By Maxine Paetro
Read by Lauren Fortgang
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The City of Lights sets the stage for romance, drama and intrigue in the latest Confessions novel from the world’s bestselling mystery writer!
After investigating multiple homicides and her family’s decades-old skeletons in the closet, Tandy Angel is finally reunited with her lost love in Paris. But as he grows increasingly distant, Tandy is confronted with disturbing questions about him, as well as what really happened to her long-dead sister. With no way to tell anymore who in her life she can trust, how will Tandy ever get to the bottom of the countless secrets her parents kept from her? James Patterson leads this brilliant teenage detective through Paris on a trail of lies years in the making, with shocking revelations around every corner.
Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of Confessions: The Murder of an Angel
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I'm writing to you from Paris on a stunning day that is way beyond anything I could have imagined. I thought I was prepared for this, but I was wrong.
I remembered how I endured months of a forced and hellish separation from my boyfriend, James Rampling, when I didn't know if he was alive or dead. How my mind was wiped of nearly every memory of our time together, until I doubted his entire existence. So now, as I stood in front of the astounding Musée du Louvre, scanning the elegantly dressed crowds for a sight of him, it felt completely unreal that he would appear.
And then—he called my name.
James darted through the speeding traffic circling the Place du Carrousel. When he finally reached me, and after we'd exchanged a few shy words, he lifted me off the ground and swept me into an amazing kiss that I'd rate ten big blinking stars and another couple for sheer epicness.
I'm not the gushy type. I'm rational and logical, and not exactly prone to girly exaggeration, so when I say that kiss was like two halves of one heart meeting and locking together, you can believe me.
Or believe the cars driving past us with honking horns and people shouting out the windows, "Vive l'amour!"—Long live love!—and "Eh, il ya des hôtels pour ça!"—There are hotels for that!
My long-lost boyfriend and I stood there under the noonday sun in the center of Paris, traffic whizzing by us, ruffling our hair and sending a hot breeze up my skirt.
James's face was so open, I could see his thoughts.
"I love you," he said. I already knew.
As I said, "I love you, too," a defeated look came into his eyes.
"What's wrong?" I asked, alarmed.
James was looking over my shoulder, and I turned and saw that a black car had braked to a stop a dozen yards from where we stood. Three men leapt out. Two of them were heavily muscled and the third was tall with thick black hair that was pure white at the temples and wearing a black trench coat. He came toward us, and I saw that his face was all twisted up with fury.
He called out sharply, "James. We have to talk, son."
James turned me away from the car so that I was looking only at him. He grabbed me by my shoulders and gazed at me intensely with both love and desperation in his eyes. He said, "It's my father, Tandy. You have to run."
"No. Absolutely not. I'm not leaving you," I replied, but he begged me to do what he said.
"Please. I'll find you again. I will. But if he gets his hands on you, he'll hurt you. He'll crush you, Tandy. Just run."
Really? Run and wait another six months or a year or ten in the dark while James tries to escape his father? I think not. Maybe Mr. Rampling could hurt me, but no one had the power to crush me. "I have a better idea."
I fixed my eyes on the ruthless Royal Rampling and yelled, "We're not afraid of you!" I pointed an accusing finger at him and screamed, "Ravisseur! Kidnapper!"
James began yelling at him, too. His face was bright red, and cords stood out in his neck. "I'm not your property. I don't belong to you!"
We attracted attention, that's for sure. People streamed toward us. Cars jammed on their brakes. Cameras and cell phones were pointed at us, and I guessed we'd hear police sirens any minute.
Mr. Rampling must've realized that, too. He scoffed, then called out to James, "Ce n'est pas fini jusqu'à ce que je dis c'est fini." It's not over until I say it's over.
Then he and his goons turned and stomped off to his car.
James and I stood together and watched them go.
This was a triumph, an incomparable victory.
Love had won the day.
Correction. Love had won the moment.
As that black car screeched away from the curb, I felt high with so many emotions: pride and elation and also fear—because while Royal Rampling had been driven away, there was nothing stopping him from coming after us again.
"Tandy," James said. "Look at me."
I looked into his gray-blue eyes, and despite the fact that his dad might still be circling around us in his car, James and I might as well have been the only two people in the world.
