Sellitto had worked with Rhyme for years and was immune to the criminalist's attitudes. "Got a call from the Big Building. Brass want you and Amelia on this one. They said they're insisting." "Oh, insisting?" "I promised I wouldn't tell you they said that. You don't like to be insisted." "Can we get to the 'bad' part, Lon? O r is that too much to ask?" 10 / J e f f e r y Deaver
"Where's Amelia?" "Westchester, on a case. Should be back soon." The detective held up a wait-a-minute finger as his cell phone rang. H e had a conversation, nodding and jotting notes. H e disconnected and glanced at Rhyme. "Okay, here we have it. Sometime last night our perp, he grabs—" "He?" Rhyme asked pointedly. "Okay. We don't know the gender for sure." "Sex."
Rhyme said, "Genders a linguistic concept. It refers to designating words male or female in certain languages. Sex is a biological concept differentiating male and female organisms." "Thanks for the grammar lesson," the detective muttered. "Maybe it'll help if I'm ever on Jeopardy! Anyway, he grabs some poor schmuck and takes 'em to that boat repair pier on the Hudson. We're not exactly sure how he does it, but he forces the guy, or woman, to hang on over the river and then cuts their wrists. The vie holds on for a while, looks like—long enough to lose a shitload of blood—but then just lets go."
"Not yet. Coast Guard and E S U ' r e searching." "I heard plural." "Okay. Then we get another call a few minutes later. To check out an alley downtown, off Cedar, near Broadway. The perp s got another vie. A uniform finds this guy duct-taped and on his back. The perp rigged this iron bar—weighs maybe seventy-five pounds—above his neck. The vie has to hold it up to keep from getting his throat crushed." "Seventy-five pounds? Okay, given the strength issues, I'll grant you the perp's sex probably is male." Thorn came into the room with coffee and pastries. Sellitto, his weight a constant issue, went for the Danish first, his diet hibernated during the holidays. H e finished half and, wiping his mouth, continued. "So the vies holding up the bar. Which maybe he does for a while—but he doesn't make it." "Who's the vie?" "Name's Theodore Adams. Lived near Battery Park. A nine-oneone came in last night from a woman said her brother was supposed to meet her for dinner and never showed. That's the name she gave. Sergeant from the precinct was going to call her this morning." The Cold M o o n / 11
Lincoln Rhyme generally didn't find soft descriptions helpful. But he conceded that "bad" fit the situation. So did the word "intriguing." H e asked, "Why do you say it's the same M.O.?" "Perp left a calling card at both scenes. Clocks." "As in tick-tock?" "Yup. The first one was by the pool of blood on the pier. The other was next to the vie s head. It was like the doer wanted them to see it. And, I guess, hear it." "Describe them. The clocks." "Looked old-fashioned. That's all I know." "Not a bomb?" Nowadays—in the time of the After—every item of evidence that ticked was routinely checked for explosives. "Nope. Won't go bang. But the squad sent 'em up to Rodmans Neck to check for bio or chemical agents. Same brand of clock, looks like. Spooky, one of the respondings said. Has this face of a moon on it. Oh, and just in case we were slow, he left a note under the clocks. Computer printout. N o handwriting." "And they said . . . ?" Sellitto glanced down at his notebook, not relying on memory. Rhyme appreciated this in the detective. H e wasn't brilliant but he was a bulldog and did everything slowly and with perfection. H e read, " T h e full Cold Moon is in the sky, shining on the corpse of earth, signifying the hour to die and end the journey begun at birth.'" H e looked up at Rhyme. "It was signed 'the Watchmaker.'" "We've got two vies and a lunar motif." Often, an astronomical reference meant that the killer was planning to strike multiple times. "He's got more on the agenda." "Hey, why d'you think I'm here, Line?" Rhyme glanced at the beginning of his missive to the Times. H e closed his word-processing program. The essay about Before and After would have to wait.
