On the Mediterranean Sea, a vacationer logs on to the security-camera feed from his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Something about his living room seems not quite right--the room is bright, when he's certain he'd left the curtains closed. Rewinding through the feed, he sees an intruder. When he shifts to the bedroom camera, he sees the dead body.
Martin T. Livermore is the key suspect in the abduction and murder of at least five women, but he's never been this sloppy before. When the FBI finally catches him in Scottsdale, he declares he'll only talk to one person: a retired police officer from Detroit, now a private investigator living in the tiny town of Paradise, Michigan. A man named Alex McKnight.
Livermore means nothing to McKnight, but it soon becomes clear McKnight means something to Livermore...and that Livermore's capture was only the beginning of an elaborate, twisted plot with McKnight at the center. In a hunt that will take him across the country and to the edge of his limits, McKnight fights to stop a vicious killer before he can exact his ultimate revenge. And his grand finale will cut closer to home than he ever could have imagined.
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***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Copyright © 2018 Steve Hamilton
The act was done in a moonless desert darkness, but seen in the light, half a world away.
It was just before 4 p.m. on a bright February day on the Mediterranean Sea when a man named Frank Thompson logged on to his laptop. He was one of more than three thousand passengers on the cruise ship, midway between Sardinia and Sicily. His home in Scottsdale, Arizona, was six thousand miles and eight time zones away. Now that the ship’s Internet service had finally been restored, Frank just wanted to know two things: That the video cameras installed in his house were working. And that his house was safe and secure.
The man’s wife was up on the deck. She didn’t think he should be worrying about the house. She thought he should be relaxing and actually enjoying this cruise, after waiting so many years to do this. After spending twelve grand to make this trip happen.
I’ll start enjoying this, Frank said to himself, when I can get a little peace of mind.
He checked the first video feed. It came from the X10 Internet camera mounted on the bookshelf next to the fireplace. It was positioned so that the lens would look through the legs of a wooden elephant, and it communicated wirelessly with the server in the study, which in turn fed the images to the Web. Available to see anytime, anywhere in the world. At least when the Internet was working.
The live image, as Frank hit the key to bring it up, showed the front door and half of the living room. Everything looked normal to him, and yet not normal in a way he couldn’t identify.
He kept looking at the image. The couch, the door, the little welcome mat to wipe the desert sand off your feet when you came in.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Then it finally hit him. There was too much light.
It was early in the morning back home, which on most days would mean that sunlight should be coming through the big window in the kitchen. Just as it seemed to be doing here.
But when they had left the house, those curtains had been closed. Frank was sure of that.
He clicked the link to restart the video, which ran on a continuous eight-hour loop. The image jumped back eight hours to darkness, the only light a thin glow from the one lamp they had left on in the living room. He hit the fast-forward button and watched the image flicker, the minutes passing by in fast motion, with no movement.
Until there was.
It was just a flash. He backed up the video, then ran it at normal speed. The front door opened. How could it be unlocked? This video would never reveal that secret to him—he could only go back eight hours, and as of eight hours ago, the door was obviously unlocked and any goddamned person in the world could walk right into their house.
Like this stranger.
Who was in their house.
Frank paused the video to get a better look. The man was tall and well-built, a few years younger than Frank, with fair skin and long brown hair that went down to his shoulders. He was dressed in black jeans and a black button-down shirt. Black shoes. Even a black baseball cap, his brown hair trailing down the back of his neck. Frank’s mind caught on the hair first—he’d always hated long hair on men. Then on something else, a certain quality about the man himself, how he moved with complete composure. No rush. No nerves. Like he was actually comfortable being in another man’s house after dark. Frank watched as the man crossed the room, moving from the front door toward the hallway.
Frank hit the pause button again, sat there going through a series of emotions. Shock, anger, surprise. And if he was being honest with himself, a slight tinge of excitement.
This thing really works.
He switched to the kitchen feed, went back eight hours, ran it through at fast speed, watching for the same kind of flash. As he was doing this, his wife came back to their stateroom.
“Marion, look at this!” he said to her. “There’s someone in our house!”
“What are you talking about?”
“Sit down.” Frank went back to the living room feed, found the time stamp when the front door had been opened. Just after midnight, Arizona time. Eight in the morning on the ship’s time.
Marion watched the video, looking confused and skeptical until she saw the man walking through her living room. Her eyes went wide.
“How did he get in? We have to call somebody!”
“Just a minute,” he said. “Let’s find out where he went. Let me see if he . . .”
