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Solitude Creek: Kathryn Dance Book 4

Jeffery Deaver


  Also by Jeffery Deaver

  Title Page




  Frenzy: Tuesday, April 4

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Baseline: Wednesday, April 5

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  The Get: Thursday, April 6

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Precautions: Friday, April 7

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Flash Mob: Saturday, April 8

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  The Secrets Club: Sunday, April 9

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  Chapter 61

  Chapter 62

  Chapter 63

  Chapter 64

  Chapter 65

  Chapter 66

  Chapter 67

  Chapter 68

  Chapter 69

  Chapter 70

  Chapter 71

  Chapter 72

  The Blood of All: Monday, April 10

  Chapter 73

  Chapter 74

  Chapter 75

  Chapter 76

  Chapter 77

  Chapter 78

  Chapter 79

  Chapter 80

  Chapter 81

  Chapter 82

  Chapter 83

  Chapter 84

  Chapter 85

  The Last Dare: Tuesday, April 11

  Chapter 86

  Chapter 87

  Chapter 88

  Chapter 89

  Chapter 90

  Chapter 91

  Chapter 92


  About the Author

  Also by Jeffery Deaver

  Mistress of Justice

  The Lesson of Her Death

  Praying for Sleep

  Speaking in Tongues

  A Maiden’s Grave

  The Devil’s Teardrop

  The Blue Nowhere

  Garden of Beasts

  The Bodies Left Behind


  The October List


  Manhattan is My Beat

  Death of a Blue Movie Star

  Hard News


  Shallow Graves

  Bloody River Blues

  Hell’s Kitchen


  The Bone Collector

  The Coffin Dancer

  The Empty Chair

  The Stone Monkey

  The Vanished Man

  The Twelfth Card

  The Cold Moon

  The Broken Window

  The Burning Wire

  The Kill Room

  The Skin Collector


  The Sleeping Doll

  Roadside Crosses



  Carte Blanche



  More Twisted

  Trouble in Mind

  First published in the United States of America in 2015 by Grand Central Publishing

  First published in Great Britain in 2015 by Hodder & Stoughton

  An Hachette UK company


  Copyright © Gunner Publications, LLC 2015

  The right of Jeffery Deaver to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

  All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

  A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library

  Hardback ISBN 978 1 444 75739 2

  Trade paperback ISBN 9 781 444 75740 8

  Ebook ISBN 978 1 444 75741 5

  Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

  Carmelite House

  50 Victoria Embankment

  London EC4Y 0DZ

  To Libraries and Librarians everywhere …

  Fear is the mind-killer.

  – Frank Herbert, Dune




  The roadhouse was comfortable, friendly, inexpensive. All good.

  Safe, too. Better.

  You always thought about that when you took your teenage daughter out for a night of music.

  Michelle Cooper did, in any event. Safe when it came to the band and their music, the customers, the wait staff.

  The club itself, too, the parking lot – well lit – and the fire doors and sprinklers.

  Michelle always checked these. The teenage-daughter part again.

  Solitude Creek attracted a varied clientele, young and old, male and female, white and Latino and Asian, a few African Americans, a mirror of the Monterey Bay area. Now, just after seven thirty, she looked around, noting the hundreds of patrons who’d come from this and surrounding counties, all in buoyant mood, looking forward to seeing a band on the rise. If they brought with them any cares, those troubles were tucked tightly away at the prospect of beer, whimsical cocktails, chicken wings and music.

  The group had flown in from LA, a garage band turned backup turned roadhouse headliner, thanks to Twitter and YouTube and Vidster. Word of mouth, and talent, sold groups nowadays, and the six boys in Lizard Annie worked as hard on their phones as onstage. They weren’t O.A.R. or Linkin Park but were soon to be, with a bit of luck.

  They certainly had Michelle and Trish’s support. In fact, the cute boy band had a pretty solid mom-daughter fan base, judging by a look around the room tonight: other parents and their teenagers – the lyrics were rated PG at the raunchiest. For this evening’s show the ages of those in the audience ranged from sixteen to forty, give or take. Okay, Michelle admitted, maybe mid-forties.

  She noted the Samsung in her daughter’s grip and said, ‘Text later. Not now


  ‘Who is it?’


  A nice girl from Trish’s music class.

  ‘Two minutes.’

