Kiss the GirlsJames Patterson
Kiss the Girls
Little, Brown and Company
New York Boston London
A Preview of Jack & Jill
A Preview of Kill Alex Cross
About the Author
Books by James Patterson
Table of Contents
For Isabelle Ann and Charles Henry
Boca Raton, Florida, June 1975
FOR THREE weeks, the young killer actually lived inside the walls of an extraordinary fifteen-room beach house.
He could hear the whispery Atlantic surf outside, but he was never tempted to look out at the ocean or the private white-sand beach that stretched to three hundred feet or more along the shore. There was too much to explore, to study, to accomplish, from his hiding place inside the dazzling Mediterranean- revival-style house in Boca. His pulse hadn’t stopped hammering for days.
Four people lived in the huge house: Michael and Hannah Pierce and their two daughters. The killer spied on the family in the most intimate ways, and at their most intimate moments. He loved all the little things about the Pierces, especially Hannah’s delicate seashell collection and the fun fleet of teak sailboats that hung from the ceiling in one of the guest rooms.
He watched the elder daughter, Coty, day and night. She attended St. Andrews High School with him. She was stunning. No girl in school was as beautiful or as smart as Coty. He was also keeping his eye on Karrie Pierce. She was only thirteen, but already a budding fox.
Although he was more than six feet tall, he easily fit into the air-conditioning ducts of the house. He was wire thin and hadn’t started to fill out yet. The killer was handsome in an Eastern preppy way.
Stashed in his hiding place were a handful of dirty novels, highly erotic books he had found during fevered shopping trips to Miami. He had become addicted to The Story of O, School Girls in Paris, and Voluptuous Initiations. He also kept a Smith and Wesson revolver in the walls with him.
He went in and out of the house through a casement window in the cellar that had a broken latch. Sometimes he even slept down there, behind an old, gently purring Westinghouse refrigerator, where the Pierces kept extra beer and soda pop for their gala parties, which often ended with a bonfire on the beach.
Truth be told, he was feeling a little extra weird that night in June, but nothing to worry about. No problems.
Earlier in the evening, he had handpainted his body in bright streaks and splashes of cherry red, orange, and cadmium yellow. He was a warrior; a hunter.
He huddled with his chrome-plated .22-caliber revolver, flashlight, and grope-books in the ceiling over Coty’s bedroom. Right on top of her, so to speak.
Tonight was the night of nights. The beginning of everything that really mattered in his life.
He settled in and began to reread favorite passages from School Girls in Paris. His pocket flashlight cast a dim light on the pages. The book was definitely a major turn-on, but also a big yuk. It was about a “respectable” French lawyer who paid a buxom headmistress to let him spend nights inside a hotsy-totsy boarding school for girls. The story was filled with the hokiest language: “his silver-tipped ferrule,” “his faithless truncheon,” “he gamahuched the ever-willing schoolgirls.”
After a while he got tired of reading, and peeked at his wristwatch. It was time now, almost 3:00 A.M. His hands were shaking as he put the book aside and peered through the cross-hatching of the grill.
He could barely catch his breath as he watched Coty in bed. The very real adventure was now before him. Just as he had imagined it.
He savored a thought: My real life is about to begin. Am I really going to do this? Yes, I am!…
He was definitely living in the walls of the Pierce beach house. Soon that nightmarish, eerie fact would dominate the front page of every major newspaper throughout the United States. He could hardly wait to read the Boca Raton News.
THE BOY IN THE WALLS!
THE KILLER WHO ACTUALLY LIVED IN THE WALLS OF A FAMILY’S HOUSE!
A STARK-RAVING HOMICIDAL MANIAC COULD BE LIVING IN YOUR HOUSE!
Coty Pierce was sleeping like the most beautiful little girl. She had on an oversized University of Miami Hurricanes T-shirt, but it had moved up and he could see the pink silk bikini panties underneath.
She slept on her back, one sunbrowned leg crossed over the other. Her pouty mouth was just slightly open, forming the tiniest o, and she looked all innocence and light from his vantage point.
