First came the stunning number-one bestseller Along Came a Spider. Now comes the scariest, most unforgettable novel in several years. In Los Angeles, a reporter investigating a series of murders is killed. In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a beautiful medical intern suddenly disappears. Washington D.C.'s Alex Cross is back to solve the most baffling and terrifying murder case ever. Two clever pattern killers are collaborating, cooperating, competing—and they are working coast to coast.
Boca Raton, Florida, June 1975
FOR THREE weeks, the young killer actually lived inside the walls of an extraordinary fifteen-room beach house.
He could hear the whispery Atlantic surf outside, but he was never tempted to look out at the ocean or the private white-sand beach that stretched to three hundred feet or more along the shore. There was too much to explore, to study, to accomplish, from his hiding place inside the dazzling Mediterranean-revival-style house in Boca. His pulse hadn't stopped hammering for days.
Four people lived in the huge house: Michael and Hannah Pierce and their two daughters. The killer spied on the family in the most intimate ways, and at their most intimate moments. He loved all the little things about the Pierces, especially Hannah's delicate seashell collection and the fun fleet of teak sailboats that hung from the ceiling in one of the guest rooms.
He watched the elder daughter, Coty, day and night. She attended St. Andrews High School with him. She was stunning. No girl in school was as beautiful or as smart as Coty. He was also keeping his eye on Karrie Pierce. She was only thirteen, but already a budding fox.
Although he was more than six feet tall, he easily fit into the air-conditioning ducts of the house. He was wire thin and hadn't started to fill out yet. The killer was handsome in an Eastern preppy way.
Stashed in his hiding place were a handful of dirty novels, highly erotic books he had found during fevered shopping trips to Miami. He had become addicted to The Story of O, School Girls in Paris, and Voluptuous Initiations. He also kept a Smith and Wesson revolver in the walls with him.
He went in and out of the house through a casement window in the cellar that had a broken latch. Sometimes he even slept down there, behind an old, gently purring Westinghouse refrigerator, where the Pierces kept extra beer and soda pop for their gala parties, which often ended with a bonfire on the beach.
Truth be told, he was feeling a little extra weird that night in June, but nothing to worry about. No problems.
Earlier in the evening, he had handpainted his body in bright streaks and splashes of cherry red, orange, and cadmium yellow. He was a warrior; a hunter.
He huddled with his chrome-plated .22-caliber revolver, flashlight, and grope-books in the ceiling over Coty's bedroom. Right on top of her, so to speak.
Tonight was the night of nights. The beginning of everything that really mattered in his life.
He settled in and began to reread favorite passages from School Girls in Paris. His pocket flashlight cast a dim light on the pages. The book was definitely a major turn-on, but also a big yuk. It was about a "respectable" French lawyer who paid a buxom headmistress to let him spend nights inside a hotsy-totsy boarding school for girls. The story was filled with the hokiest language: "his silver-tipped ferrule," "his faithless truncheon," "he gamahuched the ever-willing schoolgirls."
After a while he got tired of reading, and peeked at his wristwatch. It was time now, almost 3:00 a.m. His hands were shaking as he put the book aside and peered through the cross-hatching of the grill.
He could barely catch his breath as he watched Coty in bed. The very real adventure was now before him. Just as he had imagined it.
He savored a thought: My real life is about to begin. Am I really going to do this? Yes, I am!...
He was definitely living in the walls of the Pierce beach house. Soon that nightmarish, eerie fact would dominate the front page of every major newspaper throughout the United States. He could hardly wait to read the Boca Raton News.
THE BOY IN THE WALLS!
THE KILLER WHO ACTUALLY LIVED IN THE WALLS OF A FAMILY'S HOUSE!
A STARK-RAVING HOMICIDAL MANIAC COULD BE LIVING IN YOUR HOUSE!
Coty Pierce was sleeping like the most beautiful little girl. She had on an oversized University of Miami Hurricanes T-shirt, but it had moved up and he could see the pink silk bikini panties underneath.
She slept on her back, one sunbrowned leg crossed over the other. Her pouty mouth was just slightly open, forming the tiniest o, and she looked all innocence and light from his vantage point.
She was almost a full-grown woman now. He'd watched her preen in front of the wall mirror just a few hours before. Watched her take off her pink lacy push-up bra. Watched her as she stared at her perfect breasts.
Coty was unbearably haughty and untouchable. Tonight he was going to change all that. He was going to take her.
Carefully, silently, he removed the metal grill in the ceiling. Then he crawled out of the wall and down into Coty's sky-blue-and-pink bedroom. His chest felt constricted, and his breathing was quick and labored. One minute he felt hot, the next he was shivering and cold.
Two small plastic trash bags covered his feet and were secured around his ankles, and he wore the light blue rubber gloves that the Pierces' maid used for housecleaning.
He felt like a sleek Ninja warrior and looked like Terror itself with his naked handpainted body. The perfect crime. He loved the feeling.
Could this be a dream? No, he knew it wasn't a dream. This was the real deal. He was actually going to do this! He took a deep breath and felt a burning inside his lungs.
For a brief moment, he studied the peaceful young girl he'd admired so many times at St. Andrews. Then he quietly slipped into bed with the one-and-only Coty Pierce.
He took off a rubber glove and gently caressed her perfect, sun-bronzed skin. He pretended that he was smoothing coconut-scented suntan oil all over Coty. He was rock-hard already.
Her long blond hair was sunbleached and felt as soft as rabbit's fur. It was thick and beautiful and smelled forest-clean, like balsam. Yes, dreams do come true.
Coty suddenly popped open her eyes. They were shiny emerald green gems, and they looked like priceless jewels from Harry Winston's in Boca.
She breathlessly said his name—the name she knew him by at school. But he had given himself a new name; he'd named himself, re-created himself.
"What are you doing here," she gasped. "How did you get in?"
"Surprise, surprise. I'm Casanova," he whispered against her ear. His pulse was racing off the charts. "I chose you from all the beautiful girls in Boca Raton, in all of Florida. Aren't you pleased?"
Coty started to scream. "Shush now," he said, and smothered her small lovely mouth with his own. With a loving kiss.
He also kissed Hannah Pierce on that unforgettable evening of mayhem and murder in Boca Raton.
Shortly after, he kissed thirteen-year-old Karrie.
Before he was finished for the night, he knew that he really was Casanova—the world's greatest lover.
Copyright © 1995 by James Patterson
Read by Robert Guillaume & Chris Noth
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