Frank didn’t finish the thought. He had switched to the bedroom feed now. The camera was mounted on top of the armoire in the master bedroom, partially covered by the arrangement of silk flowers in a basket. It looked down on the bed and the dresser with the jewelry box on top. All of Marion’s diamonds were in that box. He hadn’t let her bring any of them on this trip, a pronouncement he was already regretting. The apology was half formed on his lips when the screen went from black to something else.
A light had been turned on. In their bedroom.
The stranger stood in the doorway, looking at a woman who was already lying on the bed. Waiting for him.
“That’s our bed,” Marion said. “That’s our bed.”
The man stepped forward. He stood over the woman and looked down at her for a long time.
Frank was about to pause the video. No need to see what came next. But Marion stopped him.
“What’s wrong with her?” she said. “Look at that woman, Frank . . .”
He looked closely. The woman was lying on her back, her hands folded together on her stomach. She wasn’t moving.
Her skin . . .
White. Like wax. Her mouth was open. Her eyes . . .
Staring at nothing.
“Oh my God,” Marion said. “That woman, she’s . . .”
She didn’t finish the thought.
She didn’t have to.
Frank and Marion Thompson sat in their cabin and watched the stranger in their bedroom as he began to take off his clothes.
There are some things a man should never have to see.
Roger Halliday had an older brother who’d done three tours in Vietnam. When he’d asked him what had happened over there, that’s what his brother had told him. Those exact words, and nothing more.
Forty plus years later, his brother long gone, Roger Halliday was an FBI agent taking his last lap before retirement. He’d started as a probie on an Evidence Response Team, put in some time with the Behavioral Analysis Unit before going mainline with the Criminal Investigative Division. So he’d seen his share of dead bodies, shot or stabbed or thrown off a thirty-two-story building onto the hood of a car.
But he’d never seen anything like this.
“How many times did you watch it?” his partner asked. Agent Juwan Cook, in the Bureau for eight years now. He was black, with a smooth head he shaved every morning and a thin mustache. Cook kept his eyes straight ahead as he drove.
“Three times,” Halliday said. The first time, it had been just a matter of getting through it. When it was done, he had watched it again. Twice. Looking for details. Doing his job.
Cook shook his head and kept driving.
The house was on the north side of Scottsdale, up by the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. One of those places you drive by and imagine yourself living someday, if you work long enough and are smart with your money. Spanish architecture, the standard for any house in this neighborhood. Clay tiles on the roof, an in-ground pool in the back. Five thousand square feet, one story, easier to keep cool in the summer. A single strip of grass, just a token amount of green for the dog to walk on. Everything else typical Arizona—rock, gravel, and cactus.
Once they turned down the street, it wasn’t hard to find the Thompsons’ house. There were already half a dozen police vehicles lined up on the street, and there were so many men walking through the yard it was raising a dust cloud you could see from two miles away.
Halliday had gotten the call just after eleven thirty, the last link in a long chain that had started somewhere on the Mediterranean Sea. It was almost noon now, on a clear February day, seventy-six degrees on the car’s digital thermometer, the kind of day that makes Arizona feel pretty much perfect. Halliday wished the call had come in sooner, that he had had the chance to get here first, to see the house, to see the victim. He wasn’t looking forward to pulling rank when he finally got here—that was the kind of thing that made the local cops hate the “feebs,” if they didn’t already. But this was going to be his case. He could feel it.
After chasing him around California, Utah, Nevada, and now Arizona, this UNSUB, the unknown subject suspected in the abduction and murder of at least five other women, had finally left a victim in the wrong place.
But why here?
Halliday tried to see this house the way the UNSUB would have seen it. A quiet street, not many neighbors. They had driven by a guard shack on the main road, but the UNSUB would have known this was just for show. With all of the trails in the preserve running along the backs of these property lines . . . There were plenty of ways to get to the house. You do it at night, and nobody sees you.
But as easy as it would be to get in, he had to know this place would have something else: a level of internal security that would make it different from all of the other places he’d used before. Sure, maybe the owner of this house put too much trust in the guard shack and didn’t have an alarm, but those Internet cameras he’d installed—the cameras that recorded everything that happened inside that house . . . The UNSUB should have suspected they were there. And even if he’d decided it was worth the risk, he should have found them and disabled them.
He’d never been this sloppy before.
So maybe this is someone else, Halliday thought. But no. No way. He thought back to everything he’d seen on that video . . . How many human beings on this planet are capable of doing something like that?
It had to be the same man.