  The club was filling up. Solitude Creek was a forty-year-old, single-story building featuring a small, rectangular dance floor of scuffed oak, ringed with high-top tables and stools. The stage, three feet high, was at the north end; the bar was opposite. A kitchen, east, served full menus, which eliminated the age barrier of attendance: only liquor-serving venues that offered food were permitted to seat children. Three fire-exit doors were against the west wall.

  On the dark-wood paneling there were posters and during-the-show photos, complete with real and fake autographs, of many of the groups that had appeared at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967: Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Ravi Shankar, Al Kooper, Country Joe. Dozens of others. In a grimy Plexiglas case there was a fragment of an electric guitar, reportedly one destroyed by Pete Townshend of The Who after the group’s performance at the event.

  The tables at Solitude Creek were first come, first claimed, and all were filled – the show was only twenty minutes away now. Presently servers circulated with last-minute orders, plates of hefty burgers and wings and drinks on trays hovering atop their stable, splayed palms. From behind the stage, a miaow of tuning guitar strings and an arpeggio chord from a sax, a chunky A from a bass. Anticipation now. Those exciting moments before the music begins to seize and seduce.

  The voices were loud, words indistinct, as the untabled patrons jockeyed for the best position in the standing-room area. Since the stage wasn’t high and the floor was flat, it was sometimes hard to get a good view of the acts. A bit of jostling but few hard words.

  That was the Solitude Creek club. No hostility.

  Safe …

  However, there was one thing that Michelle Cooper didn’t care for. The claustrophobia. The ceilings in the club were low and that accentuated the closeness. The dim room was not particularly spacious, the ventilation not the best; a mix of body scent, aftershave and perfume clung, stronger even than grill and fry-tank aromas, adding to the sense of confinement. The sense that you were packed in tight as canned fish. No, that never sat well with Michelle Cooper.

  She brushed absently at her frosted blonde hair, looked again at the exit doors – not far away – and felt reassured.

  Another sip of wine.

  She noted Trish checking out a boy at a table nearby. Floppy hair, narrow face, skinny hips. Good looks to kill for. He was drinking a beer so Mother vetoed Trish’s inclination instantly, if silently. Not the alcohol, the age: the drink meant he was over twenty-one and therefore completely out of bounds for her seventeen-year-old.

  Then she thought wryly: At least I can try.

  A glance at her diamond Rolex. Five minutes.

  Michelle asked, ‘Was it “Escape”, the one that was nominated for the Grammy?’


  ‘Focus on me, child.’

  The girl grimaced. ‘Mom.’ She looked away from the Boy with the Beer.

  Michelle hoped Lizard Annie would do the song tonight. ‘Escape’ was not only catchy but brought back good memories. She’d been listening to it after a recent first date with a lawyer from Salinas. In the six years since a vicious divorce, Michelle had had plenty of awkward dinners and movies, but the evening with Ross had been fun. They’d laughed. They’d dueled about the best Veep and Homeland episodes. And there’d been no pressure – for anything. So very rare for a first date.

  Mother and daughter ate a bit more artichoke dip and Michelle had a little more wine. Driving, she allowed herself two glasses before getting behind the wheel, no more.

  The girl adjusted her pink floral headband and sipped a Diet Coke. She was in black jeans, not too tight – yay! – and a white sweater. Michelle was in blue jeans, tighter than her daughter’s, though that was a symptom of exercise failure, and a red silk blouse.

  ‘Mom. San Francisco this weekend? Please. I need that jacket.’

  ‘We’ll go to Carmel.’ Michelle spent plenty of her real-estate commissions shopping in the classy stores of the picturesque and excessively cute village.

  ‘Jeez, Mom, I’m not thirty.’ Meaning ancient. Trish was simply stating the more or less accurate fact that shopping for cool teen clothes wasn’t easy on the Peninsula, which had been called, with only some exaggeration, a place for the newly wed and nearly dead.

  ‘Okay. We’ll work it out.’

  Trish hugged her and Michelle’s world glowed.

  She and her daughter had had their hard times. A seemingly good marriage had crashed, thanks to cheating. Everything torn apart. Frederick (never Fred) moving out when the girl was eleven – what a tough time for a break-up to happen. But Michelle had worked hard to create a good life for her daughter, to give her what had been yanked away by betrayal and the subsequent divorce.

  And now it was working. Now the girl seemed happy. She looked at her daughter with moon eyes and the girl noticed.

  ‘Mom, like what?’


  Lights down.

