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The Interrogation

Thomas H. Cook






  “Compelling … The Edgar-winning Cook makes the most of that brief period of time, not only braiding the intricate elements of the crime but laying open the secretive, troubled lives of [his] characters…. Down to the cleverly hatched, melancholy ending, COOK AGAIN TAKES READERS DOWN A DARK, TREACHEROUS ROAD INTO THE HEART OF HUMAN FALLIBILITY AND STRUGGLE.” —Publishers Weekly

  “BRILLIANT! A MELANCHOLY, BEAUTIFUL and—above all—SUSPENSEFUL meditation on guilt and the nature of time.” —Time Out New York

  “A TAUT AND TENSE PROCEDURAL THAT TAKES READERS ON AN UNEXPECTEDLY EXCITING RIDE AS IT RACES TOWARDS ITS CLIMAX … This one gets better and better the deeper it goes.” —San Francisco Chronicle



  “With its passionate characters, compelling family-driven narrative and surprising conclusion, Places presents irrefutable evidence that it sometimes pays not to be afraid of the dark.” —People

  “[The story] is swept along by Cook’s artistry, his insights into broken people, his austere imagery of the barren landscapes that attract them.” —The New York Times

  “Cook writes very well; his tone is sad, even foreboding, yet almost elegiac, as he weaves … an intricate fabric of tragedy.” —The Boston Globe

  “A serpentine tale of long-buried secrets leading to murder and betrayal … Reminiscent of John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman.” —The Orlando Sentinel

  “A strong, suspenseful story … Cook accomplishes what he consistently does so superbly: He sets the tone, creates characters, [and] engages the reader.” —The Houston Chronicle

  “Mr. Cook springs his share of effective plot surprises…. Maybe the greatest is the wonderfully redemptive ending.” —The Wall Street Journal

  “Skillfully blends flashbacks with current action and his deftly drawn characters invoke both empathy and pity. In sum, a splendid performance by a gifted artist.” —The San Diego Union-Tribune


  “[A] once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece.” —Kirkus Reviews

  “Probably no other suspense writer takes readers as deeply into the heart of darkness as Cook…. As always, Cook’s prose is precise, his storytelling slow and deliberate. This is one powerful story.” —Chicago Tribune

  “Although it’s easy to miss the very real clues that Cook drops so artfully into the story, there’s no ignoring his savage imagery, or escaping the airless chambers of his disturbing imagination.” —The New York Times Book Review

  “Cook’s last book, The Chatham School Affair, won the 1997 Edgar Award for best novel, and his haunting new one, Instruments of Night, could be a contender…. The denouement took me by surprise and disturbed me for days.” —Los Angeles Times

  “An enthralling tale that cannily uses elements of the Gothic thriller.” —The Seattle Times/Seattle Post-Intelligencer

  “Hypnotic prose and fresh scenarios set [Cook’s] suspenseful fiction apart…. If you’ve not yet been haunted by a Thomas Cook novel, now is a fine time to start.” —Star Tribune, Minneapolis

  “Cook teases readers throughout the narrative with tantalizing bits from Graves’ own past…. But he also saves the best—and most shocking revelations—until practically the last page.” —The Orlando Sentinel



  “A seductive book.” —The New York Times Book Review

  “Cook is a master, precise and merciless, at showing the slow-motion shattering of families and relationships…. The Chatham School Affair ranks with his best.” —Chicago Tribune

  “Intelligent … compassionate … surprising.” —The Boston Sunday Globe

  “Cook uses the genre to open a window onto the human condition…. Literate, compelling … Events accelerate with increasing force, but few readers will be prepared for the surprise that awaits at novel’s end.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  “Powerful, engaging, and deeply moving … highly recommended.” —Booklist

  “A remarkable novel of memory and buried secrets.” —The Armchair Detective

  “Thomas Cook is an artist, a philosopher, and a magician; his story is spellbinding.” —The Drood Review of Mystery

  “Cook is one of the most lyrical of today’s novelists. His prose flows effortlessly, yet beneath its rhythm Cook’s characters perform the most shocking and deadly of deeds…. An extraordinary writer.” —Sun, Calgary, Alberta

  “Transfixing suspense.” —Booknews from The Poisoned Pen


  “In [his] previous novels … Cook has shown himself to be a writer of poetic gifts, constantly pushing against the presumed limits of crime fiction…. In this fine new book, he has gone to the edge, and survived triumphantly.” —Charles Champlin, Los Angeles Times Book Review

  “Gripping southern drama, with its byzantine family trees, old wives’ tales, and overheated memories.” —Kirkus Reviews


  “Haunting, lyrical … a mesmerizing tale of love and betrayal.” —Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

  “Intense … Impossible to put down.” —Rendezvous

  “Cook has crafted a novel of stunning power, with a climax that is so unexpected the reader may think he has cheated. But there is no cheating here, only excellent storytelling.” —Booklist

