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Jeffery Deaver

  Also by Jeffery Deaver

  The Vanished Man

  The Stone Monkey

  The Blue Nowhere

  The Empty Chair

  Speaking in Tongues

  The Devil’s Teardrop

  The Coffin Dancer

  The Bone Collector

  A Maiden’s Grave

  Praying for Sleep

  The Lesson of Her Death

  Mistress of Justice

  Hard News

  Death of a Blue Movie Star

  Manhattan Is My Beat

  Hell’s Kitchen

  Bloody River Blues

  Shallow Graves


  Rockefeller Center

  1230 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, NY 10020

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2003 by Jeffery Deaver

  All rights reserved,

  including the right of reproduction

  in whole or in part in any form.

  “All the World’s a Stage” previously appeared in Much Ado About Murder (Berkley Prime Crime).

  “Beautiful” previously appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The World’s Finest Mystery and Crime Stories: Third Annual Collection: Vol. 3 (Forge).

  “The Blank Card” previously appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

  “Eye to Eye” previously appeared in Irreconcilable Differences (HarperCollins).

  “The Fall Guy” previously appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories, 7th Edition (Carroll and Graf).

  “For Services Rendered” previously appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The World’s Finest Crime and Mystery Stories, 1st Edition (Berkley).

  “Gone Fishing” previously appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

  “The Kneeling Soldier” previously appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The Year’s 25 Best Crime, 7th Edition (Carroll and Graf).

  “Lesser Included Offense” previously appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

  “Nocturne” previously appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Blue Lightning (Slow Dancer).

  “Together” previously appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Crimes of the Heart (Berkley) and Opening Shots, Vol. 2 (Cumberland House).

  “Triangle” previously appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

  “The Weekender” previously appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and A Century of Great Suspense Stories (Berkley) and Best American Mysteries #1 (Houghton Mifflin).

  “The Widow of Pine Creek” previously appeared in A Confederacy of Crime (Signet) and The World’s Finest Mystery and Crime Stories: Second Annual Collection: Vol. 2 (Forge).

  “Without Jonathan” previously appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

  SIMON & SCHUSTER and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  Designed by Joel Avirom and Jason Snyder

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.

  ISBN 0-7432-6236-0

  Visit us on the World Wide Web:

  To my sister and fellow writer, Julie Reece Deaver



  Without Jonathan

  The Weekender

  For Services Rendered


  The Fall Guy

  Eye to Eye


  All the World’s a Stage

  Gone Fishing


  Lesser-Included Offense

  The Blank Card

  The Christmas Present


  The Widow of Pine Creek

  The Kneeling Soldier


  M y experience with the short story form goes back to the distant past.

  I was a clumsy, chubby, socially awkward boy with no aptitude for sports whatsoever and, as befit someone like that, I was drawn to reading and writing, particularly the works of short story writers like Poe, O. Henry, A. Conan Doyle and Ray Bradbury, not to mention one of the greatest forums for short surprise-ending drama in the past fifty years: The Twilight Zone. (I defy any fans of the show to tell me they don’t get a chill recalling the famous social services manual, To Serve Man.)

  When I was given a writing assignment in junior high school, I’d invariably try my hand at a short story. I didn’t, however, write detective or science fiction stories, but, with youthful hubris, created my own subgenre of fiction: These tales usually involved clumsy, chubby, socially awkward boys rescuing cheerleaders and pompom girls from catastrophes that were both spectacular and highly improbable, such as my heroes’ daring mountaineering exploits (embarrassingly set just outside of Chicago, where I lived, and where mountains were conspicuously absent).

  The stories were met with just the exasperation you’d expect from teachers who’d spent hours offering us the entire pantheon of literary superstars as models. (“Let’s push ourselves, Jeffery”—the 1960s’ equivalent of today’s jargon, “Think outside the box.”) Fortunately for their sanity, and my career as a scribe, I abandoned this vein of angst-ridden outpourings rather quickly and grew more diligent in my efforts to become a writer, a path that led me to poetry, songwriting, journalism and, eventually, novels.

  Although I continued to read and enjoy short fiction—in Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock, Playboy (a publication that I’m told also featured photography), The New Yorker and anthologies—I just didn’t seem to have the time to write any myself. But a few years after I quit my day job to be a full-time novelist, a fellow author, compiling an anthology of original short stories, asked if I’d consider contributing one to the volume.

  Why not? I asked myself and plowed ahead.

  I found, to my surprise, that the experience was absolutely delightful—and for a reason I hadn’t expected. In my novels, I adhere to strict conventions; though I love to make evil appear to be good (and vice versa) and to dangle the potential for disaster before my readers, nonetheless, in the end, good is good and bad is bad, and good more or less prevails. Authors have a contract with their readers and I think too much of mine to have them invest their time, money and emotion in a full-length novel, only to leave them disappointed by a grim, cynical ending.

