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Twisted: The Collected Stories - 1

Jeffery Deaver

  Twisted: The Collected Short Stories of Jeffery Deaver

  Jeffery Deaver

  New York Times bestselling author Jeffery Deaver has long thrilled fans with tales of masterful villains and their nefarious ways, and the brilliant minds who bring them to justice. Now the author of the Lincoln Rhyme series has collected for the first time his award-winning, spine-tingling stories of suspense-stories that will widen your eyes and stretch your imagination.

  The New York Times says that Twisted is "a mystery hit for those who like their intrigue short and sweet & they feature tight, bare-bones plotting and the sneaky tricks that Mr. Deaver's title promises."

  This collection includes sixteen stories, including one brand new Lincoln Rhyme Christmastime story. The titles of the stories are:

  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

  Jeffery Deaver

  Twisted: The Collected Short Stories of Jeffery Deaver

  To my sister and fellow writer, Julie Reece Deaver


  My 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 todays 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 can, 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.

  -- J.W.D.

  Without Jonathan

  Marissa 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.

nbsp; 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 Cafe, 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 and 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."



  Joseph in fact wouldn't have minded a drink. But this wasn't the place for it. Besides, he was looking forward to a nice glass of spicy Pinot Noir after he finished here. It often surprised people that somebody in his line of work liked -- and knew about -- wines.

  "I'm Barbara."

  "Hi, Barbara."

  She led him through the house to each of the cable boxes, sipping her drink as she went. She was drinking straight bourbon, it seemed.

  "You have kids," Joseph said, nodding at the picture of two young children on a table in the den. "They're great, aren't they?"

  "If you like pests," she muttered.

  He clicked buttons on the cable box and stood up. "Any others?"

  "Last box's in the
bedroom. Upstairs. I'll show you. Wait..." She went off and refilled her glass. Then joined him again. Barbara led him up the stairs and paused at the top of the landing. Again, she looked him over.

  "Where are your kids tonight?" he asked.

  "The pests're at the bastard's," she said, laughing sourly at her own joke. "We're doing the joint custody thing, my ex and me."

  "So you're all alone here in this big house?"

  "Yeah. Pity, huh?"

  Joseph didn't know if it was or not. She definitely didn't seem pitiful.

  "So," he said, "which room's the box in?" They'd stalled in the hallway.

  "Yeah. Sure. Follow me," she said, her voice low and seductive.

  In the bedroom she sat on the unmade bed and sipped the drink. He found the cable box and pushed the "on" button of the set.

  It crackled to life. CNN was on.

  "Could you try the remote?" he said, looking around the room.

  "Sure," Barbara said groggily. She turned away and, as soon as she did, Joseph came up behind her with the rope that he'd just taken from his pocket. He slipped it around her neck and twisted it tight, using a pencil for leverage. A brief scream was stifled as her throat closed up and she tried desperately to escape, to turn, to scratch him with her nails. The liquor soaked the bedspread as the glass fell to the carpet and rolled against the wall.

  In a few minutes she was dead.

  Joseph sat beside the body, catching his breath. Barbara had fought surprisingly hard. It had taken all his strength to keep her pinned down and let the garrote do its job.

  He pulled on latex gloves and wiped away whatever prints he'd left in the room. Then he dragged Barbara's body off the bed and into the center of the room. He pulled her sweater off, undid the button of her jeans.

  But then he paused. Wait. What was his name supposed to be?

  Frowning, he thought back to his conversation last night.

  What'd he call himself?

  Then he nodded. That's right. He'd told Marissa Cooper his name was Dale O'Banion. A glance at the clock. Not even seven p.m. Plenty of time to finish up here and get to Green Harbor, where she was waiting and the bar had a decent Pinot Noir by the glass.

  He unzipped Barbara's jeans then started tugging them down to her ankles.


  Marissa Cooper sat on a bench in a small, deserted park, huddled against the cold wind that swept over the Green Harbor wharf. Through the evergreens swaying in the breeze she was watching the couple lounging in the enclosed stern of the large boat tied up to the dock nearby.