Cook pulled off the street and stopped behind a long line of squad cars. As Halliday led the way up the sidewalk to the front door, he was already getting the once-over from the uniformed locals. Everything about him, from the ground up, screamed Fed: his shoes, his suit, the expression on his face. Nobody tried to stop him. He asked the uniform standing by the door for the name of the man in charge and was sent in to see Detective Millens from Scottsdale PD. He found the man standing alone in the kitchen, in plain clothes, a gold shield shining on his belt. He was young for a detective, around Cook’s age, and he was busy talking into his cell phone. As soon as Millens saw Halliday, he ended the call.
Halliday got out his ID and showed it to him. Then he introduced Cook.
“Back of the house,” the detective said. “Master bedroom.”
As Halliday followed Millens, he looked down at the carpeting in the hallway and saw the shoeprints.
“How many of your men have been in here?”
“Two,” the detective said, looking back at him. “Maybe three.”
Halliday scanned the rest of the hallway with a frown as the detective led them into the bedroom. That was where he saw the body on the bed. It was covered by a white sheet.
Halliday took a moment to walk around the room. He looked out the window at the backyard—more rock, gravel, cactus—and at the road that looped around the lot and started climbing up toward Dixie Mountain. He stood motionless for a full minute, looking at every window in the neighboring houses, every vantage point from the road, every spot on the preserve where a man could use a set of high-powered binoculars to peer right into this room.
He could be out there right now, Halliday thought, watching us.
But something tells me he’s not there. Not now.
“Were these curtains open?”
“Yes,” the detective said.
“Was the light on?”
“No, it wasn’t.”
Halliday left the window and went to the big jewelry box on the dresser, took out a pen, and used it to gently lift the lid. Nothing looked out of place. No conspicuous blank spots from which something might have been taken. So probably nothing stolen, even though, to his untrained eye, it looked like there were some real diamonds that would be worth putting in your pocket on the way out.
Halliday took a quick look in the bathroom, came back out and stood at the foot of the bed. The body lay in a straight line, perfectly centered on the bed, and even with the sheet over it he could tell that the arms had been folded neatly across the chest.
Five minutes in the house and he had already decided what needed to be done. Even if he knew it wouldn’t be popular.
“Everybody out!” he said, moving to the doorway so that anyone else in the house could hear him. “Now.”
“I understand if you need to take over the crime scene,” Millens said, “but the ME’s on his way right now and—”
“No,” Halliday said. “We’re not moving the body.”
Millens took a moment to process what he was hearing. He looked back and forth between Halliday and Cook.
“You’re not serious,” he said.
“He’ll come back again tonight,” Halliday said. “She needs to be here. One more night.”
He didn’t feel like giving the detective a crash course on how a certain kind of “organized” serial killer works, the kind of killer who returns to the body several times after death for his further sexual gratification.
Like Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer.
Like Ted Bundy.
“You’re not leaving her here,” Millens said. “You don’t have to. Think about it, Agent Halliday. If he comes back, you can still catch him.”
“You don’t understand,” Halliday said. “He’ll know if the body is gone. He won’t come anywhere near this place.”
“I’m not leaving her here,” Millens said, nodding toward the body under the sheet. “It’s that simple.”
“Not your call to make,” Cook said, standing next to his partner.
“Get all of your men out of here,” Halliday said. “Make everything look exactly like it did. I mean everything, right down to those footprints in the hallway. Which never should have happened, Detective. Find a rake, a brush, whatever it takes. In thirty minutes, I want this place to look untouched.”
Millens just stood there, looking back and forth between the agents.
“The sheet over the body,” Halliday said, knowing this would be the hardest part. “I assume you did that.”
“No way,” Millens said. “No . . . fucking . . . way.”
“I’ll do it. After you’ve left.”
“When they find out you didn’t let us take her away—”
“We can’t help her now,” Halliday said. “What we can do is stop this guy before he kills ten more.”
Millens shook his head and left the room without saying another word. Halliday looked at his partner.
“Go,” Halliday said.
“You really think he’d know if the body was gone?”
“You heard the man. The curtains were open.”
“And the light was off,” Cook said. “Even if he was on that road back there—”
Halliday put up his hand to stop him. He’d been taught long ago to trust his own instincts, the same instincts that went all the way back to the brief time in his career when he’d worked with the agents who had invented a new way to track serial killers. These agents studied them; they interviewed them; they took them through every case, going over every detail. They got inside their heads, even if that was the last place you’d ever want to be.
Thirty years later, Agent Halliday knew that the curtains had been left open for a reason. And that, lights on or off, the man they were looking for would never return to an empty house.
Cook knew his partner well enough not to press it any further. When he turned and left the room, Halliday was left alone with the body.