  With a thirty-page short story, however, all bets are off.

  Readers don’t have the same emotional investment as in a novel. The payoff in the case of short stories isn’t a roller coaster of plot reversals involving characters they’ve spent 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, most fun of all, really good really bad.

  I found too that as a craftsman, I like the discipline required by short stories. As I tell writing students, it’s far easier to write long than it is to write short, but of course this business isn’t about what’s easy for the author; it’s about what’s best for the reader, and short fiction doesn’t let us get away with slacking off.

  Finally, a word of thanks to those who’ve encouraged me to write these stories, particularly Janet Hutchings and her inestimable Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, its sister publication Alfred Hitchcock, Marty Greenberg and the crew at Teknobooks, Otto Penzler and Evan Hunter.

  The stories that follow are quite varied, with characters ranging from William Shakespeare to brilliant attorneys to savvy lowlifes to despicable killers to families that c
an, at the most generous, be called dysfunctional. I’ve written an original Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs story, “The Christmas Present,” just for this volume, and see if you can spot the revenge-of-the-nerd tale included here, a—dare I say—twisted throw-back to my days as an adolescent writer. Unfortunately, as with most of my writing, I can’t say much more for fear I’ll drop hints that spoil the twists. Perhaps it’s best to say simply: Read, enjoy…and remember that not all is what it seems to be.


  Without Jonathan

  M arissa Cooper turned her car onto Route 232, which would take her from Portsmouth to Green Harbor, twenty miles away.

  Thinking: This was the same road that she and Jonathan had taken to and from the mall a thousand times, carting back necessities, silly luxuries and occasional treasures.

  The road near which they’d found their dream house when they’d moved to Maine seven years ago.

  The road they’d taken to go to their anniversary celebration last May.

  Tonight, though, all those memories led to one place: her life without Jonathan.

  The setting sun behind her, she steered through the lazy turns, hoping to lose those difficult—but tenacious—thoughts.

  Don’t think about it!

  Look around you, she ordered herself. Look at the rugged scenery: the slabs of purple clouds hanging over the maple and oak leaves—some gold, some red as a heart.

  Look at the sunlight, a glowing ribbon draped along the dark pelt of hemlock and pine. At the absurd line of cows, walking single file in their spontaneous day-end commute back to the barn.

  At the stately white spires of a small village, tucked five miles off the highway.

  And look at you: a thirty-four-year-old woman in a sprightly silver Toyota, driving fast, toward a new life.

  A life without Jonathan.

  Twenty minutes later she came to Dannerville and braked for the first of the town’s two stoplights. As her car idled, clutch in, she glanced to her right. Her heart did a little thud at what she saw.

  It was a store that sold boating and fishing gear. She’d noticed in the window an ad for some kind of marine engine treatment. In this part of coastal Maine you couldn’t avoid boats. They were in tourist paintings and photos, on mugs, T-shirts and key chains. And, of course, there were thousands of the real things everywhere: vessels in the water, on trailers, in dry docks, sitting in front yards—the New England version of pickup trucks on blocks in the rural South.

  But what had struck her hard was that the boat pictured in the ad she was now looking at was a Chris-Craft. A big one, maybe thirty-six or thirty-eight feet.

  Just like Jonathan’s boat. Nearly identical, in fact: the same colors, the same configuration.

  He’d bought his five years ago, and though Marissa thought his interest in it would flag (like that of any boy with a new toy) he’d proved her wrong and spent nearly every weekend on the vessel, cruising up and down the coast, fishing like an old cod deckhand. Her husband would bring home the best of his catch, which she would clean and cook up.

  Ah, Jonathan…

  She swallowed hard and inhaled slowly to calm her pounding heart. She—

  A honk behind her. The stoplight had changed to green. She drove on, trying desperately to keep her mind from speculating about his death: The Chris-Craft rocking unsteadily in the turbulent gray Atlantic. Jonathan overboard. His arms perhaps flailing madly, his panicked voice perhaps crying for help.

  Oh, Jonathan…

  Marissa cruised through Dannerville’s second light and continued toward the coast. In front of her she could see, in the last of the sunlight, the skirt of the Atlantic, all that cold, deadly water.

  The water responsible for life without Jonathan.

  Then she told herself: No. Think about Dale instead.

  Dale O’Banion, the man she was about to have dinner with in Green Harbor, the first time she’d been out with a man in a long while.

  She’d met him through an ad in a magazine. They’d spoken on the phone a few times and, after considerable waltzing around on both their parts, she’d felt comfortable enough to suggest meeting in person. They’d settled on the Fishery, a popular restaurant on the wharf.

  Dale had mentioned the Oceanside Café, which had better food, yes, but that was Jonathan’s favorite place; she just couldn’t meet Dale there.

