"A MAJOR TALENT." –John Lescroart
"ONE OF THE MASTERS." –Ridley Pearson
"IN RARE FORM." –The New York Times Book Review
"AMONG THE BEST." –San Diego Union
THE HUNT BEGINS. . .AGAIN
Will Harper was an NYPD hero. Then fate, a fiery blast, and departmental politics burned down his career. Now Will is again in the line of fire as a disgraced FBI profiler pulls him back into the action—on a hunt for a serial killer authorities don't even know about yet.
"Fast-paced. . .Edge-of-your-seat suspense mixes well with a hefty dose of reality."
"Lutz always delivers the goods, and this is no exception."—Booklist
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About the Author
David August is the author, with veteran mystery writer John Lutz, of the thriller Final Seconds, published in November 1998 by Kensington. The Lutz-August collaboration began with the short story "Toad Crossing," which appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in 1996 and was chosen for the collection The Year's 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories.
David August is the pseudonym of David Linzee, who has published four mystery novels under his own name, Death in Connecticut, Discretion, Belgravia, and Housebreaker.
He lives in University City, Missouri, where he edits his neighborhood newsletter, reviews movies for the town paper, and write features for St. Louis Magazine. He also teaches writing at the local branch of the University of Missouri. For a long time he has been a reader for the Book of the Month Club. A member of Mystery Writers of America, he has served on its board of directors and on numerous Edgar Award committees.
He is married to Claire Cain Linzee, a medical editor and video producer. His outside interests are scuba diving, running marathons, and cooking.
Read an Excerpt
By JOHN LUTZ DAVID AUGUST
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2008 John Lutz and David August
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThis was all too new to him.
Will Harper exited the highway and coasted down the ramp to the stop sign. There was no one behind him, so he paused to look around. He'd never been in this part of the country before.
He was in northwest Florida, just outside Pensacola. The landscape was different from what he'd seen in other parts of Florida. He liked it. The road in front of him had curves and hills and was lined with tall pine trees. The occasional palm tree still surprised him. He switched off the air conditioner and rolled down the window. Then he grasped the gear stick and shifted into first.
To be exact, he didn't grasp it. He pinched it. Harper's grasping days were over, at least with his right hand. The little finger and ring finger were gone, along with the top joint of the middle finger. The surgeons had done their best with that hand: It worked, it didn't hurt anymore, and apart from the missing fingers it looked normal. Harper complained sometimes that because of the extensive skin grafts, the hair on the back of his hand and forearm had grown back in a strange pattern, but Laura said not to worry, no one would notice. This was true, Harper thought, because most people never got over staring at the fingers that weren't there. But he kept this thought to himself.
As he accelerated down the road, he took a quick look at his map. It was only a couple more miles. Harper shifted his weight, a little nervously. He wasn't looking forward to the end of this trip. He didn't know what kind of reception he'd receive from Jimmy Fahey.
He and Fahey hadn't seen each other in the two and a half years since the explosion in the high school corridor. Harper was still in the hospital when he heard that Fahey had quit the NYPD and left the city. No one knew where he'd gone.
For the next few weeks, the operations and therapy were all Harper could cope with. After he got out of the hospital, though, he started to think about Fahey again. He wrote to him, explaining that he'd retired from the Department with full disability and pension and was recovering quickly. He wanted to know how Fahey was.
It was a short letter, but hard to write. There were so many things he wanted to say but couldn't put into words. And the physical act of writing was difficult for him. His right hand could still hold a pen, but the weak, wavering writing no longer looked like his own. Looking at the finished letter, he wondered about the effect his handwriting would have on Fahey. He copied the letter on a computer, laboriously hunting and pecking. Then he sent it in care of Fahey's parents. Almost a year passed, and he had supposed Fahey had never gotten the letter, or decided not to reply.
Then a postcard arrived from Pensacola. The hurried scrawl said that Fahey had a cushy job running security on a millionaire's estate. He was living in paradise and had plenty of leisure time. Harper ought to drop by if he was ever in the Panhandle. That was all it said.
Harper told his wife Laura that maybe he'd better leave well enough alone. She replied that this didn't look like "well enough" to her.
