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
Jacob Perlman was a retired Israeli commando.
Yes, you read that right. A commando.
There was a whole New York Times profile on the guy. He’d rescued hostages from terrorists, disarmed and killed a suicide bomber he’d caught trying to blow up a marketplace, and evacuated a whole mess of kids from a school mere minutes before it was hit by a rogue Palestinian missile.
So basically, if anyone tried to mess with the Angel kids from now on, they were gonna get a beat-down. That much was comforting.
But why would a man who swatted down terrorists like they were houseflies want to babysit three bratty private school kids in New York City? And how did Uncle Pig even know someone like him? Most of our uncle’s acquaintances were as sniveling and pointless as he was.
I went next door to Harry’s room, which was spacious and modern, with one of his own amazing paintings of angels adorning the ceiling. He was, of course, passed out facedown on his king-sized bed. Harry needs a lot of downtime to refresh his brilliant mind, but I thought it was odd that he could sleep with the specter of Jacob Perlman looming.
I shook him awake, relayed my intel on Jacob, and told him we were having a family meeting. Then I found Hugo in his bedroom, sitting on his mattress on the floor with his laptop on. After Malcolm and Maud died, Hugo trashed just about everything he owned—the vintage toy cars, his four-poster bed—and now only his Xbox, desk, and chair were left standing. Hugo had the strength of a full-grown man and wore his hair in long curls, Samson style. He was upbeat and forgiving, and he exaggerated every time he opened his mouth. He was also fearless. His favorite person in the world, bar none, was our football superstar brother, Matthew. Honestly, Hugo’s behavior when it came to Matty bordered on worship.
“Was Matty wearing one of those hockey masks so he couldn’t bite or spit?” Hugo asked, still typing as he spoke.
“Matthew is not Hannibal Lecter, Hugo.” I sat down next to him on the mattress. “What’re you up to?”
“I’m setting up a website,” he informed me. “I’m going to raise money for his bail.”
That was my ten-year-old brother for you. Always thinking. I reached out to ruffle his hair, then lay back on the mattress next to him and just listened to him type as I went over the bizarre events of the day.
Matthew, possibly a killer. Adele, dead for no apparent reason. A stranger running my household. Could my life get any more dramatic?
A few minutes later, Jacob paged us on the intercom, and we assembled in the living room: Harry and I taking up most of the red leather sofa, Hugo in the Pork Chair—a pink chair with hooves for feet that he loved—and Jacob perched above us on a kitchen stool he’d brought in for the meeting.
I wondered what Jacob thought of Maud’s décor. She had favored huge pieces of artwork and had designed our place so that it looked like a hyperrealism exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. It was all bold colors, life-sized statues, Pop Art canvases, and crazy kitschy furniture. We loved it. But then, it was all we knew. Somehow Jacob seemed like a guy who’d prefer a more minimalist style.
“First, I’ve e-mailed you the court order making me your legal guardian,” he said, looking directly at me. “And second, there is this.”
He slipped a hand into the inside breast pocket of his khaki jacket and removed a four-by-six photo. He held it along the edges with both hands so we could see the faded color portrait of a woman in her fifties. Her hair was upswept. She wore a blouse with a deep neckline and a necklace of baroque blue pearls the size of melon balls.
I recognized her, of course. She was my father’s mother, elegant and beautiful, a tough-love matriarch who had died before the Angel kids were born. But we still referred to her familiarly as Gram Hilda. A framed note and envelope from Gram Hilda hung on the wall of the staircase that led up to my parents’ master suite. The note was handwritten, stamped by a notary, and was a companion to Gram Hilda’s will. The letter was short and not too sweet.
“I am leaving Malcolm and Maud $100, because I feel that is all that they deserve.”
Our parents had told us that Gram Hilda was very rich but didn’t approve of their marriage for reasons they never explained. Even though she’d died just before their wedding, Gram Hilda’s disapproval had been the inspiration to better themselves financially, and they had done it—without her help.
But wait a minute.
“Why do you have a picture of Gram Hilda?” Hugo asked, voicing my thoughts.
“Hilda expected that your parents would have children one day. She gave this photo to your father, who gave it to your uncle Peter, and he asked me to give it to you.”
He turned the photo over, and I saw that a few lines had been written on the back in blue ink. Jacob read the inscription aloud.
“ ‘To my grandchildren. Hold yourselves to high standards. Do not disappoint yourselves or me. Hilda Angel.’ ”
“Yep. That was definitely Dad’s mother,” Harry said bitterly. I’m sure he noticed that she’d left out an important word before her signature: love. Or how about best wishes? We would even have appreciated a sincerely.
“And now,” said Jacob, slipping the picture onto the table in front of us, “on to the real point of this meeting.”
Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson
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