He had just talked to his daughter that morning. She was getting ready to come home from the hospital. If he had taken that retirement package, he’d be home right now with his wife, waiting to hold his first grandson.
But here he was. Two and a half hours after that phone call, standing in this bedroom.
He looked down at the still form on the bed. Then he lifted the sheet.
It was almost two a.m. They’d been waiting in the van for five hours. Halliday, Cook, Detective Millens, and another agent named Pfeiffer, from the regional SWAT team. All four men were wearing tactical vests. Halliday’s stomach burned from his third cup of coffee.
“The suspect was here around midnight last night,” Millens said. “Don’t these guys stick to a routine?”
“Yes,” Halliday said. “Maybe all that commotion around the house today . . .”
Millens gave him a look, like Don’t even try to pin this on me or my police department.
Halliday was already starting to regret his decision to let Millens sit in on the surveillance. The FBI had quickly installed its own cameras all over the house, and had patched those into its own secure video feed, all relayed to a series of monitors here inside the van, which was parked in the courtyard behind one of the neighbors’ houses. They were smart enough not to park it on the street. Smart enough to make sure everything looked exactly the same. Everything.
Millens was sitting next to Halliday, rocking back and forth with nervous energy. On the feed from the bedroom, the two men could see the body lying on the center of the bed, unnaturally still, the exposed skin glowing in the infrared light.
“I see something,” Cook said. He was on the other side of the van, watching another monitor, with the feed from the external camera they’d mounted a mile away in the Sonoran preserve parking lot. Halliday turned to look, but Cook’s eyes were thirty years younger, so it took a few seconds for Halliday’s to catch up.
Then he saw it.
The vague figure of a man, walking away from a vehicle, toward the camera they’d mounted on a light pole. As he passed under the light, his face was obscured by the baseball cap on his head. He was moving quickly. With purpose. Leaving the parking lot and entering the trail.
Heading toward the house.
There were two agents waiting in the closed-up ranger’s building. They contacted Halliday now over the radio to let him know what he had just seen with his own eyes.
He’s coming your way.
Another decision Halliday had made. Let the man get to the house before we move. Let him come through the door. Don’t try to pick him up in the parking lot. It was a decision he now had twelve long minutes to wonder if he’d regret as he watched the next monitor with the video feed from the rooftop camera.
The man should be on the street by now, he thought. Even walking in the dark, it’s less than a mile.
He got spooked. Now he’s running. We’ll never see him again.
But then Cook pointed to the monitor. “There.”
Another movement on the screen. The same figure, growing larger.
Halliday could feel the adrenaline pumping through his body. He could sense the same in the other three men in the van. The SWAT agent was on his feet, ready to open the back door.
Halliday keyed the mic on his radio.
“Nobody moves until he enters the house.”
“Why are we waiting?” Millens said.
“He won’t touch her again,” Halliday said to him. “I promise. But I want him in that house.”
They watched the figure as he came close to the front door, moving quickly but without rushing. Like a man with no doubts, no worries.
Then he stopped. He seemed to be looking right at the rooftop camera. Looking right at Halliday with the blurred face of a pale yellow ghost.
Halliday keyed the mic again.
“Everyone hold,” he said.
Halliday watched the still figure, holding his breath.
Open the door, god damn it.
Open the fucking door.
The figure disappeared from the rooftop camera’s view. Halliday quickly looked to the other monitor, saw him stepping into the living room and turning on the light.
The back door of the van was thrown open. Halliday was last out of the vehicle, his partner already halfway to the house. He saw the other agents converging—from a darkened house on the other side of the street, from another house on the property behind. Three directions, twelve men in total, all armed, including eight more members of the regional SWAT team. Halliday tried to catch up to them, hoping the lead men would stop the UNSUB in time.
He wanted to keep his promise to Millens.
When Halliday made it to the front door, he had to take a moment, half doubled over, to catch his breath.
There was a man on the floor, his hands cuffed behind his back. Halliday bent down to see his face, pulling off the man’s black baseball cap. Late forties maybe, long brown hair, fair skin. He was wearing black jeans, black hiking shoes, and a black dress shirt that looked freshly ironed. Just in those two seconds, Halliday was already seeing a man who was smart, who was careful, who was so neat he made sure his shirt wasn’t wrinkled when he broke into a house to visit a corpse.
The man looked back at him with something like a smile. No surprise. No anger. He was about to say something, but Halliday didn’t want to hear it. Not yet. He left him there and went to the bedroom, thinking, At least he didn’t make it this far. He didn’t even get a chance to turn on the light and see her again.