So when they came on vacation to visit her parents, who lived a few hours' drive north of Pensacola, he called the number on the postcard.
After Harper identified himself, Fahey said nothing for a long moment. Then he turned on the easy good humor that had always been his specialty. It would be great to see Will. The estate was fabulous and there were all sorts of fun things to do. Harper had put down the phone thinking the initial moment of shocked silence after he'd identified himself had been the only honest part of the conversation.
The pine trees gave way to a high wall overgrown with vines. This was the estate. Harper drove along it for several minutes before the gatehouse came into view. It was a low building in faded yellow stucco, with a sloping tile roof that projected over the drive. There was a permanent-looking painted sign at the mouth of the drive, red letters on a white background:
SOME THINGS HISS BEFORE THEY KILL SOME THINGS RATTLE SOME THINGS TICK SOME THINGS ARE SILENT WELCOME
The gates were open, so Harper, feeling less welcome than he had a minute ago, turned in. A guard in a khaki uniform was standing in the middle of the drive. He motioned for Harper to stop.
As the guard approached, Harper noticed the machine pistol strapped to his belt. It was an Ingram with a phenomenally rapid rate of fire, suitable for perforating brick walls or chopping down trees. The gun and the guard's expression both meant business. Harper wondered who this millionaire client of Fahey's was.
"Yeah, I'm looking for Jimmy Fahey. My name's Harper."
The guard checked his clipboard. Evidently Harper's name was there, because he said, "Please park your vehicle on the apron over there. I'll take you up to the house in the golf cart."
Harper parked and walked back. The guard was already sitting behind the wheel of a yellow golf cart with a canvas sunshade. A second guard had taken over his post in the driveway. Through a window in the gatehouse, Harper could see other uniformed men. This was quite a setup Fahey was running, and Harper couldn't contain his curiosity any longer. As he got into the cart, he asked, "Who lives here, anyway?"
The guard blinked at the question, as if surprised that anyone could fail to know. "This is the estate of Mr. Rod Buckner."
"Oh," said Harper, suitably impressed, understanding the sign by the driveway now. Rod Buckner was a bestselling author of macho technothrillers. It seemed that every time Harper got on the subway, he saw somebody reading one of Buckner's thick paperbacks. There had been hit movie adaptations, too. Harper had seen one. It was about a gung-ho CIA agent named Buck Reilly who was battling Iranian terrorists. Harper had liked it. He'd even bought Buckner's latest. But the first chapter took place on a submarine and had so much technical detail that Harper bogged down. He hoped he wouldn't be meeting Buckner today. He'd never met a novelist, but he figured the first question they'd ask you was whether you'd read their books. Harper wondered where Buckner got his ideas.
The driveway wound through beautifully landscaped grounds. They passed bank upon bank of azaleas, all blooming in brilliant and varied colors. Back home in New York, Harper reflected, the azaleas wouldn't bloom for another three months. Back home, in fact, it was probably sleeting right now. On that postcard Fahey had said he was living in paradise. Maybe he'd meant it. Maybe he'd put the past behind him. Maybe this mission of Harper's wasn't necessary.
Harper put the questions out of his mind. He'd have the answers soon enough.
There was a distant, muffled boom. It sounded like thunder. Harper looked at the sky. It was overcast, but he saw no sign of a storm.
"Sonic boom," the guard said, noticing his confusion. "We get a lot of 'em. There's a naval air station just down the road."
"Oh. Too bad. Must be a nuisance."
"No," said the guard. "Mr. Buckner likes sonic booms."
Harper looked over at him, to see if this was a joke, but the guard kept a stony face.
The house gradually came into view through the trees. It was a sprawling villa in a vaguely Mediterranean style. Like the gatehouse, it had buff stucco walls and a tile roof. On a circle of grass before the front door stood a flagpole flying the American flag. At its base, where another proud owner might have placed an ornamental bench or a lawn jockey, Rod Buckner had set up a slim white missile—a SAM of some sort, Harper guessed.
