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More Twisted: Collected Stories, Vol. II

Jeffery Deaver

  More Twisted: Collected Stories, Vol. II

  Jeffery Deaver

  New York Times bestselling author Jeffery Deaver has famously thrilled and chilled fans with tales of masterful villains and the brilliant minds who bring them to justice. Now the author of the Lincoln Rhyme series (The Cold Moon and The Bone Collector, among others) has compiled a second volume of his award-winning, spine-tingling short stories of suspense.

  While best known for his twenty-four novels, Jeffery Deaver is also a short story master — he is a three-time recipient of the Ellery Queen Reader’s Award for Best Short Story, and he won the Short Story Dagger from the Crime Writers Association for a piece that appeared in his first short story collection, Twisted. The New York Times said of that book: “A mystery hit for those who like their intrigue short and sweet… [The stories] feature tight, bare-bones plotting and the sneaky tricks that Mr. Deaver’s title promises.” The sneaky tricks are here in spades, and Deaver even gives his fans a new Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs story.

  Deaver is back with sixteen stories in the tradition of O. Henry and Edgar Allan Poe. His subjects range from a Westchester commuter to a brilliant Victorian England caper. With these intricately plotted, bone-chilling stories, Jeffery Deaver is at the top of his crime-writing game.

  This collection includes sixteen stories. The titles of the stories are:

  Chapter and Verse

  The Commuter

  The Westphalian Ring


  Born Bad



  Double Jeopardy

  Tunnel Girl

  Locard’s Principle

  A Dish Served Cold


  The Voyeur

  The Poker Lesson

  Ninety-Eight Point Six

  A Nice Place to Visit

  Jeffery Deaver

  More Twisted: Collected Stories, Vol. II

  To John Gilstrap


  From time to time I do something even more terrifying than write sick and twisted novels and stories; I grab a microphone and get up in front of a roomful of people.

  No, I’m not talking American Idol; I’m referring to teaching writing.

  One of the most often asked questions when I’m playing professor is this: Should I start writing short stories and then work my way up to novels? My answer is no. It’s not like starting to ride a tricycle and then graduating to a bike. Forgive my clumsy mixing of metaphors, but short stories and novels aren’t even apples and oranges; they’re apples and potatoes.

  Novels seek to emotionally engage readers on all levels, and, to achieve that goal, authors must develop characters in depth, create realistic settings, do extensive research and come up with a structured pacing that alternates between the thoughtful and the rip-roaring.

  A short story’s different. As I said in the introduction to my first collection of stories,

  The payoff in the case of short stories isn’t a roller coaster of plot reversals involving characters they’ve spent lots of time learning about and loving or hating, set in places with atmosphere carefully described. Short stories are like a sniper’s bullet. Fast and shocking. In a story, I can make good bad and bad badder and, the most fun of all, really bad seem good.

  The title of my anthologies (Twisted was the first) is no coincidence. To me, that big oh-my-God surprise is what short stories are all about. A few years ago I wrote a book about a psychotic illusionist and I realized that the novel was, in some ways, about me (as a writer, let me add quickly, not as a psycho or a magician). In researching the book I learned a lot about sleight of hand, misdirection, diversion and illusion, and I understood that those tricks are exactly what I’ve been doing for years to lull my readers into complacency and then, bang, zing ’em when they least expect it.

  While they’re watching my left hand, my right is getting ready to strike.

  Since that first collection was published in 2003, I’ve kept up my guilty pleasure of taking off a day or two here and there and writing more stories, all of which adhere to the philosophy I mention above: throw morality and sentiment out the window, and go for the gut-wrenching twist.

  In this collection, like my previous one, you’ll find a wide variety of stories, which incorporate my favorite themes: revenge, lust, psychosis, betrayal and greed, along with a healthy (so to speak) dose of family dysfunction. There’s one story set in Italy and one in Victorian England. One features a slick lawyer in a small town and another finds gullible tourists in a big one. You’ll see Peeping Toms, remorseless murderers, my own take on The Da Vinci Code and even a story about — who’d’ve thought? — an author who writes suspense.

  And for those who’d like an insight into tricks of the trade, I’ve included in an afterword a short piece about one of the stories here (“Afraid”), which I wrote as an illustration of how I incorporate the concept of fear into my fiction. I’ve placed it at the end, so as not to give away any susprises.

  Finally, a word of thanks to those who’ve encouraged me to write these stories, particularly Janet Hutchins and her inestimable Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Marty Greenburg, Otto Penzler, Deborah Schneider, David Rosenthal, Marysue Rucci and, as always, Madelyn Warcholik.

  So, sit back and enjoy — and see if you can outguess me. Keep your eye on my right hand.

  Or do I mean left?

  — J.W.D.


  Reverend… can I call you ‘Reverend’?”

  The round, middle-aged man in the clerical collar smiled. “That works for me.”

  “I’m Detective Mike Silverman with the County Sheriff’s Department.”

  Reverend Stanley Lansing nodded and examined the ID and badge that the nervously slim, salt-and-pepper — haired detective offered.

