Wealthy young women are being murdered, and the police aren't looking for answers in the right places. Enter Tandy Angel. Her first case was the mystery of her parents' deaths. Now she's working to exonerate her brother of his girlfriend's homicide. And danger just got closer.
One of the recent victims was a student at Tandy's own elite school. She has a hunch it may be the work of a serial killer... and Tandy perfectly fits the profile of the killer's targets. Can she untangle the mysteries in time? Or will she be the next victim?
James Patterson keeps the confessions coming as Tandy delves deeper into her own tumultuous history and the skeletons in the Angel family closet.
Book One | DEAD RECKONING
“How did you—” I asked my brother, my mouth dry.
“No one told me,” he said, digging around in his pocket. “I took this.”
Harry showed me the picture on his phone. My already weakened stomach clenched, and I grabbed his arm to steady myself.
“Sorry,” he said, gritting his teeth. “Should have warned you it was ugly.”
“It’s okay,” I told him, clearing my throat. I turned and started for the park. “Let’s go.”
We sprinted across the broad expanse of Central Park West against the light and entered the park by a blacktop pathway. Harry steered me to the right, just past the pretzel cart Hugo lived for, and we ran the thirty yards through a tunnel of shade trees to John Lennon’s memorial in Strawberry Fields, darting around strollers, joggers, and Rollerbladers.
It was clear where Adele’s body was. The vultures were already circling. And by vultures, I mean press.
I elbowed through a group of Korean tourists wielding their camera phones and wedged open a sight line to the famous mosaic with the word Imagine set into the middle of a triangulated path.
Adele Church’s body was right there, at dead center.
The blurry photo on Harry’s phone had in no way prepared me for the reality. Adele was lying on her back as if she’d fallen from the sky. Black bullet holes had punched through her chest and stomach, and her white-and-pink plaid coat was drenched with blood. I was close enough to read Adele’s expression as stark disbelief even as her wide-open blue eyes went dull from death.
Bile rose up in the back of my throat, bringing tears to my eyes. I turned to Harry and pressed my face into his shoulder, biting down hard on my lip as I tried not to cry.
This was one of those moments. One of those moments when I would have given anything not to feel. I couldn’t wrap my brain around why anyone would want to kill sweet, totally innocuous Adele. I wanted to strangle every member of the growing crowd of tourists who were angling to get a better view of her poor broken body.
Most of all I wanted to scream at her to just get up. That this couldn’t have happened. Not to someone I knew. Not to someone our age.
Not to one of the very few people at school who were occasionally nice to me.
“Take a breath, Tandy,” Harry whispered, which was odd, considering he was usually the one on the verge of a nervous breakdown, not me. “Focus on something else. What do you think happened to her?”
Harry knew me so well. Piecing together evidence would focus me. It would make me feel like there was something I could do. I was all about productivity.
I turned to look at the body, trying to force myself into cool indifference, and drilled down deep into my analytic left brain.
“There’s a lot of blood,” I said under my breath. “She didn’t die instantly. Three shots and her heart was still pumping after at least two of them. She knew what was happening. She knew she was—”
I paused and cleared my throat. I didn’t want to go there.
“I wonder if she saw the shooter.”
Harry frowned ponderously. He was about to ask me something when police sirens blew in bursts, startling everyone. The crowd separated as cruisers and unmarked cars streamed onto the scene of the crime. When the first cops to arrive got out of their gray Chevy, I froze. It was Sergeant Capricorn Caputo and his partner, Detective Ryan Hayes—the two cops who had been first on the scene of my parents’ deaths.
Sergeant Caputo was tall and gangly, with a severe jawline, slick black hair, and an all-black wardrobe. Plus he was a total ass. He prided himself on being the tough guy, and his behavior could skew anywhere from rude to downright mean. Still, if you were as observant as I was, you might notice the checkered socks showing under the cuffs of his pants, which took the edge off his hard-core persona. While Detective Caputo was a general pain, he was focused. He lived his job.
His partner, Detective Hayes, was the opposite: a solid man, competent and kind, the sort of guy who put you totally at ease. Hayes was a good soul, and I was glad he would be on Adele’s case, too. Even though, technically, he hadn’t solved our parents’ “murders.”
“Sergeant Caputo!” I called.
He spotted me and narrowed his beady eyes, never taking them off my face as he picked his way carefully around Adele’s body. “You’re under arrest, Taffy.”
Caputo had no problem remembering my name, but he loved to mess with me.
“Wow. Still going with that joke, huh? It stopped being funny about three months ago.”
His gaze flicked over Harry, then back at me. “Please. You don’t have a single funny bone in your entire skinny body.”
I sighed. “So do you want to know what’s going on here, or do you want to waste some more time coming up with lame nicknames?”
“You know this girl?” he asked, interested.
“Her name is Adele Church,” I told him.
“We went to school with her,” Harry added.
“What else do you know about Miss Church?” Caputo asked, flipping open his notebook and scribbling down her name.
“She was a sweet person,” I said. “She lived up on Seventy-Ninth, I think. Her older brother graduated last year.”
“She played the flute,” said Harry. “And pretty much kicked ass in sociology.”
“Any idea why someone would want to hurt her?” Caputo asked.
We heard more sirens with deeper whooping sounds as the coroner’s van arrived. More cops were getting out of cruisers, stringing a yellow-tape perimeter around the body and shooing the onlookers back.
“Everyone liked her,” I said. “I think she saw her killer, though. Maybe she knew him.”
Caputo’s face flattened with unsuppressed scorn. “I’ve got no time for your amateur-night theories, Tallulah.”
“You know better than that, Caputo.” I gave him my card. “I want to help.”
He glanced at my card and scoffed. “ ‘Tandy Angel, Detective. Mysteries Solved. Case Closed,’ ” he read. “I was wrong. You’re actually hilarious, T-bone.” He glanced from me to Harry and pocketed the card. “Nice seeing you.”
“You should call me,” I shouted after him as he turned away. “Consultations are free for all clueless detectives named Caputo!”
He just kept walking.
“That man is going to break into our apartment and kill you in your sleep, you know,” Harry said.
I smirked. “I’d like to see him try.”
I may have seemed confident to Caputo and to Harry while I was handing over my card, but I wasn’t. In fact, the second my card touched Caputo’s chalky, dry fingers, something inside me swooped, like the way your heart feels when you jump off a bridge with nothing but a bungee cord tied to your feet.
Because that was when I realized: Maybe I wasn’t a good detective. Not anymore.
Yes, even Capricorn Caputo would have to admit that without me, the mystery of my parents’ deaths might never have been solved. But that was then. When I was still full of Num, Lazr, Focus, and other secret Angel Pharmaceuticals concoctions. Now that I was off the drugs, I was feeling everything, but did I still have the sharp and rational mind of an ace detective?
My grades seemed to indicate that I did. But anyone could get straight As. Most of the kids I knew were technical geniuses, if you believe in IQ scores. Even C.P. Probably even Adele. But something had been going on lately that was starting to seriously bother me.
I was having these dreams. Dreams about James. And whenever I woke up from one of these dreams, I had a hard time figuring out whether it was really a dream, or if it was actually a memory.
That’s my deepest, darkest secret, my friend. I think my mind was starting to play tricks on me. And I had a feeling I knew who to blame. My parents. And Fern Haven. And that awful Dr. Narmond.
But that’s a story for another time.
Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson
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