  “Cook’s writing is distinguished by finely cadenced prose, superior narrative skills, and the author’s patient love for the doomed characters who are the object of his attention…. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal (starred review)


  “Cook builds a family portrait in which violence seems both impossible and inevitable. One of [Mortal Memory’s] greatest accomplishments is the way it defies expectations … surprising and devastating.” —Chicago Tribune

  “Haunting … Don’t pick this up unless you’ve got time to read it through … because you will do so whether you plan to or not.” —Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine


  “Cook’s night visions, seen through a lens darkly, are haunting.” —The New York Times Book Review

  “A gifted novelist, intelligent and compassionate.” —Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books




  Places in the Dark

  Instruments of Night

  The Chatham School Affair

  Breakheart Hill

  Mortal Memory

  Evidence of Blood

  The City When It Rains

  Night Secrets

  Streets of Fire

  Flesh and Blood

  Sacrificial Ground

  The Orchids



  Blood Innocents


  Early Graves

  Blood Echoes


  Though we talk of all Time smothers,

  And all that Age affrights,

  Yet with joy in one another,

  Laugh through these New York nights.


  The morning headlines reported that the Germans were closing in on Leningrad, but Detective Norman Cohen was focused on
the more immediate task of cracking a murderer. He knew in his heart that Klemper had strangled Martha Dodd thirty-six hours before and he planned to prove it.

  Jack Pierce entered the detective bull pen, humming “Chattanooga Choo-Choo.”

  “So how’s the new father?” Cohen asked.

  “Sixteen hours, twenty-three minutes, and four seconds old,” Pierce replied, glancing at his Timex. “We named her Debra.” He glanced down the corridor toward Interrogation Room 3. “I saw Klemper cooling his heels in Room 3. This trap of yours better work.”

  Cohen saw the door of Martha Dodd’s apartment, the velvety white flowers that twined from the wooden trellis beside it. “It’ll work,” he answered confidently. “You know why?” He gave Pierce a thumbs-up. “Because we, my friend, are the good guys.”

  Pierce laughed and hung his hat and coat on the wooden rack just inside the door. “I’m ready.”

  Cohen glanced at the clock. Six fifty-eight A.M. “Okay. Let’s do it.”


  They walked together up the corridor to Interrogation Room 3.

  Klemper was seated at a square wooden table, back erect, hands folded neatly before him. “How long will this take?” he asked, smiling genially when the two detectives entered. “I have to be at work by eight.”

  Klemper was a bookkeeper for a shoe factory on Dawson Street, and to Cohen’s eye, he looked the part. His dark hair glistened with Brilliantine. His gold-rimmed glasses had lenses so thick they magnified the calculating eyes behind them. His suit was pressed, his vest buttoned, the crimson bow tie an unexpected gout of color. Everything was properly placed … and to Cohen all of it rang as false as two sets of books.

  “I don’t know why I’m being questioned again,” Klemper told them.

  “Because you have a record, for one thing,” Pierce replied. “That little matter of attempted murder, remember?”

  “That was over twenty years ago.”

  “The girl you tried to kill was the same age as Martha Dodd,” Cohen reminded him.

  “The method was the same, too,” his partner added. “Strangulation.”

  “I was twenty-four, for God’s sake.” Klemper looked offended by the very notion that such an old offense was being used against him now. “And besides, I paid my debt to—”

  “Martha Dodd worked for Dawson Shoes,” Cohen interrupted.

  “There must be forty or fifty girls in that factory,” Klemper scoffed.

  “Have you ever been to Braxton Apartments?” Pierce asked.


  “But you know where they are, don’t you?” Cohen asked.

  “No, I don’t.”

  “Martha Dodd lived in 8-D.”

  “So you’ve told me.” Klemper drew a shiny watch from his vest pocket, and flipped the lid. “I really need to be going….”

  Cohen sat across the table from Klemper. He looked him dead in the eye. “Tell me, Art, you want to live or die?”

  “That question is absurd.”

  “The chair, that’s what we’re talking about.” Pierce leaned over to take the watch from Klemper’s fingers. “Whether you fry in it or not.”

  “You’re wasting your time with these outlandish—”

  “What’ll it be, Art?” Cohen broke in sternly. “Life? Or the chair?”

  Klemper brushed his right sleeve. “If you have some reason for keeping me here, Detective, I’d like to hear it. Otherwise, I intend—”

  “Remember Patricia Clayborn? Eileen McDowell? Both strangled in their apartments.” Cohen dropped the easy banter. His voice turned as wintry as his eyes. “You and Patty Clayborn both worked at Lambert Hospital Equipment. Patty was murdered. The same with Eileen McDowell, only that was at Klein Metal Shelving.”

  “Coincidences. So what?”