James smiled at me, making my heart pound.
"The look on my father's face when you stood up to him, Tandy. You are completely awesome."
We grinned at each other and hugged hard, laughing from pure delight. "We are both completely awesome," I said.
And we were.
Something big had changed in the last five minutes. I didn't have to fantasize. I didn't have to dream. I didn't have to sift through fractured memories looking for something real. Right now, we were in love and together—in Paris.
If there had been a sunset, we would have walked into it and the story would have been over. But sunset was so many hours away, and James told me he had made lots of plans.
He grabbed me into a hug, kissed my hair, and said, "You and I have some catching up to do."
I agreed. "We do."
We turned off our phones, even though my guardian, Uncle Jacob, had expressly told me never to do it. But since I was about to break at least a dozen other rules with James today—tonight—one more hardly made a difference.
We slipped our arms around each other, and set out on a stroll through the most romantic city in the world.
Paris was truly amazing and so incredibly different from my hometown of New York City. There were no skyscrapers. The buildings were old and grand, and a glorious river ran through the city under a clear, wide-open sky.
Could anyone ask for a better place for a reunion?
Not me. I was over the moon and the stars and even the sun.
We stopped at Depot Nicolas, a wine shop where James bought a bottle of Bordeaux wrapped in white paper. The next stop was 38 Saint Louis, where he chose a big wedge of Brie, then the Boulangerie des Deux Ponts for a long, skinny bag of warm baguettes.
We lunched on a bench under shade trees fronting the quai, a concrete embankment that slopes gently down to the River Seine. Bikers and lovers and laughing children with small dogs made an endless parade, and boats sailed by just below our feet.
We hugged and kissed, again and again, and talked over each other and laughed enough to make up for our six months of despair and total blackout. Then we went quiet.
James lifted strands of my long dark hair and wound them around his fingers. He did this reverently, as if he'd never seen my hair before. He touched the top button on my pin-tucked white shirt and traced the flouncy hem of my skirt. He kissed my temples and my mouth and the palms of my hands.
It was as if every place he touched burst into flames. I pressed my cheek to his, burrowed under his arm, and fitted myself perfectly against his strong, lean body. I ran my hand under his leather jacket and covered his fast-beating heart.
If there was ever a case of spontaneous combustion, this was it. We were on fire.
To tell the truth, I was so elated, I was a little afraid.
"I have something to show you," James said. "Want to take a little walk?"
He didn't have to ask me twice.
Walking hand in hand with James was like being wide-awake inside the most delicious of dreams.
He had a mischievous look on his face as he led me across the Pont des Arts, a footbridge that arched gracefully over the Seine. A low chain-link fence lined the walk, and it was festooned with padlocks—thousands of them.
James said, "Look what I have, Tandoori."
I watched eagerly as he took something out of his jacket pocket. It was an old brass padlock, as worn and dinged up as our journey to this moment. James handed the lock to me, and when I turned it over, I saw our initials etched into the back.
James did that.
I looked up at his face. His cheeks were colored with emotion, and I understood why he had brought me here. With a shaking hand, I hooked the lock into the fence between other locks that had been placed there by lovers over the years. When I closed the hasp, it made a solid and permanent sound.
James separated two keys from a ring. He gave one to me and clenched his fist around the other.
"We have to do this together," he said.
I followed his lead but turned to face him. Then he said, "On the count of three."
We smiled at each other as we counted down. At three, we heaved the little keys over each other's shoulders, beyond the sides of the bridge. They disappeared into the rushing water far below.
The moment was both joyous and solemn, as if we were taking vows that could never be broken: James Rampling and Tandy Angel together in perpetuity. Tears welled up, but I didn't want them. No more tears. I'd already shed enough tears for a sixteen-year-old girl.
James squeezed my hand, and I saw tears in his eyes, too.
It just couldn't get better than this—but it did.
We wandered the city for hours, just reveling in the happiness of finally being together and carefully avoiding any negative talk that could kill our buzz. When the sky turned cobalt blue, we dined alfresco on steak frites and café au lait at the Café du Trocadero. From our tiny marble table under the awnings, we had a magnificent view of the Eiffel Tower, which sparkled madly with silver lights.