12 / J e f f e r y
September 13, 1999
‘SON OF MANSON’ FOUND GUILTY IN CROYTON FAMILY MURDERS
salinas, california—Daniel Raymond Pell, 35, was convicted today on four counts of ﬁrst-degree murder and one count of manslaughter by a Monterey County jury after only ﬁve hours of deliberations. “Justice has been done,” lead prosecutor James J. Reynolds told reporters after the verdict was announced. “This is an extremely dangerous man, who committed horrendous crimes.” Pell became known as the “Son of Manson” because of the parallels between his life and that of convicted murderer Charles Manson, who in 1969 was responsible for the ritualistic slayings of the actress Sharon Tate and several other individuals in Southern California. Police found many books and articles about Manson in Pell’s house following his arrest. The murder convictions were for the May 7 deaths of William Croyton, his wife and two of their three children in Carmel, Calif., 120 miles south of San Francisco. The manslaughter charge arose from the death of James Newberg, 24, who lived with Pell and accompanied him to the Croyton house the night of the murders. The prosecutor asserted that Newberg initially intended to assist in the murders but was then killed by Pell after he changed his mind.
Croyton, 56, was a wealthy electrical engineer and computer innovator. His Cupertino, Calif., company, in the heart of Silicon Valley, produces state-of-the-art programs that are found in much of the world’s most popular personal computer software. Because of Pell’s interest in Manson, there was speculation that the killings had ideological overtones, as did the murders for which Manson was convicted, but robbery was the most likely reason for the break-in, Reynolds said. Pell has dozens of prior convictions for shoplifting, burglary and robbery, dating back to his teens. One child survived the attack, a daughter, Theresa, 9. Pell overlooked the girl, who was in her bed asleep and hidden by her toys. Because of this, she became known as the “Sleeping Doll.” Like Charles Manson, the criminal he admired, Pell exuded a dark charisma and attracted a group of devoted and fanatical followers, whom he called his “Family”—a term borrowed from the Manson clan—and over whom he exercised absolute control. At the time of the Croyton murders this group included Newberg and three women, all living together in a shabby house in Seaside, north of Monterey, Calif. They are Rebecca Shefﬁeld, 26, Linda Whitﬁeld, 20, and Samantha McCoy, 19. Whitﬁeld is the daughter of Lyman Whitﬁeld, president and CEO of Santa Clara Bank and Trust, headquartered in Cupertino, the fourth largest banking chain in the state. The women were not charged in the deaths of the Croytons or Newberg but were convicted of multiple counts of larceny, trespass, fraud and receiving stolen property. Whitﬁeld was also convicted of hampering an investigation, perjury and destroying evidence. As part of a plea bargain, Shefﬁeld and McCoy were sentenced to three years in prison, Whitﬁeld to four and a half. Pell’s behavior at trial also echoed Charles Manson’s. He would sit motionless at the defense table and stare at jurors and witnesses in apparent attempts to intimidate them.
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There were reports that he believed he had psychic powers. The defendant was removed once from the courtroom after a witness broke down under his gaze. The jury begins sentencing deliberations tomorrow. Pell could get the death penalty.
The Sleeping Doll / 3
The interrogation began like any other. Kathryn Dance entered the interview room and found the forty-threeyear-old man sitting at a metal table, shackled, looking up at her closely. Subjects always did this, of course, though never with such astonishing eyes. Their color was a blue unlike sky or ocean or famous gems. “Good morning,” she said, sitting down across from him. “And to you,” replied Daniel Pell, the man who eight years ago had knifed to death four members of a family for reasons he’d never shared. His voice was soft. A slight smile on his bearded face, the small, sinewy man sat back, relaxed. His head, covered with long, gray-black hair, was cocked to the side. While most jailhouse interrogations were accompanied by a jingling soundtrack of handcuff chains as subjects tried to prove their innocence with broad, predictable gestures, Daniel Pell sat perfectly still. To Dance, a specialist in interrogation and kinesics—body language— Pell’s demeanor and posture suggested caution, but also conﬁdence and, curiously, amusement. He wore an orange jumpsuit, stenciled with “Capitola Correctional Facility” on the chest and “Inmate” unnecessarily decorating the back. At the moment, though, Pell and Dance were not in Capitola but, rather, a secure interview room at the county courthouse in Salinas, forty miles away. Pell continued his examination. First, he took in Dance’s own eyes—a green complementary to his blue and framed by square, black-rimmed glasses. He then regarded her French-braided, dark blond hair, the black jacket and beneath it the thick, unrevealing white blouse. He noted too the empty holster on her hip. He was meticulous and in no hurry. (Interviewers
