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Copyright Page

In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at permissions@hbgusa.com. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

For Kathy. Finally.

Part One

3 Players, 2 Sides

CHAPTER 1

She had screamed, but she had not cried.

That’s what he would remember about this one, he thought. Not the color of her hair or her eyes. Not the tilt of her hips, the curve of her lips. None of those things. Not even her name.

She had screamed. Screamed to an uncaring, star-pocked sky. They all screamed. Everyone screamed.

But she had not cried.

Not that crying would have helped. He was going to kill her no matter what, so her behavior was moot. And yet it stuck with him: No tears. No weeping. Women always cried. It was their last, best weapon. It made boyfriends apologize and husbands fold them in their arms. It made Daddy spend the extra money on the prom dress.

She screamed. Her screaming was beautiful.

But, truth be told, he missed the crying.

Later, when he was finished, he looked down on her. The early morning—so early the sun had yet to rise—was warm and the air held the slight tang of motor oil. Now that she was silent and dead and still, he could no longer remember why he had killed her. For a brief moment, he wondered if that was strange, but dismissed the doubt immediately. She was one of what would be many. There had been others, and there would be more.

Kneeling next to her, he unsheathed a short, sharp knife. Ran his fingertips over her for a moment.

He decided on the left hip. He began to carve.

CHAPTER 2

The dying man’s name was…

Well, it didn’t matter. Not anymore. Not right now. Names were labels for things, the killer knew. Nouns. Person, place, thing, idea—just like you learned in school. See this thing I drink from? I give it the label of “cup,” and so what? See this thing I cover my body with? I give it the label of “shirt,” and so what? See this thing I have opened to the darkening sky, allowing beautiful moonlight to shine within? I give it the label of “Jerome Herrington,” and so what?

The killer stood and stretched, arching his back. Carrying the thing labeled Jerome Herrington up five flights of stairs hadn’t been easy; his muscles were sore. Fortunately, he wouldn’t have to carry the thing labeled Jerome Herrington back down.

The thing’s head twisted left and right, the eyes staring straight ahead, unblinking. Unblinking because they had no choice—the killer had removed the eyelids first. Always first. Very important.

The killer crouched down near the thing’s head and whispered, “We’re very close now. Very close. I’ve opened your gut, and I have to say—you’re beautiful in the moonlight. So very beautiful.”

The thing labeled Jerome Herrington said nothing, which the killer found rude. And yet the killer was not angry. The killer knew what anger was, but had never experienced it. Anger was a waste of time and energy. Anger was useless. “Anger” was the label given to an emotion that accomplished nothing.

Maybe the thing labeled Jerome Herrington simply did not and could not appreciate its own beauty. The killer pondered a moment, then reached down and lifted a blood-slippery mass of intestines from the thing’s open cavity. Moonlight glinted on the shiny, gray-red loops.

The thing labeled Jerome Herrington groaned with deep and abiding agony. It raised its head, straining as though to escape, barely able to keep its head aloft.

The thing blubbered. Tears streamed down its cheeks and it tried to speak.

The killer beamed. The thing sounded happy. That was good.

“Almost done,” the killer promised, dropping the guts. At the same moment, the thing’s neck gave out and its head dropped. Kunk! went one. Splet! went the other.

The killer slid a small, sharp knife from his boot. “I think the forehead,” he said, and began to carve.

CHAPTER 3

Billy Dent stared in the mirror. He didn’t quite recognize himself, but that was nothing new. Billy had almost always seen a stranger in mirrors, ever since childhood. At first he had hated and feared the figure that seemed to pursue him everywhere, stalking him through mirrors and store windows. But eventually Billy came to understand that what he saw in the mirror was what other people saw when they looked at him.

Other people somehow did not see the real Billy. They saw something that looked like them. Something that looked human and mortal. Something that looked like a prospect.

From outside came the grinding, mechanical sound of a trash compactor. Billy parted the curtains and looked out. Three stories down, a trash truck was smashing recycled cans and bottles.

Billy grinned. “Oh, New York,” he whispered. “We’re gonna have so much fun.”

Part Two

4 Players, 3 Sides

CHAPTER 4

It was a cold, clear January day when they gathered to bury Jazz’s mother.

Bury was probably the wrong word; there was no body. Janice Dent had disappeared more than nine years ago, when Jazz was eight, and hadn’t been seen since. The world knew she was dead; the courts had declared her dead after the requisite seven-year waiting period. Jazz just hadn’t been able to bring himself to take the final step.

A funeral.

As the only child of the world’s most notorious serial killer, he’d grown up with an intimate understanding of the mechanisms and the causes of death. But, strangely enough, he’d never attended a funeral until now.

     

 

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