Our knees touched and our feelings arced between us like lightning.
"I wrote to you," James said. "When you didn't write back, I thought you blamed me for what happened. I thought you hated me."
Of course, I hadn't known that James had written to me. At the time, I didn't even remember his name.
I told him what had happened to me since I'd last seen him: about my horrid abduction and wretched incarceration in a high-class nuthouse, the treatments that had erased him from my mind. And I told him about my parents' savage deaths. They had done everything they could to keep James and me apart, but that obstacle was gone now.
"I didn't know you had written to me until I found your cards in my mother's desk."
He covered my hands with both of his and told me about his own lockdown in a superstrict Swiss school without phones or Internet.
"My father, your parents. They did what they could to keep us apart. But this was meant to be," he said.
We left the bistro and went underground to the Métro, getting off at the St-Paul stop. We walked under warmly illuminated arches and came upon musicians playing cello and violin under the stars.
James dropped coins into the musicians' cup, and they called after us, "Merci, monsieur et mademoiselle. Bonne chance."
Yes, it was phenomenal good luck that James and I were together at last.
The next thing I knew, we stood at the entrance to a small, run-down-looking hotel called the Grand Hôtel Voltaire. The brass appointments were tarnished. The stone threshold was worn down from the millions of footsteps that had crossed it through the centuries. It was a one-star hotel, but I thought it was perfectly poetic and completely romantic.
James looked into my eyes.
And he held open the front door.
I was flushed and even trembling as James and I crossed the worn Persian carpets in the hotel's charming, velvet-lined lobby and stepped into a metal cage of an elevator. James slid the gate closed.
When he looked at me, I was sure he knew what I was feeling. We were in uncharted territory, James and I. Maybe he was scared, too.
All my life, my demanding parents had trained me to suppress all emotions, believing they were unnecessary distractions. But to be robbed of this intensity would have robbed me of my humanity. I was made to feel this way, to love James and to be loved by him.
He put an arm around me and pressed the button for 3eme étage. The creaky lift rose and stopped on the third floor with a jolt. As we walked down the hallway toward his room, James whispered, "My father can't find us now, Tandy."
We stopped at a door near the end of the hall. James pushed the key into the lock. He wiggled it. It rattled and then, finally, the door opened. I stepped into a room that was shabby but clean, smelling faintly of cigarettes.
There was a narrow bed against the wall to my right, a chair with claw feet beside it, and a tall carved armoire across from the bed that called up images of an earlier time. The one small window looked out onto Boulevard Voltaire, and enough moonlight and streetlight came through it to see by.
James hung his jacket on a hook behind the door and turned to face me. I could hardly look at him. My skin was hot, and my heart was skipping, thudding, banging against my rib cage, acting like a child on a sugar high.
I knew what James would see on my face when he looked at me: that I was his, only for him. He held my face with both hands and kissed me. It was real and tender and full of desire. He loved me. He wanted me. And I wanted him. I had never done this with anyone before, but I wasn't afraid. It felt completely right.
Fierce heat flashed through my body. He unbuttoned his shirt, and it whispered to the floor. Then he unbuttoned mine.
I'm not the kind of girl to tell others what was deeply, personally ours. But I can say this.
When I woke up in his bed many hours later and reached for him, I was alone.
James was gone.
I doubted my senses. Was I dreaming? I screamed out for him inside the tiny room, and then I looked in the bathroom down the hall. Back in the room, I turned on my phone and waited for it to ring. And I imagined terrible things: that James had been abducted while we slept. That he had been caged. That he was being tortured.
Then I saw the note that must have slipped from the bed and was lying on the floor. The small square of paper shook in my hand as I turned on the light. This was James's handwriting, for sure.
Dearest Tandy, he wrote, I've been lying awake for hours watching you sleep. You are my true angel, and because I love you so much, I have to protect you. My family situation is worse than I've told you, worse than you can imagine, and I can't give my father any more reasons to hurt you or your family.
I know this note won't be enough for you. I know you will be furious with me. But please believe this, there is no other way.
Something I read yesterday: L'amour fait les plus grandes douceurs et les plus sensibles infortunes de la vie. Love creates the sweetest pleasures and the worst misfortunes in life.
