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ISBN: 0316405345
416 pages
Little, Brown and Company

Everyone thinks Emmy Dockery is crazy. Obsessed with finding the link between hundreds of unsolved cases, Emmy has taken leave from her job as an FBI researcher. Now all she has are the newspaper clippings that wallpaper her bedroom, and her nightly recurring nightmares of an all-consuming fire.

Not even Emmy's ex-boyfriend, field agent Harrison "Books" Bookman, will believe her that hundreds of kidnappings, rapes, and murders are all connected. That is, until Emmy finds a piece of evidence he can't afford to ignore. More murders are reported by the day—and they're all inexplicable. No motives, no murder weapons, no suspects. Could one person really be responsible for these unthinkable crimes?

ISBN: 0316405345
416 pages
Little, Brown and Company

Chapter 2

I’M HERE for the Dick. That’s not what I actually say, but that’s what I mean.

“Emmy Dockery for Mr. Dickinson, please.”

The woman parked at a wedge of a desk outside Dickinson’s office is someone I’ve never met. Her nameplate says LYDIA and she looks like a Lydia: cropped brown hair and black horn-rimmed glasses and a prim silk blouse. She probably writes sonnets in her spare time. She probably has three cats and likes Indian food, only she would call it cuisine.

I shouldn’t be so catty, but it annoys me that there’s someone new, that something has changed since I left, so I feel like a stranger in an office where I faithfully labored for almost nine years.

“Did you have an appointment with the director, Ms. . . . Dockery?”

Lydia looks up at me with a satisfied smirk. She knows I don’t have an appointment. She knows because they called up from the lobby to see if I was authorized to enter. She’s just reminding me that I’ve only gotten this far as some kind of courtesy.

“The director?” I ask with faux confusion. “You mean the executive assistant director for the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch?”

Okay, I can be a bitch. But she started it.

I wait Lydia out, because I wouldn’t be standing here if the Dick hadn’t agreed to see me.

He makes me wait, which is so like him, but twenty minutes later I’m in the office of the Dick. Dark wood walls and trophy photographs on the walls, diplomas, ego stuff. The Dick has a tremendous and entirely undeserved opinion of himself.

Julius Dickinson, he of the ever-present tan and comb-over, the extra ten pounds, the smarmy smile, gestures to a seat for me. “Emmy,” he says, thick with false pity in his voice but his eyes bright. Already, he’s trying to get a rise out of me.

“You haven’t returned any of my e-mails,” I say, taking a seat.

“That’s right, I haven’t,” he says, making no attempt to justify the stiff-arm he’s given me. He doesn’t have to. He’s the boss. I’m just an employee. Hell, I’m not even that at the moment; I’m an employee on unpaid leave whose career is hanging by a string, whose career could be destroyed by the man sitting across from me.

“Have you at least read them?” I ask.

Dickinson removes a silk cloth from his drawer and cleans his eyeglasses. “I got far enough to see that you’re talking about a series of fires,” he says. “Fires that you think are the work of a criminal genius who has managed to make them appear unrelated.”

Basically, yes.

“What I did read in its entirety,” he adds with a sour note, “was a recent article from the Peoria Times, the local newspaper in a small Arizona town.” He lifts up a printout of the article and reads from it. “‘Eight months after her sister’s death in a house fire, Emmy Dockery is still on a crusade to convince the Peoria Police Department that Marta Dockery’s death was not an accident, but murder.’ Oh, and this part: ‘Doctor Martin Lazerby, a deputy medical examiner with the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office, insists that all forensic evidence points to death by an accidental fire.’ And this is my favorite, a quote from their police chief: ‘She works for the FBI,’ he said. ‘If she’s so sure it’s murder, why doesn’t she get her own agency to investigate it?’”

I don’t respond. The article was crap; they took the police’s side and didn’t even give a fair airing of my evidence.

“It makes me wonder about you, Emmy.” He puts his hands together and collects his thoughts, like he’s about to lecture a child. “Have you been getting therapy, Emmy? You badly need help. We’d love to have you return, of course, but only after we’ve seen some progress in your treatment.”

He can hardly suppress a smile as he says this. He and I have history; he was the one who had me brought up on disciplinary charges for inappropriate conduct that got me suspended—I’m sorry, in bureaucratic-legal lingo, placed on unpaid administrative leave. I’ve still got seven weeks before I return, and even then, it will be a sixty-day probationary period. If I hadn’t had a recent death in the family, I probably would have been canned.

He knows the real reason why I was brought up on charges. We both do. So he’s taunting me here. I can’t let him get under my skin. That’s what he wants. He wants me to blow up, so he can tell the brass that I’m not ready to return.

“Somebody’s running around the country killing people,” I say. “That should concern you whether I’m in therapy or not.”

His eyes narrow. He doesn’t have to do anything here; I’m the one who wants something. So this is his idea of torture, sitting there tight-lipped and stubborn.

“Concentrate on your rehabilitation, Emmy. Leave the law enforcement to us.”

He keeps repeating my name. I’d rather he spit on me and called me names. And he knows that. This is the passive-aggressive version of waterboarding. I wasn’t sure he’d see me today, unannounced. Now, I realize, he probably couldn’t wait to see me, to shut me down, to laugh directly in my face.

He and I have a history, like I said. Here’s the short version: he’s a pig.

“This isn’t about me,” I insist. “It’s about a guy who —”

“Are you feeling angry right now, Emmy? Do you feel like you’re in control of your emotions?” He looks me over with mock concern. “Because your face is getting red. Your hands are balled up in fists. I’m concerned you still can’t contain your emotions. We have counselors on staff, Emmy, if you need someone to talk to.”

He sounds like a late-night commercial for chemical dependency. We have counselors waiting to talk to you. Call now!

There’s no point in proceeding further, I realize. It was dumb of me to come. Dumb of me to expect he’d listen to me in person. I was screwed before I got here. I get up and turn to leave.

“Good luck with your therapy,” he calls out. “We’re all rooting for you.”

I stop at the door and look back at him.

“This man is killing people all over the country,” I say, one hand on his office door. “And it’s not that we’re chasing him and can’t catch him. It’s that we don’t even know there’s someone to catch. It’s like he doesn’t even exist to us.”

Nothing from the Dick but his cupped hand, a tiny wave good-bye. I slam the door behind me.

Copyright © 2014 by James Patterson

Audiobook (Unabridged CD)
ISBN: 1478900342
Hachette Audio

Read by January LaVoy and Kevin Collins

Audio Excerpts (MP3)
ISBN: 0316405345
416 pages
Little, Brown and Company
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