As they came around the bend in the drive, a figure emerged from an archway at the side of the house. It was Jimmy Fahey. His uniform of short-sleeved bush jacket, Sam Browne belt, and khaki shorts struck Harper as something you'd expect to see on a doorman at a resort hotel, but it was just as immaculate and crisply pressed as Fahey's NYPD blues used to be. He still liked to wear aviator shades, too. His mouth was smiling, but Harper wished he could see his eyes. He saw only his own reflection as he approached.
"Will, how you doing?"
"Just fine, Jimmy. You?"
Harper was only a few strides away. In a second they would shake hands. But Fahey hadn't even looked down at his hand yet, and at the last moment he turned away.
"Come meet my boss."
Harper had to walk quickly to catch up with him. "You mean Rod Buckner?"
The fixed smile faltered. Fahey looked crestfallen. "Oh, somebody told you. I wanted it to be a surprise. So how about that? Me working for Rod Buckner."
"Congratulations," Harper said, since Fahey seemed to want him to.
"Thanks. He's a great guy. Says he'll put me in a book sometime." Fahey was smiling again. "Of course, he'll probably bump me off."
The archway led to a patio shaded by mimosas. In the turquoise waters of a swimming pool, a couple of little girls were splashing and shouting. The novelist himself was sitting at a table under an umbrella. He had a laptop computer in front of him and was talking on a cell phone. As they approached, Harper was trying to remember the title of the novel whose first chapter he'd read.
Buckner put down the phone, which for some reason had two stubby, flexible antennae, and lit a cigarette.
"Rod," said Fahey, "like you to meet my old partner at the NYPD, Will Harper."
Harper didn't say anything. It always threw him a little, meeting in the flesh somebody he'd seen on television. Their very familiarity was jarring, somehow.
Buckner didn't speak either. He took a drag on his cigarette and studied Harper, who studied him back. The novelist was fiftyish and stocky, with a lined, jowly face. His eyes slitted as he exhaled, the way Duke Wayne's used to do. He too was wearing a safari jacket with cutoff sleeves, and a blue baseball cap with U.S.S. NIMITZ stenciled across it in gold. He put the cigarette in an ashtray and stood.
"It's Sergeant Harper, isn't it?" he said, in the gravelly voice that was as familiar as his face.
"It was you who disarmed that bomb under Madison Square Garden—what was it, six, seven years ago?"
"That was me." It had been seven years before, to be exact, and Harper had discovered just how exhilarating and fleeting fame could be. He was surprised that Buckner would remember.
"It was Egyptian fundamentalists, wasn't it, and they got 'em?"
"They got 'em."
Buckner hitched up his Bermuda shorts and put his hands on his hips. "I always wondered how come you didn't use a remote control vehicle?"
The question threw Harper for a moment.
"I mean, NYPD was deploying the Dollman EOD vehicle at the time, wasn't it? Or did you use the Morfax Marauder Mk XII?"
"We had a robot," Harper said, "but it wasn't working."
Buckner's brow furrowed. "Sabotage?"
"No. It just wasn't working."
"So you went in there yourself. How'd you disarm the bomb?"
"Cut the wires, pulled out the detonator."
Buckner's frown grew some more wrinkles. "How come you didn't use the BAS Developments BA93 Disruptor? It had just become available at the time. Used ultrasonic waves to neutralize a wide range of detonators. British Army had an eighty-seven percent success rate with it."
"Well," said Harper, "I had the wire cutters right there."
Fahey stepped forward. "Excuse me, Rod, you mind if I take a little break now and show Will around?"
"Sure, Jim. Show him around. And while you're at it, talk him into staying the night." Buckner's eyes shifted back to Harper. "See you at breakfast, Sergeant. We'll talk more."
He sat down and picked up his cigarette. But as Fahey and Harper started to turn away he said, "Jim? What are you carrying today?"
Fahey glanced down at the covered holster on his hip. "Sig Sauer nine-millimeter."
Buckner nodded, like a wine waiter approving a customer's choice of vintage. "What load?"
"Standard full-jacketed rounds."
"We'll be going down to the beach club for drinks this evening." Buckner was looking at him, expecting something from him.
Fahey thought fast, just the way he used to in class at the NYPD, when Harper asked him a tough one. "I'll reload before we go, Rod. Soft Points."