Don't ever doubt that I love you. And always will.
Alone, I left the Grand Hôtel Voltaire feeling as though I'd been slammed across the back of my head with a shovel, then hurled headfirst into a Dumpster.
I didn't get it. Any of it. And I was seething.
Why hadn't James woken me up to talk? Why didn't he trust me with what he knew and felt? Was there any truth in that note? Had he ever loved me? How could he leave me alone to figure out what had happened to us on what had been the best and worst day of my life?
Yesterday, I had thought no one could crush me.
I was wrong.
As I walked away from the hotel, I couldn't help but remember how happy I was on this same street last night with James… whoever he was, whoever I had thought he was. I hurt so much that I cried like a little kid as I navigated the streets of Paris at dawn. My family had checked out of the Hotel George V yesterday and moved into the house that had once belonged to my late grandmother, which I found with little effort.
Once "home," I went upstairs to the second-floor bathroom. I filled the bathtub and sat in the warm water for about a half hour without even moving. After that, I changed into clothes that hadn't been touched, fondled, or unbuttoned by James Rampling. I went downstairs and poured a cup of coffee, plugged in my phone to charge, and then huddled in a big leather sofa in the parlor.
Later, I heard the sounds of my family moving around the huge house, but I didn't call out. I sat on that sofa as still and as unblinking as a corpse until my little brother, Hugo, ran past with his arms outspread.
He was giving himself landing instructions—"Control tower to Hugo One, runway six is cleared for you now"—and making truly annoying engine noises. He saw me in the parlor, made a U-turn, and flung himself across my lap.
"Where were you last night?" he asked me.
"You think I have to tell you?"
"Jacob thought you were about to blow off the most important meeting ever. He's pretty mad."
"I was right here," I said, shoving Hugo onto the floor.
"That's a lie," he said. "Oh, I took the bedroom facing the street. Me and Matty. There's a smart TV in that room, and I can get like ninety thousand stations and post my blog."
Matty was our twenty-four-year-old big brother, Matthew Angel, cornerback for the New York Giants. Fierce, strong, as handsome as a movie star, and most of all, Hugo's hero.
At that moment, Matthew was looking out the windows into the front garden and speaking on his phone in a very animated way. In the kitchen to my right, my twin brother, Harry, was reading the back of a cracker box.
He said to me, "You're in big trouble, you know?"
Just then, our uncle Jacob stalked into the room and stood until we gave him our attention.
Shortly after our parents' sudden and gruesome deaths, just weeks before our home and all our possessions were sold to settle their debts and we were this close to becoming homeless, Jacob Perlman had appeared.
Jacob was an Israeli ex-commando and our father's long-lost oldest brother. And now he was our guardian. He was the one who had brought us to Paris to live in Gram Hilda's house and had told us about the inheritance she intended for us.
He stood in the center of this fantastic, modern-style room until our eyes were fixed on his. Then he said, "Tandy, I've told you. Never turn off your phone."
"Uncle Jake, believe me, I had a good reason."
"There's no exception to 'never.' We'll discuss it later."
Jacob took his wallet out of the back pocket of his khakis.
"Harry, please go out and bring back lunch for all of us. Hurry. The bankers and lawyers will be here shortly—and, kids, please trust me when I tell you to bring your A-game.
"Especially you, Tandoori. Snap out of it—whatever 'it' is. Good or bad, the results of this meeting will determine how comfortably you live the rest of your lives."
At half past one, nine of the seats around the mirror-polished steel table in Gram Hilda's dramatic, black-lacquered dining room were taken. We kids lined up along one side, Jacob took his seat at the head, and four gray-suited, middle-aged lawyers and bankers sat stiffly across from us.
The suits were all humorless, well pressed, and rather full of themselves. And the one who looked least likely to eat Popsicles in his underwear or sing and walk on his hands at the same time was the senior man, Monsieur François Delavergne.
Monsieur Delavergne was fat and bald, with hair shooting out of his cuffs and sprouting like weeds on his knuckles. "Pleasure to meet you," he said grimly, shaking hands with each of us.
"Don't be so sure," Hugo said.
Matty grabbed our bad boy by the shoulder. "That was rude, Hugo. Apologize."