and interviewees share mutual curiosity. She told the students in her interrogation seminars, “They’re studying you as hard as you’re studying them— usually even harder, since they have more to lose.”) Dance ﬁshed in her blue Coach purse for her ID card, not reacting as she saw a tiny toy bat, from last year’s Halloween, that either twelve-year-old Wes, his younger sister, Maggie, or possibly both conspirators had slipped into the bag that morning as a practical joke. She thought: How’s this for a contrasting life? An hour ago she was having breakfast with her children in the kitchen of their homey Victorian house in idyllic Paciﬁc Grove, two exuberant dogs at their feet begging for bacon, and now here she sat, across a very different table from a convicted murderer. She found the ID and displayed it. He stared for a long moment, easing forward. “Dance. Interesting name. Wonder where it comes from. And the California Bureau . . . what is that?” “Bureau of Investigation. Like an FBI for the state. Now, Mr. Pell, you understand that this conversation is being recorded?” He glanced at the mirror, behind which a video camera was humming away. “You folks think we really believe that’s there so we can ﬁx up our hair?” Mirrors weren’t placed in interrogation rooms to hide cameras and witnesses—there are far better high-tech ways to do so—but because people are less inclined to lie when they can see themselves. Dance gave a faint smile. “And you understand that you can withdraw from this interview anytime you want and that you have a right to an attorney?” “I know more criminal procedure than the entire graduating class of Hastings Law rolled up together. Which is a pretty funny image, when you think about it.” More articulate than Dance expected. More clever too. The previous week, Daniel Raymond Pell, serving a life sentence for the 1999 murders of William Croyton, his wife and two of their children, had approached a fellow prisoner due to be released from Capitola and tried to bribe him to run an errand after he was free. Pell told him about some evidence he’d disposed of in a Salinas well years ago and explained that he was worried the items would implicate him in the unsolved murder of a wealthy farm owner. He’d read recently that Salinas was revamping its water system. This had jogged his memory and he’d grown concerned that the evidence would be discovered. He wanted the prisoner to ﬁnd and dispose of it. Pell picked the wrong man to enlist, though. The short-timer spilled to
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the warden, who called the Monterey County Sheriff’s Ofﬁce. Investigators wondered if Pell was talking about the unsolved murder of farm owner Robert Herron, beaten to death a decade ago. The murder weapon, probably a claw hammer, was never found. The Sheriff’s Ofﬁce sent a team to search all the wells in that part of town. Sure enough, they found a tattered T-shirt, a claw hammer and an empty wallet with the initials R.H. stamped on it. Two ﬁngerprints on the hammer were Daniel Pell’s. The Monterey County prosecutor decided to present the case to the grand jury in Salinas, and asked CBI Agent Kathryn Dance to interview him, in hopes of a confession. Dance now began the interrogation, asking, “How long did you live in the Monterey area?” He seemed surprised that she didn’t immediately begin to browbeat. “A few years.” “Where?” “Seaside.” A town of about thirty thousand, north of Monterey on Highway 1, populated mostly by young working families and retirees. “You got more for your hard-earned money there,” he explained. “More than in your fancy Carmel.” His eyes alighted on her face. His grammar and syntax were good, she noted, ignoring his ﬁshing expedition for information about her residence. Dance continued to ask about his life in Seaside and in prison, observing him the whole while: how he behaved when she asked the questions and how he behaved when he answered. She wasn’t doing this to get information—she’d done her homework and knew the answers to everything she asked—but was instead establishing his behavioral baseline. In spotting lies, interrogators consider three factors: nonverbal behavior (body language, or kinesics), verbal quality (pitch of voice or pauses before answering) and verbal content (what the suspect says). The ﬁrst two are far more reliable indications of deception, since it’s much easier to control what we say than how we say it and our body’s natural reaction when we do. The baseline is a catalog of those behaviors exhibited when the subject is telling the truth. This is the standard the interrogator will compare later with the subject’s behavior when he might have a reason to lie. Any differences between the two suggest deception. Finally Dance had a good proﬁle of the truthful Daniel Pell and moved to the crux of her mission in this modern, sterile courthouse on a foggy morning in June. “I’d like to ask you a few questions about Robert Herron.”