  Cohen leaned forward. “Here’s the deal. You tell us exactly what you did to Martha Dodd, or we’ll tell you exactly what you did to her. If you put us to the trouble of doing that, the D.A. won’t settle for anything less than death. If we tell you first, you’ll go to the chair. It’s that simple.” He waited for a response, and when none came, he said, “There’s this old German movie. A guy kills a kid, and somebody finds out, and the guy who finds out takes a piece of chalk and writes a great big M on the killer’s coat. M—for ‘Murderer.’ You ever see that movie, Art?”

  “This is nonsense.” Klemper lifted his head haughtily. “If you have nothing further, I’d like to be on my way.”

  Cohen drew an envelope from his jacket pocket and tapped it lightly against the table. He opened the envelope and scattered a few pink specks onto the battered surface of the table.

  Pierce raised his wrist and glanced at his Timex. “You have sixty seconds, Klemper.”

  “To do what?” Klemper demanded.

  Cohen was studying the specks on the table, no longer looking at Klemper. “To tell us what you did to Martha.”

  “Do you honestly believe that—”

  “Fifty-five seconds,” Pierce said.

  Klemper glared at Pierce. “You can stop that melodramatic countdown.”

  “The apartment building where Martha lived is owned by Robert Braxton,” Cohen said, nudging one of the specks with his fingertip.


  “Mr. Braxton is something of a horticulturist.”

  “Everyone needs a hobby,” Klemper said with a slight chuckle.


  “He grows rare flowers,” Cohen continued. “There’s a particularly rare one right at Martha’s door. A vine. It has big white flowers, remember?”

  “I was never anywhere near that girl’s apartment,” Klemper said evenly.


  “Braxton gave me the scientific name, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that those flowers are the only ones in the city.”


  “That’s why we got a warrant to search your apartment this morning,” Cohen continued. “Our guys are there now.”

  Klemper’s face tensed.

  “Looking in your closet.”


  “Looking for pollen from those big white flowers. Seems it’s real messy, that pollen.” He raised a pollen-smeared finger and turned it toward Klemper. “Sticks to anything the wind blows it on. Like your coat, Art. Or your shoes.”


  “Your clothes are marked,” Cohen said ruthlessly. “Just like that guy in the movie.”


  Klemper shifted in his seat. “Listen, maybe—”

  “Marked by pollen.” Cohen blew gently on his fingertip, sending a fine pink spray into the air.


  “Stop it!” Klemper snarled at Pierce.

  “Three,” Pierce said evenly.

  “So what’s your choice?” Cohen inquired, as if willing to do Klemper a very big favor.


  “Live?” Cohen asked.

  Klemper stared around frantically.

  “Or fry?”


  “Live!” Klemper yelped.

  Cohen’s gaze swept over to Pierce, caught the satisfaction in his partner’s dark eyes. He turned back to their prisoner. “Don’t leave anything out, Mr. Klemper, or our deal is off.”

  Klemper was blinking frantically behind his thick lenses. “Pollen,” he whispered.

  Cohen looked down at the face powder he’d borrowed from one of the secretaries. He thought of the small gust that had stirred the sterile white blooms, a little breeze, nothing more, but one he suddenly imagined as rising from deep within the scheme of things, a gift to the good guys, dropped from on high into their outstretched hands.



  Are we alone in this?

  6:00 P.M., September 12, Trevor and Madison

  Eddie Lambrusco pressed down on the brake and steered Siddell Carting Truck 12 over to the curb. Five metal garbage cans stood
in a sloppy line at the edge of the street. All were swollen with the day’s refuse, but Terry Siddell, Eddie’s shift partner for the night, made no effort to deal with them.

  “Well, you getting out or not, Terry?” Eddie asked.

  Siddell didn’t move, but that didn’t surprise Eddie. Siddell wasn’t used to taking orders. Eddie was used to nothing else. Except when he was with his daughter, Laurie, saw himself reflected in her adoring gaze and suddenly felt like a man again. He thought of Laurie now, the way her eyes had followed him out the door of her room that morning. Don’t go, Daddy. Any man would do anything for such a sweet kid, Eddie thought. Anything he had to do to make her happy. And yet he’d not been able to stay with her. He knew that other fathers would be with their kids tonight, all curled up on the family sofa, watching Sid Caesar or Uncle Miltie. But not Eddie Lambrusco. Old Man Siddell would never have given him the night off just because his daughter was sick. With that bitter recognition, Eddie returned his thoughts to the job at hand.

  “Look, Terry, we got a full twelve-hour shift,” Eddie said, making sure that the raw hostility he felt for Terry Siddell didn’t show.

  Siddell peered morosely into the night. “Twelve hours,” he griped. “Twelve fucking hours.”

  It wasn’t just the hours, Eddie knew. It was that Terry had to spend them with a guy like Eddie, a little guy, going nowhere, without power or influence, a guy who could never make Siddell pay for anything he did, which Eddie yearned to do … just once.