Halliday stood in the doorway. In the dim glow from the window, he saw the woman’s body on the bed. He opened the closet door and found the white sheet he had taken away from her earlier that same day. With great care, he unfolded it and placed it over her body.
“Thank you,” he said to her.
He stood over her for a while, listening to the men in the other room, knowing exactly what they were feeling—how you wait and wait for hours and then in the course of a few seconds you’re in motion, everything a blur. Even after you take your man down, your heart is still beating fast. The adrenaline has nowhere else to go. These men would be up for the rest of the night, pacing back and forth in their bedrooms, or sitting with open bottles at their kitchen tables.
We did it. We took down a serial killer.
For Halliday, the night would go differently. He’d go home for a couple of hours, just long enough to catch his breath, get up and make some coffee, put on some new clothes. Then come right back to the office. Years ago, he wouldn’t have left the suspect, would have stayed up forty-eight hours in a row if he had to. But he knew he’d be back before anything important happened, and that his young partner would handle things in the meantime.
Besides, Halliday needed to be with his wife on a night like this, even if it was just slipping into the bed next to her for a few minutes. She’d wake up and ask him if everyone had made it home alive. After thirty years married to an agent, she knew that was the most important question to ask.
Yes, he’d say.
Did you catch him?
Good. Just like that.
Then, while he stared at the ceiling, he would listen to her breathing as she went back to sleep.
By the time Halliday walked back into the FBI field office on Deer Valley Road, the UNSUB had a name: Martin T. Livermore. He was a robotics engineer—at least when he wasn’t abducting women, killing them, and then violating their dead bodies for days at a time.
There were five open cases on Halliday’s desk: two in California, one in Utah, one in Nevada, and one other case in Arizona, besides the one they’d just nailed him on. In all of the cases, it had been a woman between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five. Three of those five women had been abducted and killed in their homes, two in nearby motels. In all of the cases, there were trace amounts of blood and semen found on the scene. And one other thing: rope fibers.
In all five cases, the women had been tied up. Here in the sixth case, where they finally had a body to examine, they could see the ligature marks crisscrossing her body, looped across her mouth like a gag, looped across her throat. The medical examiner’s report on this woman would list asphyxiation as the official cause of death. There was evidence of sexual penetration, both before and after death.
She had been alive for six to eight hours after being captured.
Six to eight hours of torture before the ropes finally strangled her.
In each of the previous cases, the body had been moved to a second location, which had apparently been chosen with great care. Abandoned buildings, or houses that were unoccupied for weeks on end. In every case, this second location had been found eventually, by someone. If it was a house, the owners would finally come home and discover that someone had been sleeping in their bed—a perverse retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, only this time with the evidence left behind by a killer. If it was an abandoned building, it would take longer, but eventually the location would be found. In one case, it had been a contractor visiting a long-vacant house, preparing an estimate for a renovation. He had found the victim’s bloody clothing neatly folded next to the bathtub. In another case, a local police officer had gone into an old warehouse looking for a vagrant who’d broken in to steal copper wire. The officer had found a blanket neatly spread out on the second floor, near a window overlooking the street. Once again, there was bloody clothing nearby, neatly folded.
From each of these second locations, the FBI had gathered trace evidence and had matched that with the evidence from the primary kill site. A map was constructed for all five known victims, showing the progression from one to the next, moving from the first two victims in California to the single victim in Utah, then to Nevada, then Arizona. The second location would range from as little as twelve miles away from the kill site to over a hundred.
And then the bodies were never seen again.
When they reconstructed Livermore’s movements through California, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona, they corresponded exactly with the dates and locations of the crime scenes. His DNA matched the samples taken from each location, in all five of the open cases.
Carolyn Kline, victim number six, had been killed in her own home on the north side of Phoenix four days before, had died on the floor of her living room before Livermore had brought her to the Thompsons’ house in Scottsdale, the house he had returned to on the second night, at which point he was observed on the security video. If he hadn’t been captured, he would have presumably followed the same protocol as the other five: after approximately one week of sexual contact with the dead body at the second location, the body would have been removed, taken to wherever he took them when he was done with them.
We’ve never come close to catching him before.
That video recorder. He should have seen it.
To Halliday, it didn’t make sense.
That’s why he was so anxious to talk to Livermore. So he could ask the man himself.
The interview took place on the top floor of the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail. Livermore was being kept here while they figured out which federal detention center could best hold him. Fine with Halliday, because he knew this was the most secure jail in the state of Arizona. Maybe in the entire country. Halliday rode up in the elevator alone, getting his mind into the right place.