The Sleeping Doll / 9
Eyes sweeping her, now reﬁning their examination: the abalone shell necklace, which her mother had made, at her throat. Then Dance’s short, pink-polished nails. The gray pearl ring on the wedding-band ﬁnger got two glances. “How did you meet Herron?” “You’re assuming I did. But, no, never met him in my life. I swear.” The last sentence was a deception ﬂag, though his body language wasn’t giving off signals that suggested he was lying. “But you told the prisoner in Capitola that you wanted him to go to the well and ﬁnd the hammer and wallet.” “No, that’s what he told the warden.” Pell offered another amused smile. “Why don’t you talk to him about it? You’ve got sharp eyes, Ofﬁcer Dance. I’ve seen them looking me over, deciding if I’m being straight with you. I’ll bet you could tell in a ﬂash that that boy was lying.” She gave no reaction, but reﬂected that it was very rare for a suspect to realize he was being analyzed kinesically. “But then how did he know about the evidence in the well?” “Oh, I’ve got that ﬁgured out. Somebody stole a hammer of mine, killed Herron with it and planted it to blame me. They wore gloves. Those rubber ones everybody wears on CSI.” Still relaxed. The body language wasn’t any different from his baseline. He was showing only emblems—common gestures that tended to substitute for words, like shrugs and ﬁnger pointing. There were no adaptors, which signal tension, or affect displays—signs that he was experiencing emotion. “But if he wanted to do that,” Dance pointed out, “wouldn’t the killer just call the police then and tell them where the hammer was? Why wait more than ten years?” “Being smart, I’d guess. Better to bide his time. Then spring the trap.” “But why would the real killer call the prisoner in Capitola? Why not just call the police directly?” A hesitation. Then a laugh. His blue eyes shone with excitement, which seemed genuine. “Because they’re involved too. The police. Sure . . . The cops realize the Herron case hasn’t been solved and they want to blame somebody. Why not me? They’ve already got me in jail. I’ll bet the cops planted the hammer themselves.” “Let’s work with this a little. There’re two different things you’re saying. First, somebody stole your hammer before Herron was killed, murdered him with it and now, all this time later, dimes you out. But your second ver10 / Jeffery Deaver
sion is that the police got your hammer after Herron was killed by someone else altogether and planted it in the well to blame you. Those’re contradictory. It’s either one or the other. Which do you think?” “Hm.” Pell thought for a few seconds. “Okay, I’ll go with number two. The police. It’s a setup. I’m sure that’s what happened.” She looked him in the eyes, green on blue. Nodding agreeably. “Let’s consider that. First, where would the police have gotten the hammer?” He thought. “When they arrested me for that Carmel thing.” “The Croyton murders in ninety-nine?” “Right. All the evidence they took from my house in Seaside.” Dance’s brows furrowed. “I doubt that. Evidence is accounted for too closely. No, I’d go for a more credible scenario: that the hammer was stolen recently. Where else could somebody ﬁnd a hammer of yours? Do you have any property in the state?” “No.” “Any relatives or friends who could’ve had some tools of yours?” “Not really.” Which wasn’t an answer to a yes-or-no question; it was even slipperier than “I don’t recall.” Dance noticed too that Pell had put his hands, tipped with long, clean nails, on the table at the word “relatives.” This was a deviation from baseline behavior. It didn’t mean lying, but he was feeling stress. The questions were upsetting him. “Daniel, do you have any relations living in California?” He hesitated, must have assessed that she was the sort to check out every comment—which she was—and said, “The only one left’s my aunt. Down in Bakersﬁeld.” “Is her name Pell?” Another pause. “Yep . . . That’s good thinking, Ofﬁcer Dance. I’ll bet the deputies who dropped the ball on the Herron case stole that hammer from her house and planted it. They’re the ones behind this whole thing. Why don’t you talk to them?” “All right. Now let’s think about the wallet. Where could that’ve come from? . . . Here’s a thought. What if it’s not Robert Herron’s wallet at all? What if this rogue cop we’re talking about just bought a wallet, had R.H. stamped in the leather, then hid that and the hammer in the well? It could’ve been last month. Or even last week. What do you think about that, Daniel?” Pell lowered his head—she couldn’t see his eyes—and said nothing.