She was almost a full-grown woman now. He’d watched her preen in front of the wall mirror just a few hours before. Watched her take off her pink lacy push-up bra. Watched her as she stared at her perfect breasts.
Coty was unbearably haughty and untouchable. Tonight he was going to change all that. He was going to take her.
Carefully, silently, he removed the metal grill in the ceiling. Then he crawled out of the wall and down into Coty’s sky-blue-and-pink bedroom. His chest felt constricted, and his breathing was quick and labored. One minute he felt hot, the next he was shivering and cold.
Two small plastic trash bags covered his feet and were secured around his ankles, and he wore the light blue rubber gloves that the Pierces’ maid used for housecleaning.
He felt like a sleek Ninja warrior and looked like Terror itself with his naked handpainted body. The perfect crime. He loved the feeling.
Could this be a dream? No, he knew it wasn’t a dream. This was the real deal. He was actually going to do this! He took a deep breath and felt a burning inside his lungs.
For a brief moment, he studied the peaceful young girl he’d admired so many times at St. Andrews. Then he quietly slipped into bed with the one-and-only Coty Pierce.
He took off a rubber glove and gently caressed her perfect, sun-bronzed skin. He pretended that he was smoothing coconut-scented suntan oil all over Coty. He was rock-hard already.
Her long blond hair was sunbleached and felt as soft as rabbit’s fur. It was thick and beautiful and smelled forest-clean, like balsam. Yes, dreams do come true.
Coty suddenly popped open her eyes. They were shiny emerald green gems, and they looked like priceless jewels from Harry Winston’s in Boca.
She breathlessly said his name—the name she knew him by at school. But he had given himself a new name; he’d named himself, recreated himself.
“What are you doing here,” she gasped. “How did you get in?”
“Surprise, surprise. I’m Casanova,” he whispered against her ear. His pulse was racing off the charts. “I chose you from all the beautiful girls in Boca Raton, in all of Florida. Aren’t you pleased?”
Coty started to scream. “Shush now,” he said, and smothered her small lovely mouth with his own. With a loving kiss.
He also kissed Hannah Pierce on that unforgettable evening of mayhem and murder in Boca Raton.
Shortly after, he kissed thirteen-year-old Karrie.
Before he was finished for the night, he knew that he really was Casanova—the world’s greatest lover.
THE GENTLEMAN CALLER
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, May 1981
HE WAS the perfect Gentleman. Always a Gentleman. Always unobtrusive and polite.
He thought about that as he listened to the two lovers talking in sibilant whispers as they strolled near University Lake. It was all so dreamily romantic. It was so right for him.
“Is this a good idea, or is this too dumb for words?” he heard Tom Hutchinson ask Roe Tierney.
They were maneuvering into a teal blue rowboat that was gently rocking alongside a long dock on the lake. Tom and Roe were going to “borro
w” the boat for a few hours. Sneaky college mischief.
“My great-granddaddy says drifting downstream in a rowboat doesn’t count against your life span,” Roe said. “It’s a great idea, Tommy. Let’s go for it.”
Tom Hutchinson started to laugh. “What if you do other things in said boat?” he asked.
“Well, if that includes aerobics of any sort, it might actually extend your life span.” Roe’s skirt rustled against her smooth thighs as she crossed her legs.
“Then stealing off in these nice people’s boat for a moonlight ride is a good idea,” said Tom.
“Great idea.” Roe held her ground. “The best. Let’s do it.”
As their rowboat left the dock, the Gentleman slipped into the water. He made no sound. He listened to every word, every movement, and every nuance of the lovers’ fascinating courting ritual.
There was almost a full moon, and it looked serene and beautiful to Tom and Roe as they slowly paddled out into the glistening lake. Earlier in the evening they had gone out for a romantic dinner in Chapel Hill, and they were both dressed to the hilt. Roe had on a pleated black skirt, a cream-colored silk blouse, silver shell earrings, and her roommate’s dress pearls. Perfect boating attire.