  “Is something wrong?”

  “Nothing involving you, sir. Not directly, I mean. Just hoping you might be able to help us with a situation we have.”

  “Situation. Hmm. Well, come on inside, please, Officer…”

  The men walked into the office connected to the First Presbyterian Church of Bedford, a quaint, white house of worship that Silverman had passed a thousand times on his route between office and home and never really thought about.

  That is, not until the murder this morning.

  Reverend Lansing’s office was musty and a gauze of dust covered most of the furniture. He seemed embarrassed. “Have to apologize. My wife and I’ve been away on vacation for the past week. She’s still up at the lake. I came back to write my sermon — and to deliver it to my flock this Sunday, of course.” He gave a wry laugh. “If there’s anybody in the pews. Funny how religious commitment seems to go up around Christmas and then dip around vacation time.” Then the man of the cloth looked around the office with a frown. “And I’m afraid I don’t have anything to offer you. The church secretary’s off too. Although between you and me, you’re better off not sampling her coffee.”

  “No, I’m fine,” Silverman said.

  “So, what can I do for you, Officer?”

  “I won’t keep you long. I need some religious expertise on a case we’re running. I would’ve gone to my father’s rabbi but my question’s got to do with the New Testament. That’s your bailiwick, right? More than ours.”

  “Well,” the friendly, gray-haired reverend said, wiping his glasses on his jacket lapel and replacing them, “I’m just a small-town pastor, hardly an expert. But I probably know Matthew, Mark, Luke and John better than your average rabbi, I suspect. Now, tell me how I can help.”

  “You’ve heard about the witness protection program, r

  “Like Goodfellas, that sort of thing? The Sopranos.”

  “More or less, yep. The U.S. Marshals run the federal program but we have our own state witness protection system.”

  “Really? I didn’t know that. But I guess it makes sense.”

  “I’m in charge of the program in the county here and one of the people we’re protecting is about to appear as a witness in a trial in Hamilton. It’s our job to keep him safe through the trial and after we get a conviction — we hope — then we’ll get him a new identity and move him out of the state.”

  “A Mafia trial?”

  “Something like that.”

  Silverman couldn’t go into the exact details of the case — how the witness, Randall Pease, a minder for drug dealer Tommy Doyle, had seen his boss put a bullet into the brain of a rival. Despite Doyle’s reputation for ruthlessly murdering anyone who was a threat to him, Pease agreed to testify for a reduced sentence on assault, drug and gun charges. The state prosecutor shipped Pease off to Silverman’s jurisdiction, a hundred miles from Hamilton, to keep him safe; rumor was that Doyle would do anything, pay any money, to kill his former underling — since Pease’s testimony could get him the death penalty or put him away for life. Silverman had stashed the witness in a safe house near the Sheriff’s Department and put a round-the-clock guard on him. The detective gave the reverend a generic description of what had happened, not mentioning names, and then said, “But there’s been a setback. We had a CI — a confidential informant—”

  “That’s a snitch, right?”

  Silverman laughed.

  “I learned that from Law and Order. I watch it every chance I get. CSI too. I love cop shows.” He frowned. “You mind if I say ‘cop’?”

  “Works for me…. Anyway, the informant got solid information that a professional killer’s been hired to murder our witness before the trial next week.”

  “A hit man?”


  “Oh, my.” The reverend frowned as he touched his neck and rubbed it near the stiff white clerical collar, where it seemed to chafe.

  “But the bad guys made the snitch — found out about him, I mean — and had him killed before he could give us the details about who the hit man is and how he planned to kill my witness.”

  “Oh, I’m so sorry,” the reverend said sympathetically. “I’ll say a prayer for the man.”

  Silverman grunted anemic thanks but his true thoughts were that the scurvy little snitch deserved an express-lane ride to hell — not only for being a loser punk addict, but for dying before he could give the detective the particulars about the potential hit on Pease. Detective Mike Silverman didn’t share with the minister that he himself had been in trouble lately in the Sheriff’s Department and had been shipped off to Siberia — witness protection — because he hadn’t closed any major cases in a while. He needed to make sure this assignment went smoothly, and he absolutely could not let Pease get killed.

  The detective continued, “Here’s where you come in — I hope. When the informant was stabbed, he didn’t die right away. He managed to write a note — about a Bible passage. We think it was a clue as to how the hit man was going to kill our witness. But it’s like a puzzle. We can’t figure it out.”

  The reverend seemed intrigued. “Something from the New Testament, you said?”

  “Yep,” Silverman said. He opened his notebook. “The note said, ‘He’s on his way. Look out.’ Then he wrote a chapter and verse from the Bible. We think he was going to write something else but he didn’t get a chance. He was Catholic so we figure he knew the bible pretty well — and knew something in particular in that passage that’d tell us how the hit man’s going to come after our witness.”

  The reverend turned around and looked for a Bible on his shelf. Finally he located one and flipped it open. “What verse?”

  “Luke, twelve, fifteen.”