Been a while since I sat across the table from someone like this, he said to himself. I even let myself believe I’d be out of here before we caught another one.
That thought was followed by another, the same thought he’d been revisiting ever since he’d gotten the call about the body found in Scottsdale.
There is no good reason to keep doing this to yourself. You’ve given this job enough.
The elevator door opened. Halliday walked down the hall. Two guards were waiting for him, and they nodded to him without saying a word. When they let him into the intermediate room, he had a moment to look through the small window in the door, set at eye-level. He saw Livermore sitting at the interview table. His hair was pulled back and tied neatly behind his head. He’s just spent his first night in a jail cell, Halliday thought, but he doesn’t look rattled. Even from here, the man’s eyes are clear and focused. Like he can’t wait for this interview to begin.
Halliday thought back to the years he’d spent studying the work of Robert Ressler, the FBI agent who had essentially invented profiling. Then later John Douglas, who’d turned profiling into an art form. When Halliday had been invited to join the Behavioral Analysis Unit permanently, he’d told them he didn’t want to move his family to Quantico. That had been the official excuse, anyway. The truth was he just didn’t want to spend his career working with serial killers. He still kept in touch with BAU, and they had offered to send a man out here to talk to Livermore.
Maybe Halliday should have taken them up on the offer.
“This is what they do,” his partner had said to him. “Why take this one yourself?”
Halliday hadn’t given him an answer. Maybe he hadn’t even known. Not really. Not until this moment, as he stood at the door and looked at Livermore through the little window.
There’s one reason I’m here, he said to himself.
She was twenty-six years old, an optometrist’s assistant, still taking classes at Arizona State University when she wasn’t working. She was a daughter to two parents, a granddaughter to three surviving grandparents. A girlfriend to one boyfriend. But to Halliday she would always be the woman who helped him catch Livermore.
The second door was automatically unlocked with a loud buzzing sound. He took a breath and pushed it open. Livermore looked up at him with that same enigmatic smile he’d given him when he was first handcuffed at the crime scene. Now he was wearing the same orange jumpsuit every suspect was issued at intake, his hands not only cuffed, but also attached to the chain that ran around his waist. His ankles were shackled with leg irons, with a ten-inch length of chain between them.
Halliday took a moment to gather his impressions of the man. To study him at close range, now that he had the opportunity. He saw a man who’d spent most of his life indoors. Fair skin. No sun damage. Not a surprise given his job, but there was little else about the man to suggest an engineer. He didn’t wear glasses. He wasn’t soft around the edges. In fact, he looked like a man who took care of himself. A man most women would call handsome. Maybe even striking. Not musclebound, but lean and athletic. He could imagine this man doing an hour of light weightlifting, and then spending another hour on the treadmill. And then maybe one more hour looking at himself in the mirror.
Halliday had brought a folder into the room with him. He put that on the table and then sat down in the chair across from Livermore. There was a video camera mounted high in the corner of the room. The light was blinking. Every word, every movement, it would all be recorded.
“Congratulations,” Livermore said. “I understand you have a new grandchild.”
Halliday had just opened a folder, was about to take out six photographs. He stopped dead when he heard those words.
“How do you know that?” Halliday looked into Livermore’s eyes, really looked for the first time, and saw that he had green irises circled with bands so dark they were almost black. The eyes of an exotic animal.
Eyes you’d never forget.
Livermore shrugged at the question, gave Halliday that same half smile again.
He overheard it in the hallway, Halliday said to himself. One of those guards outside, talking about me before I got here.
Ten seconds in this room and he’s already trying to put me off balance.
I will not let that happen.
He went back to the six photographs, taking them out of the folder one by one and putting them on the table.
“Every one of these women,” Halliday said, “you selected for a reason. Every step, every movement . . . it was all thought out. Where you took them to kill them. Where you took them after that. You must have watched those houses, those buildings . . .”
Livermore shook his head, giving Halliday a little half smile.
“You were just as careful when choosing your locations,” Halliday went on, “as you were when choosing your victims.”
Halliday pushed one of the photographs forward. It was the last victim, Carolyn Kline. Livermore looked down at the woman’s face for just a moment. Then his eyes returned to Halliday’s. The half smile was still on his face.
“Until this one,” Halliday said. “Why did you break the pattern?”
Livermore shook his head again, and this time he let out a snort of laughter.
“This funny to you?” Halliday said.
“In its own way, yes.”
“Last time I checked, you’re the one wearing the cuffs and leg irons, and heading to death row.”
“Do you honestly think,” Livermore said, each word chosen with deliberate care, “that I didn’t know there were cameras in that house?”