  So the Fishery it was.

  She thought back to their phone conversation last night. Dale had said to her, “I’m tall and pretty well built, little balding on top.”

  “Okay, well,” she’d replied nervously, “I’m five-five, blonde, and I’ll be wearing a purple dress.”

  Thinking about those words now, thinking how that simple exchange typified single life, meeting people you’d met only over the phone.

  She had no problem with dating. In fact she was looking forward to it, in a way. She’d met her husband when he was just graduating from medical school and she was twenty-one. They’d gotten engaged almost immediately; that’d been the end of her social life as a single woman. But now she’d have some fun. She’d meet interesting men, she’d begin to enjoy sex again.

  Even if it was work at first, she’d try to just relax. She’d try not to be bitter, try not to be too much of a widow.

  But even as she was thinking this her thoughts went somewhere else: Would she ever actually fall in love again?

  The way she’d once been so completely in love with Jonathan?

  And would anybody love her completely?

  At another red light Marissa reached up and twisted the mirror toward her, glanced into it. The sun was now below the horizon and the light was dim but she believed she passed the rearview-mirror test with flying colors: full lips, a wrinkleless face reminiscent of Michelle Pfeiffer’s (in a poorly lit Toyota accessory, at least), a petite nose.

  Then, too, her bod was slim and pretty firm, and, though she knew her boobs wouldn’t land her on the cover of the latest Victoria’s Secret catalog, she had a feeling that, in a pair of nice, tight jeans, her butt’d draw some serious attention.

  At least in Portsmouth, Maine.

  Hell, yes, she told herself, she’d find a man who was right for her.

  Somebody who could appreciate the cowgirl within her, the girl whose Texan grandfather had taught her to ride and shoot.

  Or maybe she’d find somebody who’d love her academic side—her writing and poetry and her love of teaching, which had been her job just after college.

  Or somebody who could laugh with her—at movies, at sights on the sidewalk, at funny jokes and dumb ones. How she loved laughing (and how little of it she’d done lately).

  Then Marissa Cooper thought: No, wait, wait…She’d find a man who loved everything about her.

  But then the tears started and she pulled off the road quickly, surrendering to the sobs.

  “No, no, no…”

  She forced the images of her husband out of her mind.

  The cold water, the gray water…

  Five minutes later she’d calmed down. Wiped her eyes dry, reapplied makeup and lipstick.

  She drove into downtown Green Harbor and parked in a lot near the shops and restaurants, a half block from the wharf.

  A glance at the clock. It was just six-thirty. Dale O’Banion had told her that he’d be working until about seven and would meet her at seven-thirty.

  She’d come to town early to do some shopping—a little retail therapy. After that she’d go to the restaurant to wait for Dale O’Banion. But then she wondered uneasily if it would be all right if she sat in the bar by herself and had a glass of wine.

  Then she said to herself sternly, What the hell’re you thinking? Of course it’d be all right. She could do anything she wanted. This was her night.

  Go on, girl, get out there. Get started on your new life.

  Unlike upscale Green Harbor, fifteen miles south, Yarmouth, Maine, is largely a fishing and packing town and, as such, is studded with shacks an
d bungalows whose occupants prefer transport like F-150s and Japanese half-tons. SUVs too, of course.

  But just outside of town is a cluster of nice houses set in the woods on a hillside overlooking the bay. The cars in these driveways are Lexuses and Acuras mostly and the SUVs here sport leather interiors and GPS systems and not, unlike their downtown neighbors, rude bumper stickers or Jesus fish.

  The neighborhood even has a name: Cedar Estates.

  In his tan coveralls Joseph Bingham now walked up the driveway of one of these houses, glancing at his watch. He double-checked the address to make sure he had the right house then rang the bell. A moment later a pretty woman in her late thirties opened the door. She was thin, her hair a little frizzy, and even through the screen door she smelled of alcohol. She wore skintight jeans and a white sweater.


  “I’m with the cable company.” He showed her the ID. “I have to reset your converter boxes.”

  She blinked. “The TV?”

  “That’s right.”

  “They were working yesterday.” She turned to look hazily at the gray glossy rectangle of the large set in her living room. “Wait, I was watching CNN earlier. It was fine.”

  “You’re only getting half the channels you’re supposed to. The whole neighborhood is. We have to reset them manually. Or I can reschedule if—”

  “Naw, it’s okay. Don’t wanta miss COPS. Come on in.”

  Joseph walked inside, felt her eyes on him. He got this a lot. His career wasn’t the best in the world and he wasn’t classically good-looking but he was in great shape—he worked out every day—and he’d been told he “exuded” some kind of masculine energy. He didn’t know about that. He liked to think he just had a lot of self-confidence.

  “You want a drink?” she asked.

  “Can’t on the job.”