Authors: Anne Frasier
Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Nature
By Theresa Weir writing as
Theresa Weir/Anne Frasier
Copyright © 2005, 2011
All Rights Reserved.
This novel was originally published by Penguin Putnam in 2005.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Writers struggle to support themselves. Please help them by buying their books from legitimate sources. The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the internet or any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
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“Frasier has perfected the art of making a reader’s skin crawl… [An] exceptional thriller… Frasier’s characters are not only fully realized, but fascinating to boot, and she evokes the dark, mystical side of Savannah with precision and skill.”
“There’ll be no sleeping after reading this one! A riveting thriller guaranteed to keep you up all night. Laced with forensic detail and psychological twists… Compelling and real—a great read.”
“Guaranteed to keep you awake at night,
is a fast-paced novel of secrets, lies, and chilling suspense.”
“Gripping and intense… Along with a fine plot, Frasier delivers her characters as whole people, each trying to cope in the face of violence and jealousies.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Enthralling… There’s a lot more to this clever intrigue than graphic police procedures. Indeed, one of Frasier’s many strengths is her ability to create characters and relationships that are as compelling as the mystery itself… Will linger with the reader long after the killer is caught.”
“This is far and away the best serial killer story I have read in a very long time… strong characters, and a truly twisted bad guy. With
, Anne Frasier slams into the fast lane and goes to the head of the pack. This one has Guaranteed Winner written all over it.”
—Jayne Ann Krentz
“A deeply engrossing read,
delivers a creepy villain, a chilling plot, and two remarkable investigators whose personal struggles are only equaled by their compelling need to stop a madman before he kills again. Warning: Don’t read this book if you are home alone.”
“I couldn’t put it down… engrossing… scary… I loved it.”
“Anne Frasier has crafted a taut and suspenseful thriller driven by a villain guaranteed to give you nightmares… [ends] on a chilling note you won’t soon forget.”
“A brilliant debut from a very talented author—a guaranteed page-turner that will keep the reader riveted from beginning to end.”
“Well-realized characters and taut, suspenseful plotting. It will definitely keep you awake to finish it. And you’ll be glad you did.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A wealth of procedural detail, a heart-thumping finale and two scarred but indelible protagonists make this a first-rate debut.”
In thirty minutes the hooded executioner would administer the initial injection of sodium pentothal. If this were a movie, it would be time for the camera to cut to the black phone on the wall. If it were a movie.
Every now and then, one of the occupants of the packed witness room glanced at the phone. As if by some kind of silent, primal signal, other eyes automatically followed. It was something that couldn’t be helped, even though every person there was all but certain the phone on the wall would never ring.
This was Virginia. Virginia made it tougher than any other state for a death row inmate to win an appeal. Virginia was also quick to administer the death penalty, not believing in allowing an inmate to languish in prison.
Albert French, the man strapped to the table on the other side of the thick glass, had been found guilty for the heinous murders of a Virginia couple. It wasn’t his only claim to fame. He’d also committed murder in three other states—that they knew of. Virginia just happened to be the best place to get his punishment dealt with quickly and efficiently. Some thought, a little too efficiently.
Special Agent Nathan Fury had hoped for a delay while the U.S. District Court reconsidered its decision to allow the execution to be webcast. It wasn’t just that Fury disapproved of turning the execution into sport and entertainment; he also worried about the impact of channeling a madman’s last minutes of life into private residences worldwide.
At that very moment, home viewers were watching a pretty blond reporter, microphone in hand, standing just outside the prison gates, counting down the minutes until they switched to the death chamber camera.
Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve
Most of the twenty-five witness chairs were filled. People stood awkwardly in the back of the room, arms crossed, staring straight ahead as if the glass were a movie screen.
Someone bumped Fury’s arm.
He pulled his gaze from the man on the table to a priest dressed in a black robe and clerical collar standing beside him. Fury had never seen him before.
The priest shook his head. “The medium is the message. That’s what it’s come down to. Who said that?” the priest asked. “The medium is the message?”
“Marshall McLuhan,” Fury told him. “Prophetic, wasn’t it?”
“People say it’s their constitutional right to view an execution, but they’re wrong. I don’t even know why they’re wrong,” the priest said. “The way I see it, a man doesn’t have to know the reason. That’s why we have a conscience. So we don’t have to sit down and hammer it out, look at this view and that view. If something is wrong, you feel it—here.” He poked at his stomach. “In your gut.”
“My mother was afraid it would be on TV and she might stumble across it while channel surfing,” Fury said. “I told her it could only be viewed on her computer, and that she’d have to order it special.” He grimaced. Special. What would that look like on next month’s credit card bill? Something like
Kill Al, $19.95
The priest kissed the cross that hung around his neck and moved to a reserved front-row seat.
French had refused a visit from clergy. The priest was probably hoping for a last-minute change of heart so he could administer absolution. If not, he would still pray for the murdering bastard.
Some people thought God forgave a killer as long as he repented.
Not Fury’s god.