"Just being honest," Hugo said. "Matty, are you afraid of this dude?"
Matty shook his head and said, "Sorry, Monsieur Delavergne. Hugo comes uncensored."
"Real, you mean," Hugo said. "Straight shooter, you mean."
He then bet our visitors that he could lift any of them over his head, but got no takers. Once the nonsense stopped and the presentations were under way, I turned my scattered thoughts to my beautiful, brilliant, and somewhat capricious late grandmother, Hilda Angel.
Although she died before any of us were born, we'd heard stories about her wild summer on a kibbutz when she was seventeen, her intrepid trips abroad on tramp steamers, and her high-flying life in New York and Paris.
But what we first learned about her came in the form of a scandalous handwritten codicil to her last will and testament that read, "I am leaving Malcolm and Maud $100, because I feel that is all that they deserve."
Our father had framed and hung that Big Chop—what our family not-so-affectionately calls our parents' punishments—in the stairwell near the master bedroom, where we all saw it several times a day.
Why had Gram Hilda disowned Malcolm? Maud, our very own tiger mom, had said that Hilda hadn't approved of the marriage. That must have meant Hilda hadn't approved of her. Maybe that was true. But I often wondered what else we hadn't been told.
I tuned back in to the men in gray as they itemized Gram Hilda's holdings, projected receipts, calculated interest rates, and translated international rates of exchange.
I followed the back-and-forth up to a point. I asked questions. I made notes, but honestly, the numbers were dense and dizzying, and although I'm a bit of a math whiz, this was a deluge of black ink and fine print with no apparent bottom line. Plus, the millions of questions and doubts about James kept slipping into my thoughts like evil weeds. I tried, but I couldn't read a single face across the table.
Were we bankrupt or not? Why were there so many papers for us to sign? Finally, I'd had enough.
"Excuse me, Monsieur Delavergne," I said. "Will you summarize, please? Uncle Jacob will explain the details to us later."
"Of course, Mademoiselle Angel," Delavergne sniffed. "Whatever you say. Whatever you want or need."
He took out a pen and a notepad from his briefcase. He said, "The grandchildren's trusts are equal. You four will each inherit"—scratching of pen on paper—"this amount."
He held up the pad so we could all see.
We four kids sucked up all the air on our side of the table. I had hoped there would be enough money in Gram Hilda's bank account to pay for our food and housing and maybe college tuition for me, Harry, and Hugo.
My most extreme wish hadn't even been close.
Delavergne went on, "But your grandmother was a careful woman. You won't get this money all at once. In fact, your inheritance will be divided into monthly payments and distributed to each of you over the next, uhh, forty-two years. Your uncle will be your executor until you each reach your majority."
"Wait," I said. "You're saying I'll get a monthly allowance until I'm fifty-eight years old?"
"Exactly," said Gram Hilda's most trusted senior attorney, "unless you disgrace the family name." He tapped the stack of papers the four of us had to sign.
"The degree of 'disgrace' will be determined by the five of us: Messieurs Portsmith, Simone, and Bourgogne; your uncle Jacob; and me, of course."
Really? I would be responsible to four strangers and Jacob for the next forty-two years?
By the way, our family was not exactly famous for following rules. So what, exactly, was their definition of disgrace?
"Your inheritance represents both a gift and a challenge," Delavergne continued, brightening for the first time in three hours. "That was your grandmother's guiding principle, and we expect it will become yours as well."
Once again, thoughts of James seeped into my unwilling mind. What we had was a gift and a challenge from the very beginning. And I was never one to back down from a challenge.
We celebrated Gram Hilda's awesome yet mysterious gifts and challenges at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, a world-class restaurant that had been awarded the maximum number of Michelin stars, and it might have rated more.
I've been to top restaurants before. I'm from New York. But this place was at the pinnacle of its own category.
Praise for Confessions of a Murder Suspect:A #1 New York Times Bestseller
"The complex, clever plot keeps the pages turning as it wends its way to a surprising resolution and several cliffhangers."—CommonSenseMedia.org
"A fascinating story of secrets and discovery."—Library Media Connection
"Readers will be drawn inexorably into Tandy's world of paranoia and manipulation as they try to put the pieces together."
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- Sep 15, 2015
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