  PA announcements about shutting off phones, fire exits and so on were made by the owner of the club himself, the venerable Sam Cohen, an icon in the Monterey Bay area. Everybody knew Sam. Everybody loved Sam.

  Cohen’s voice continued, ‘And now, ladies and gentlemen, Solitude Creek, the premier roadhouse on the west coast …’


  ‘… is pleased to welcome, direct from the City of Angels … Lizard Annie!’

  Frantic clapping now. Hooting.

  Out came the boys. Guitars were plugged in. The seat behind the drum set occupied. Ditto the keyboard.

  The lead singer tossed his mass of hair aside and lifted an outstretched palm to the audience. The group’s trademark gesture. ‘Are we ready to get down?’


  ‘Well, are we?’

  The guitar riffs started. Yes! The song was ‘Escape’. Michelle and her daughter began to clap, along with the hundreds of others in the small space. The heat had increased, the humidity, the embracing scent of bodies. Claustrophobia notched up a bit. Still, Michelle smiled and laughed.

  The pounding beat continued, bass, drum and the flesh of palms.

  But then Michelle stopped clapping. Frowning, she looked around, cocking her head. What was that? The club, like everywhere in California, was supposed to be non-smoking. But somebody, she was sure, had lit up. She definitely smelled smoke.

  She looked around but saw no one with a cigarette in their mouth.

  ‘What?’ Trish called, seeing her mother’s troubled expression.

  ‘Nothing,’ the woman replied, and began clapping out the rhythm once again.


  At the third word into the second song – it happened to be ‘love’ – Michelle Cooper knew something was wrong.

  She smelled the smoke more strongly. And it wasn’t cigarette smoke. Smoke from burning wood or paper.

  Or the old, dry walls or flooring of a very congested roadhouse.

  ‘Mom?’ Trish was frowning, looking around too. Her pert nose twitched. ‘Is that …’

  ‘I smell it too,’ Michelle whispered. She couldn’t see any fumes but the smell was unmistakable and growing stronger. ‘We’re leaving. Now.’ Michelle stood fast.

  ‘Hey, lady,’ a man called, catching the stool and righting it. ‘You okay?’ Then he frowned. ‘Jesus. Is that smoke?’

  Others were looking around, smelling the same.

  No one else in the venue, none of the two hundred or so others – employees or patrons or musicians – existed. Michelle Cooper was getting her daughter out of there. She steered Trish toward the nearest fire-exit door.

  ‘My purse,’ Trish said over the music. The Brighton bag, a present from Michelle, was hidden on the floor beneath the table – just to be safe. The girl broke away to retrieve the heart-embossed bag.

  ‘Forget it, let’s go!’ her mother commanded.

  ‘I’ll just be …’ the girl began and bent down.

  ‘Trish! No! Leave it.’

  By now, a dozen people nearby, who’d seen Michelle’s abrupt rise and lurch toward the exit, had stopped paying attention to the music and were looking around. One by one they were also rising. Curious and troubled expressions on their faces. Smiles becoming frowns. Eyes narrowing. Something predatory, feral about the gazes.

  Five or six oozed between Michelle and her daughter, who was still rummaging for the purse. Michelle stepped forward fast and went for the girl’s shoulder to pull her up. Hand gripped sweater. It stretched.

  ‘Mom!’ Trish pulled away.

  It was then that a brilliant light came on, focused on the exit doors.

  The music stopped abruptly. The lead singer called into the microphone, ‘Hey, uhm, guys, I don’t know … Look, don’t panic.’

  ‘Jesus, what’s—’ somebody beside Michelle shouted.

  The screams began. Wails filled the venue, loud, nearly loud enough to shatter eardrums.

  Michelle struggled to get to Trish but more patrons surged between them. The two were pushed in different directions.

  An announcement on the PA: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, there’s a fire. Evacuate! Evacuate now! Do not use the kitchen or stage exit – that’s where the fire is! Use the emergency doors.’

  Howling screams now.

  Patrons rose and stools fell, drinks scattered. Two high-top tables tipped over and crashed to the floor. People began moving toward the exit doors – their glowing red signs were still obvious; the smell of smoke was strong but visibility was good.

  ‘Trish! Over here!’ Michelle screamed. Now two dozen people were between them. Why the hell had she gone back for the damn purse? ‘Let’s get out!’

  Her daughter started toward her through the crowd. But the tide of people surging for the exit doors lifted Michelle off her feet and tugged her away, while Trish was enveloped in another group.