The Sleeping Doll / 11
It was unfolding just as she’d planned. Dance had forced him to pick the more credible of two explanations for his innocence—and proceeded to prove it wasn’t credible at all. No sane jury would believe that the police had fabricated evidence and stolen tools from a house hundreds of miles away from the crime scene. Pell was now realizing the mistake he’d made. The trap was about to close on him. Checkmate . . . Her heart thumped a bit and she was thinking that the next words out of his mouth might be about a plea bargain. She was wrong. His eyes snapped open and bored into hers with pure malevolence. He lunged forward as far as he could. Only the chains hooked to the metal chair, grounded with bolts to the tile ﬂoor, stopped him from sinking his teeth into her. She jerked back, gasping. “You goddamn bitch! Oh, I get it now. Sure, you’re part of it too! Yeah, yeah, blame Daniel. It’s always my fault! I’m the easy target. And you come in here sounding like a friend, asking me a few questions. Jesus, you’re just like the rest of them!” Her heart was pounding furiously now, and she was afraid. But she noted quickly that the restraints were secure and he couldn’t reach her. She turned to the mirror, behind which the ofﬁcer manning the video camera was surely rising to his feet right now to help her. But she shook her head his way. It was important to see where this was going. Then suddenly Pell’s fury was replaced with a cold calm. He sat back, caught his breath and looked her over again. “You’re in your thirties, Ofﬁcer Dance. You’re somewhat pretty. You seem straight to me, so I guarantee there’s a man in your life. Or has been.” A third glance at the pearl ring. “If you don’t like my theory, Daniel, let’s come up with another one. About what really happened to Robert Herron.” As if she hadn’t even spoken. “And you’ve got children, right? Sure, you do. I can see that. Tell me all about them. Tell me about the little ones. Close in age, and not too old, I’ll bet.” This unnerved her and she thought instantly of Maggie and Wes. But she struggled not to react. He doesn’t know I have children, of course. He can’t. But he acts as if he’s certain. Was there something about my behavior he noted? Something that suggested to him that I’m a mother? They’re studying you as hard as you’re studying them. . . .
12 / Jeffery Deaver
“Listen to me, Daniel,” she said smoothly, “an outburst isn’t going to help anything.” “I’ve got friends on the outside, you know. They owe me. They’d love to come visit you. Or hang with your husband and children. Yeah, it’s a tough life being a cop. The little ones spend a lot of time alone, don’t they? They’d probably love some friends to play with.” Dance returned his gaze, never ﬂinching. She asked, “Could you tell me about your relationship with that prisoner in Capitola?” “Yes, I could. But I won’t.” His emotionless words mocked her, suggesting that, for a professional interrogator, she’d phrased her question carelessly. In a soft voice he added, “I think it’s time to go back to my cell.”
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Alonzo “Sandy” Sandoval, the Monterey County prosecutor, was a handsome, round man with a thick head of black hair and an ample mustache. He sat in his ofﬁce, two ﬂights above the lockup, behind a desk littered with ﬁles. “Hi, Kathryn. So, our boy . . . Did he beat his breast and cry, ‘Mea culpa’?” “Not exactly.” Dance sat down, peered into the coffee cup she’d left on the desk forty-ﬁve minutes ago. Nondairy creamer scummed the surface. “I rate it as, oh, one of the least successful interrogations of all time.” “You look shook, boss,” said a short, wiry young man, with freckles and curly red hair, wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a plaid sports coat. TJ’s outﬁt was unconventional for an investigative agent with the CBI—the most conservative law-enforcement agency in the Great Bear State—but so was pretty much everything else about him. Around thirty and single, TJ Scanlon lived in the hills of Carmel Valley, his house a ramshackle place that could have been a diorama in a counterculture museum depicting California life in the 1960s. TJ tended to work solo much of the time, surveillance and undercover, rather than pairing up with another CBI agent, which was the bureau’s standard procedure. But Dance’s regular partner was in Mexico on an extradition and TJ had jumped at the chance to help out and see the Son of Manson. “Not shook. Just curious.” She explained how the interview had been going ﬁne when, suddenly, Pell turned on her. Under TJ’s skeptical gaze, she conceded, “Okay, I’m a little shook. I’ve been threatened before. But his were the worst kinds of threats.” “Worst?” asked Juan Millar, a tall, dark-complexioned young detective with the Investigations Division of the MCSO—the Monterey County Sheriff’s Ofﬁce, which was headquartered not far from the courthouse.