It was the last thing Halliday expected to hear, but this time he kept his reaction hidden.
“They were as obvious as this one,” Livermore said, tilting his head toward the video camera over his shoulder. “Or, for that matter, your interrogation techniques.”
Halliday stayed silent, waiting for him to continue.
“The first camera was mounted on the bookshelf,” Livermore said, “between the legs of the wooden elephant. The second was in the bedroom, on the armoire, in the silk flowers.”
Halliday kept staring into the other man’s strange green eyes. Kept waiting for more.
“I wanted you to see me,” Livermore said. “Did you enjoy the performance?”
Halliday didn’t move.
“Tell me, Agent Halliday, is it strange for you now? Sitting here across from me? After such an . . . intimate experience as we shared? How many times did you watch it, anyway?”
I will not react, Halliday thought. I will not give him anything.
“I wonder if you’d even admit to yourself,” Livermore said, “that in some primal part of your brain you may have enjoyed it.”
Nothing, Halliday said to himself. I am made of stone.
“It’s all right, Agent Halliday. It’ll be our secret.”
Halliday waited for another few heartbeats to pass. Then he reached down to the pile on the table and slowly pushed forward the other five photographs.
Livermore was still smiling as he studied the photographs, one after another. He had to bend his whole body sideways to touch one of them. Halliday was about to take it away, but then he saw that Livermore was simply straightening it, so that all of the photographs were in a neat, straight line.
He has a meticulous, ordered mind, Halliday said to himself. Compulsively neat. He removes the bodies, takes them to a place where he can have his time with them. Someplace where he knows he won’t be seen.
Until this time.
“Where are the other bodies?” Halliday said.
“In a special place.”
Halliday watched him for another moment, then took out the pad of paper from the folder and slid it across the table, with a felt-tip marker on top. Because you never give a killer a sharp object, not even a ballpoint pen. Not even when his wrists are cuffed to a chain around his waist.
“Write it down,” Halliday said. “The exact location of this special place.”
Livermore looked at the pad for a moment, as if actually considering it. Then he tilted his body sideways again, took the marker, and wrote down two words.
Halliday leaned over the table and read the two words:
“Is this supposed to mean something to me?”
“There is a small town in Michigan,” Livermore said, “called Paradise. If you go there, you’ll find this man living there. He’s a retired police officer from Detroit. I would like you to bring him to me.”
“Why do you want him here?”
“I understand Paradise is a very small town. He shouldn’t be hard to find.”
“If this is some kind of game, I’m not going to play it.”
“I think you will,” Livermore said.
“Because Alex McKnight is the only person I’ll talk to.”
Halliday sat there, watching the man. Waiting for more. When it didn’t come, he stood up and started to gather the photographs and put them back in the folder.
Livermore wrote two more words on the pad.
Halliday stopped dead. He read the two words. Then he stared at the man across from him. That same cold half smile stayed on Livermore’s face as he dropped the marker on the table and leaned back in his chair.
“You should sit back down,” Livermore said. “I don’t think we’re done here.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have been wanting to read a book by Steve Hamilton for years. Every time I go to Mackinaw City or Mackinac Island I see his books because they are based in Michigan. I just never picked up one of his books so when I saw this one up for review I thought now was my chance. This was a very quick read, I think simply because it was so fast paced and I couldn’t put it down. I really enjoyed the overall story-line and Alex’s quest to find Livermore. I couldn’t figure out the connection between the two until right before Alex did, I started having my suspicions. Livermore is one messed up dude, very disturbing and we get in his head, a very dark place. If you like face paced thrillers this book is for you. A copy of this book was given to me through Netgalley.com. All opinions are my own.
Wait for it. Though you won't have any trouble doing that with this book. The pages turn nice and quick.
Holy crap, talk about a page turner! It never fails to amaze me just how sick some murderers can get! These were right up there. I have never read anything by Steven Hamilton before but I’m sure I’m not done reading his books now that I know how awesome he writes! Thanks Steven
Was expecting a good read back to Paradise, the cabins, Vinnie, the Glascow Inn and Alex! Instead it was a mismash of a long winded angst over a serial killer and was boring. Steve usually writes with humor and ironies. This was sawdust. Am re-reading his first novel A Cold Day In Paradise, to remind me just how well he can write.