  The minister found the passage and read. “‘Then to the people he said, ‘Beware! Be on your guard against greed of every kind, for even when someone has more than enough, his possessions do not give him life.’”

  “My partner brought a Bible from home. He’s Christian, but he’s not real religious, not a Bible-thumper…. Oh, hey, no offense.”

  “None taken. We’re Presbyterians. We don’t thump.”

  Silverman smiled. “He didn’t have any idea of what that might mean. I got to thinking about your church — it’s the closest one to the station house — so I thought I’d stop by and see if you can help us out. Is there anything in there you can see that’d suggest how the defendant might try to kill our witness?”

  The reverend read some more from the tissue-thin pages. “This section is in one of the Gospels — where different disciples tell the story of Jesus. In chapter twelve of Luke, Jesus is warning the people about the Pharisees, urging them not to live a sinful life.”

  “Who were they exactly, the Pharisees?”

  “They were a religious sect. In essence they believed that God existed to serve them, not the other way around. They felt they were better than everyone else and put people down. Well, that was the story back then — you never know, of course, if it’s accurate. People did just as much political spinning then as they do now.” Reverend Lansing tried to turn on the desk lamp but it didn’t work. He fiddled with the curtains, finally opening them and letting more light into the murky office. He read the passage several times more, squinting in concentration, nodding. Silverman looked around the dim place. Books mostly. It seemed more like a professor’s study than a church office. No pictures or anything else personal. You’d think even a minister would have pictures of family on his desk or walls.

  Finally the man looked up. “So far, nothing really jumps out at me.” He seemed frustrated.

  Silverman felt the same way. Ever since the CI had been found stabbed to death that morning, the detective had been wrestling with the words from the gospel according to Luke, trying to decipher the meaning.


  Reverend Lansing continued, “But I have to say, I’m fascinated with the idea. It’s just like The Da Vinci Code. You read it?”


  “It was great fun. All about secret codes and hidden messages. Say, if it’s okay with you, Detective, I’d like to spend some time researching, doing some thinking about this. I love puzzles.”

  “I’d appreciate it, Reverend.”

  “I’ll do what I can. You have that man under pretty good guard, I assume?”

  “Oh, you bet, but it’ll be risky getting him to court. We’ve got to figure out how the hit man’s going to come at him.”

  “And the sooner the better, I assume.”


  “I’ll get right to it.”

  Grateful for the man’s willingness to help, but discouraged he had no quick answers, Silverman walked out through the silent, deserted church. He climbed into his car and drove to the safe house, checked on Ray Pease. The witness was his typical obnoxious self, complaining constantly, but the officer babysitting him reported that there’d been no sign of any threats around the safe house. The detective then returned to the department.

  In his office Silverman made a few calls to see if any of his other CIs had heard about the hired killer; they hadn’t. His eyes kept returning to the passage, taped up on the wall in front of his desk.

  “Beware! Be on your guard against greed of every kind, for even when someone has more than enough, his possessions do not give him life.”

  A voice startled him. “Wanta get some lunch?”

  He looked up to find his partner, Steve Noveski, standing in the doorway. The junior detective, with a pleasant, round baby face, was staring obviously at his watch.

  Silverman, still lost in the mysterious Bible passage, just stared at him.

  “Lunch, dude,” Noveski repeated. “I’m starving.”

  “Naw, I’ve gotta get this figured out.” He tapped the Bible. “I’m kind of ob
sessed with it.”

  “Like, you think?” the other detective said, packing as much sarcasm into his voice as would fit.

  * * *

  That night Silverman returned home and sat distractedly through dinner with his family. His widower father had joined them, and the old man wasn’t pleased that his son was so preoccupied.

  “And what’s that you’re reading that’s so important? The New Testament?” The man nodded toward the Bible he’d seen his son poring over before dinner. He shook his head and turned to his daughter-in-law. “The boy hasn’t been to temple in years and he couldn’t find the Pentateuch his mother and I gave him if his life depended on it. Now look, he’s reading about Jesus Christ. What a son.”

  “It’s for a case, Dad,” Silverman said. “Listen, I’ve got some work to do. I’ll see you guys later. Sorry.”

  “See you later sorry?” the man muttered. “And you say ‘you guys’ to your wife? Don’t you have any respect—”

  Silverman closed the door to his den, sat down at his desk and checked messages. The forensic scientist testing the murdered CI’s note about the Bible passage had called to report there was no significant evidence to be found on the sheet and neither the paper nor the ink were traceable. A handwriting comparison suggested that it had been written by the victim but he couldn’t be one hundred percent certain.

  And, as the hours passed, there was still no word from Reverend Lansing. Sighing, Silverman stretched and stared at the words once again.

  “Beware! Be on your guard against greed of every kind, for even when someone has more than enough, his possessions do not give him life.”

  He grew angry. A man died leaving these words to warn them. What was he trying to say?

  Silverman had a vague memory of his father saying good-bye that night and later still an even more vague memory of his wife saying good night, the den door closing abruptly. She was mad. But Michael Silverman didn’t care. All that mattered at the moment was finding the meaning to the message.