The Gentleman’s best guess was that Tom Hutchinson didn’t even own the gray suit that he had on. Tom came from Pennsylvania. He was an auto mechanic’s son who had made it to captain of the Duke football team, and had also managed to keep a grade index bordering on 4.0.
Roe and Tom were the “golden couple.” It was just about the only thing that students from Duke and the nearby University of North Carolina could agree on. The “scandal” of Duke’s football captain dating Carolina’s Azalea Queen made the romance even spicier.
They fumbled with uncooperative buttons and zippers as they slowly drifted on the lake. Roe wound up wearing only her earrings and the borrowed dress pearls. Tom had on his white shirt, but it was open all the way, making a kind of tent as he went inside Roe. Under the moon’s watchful eye, they began to make love.
Their bodies moved smoothly as the boat rocked gently and playfully. Roe made tiny moaning sounds, which intermingled with a chorus of cicadas playing shrilly in the distance.
The Gentleman felt a column of rage welling up inside him. His dark side was bursting through: the brutal, repressed animal, the modern-day werewolf.
Suddenly, Tom Hutchinson flopped out of Roe Tierney with a tiny thup. Something powerful was pulling him out of the boat. Before he hit the water, Roe heard him yell. It was a strange noise that sounded like yaaagghh.
Tom swallowed lake water and gagged violently. There was a terrible pain and stinging in his throat, localized pain, but very intense and frightening.
Then, whatever powerful force had pulled him backwards into the lake suddenly released him. The choking pressure left him. Just like that. He was being set free.
His large strong hands, quarterback hands, went up to his throat and touched something warm. Blood was gushing out of his throat and spreading through the lake water. A terrible fear, a feeling close to panic, gripped him.
Horrified, he felt his throat again and found the knife embedded there. Oh, Jesus God, he thought, I’ve been stabbed. I’m going to die at the bottom of this lake, and I don’t even know why.
In the rocking, drifting rowboat, meanwhile, Roe Tierney was too confused and shocked even to scream.
Her heart was pounding so rapidly and fiercely, she could hardly breathe. She stood up in the boat frantically searching for some sign of Tom.
This must be a sick joke, she thought. I will never go out with Tom Hutchinson again. Never marry him. Never in a million years. This is not funny. She was freezing, and she began to grope for her clothes in the bottom of the boat.
Swiftly, close to the boat, someone or something burst out of the black-looking water. It felt like an explosion under the lake.
Roe saw a head bobbing above the surface. Definitely a man’s head… but it wasn’t Tom Hutchinson.
“I didn’t mean to scare you.” The Gentleman spoke softly, almost conversationally. “Don’t be alarmed,” he whispered as he reached for the gunwale of the rocking boat. “We’re old friends. To be perfectly honest, I’ve watched you for over two years.”
Suddenly Roe started to scream as if there were no tomorrow.
For Roe Tierney, there wasn’t.
Washington, D.C., April 1994
I WAS on the sun porch of our house on Fifth Street when it all began. It was “pouring down rain” as my little girl Janelle likes to say, and the porch was a fine place to be. My grandmother had once taught me a prayer that I never forgot: “Thank you for everything just the way it is.” It seemed right that day—almost.
Stuck up on the porch wall was a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon. It showed the “Butlers of the World” annual banquet. One of the butlers had been murdered. A knife was in his chest right up to the hilt. A detective on the scene said, “God, Collings, I hate to start a Monday with a case like this.” The cartoon was there to remind me there was more to life than my job as a homicide detective in D.C. A two-year-old drawing of Damon’s tacked up next to the cartoon was inscribed: “For the best Daddy ever.” That was another reminder.
I played Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, and Bessie Smith tunes on our aging piano. The blues was having its sneaky-sad way with me lately. I’d been thinking about Jezzie Flanagan. I could see her beautiful, haunting face sometimes, when I stared off into the distance. I tried not to stare off into the distance too much.