Here's one I really loved. It's a series about Alex McKnight, a former Detroit city police officer who moved to the upper peninsula and has worked as a private investigator, among other things, while renting out cabins he and his father built when they were young. As with other series, you have to wonder how many crimes/murders can happen in the U.P. (or Minnesota, or Cabot Cove Maine, etc...) and for this installment, author Steve Hamilton used a rather unique way to bring our hero into a brand new environment. A serial killer in Arizona, upon capture, will only speak if Alex is in the room. The FBI has no idea who Alex is, and can only assume he's complicit with the killer. The plot moves quickly and it is well into the book when the connection is revealed, and it's a surprise. Naturally there are a few things you need to take on faith along the way, but nothing that distracted me too much. As I said, I love the series and this book is now among my favorites in the series.
A little long at the end but still a good read!
Alex McKnight has had a long rest: five years since he appeared in the last novel in this great series. And he needed it for this, the 11th novel in the series. It seems a tourist traveling in Europe remotely checks his home where he recently installed security cameras, and discovers an illegal entry. Moreover the intruder, Martin T. Livermore, is having sex on the marital bed. It turns out the female is dead. Police capture the culprit, who refuses to speak to anyone but Alex McNight, who is thousands of miles away in the upper Michigan peninsula. He promises to lead McNight to his possible seventh victim, who may be alive. Alex accedes to the perp’s wishes and, along with all kinds of law enforcement personnel, is led into a trap where only McNight and Livermore, who then escapes, survive. Thus begins a grueling chase to save the victim as well as capturing Livermore. Actually Livermore, with his superior intellect, sets up a challenge for Alex, based on an obscure relationship between the two, unknown to McNight. The author maintains a steady tension throughout the novel, a characteristic for which he is famous. At the same time, the plot develops in countless deviations as Livermore keeps Alex on the run until the novel concludes in an unexpected fashion. Recommended.
This was a thriller I would love to see on the screen! Alex McKnight, retired police officer, is pulled into a serial murder case by the perpetrator himself, who insists that he will speak to no-one but him about the women he has killed. The strange thing is, despite Livermore's ability to relate numerous events in his life, McKnight has no idea who Martin T. Livermore is! What becomes frightfully clear is that Livermore is a brilliant and cunning killer. And he maintains that all will be revealed to McKnight in the end. Helplessly, McKnight watches as FBI agents are killed by explosions and at close range by Livermore and is enraged by his continued killing of women as he leaves a trail of blood, one state to the next, like bread crumbs. A trail that leads to someone from McKnight's past he still cares deeply about. Someone he will risk everything for to save. Absolutely riveting!
4.5 stars, actually. Admittedly, I've read only two books in this series, but they were good enough to make me a fan of former cop Alex McKnight. That familiarity made me doubly happy to be approved for an advance review copy from the publisher (via NetGalley). And once again, I wasn't disappointed. In fact - save perhaps for the knock-down, drag-'em-out ending involving almost super-human feats - this is my pick of the litter so far. It was so good, in fact, that I kept reading all the way through a nightly episode of "The Rachel Maddow Show" (well, okay, with one eye on the program); that should convince those who know how much of a news junkie I am that I'm telling the truth about how much I liked the book. Anyway, this one starts off with a [figurative] bang as a vacationing homeowner watches a live video from the security cameras he installed in his bedroom back home. Not too long of a story short, they catch the perp - a presumed serial killer named Martin T. Livermore - who refuses to talk to anyone except Alex, who's now contents himself working for Superior Bail Bonds in Paradise, Michigan. Hot to trot (or at least get some kind of confession out of Livermore), the FBI agrees to bring Alex in. But when he meets Livermore, he has absolutely no idea why the guy sought him out; there's no readily discernible connection between the two men, nor does there seem to be any among all the other five (at least) women Livermore has brutally murdered over the years. Once in Alex's presence, Livermore not only admits to the heinous crimes, but promises to take him and an FBI crew to the place he's stored his victims' bodies. Livermore isn't exactly trustworthy, but the lawmen agree, albeit reluctantly, that there's no other way to find the bodies - all women. What happens next, though, proves them dead wrong; clearly, Livermore not only can't be trusted, but he's intent on playing some kind of head game with Alex to reach some kind of end that is intended to be the end of Alex. Will Livermore emerge triumphant? Assuming as I read along that this book doesn't mark the end of the series, I was on the edge of my seat but not too worried about Alex's life. But why the killer wants to get Alex remained a mystery almost to the aforementioned action-packed end, making the book almost impossible to put down till then. I must point out one other tidbit made this book more interesting to me - that some of the scenes are set in two of my favorite places on earth: Columbus, Ohio (go Bucks!) and Michigan's scenic, secluded Upper Peninsula. All in all, this is a stellar entry in the series, and yes, I'm already looking forward to the next installment.