Again Buckner nodded his approval. "That'd be good, Jim. If you have to open up, you don't want the bullets penetrating, hitting innocent bystanders."
"What about Homeland Security?" Harper asked Buckner. "Have you talked to them about your concerns?"
"I've contacted them, of course," Buckner said. "Offered my unofficial help in a number of matters. Let's just say they were unreceptive."
"They're not in the personal security business," Fahey said.
"Until after something happens," Buckner said. "Then the FBI gets off their ass and gets all over the case. You know how it is these days, FBI, CIA, ATF, all the organizations are working together now under Homeland Security, one big ball of wax. Better than when they never talked to each other."
"I hear you," Harper said.
Buckner went back to work on his laptop. Harper followed Fahey along the pool. One of the girls, who looked to be about eight, splashed Fahey's shoe as he went by. He gave her a mock glare and she giggled delightedly. They passed through the archway.
Another sonic boom sounded as they walked along the vast frontage of the house.
Chapter TwoA lizard about a foot long stared at Harper from beneath a low palm frond, then retreated into cool shadow.
"You're gonna stay, aren't you?" Fahey said, walking slightly ahead of Harper. "I'll show you your room."
"I don't think so, Jimmy. We're flying out day after tomorrow and—"
"Oh, you've got to stay. Breakfast around here is something. Starts off with fresh-squeezed orange juice from our own grove—"
"But Rod wants to talk to you. He'll probably record you."
Harper could only shrug. He found Jimmy's eagerness to please Buckner a little sad. Of course, he knew how attractive fame was, and how some people were content to bask in a celebrity's reflected glory, but he would never have expected it of Jimmy Fahey.
"Not a bad little dump, is it?" Fahey said, gesturing at the house. "We can go in, if you want. Or we can go to my place. Rod gave me a little house of my own to stay in, around back. He calls it little, but it's bigger than the house I grew up in in Queens."
"This is some operation you're running here, Jimmy," Harper said. "Your people at the gatehouse seem to be on the ball."
Fahey looked over at him, gratified as always by his praise. "You don't know the half of it. We got video cameras covering every inch of the perimeter fence. Twenty-four-hour patrols of the grounds. Rod says if I want heat sensors, motion detectors, anything at all, whatever the cost, all I have to do is ask."
"Does Mr. Buckner really need all this stuff?"
Harper looked over at Fahey, but Fahey wouldn't meet his eye.
"He writes about dangerous people—the Iranians, the drug cartels, Hezbollah—"
"You mean you've received threats?"
"No, but—" Suddenly Fahey's tanned, handsome face broke into the old, familiar grin. It was like a mask dropping. "The truth is, he's in no danger. Sometimes Rod thinks he's Buck Reilly of the CIA. In fact, most of the time he does. But if that's what it takes to get him in the mood to write those bestsellers, who's gonna knock it?"
Harper stopped and turned to face him. "Wait a minute. You mean, you have no threats to deal with?"
Fahey frowned. "Sure we got problems. Tourists, press photographers, autograph hounds—"
"And for that kind of nuisance you're running a state-of-the-art security system?"
"That's what Mr. Buckner's paying me to do," said Fahey stonily.
"You shouldn't be here, Jimmy. You should be a cop, not a rich man's toy."
The words leapt out, unplanned, but as soon as he said them, Harper realized this was what he'd come here to say.
Fahey's face was flushed under the tan, but he shook his head and kept his voice down, pretending not to be strongly affected. "You're gonna have to go somewhere else to sell that kind of stuff, Will. I've fallen into a sweet deal here. You have no idea what a great life a person like Rod lives. I've been with him to London, Hong Kong, Rio. First class all the way. I've met George Bush and Michelle Pfeiffer. And of course the admirals from the base down the road are over here all the time. They'd do anything for Rod. I've had a ride in an F-16. I've landed on an aircraft carrier."
"Jimmy, why the hell did you quit the NYPD?"
Excerpted from FINAL SECONDS by JOHN LUTZ DAVID AUGUST Copyright © 2008 by John Lutz and David August. Excerpted by permission of PINNACLE BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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