My two kids, Damon and Janelle, were sitting on the trusty, if slightly rickety, piano bench beside me. Janelle had her small arm wrapped across my back as far as it would stretch, which was about one-third of the way.
She had a bag of Gummi Bears in her free hand. As always, she shared with her friends. I was slow-sucking a red Gummi.
She and Damon were whistling along with my piano playing, though for Jannie, whistling is more like spitting to a certain preestablished rhythm. A battered copy of Green Eggs and Ham sat on top of the piano, vibrating to the beat.
Both Jannie and Damon knew I was having some trouble in my life lately, for the past few months, anyway. They were trying to cheer me up. We were playing and whistling the blues, soul, and a little fusion, but we were also laughing and carrying on, as children like us will.
I loved these times with my kids more than I loved all the rest of my life put together, and I had been spending more and more time with them. The Kodak pictures of children always remind me that my babies will be seven and five years old only one time. I didn’t plan to miss any of it.
We were interrupted by the sound of heavy footsteps running up the wooden stairs of our back porch. Then the doorbell rang: one, two, three tinny rings. Whoever was out there was in a big hurry.
“Ding-dong the witch is dead.” Damon offered his inspirational thought for the moment. He was wearing wraparound shades, his impression of a cool dude. He was a cool little dude, actually.
“No, the witch isn’t,” countered Jannie. I’d recently noticed that she had become a staunch defender of her gender.
“It might not be news about the witch,” I said, with just the right timing and delivery. The kids laughed. They get most of my jokes, which is a frightening thought.
Someone began to pound insistently against the door frame, and my name was shouted in a plaintive and alarming way. Goddammit, leave us be. We don’t need anything plaintive or alarming in our lives right now.
“Dr. Cross, please come! Please! Dr. Cross,” the loud shouts continued. I didn’t recognize the woman’s voice, but privacy doesn’t seem to count when your first name is Doctor.
I held the kids down, my hands fastened onto the tops of their small heads. “I’m Dr. Cross, not you two. Just keep on humming and hold my place. I’ll be right back.”
“I’ll be back!” said Damon in his be
st Terminator voice. I smiled at his joke. He is a second-grade wiseguy already.
I hurried to the back door, grabbing my service revolver on the way. This can be a bad neighborhood even for a cop, which I am. I peered out through the foggy and grimy windowpanes to see who was on our porch steps.
I recognized the young woman. She lived in the Langley projects. Rita Washington was a twenty-three-year-old pipe-head who prowled our streets like a gray ghost. Rita was smart, nice enough, but impressionable and weak. She had taken a very bad turn in her life, lost her looks, and now was probably doomed.
I opened the door and felt a cold, wet gust of wind slap against my face. There was a lot of blood on Rita’s hands and wrists and on the front of her green fake-leather carcoat.
“Rita, what in hell happened to you?” I asked. I guessed that she’d been gut-shot or stabbed over some drugs.
“Please, please come with me.” Rita Washington started to cough and sob at the same time. “It little Marcus Daniels,” she said, and cried even louder. “He been stabbed! It be real bad! He call your name. He ask for you, Dr. Cross.”
“You stay there, kids! I’ll be right back!” I shouted over Rita Washington’s hysterical cries. “Nana, please watch the kids!” I yelled even louder. “Nana, I have to go out!” I grabbed my coat and followed Rita Washington into the cold, teeming rain.
I tried not to step on the bright red blood dripping like wet paint all over our porch steps.
I RAN as fast as I could down Fifth Street. I could feel my heart going whump, whump, whump, and I was sweating profusely in spite of the nasty, steady, cold spring rain. Blood was pounding furiously in my head. Every muscle and tendon in my body was straining, and my stomach clenched real hard.
I held eleven-year-old Marcus Daniels in my arms, clutched tightly against my chest. The little boy was bleeding badly. Rita Washington had found Marcus on the oily, darkened stairway leading to the basement in his building and had taken me to his crumpled body.