“Calm threats,” Dance said. TJ ﬁlled in, “Cheerful threats. You know you’re in trouble when they stop screaming and start whispering.” The little ones spend a lot of time alone. . . . “What happened?” Sandoval asked, seemingly more concerned about the state of his case than threats against Dance. “When he denied knowing Herron, there was no stress reaction at all. It was only when I had him talking about police conspiracy that he started to exhibit aversion and negation. Some extremity movement too, deviating from his baseline.” Kathryn Dance was often called a human lie detector, but that wasn’t accurate; in reality she, like all successful kinesic analysts and interrogators, was a stress detector. This was the key to deception; once she spotted stress, she’d probe the topic that gave rise to it and dig until the subject broke. Kinesics experts identify several different types of stress individuals experience. The stress that arises primarily when someone isn’t telling the whole truth is called “deception stress.” But people also experience general stress, which occurs when they are merely uneasy or nervous, and has nothing to do with lying. It’s what someone feels when, say, he’s late for work, has to give a speech in public or is afraid of physical harm. Dance had found that different kinesic behaviors signal the two kinds of stress. She explained this and added, “My sense was that he’d lost control of the interview and couldn’t get it back. So he went ballistic.” “Even though what you were saying supported his defense?” Lanky Juan Millar absently scratched his left hand. In the ﬂeshy Y between the index ﬁnger and thumb was a scar, the remnant of a removed gang tat. “Exactly.” Then Dance’s mind made one of its curious jumps. A to B to X. She couldn’t explain how they happened. But she always paid attention. “Where was Robert Herron murdered?” She walked to a map of Monterey County on Sandoval’s wall. “Here.” The prosecutor touched an area in the yellow trapezoid. “And the well where they found the hammer and wallet?” “About here, make it.” It was a quarter mile from the crime scene, in a residential area. Dance was staring at the map. She felt TJ’s eyes on her. “What’s wrong, boss?” “You have a picture of the well?” she asked.
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Sandoval dug in the ﬁle. “Juan’s forensic people shot a lot of pics.” “Crime scene boys love their toys,” Millar said, the rhyme sounding odd from the mouth of such a Boy Scout. He gave a shy smile. “I heard that somewhere.” The prosecutor produced a stack of color photographs, rifﬂed through them until he found the ones he sought. Gazing at them, Dance asked TJ, “We ran a case there six, eight months ago, remember?” “The arson, sure. In that new housing development.” Tapping the map, the spot where the well was located, Dance continued, “The development is still under construction. And that”—she nodded at a photograph—“is a hard-rock well.” Everybody in the area knew that water was at such a premium in this part of California that hard-rock wells, with their low output and unreliable supply, were never used for agricultural irrigation, only for private homes. “Shit.” Sandoval closed his eyes brieﬂy. “Ten years ago, when Herron was killed, that was all farmland. The well wouldn’t’ve been there then.” “It wasn’t there one year ago,” Dance muttered. “That’s why Pell was so stressed. I was getting close to the truth—somebody did get the hammer from his aunt’s in Bakersﬁeld and had a fake wallet made up, then planted them there recently. Only it wasn’t to frame him.” “Oh, no,” TJ whispered. “What?” Millar asked, looking from one agent to the other. “Pell set the whole thing up himself,” she said. “Why?” Sandoval asked. “Because he couldn’t escape from Capitola.” That facility, like Pelican Bay in the north of the state, was a high-tech superprison. “But he could from here.” Kathryn Dance lunged for the phone.
16 / Jeffery Deaver