Nothing made sense, and religion just confused the issue.
“My son’s eyes are in him,” said a voice that was old and shaky and troubled.
To Fury’s right, in the spot the priest had vacated, stood a tiny, frail woman with white hair. Her cheeks were crisscrossed with wrinkles. She wore a yellow badge, indicating she was family of one of the victims.
“Pardon me?” Fury leaned closer.
The room seemed silent, but if you listened closely there was a murmur, a nervous, contained panic that translated to a hum. Like a transistor radio tuned to nothing.
“I was sitting down in front, and he looked at me.” The woman gestured with a thin arm. “Right at me. When he did, I saw my son. The son he killed, staring back at me.” She put a hand to her throat. “I thought I’d die.”
Fury searched his mind for something reassuring to say. “This is an emotionally charged situation,” he offered. “It’s easy to get confused or pick up on things that aren’t really there.”
“No, it was him,” the woman insisted. “My son is in there. Inside that man. I don’t know how, but he is. Haven’t you heard about that? How a killer takes something from his victims? A trophy. Well, he must’ve taken a piece of my son’s soul.” She pulled in an old breath. “Now Albert French is going to die. I wanted him dead. He deserves to be dead.” Her arms began to shake violently. “But I didn’t know my son was in there! Inside him!”
As Fury looked on in dismay, all words of comfort gone, the old woman’s eyes rolled back in her head and she began to fold.
He caught her before she hit the floor. Bending, he hefted her into his arms. She couldn’t weigh more than ninety pounds.
All parchment skin stretched across hollow bones.
Two EMTs appeared.
It wasn’t uncommon for witnesses to need medical care. Fury had attended an execution where the father of the victim had a heart attack and died at the exact same time the convicted killer’s heart stopped beating.
Unsettling as hell.
A physician was on site to examine French’s body and sign the death certificate. He materialized from the viewing room crowd. Some people turned to see what was happening. Others continued to stare straight ahead at the man behind the glass.
Someone held the door open, and Fury carried the poor woman to a gurney parked against a wall in the hallway. He stepped back and let the EMTs do their work.
The old woman was already coming around.
They would give her a sedative along with something to help her sleep tonight.
She would be okay. For now. Until she woke up tomorrow and started thinking.
Execution didn’t help. That’s what most families said. They waited and waited and waited for this day, thinking it would somehow ease the tearing, gnawing pain that never stopped, never went away. But when it was over, when the killer’s dead body was stuffed into the plastic bag and hauled off, most people said it didn’t help. The pain was still there.
Waiting for the execution had been a carrot, something that had kept them going. A promise of relief.
Fury returned to the back of the viewing room to stand against the wall.
French was alone in the death chamber.
The webcast operators were crouched over their equipment, waiting to switch from the outdoor to the indoor camera.
Five minutes to midnight.
The director gave the signal to begin the indoor feed.
Lights, camera, action.
The warden spoke to the prisoner through the intercom. “Would you like to make a last statement prior to your scheduled execution?”
A recorder was running, documenting the verbal exchange.
“Would you like to make your peace with God?” the warden asked.
French looked out at the crowd, scanning the people one by one, his gaze finally locking on the camera. “I’m not sorry for anything,” he said clearly. “I’d do it all again if I had the chance. Never felt more alive than when I was killing someone.”
French’s wrists were bound with leather straps, but he managed to bend his hand enough to throw the world the finger.
Fury glanced at the black wall phone.
It was time.
The phone wasn’t going to ring.
French looked directly at him, directly into Fury’s eyes. He smiled.
The first syringe, loaded with sodium pentothal, emptied into French, putting him to sleep. One minute later the syringe of Pavulon, a muscle relaxant, entered his bloodstream.
The room was silent. The only thing Fury could hear was the pounding of his own heart.
Potassium chloride was administered.
Did they suffer?
No one knew the answer to that question. It looked peaceful, because the recipient was paralyzed. If he did feel pain, there was no way to physically respond, no way he could writhe or cry out.
Death was announced ten minutes later, the camera zooming in on Albert French’s face.
The killer’s dead eyes were open wide, staring into the camera lens, staring out from computer screens around the world, seeming to silently communicate a desire, a want, an evil that could be passed from the dying to the living.
Speaking directly to Fury and everyone out there in computer land.
A young guard handed Fury an envelope with his name written across it in small, cramped letters. “I was supposed to give you this.”
Fury opened the envelope and pulled out a sheet of lined paper, folded three times. A note written in the same cramped letters.
Dear Agent Fury,
Just thought you might find it amusing to know that I didn’t kill those people in Ohio. Wish I did, but I didn’t. I killed everybody else, but not the lovely Ohio couple.
Fury slowly refolded the letter and leaned against the wall. It was his turn to get dizzy.
French had confessed to the Davis murders. The Ohio murders. It had been his MO from beginning to end.
Fury tended to believe deathbed confessions, but French’s little farewell note could simply be a final head game. One final fuck you.
But if it was the truth…?
It meant the real killer was still out there.