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Table of Contents
A Preview of Now You See Her
A Preview of Truth or Die
About the Authors
Books by James Patterson
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KIM McDANIELS WAS BAREFOOT and wearing a blue-and-white-striped Juicy Couture minidress when she was awoken by a thump against her hip, a bruising thump. She opened her eyes in the blackness, as questions broke the surface of her mind.
Where was she? What the hell was going on?
She wrestled with the blanket draped over her head, finally got her face free, realized a couple of new things. Her hands and feet were bound. And she was in some kind of cramped compartment.
Another thump jolted her, and Kim yelled this time, "Hey!"
Her shout went nowhere, muffled by the confined space, the vibration of an engine. She realized she was inside the trunk of a car. But that made no freaking sense! She told herself to wake up!
But she was awake, feeling the bumps for real, and so she fought, twisting her wrists against a knotted nylon rope that didn't give. She rolled onto her back, tucking her knees to her chest, then bam! She kicked up at the lid of the trunk, not budging it a fraction of an inch.
She did it again, again, again, and now pain was shooting from her soles to her hips, but she was still locked up, and now she was hurting. Panic seized her and shook her hard.
She was caught. She was trapped. She didn't know how this had happened or why, but she wasn't dead and she wasn't injured. She would get away.
Using her bound hands as a claw, Kim felt around for a toolbox, a jack or a crowbar, but she found nothing, and the air was getting thin and foul as she panted alone in the dark.
Why was she here?
Kim searched for her last memory, but her mind was sluggish, as if a blanket had been thrown over her brain, too. She could only guess that she'd been drugged. Someone had slipped her a roofie, but who? When?
"Helllllllpppp! Let me out!" she yelled, kicking out at the trunk lid, banging her head against a hard metal ridge. Her eyes were filling with tears and she was getting mad now on top of being scared out of her mind.
Through her tears, Kim felt a five-inch-long bar just above her. It had to be the interior trunk release lever, and she whispered, "Thank you, God."
KIM'S CLAW-HANDS TREMBLED as she reached up, hooked her fingertips over the lever, and pulled down. The bar moved—too easily —and it didn't pop the lid.
She tried again, pulling repeatedly, frantically working against her certain knowledge that the release bar had been disabled, that the cable had been cut—when Kim felt the car wheels leave the asphalt. The ride smoothed out, and that made her think the car might be rolling over sand.
Was it going into the ocean?
Was she going to drown in this trunk?
She screamed again, a loud, wordless shriek of terror that turned into a gibbering prayer, Dear God, let me out of this alive, and I promise you—and when her scream ran out, she heard music coming from behind her head. It was a female vocalist, something bluesy, a song she didn't know.
Who was driving the car? Who had done this to her? For what possible reason?
And now her mind was clearing, running back, flipping through the images of the past hours. She started to remember. She'd been up at three. Makeup at four. On the beach at five. She and Julia and Darla and Monique and that other gorgeous but weird girl, Ayla. Gils, the photographer, had been drinking coffee with the crew, and men had been hanging around the edges, towel boys and early morning joggers agog at the girls in their little bikinis, at the wonder of stumbling onto a Sporting Life swimsuit shoot right there.
Kim pictured the moments, posing with Julia, Gils saying, "Less smile, Julia. That's great. Beautiful, Kim, beautiful, that's the girl. Eyes to me. That's perfect."
She remembered that the phone calls had come after that, during breakfast and throughout the whole day.
Ten freaking calls until she turned off her phone.
Douglas had been calling her, paging her, stalking her, driving her crazy. It was Doug!
And she thought about earlier that night, after dinner, how she'd been in the hotel bar with the art director, Del Swann. It was his job to oversee the shoot and be her chaperone afterward. But Del had gone to the men's room, and somehow he and Gils, both of them as gay as birds, disappeared.
And she remembered that Julia was talking with a guy at the bar, and she'd tried to get Julia's attention but Julia wouldn't make eye contact… so Kim had gone for a walk on the beach.… And that was all she remembered.
Her cell phone had been clipped to her belt but switched off. And now she was thinking that Doug had flipped out, rage-aholic that he was—stalker that he'd become. Maybe he'd paid someone to put something into her drink.
She was getting it together now. Brain working fine.
She shouted, "Douglas? Dougie?"
And then, as though God Himself had finally heard her calling, a cell phone rang inside the trunk.
KIM HELD her breath and listened.
A phone rang, but it wasn't her ring tone. This was a low-pitched burr, not four bars of Weezer's "Beverly Hills," but if it was like most phones, it was programmed to send calls to voice mail after three rings.
She couldn't let that happen!
Where was the damned phone?
She fumbled with the blanket, ropes chafing her wrists. She reached down, pawed at the flooring, felt the lump under a flap of carpet near the edge, bumped it farther away with her clumsy… oh no!
The second ring ended, the third ring was starting, and her frenzy was sending her heart rate out of control when she grasped the phone, a thick, old-fashioned thing, clutched it with her shaking fingers, sweat slicking her wrists.
She saw the illuminated caller ID number, but there was no name, and she didn't recognize the number.
But it didn't matter who it was. Anyone would do.
Kim pushed the Send button, pressed the phone to her ear, called out hoarsely, "Hello? Hello? Who's there?"
But instead of an answer, Kim heard singing, this time Whitney Houston, "I'll al-ways love you-ou-ou" coming from the car stereo only louder and more clearly.
He was calling her from the front seat of the car! She shouted over Whitney's voice, "Dougie? Dougie, what the hell? Answer me."
But he didn't answer, and Kim was quaking in the cramped trunk, tied up like a chicken, sweating like a pig, Whitney's voice seeming to taunt her.
"Doug! What do you think you're doing?"
And then she knew. He was showing her what it was like to be ignored, teaching her a lesson, but he wouldn't win. They were on an island, right? How far could they go?
So Kim used her anger to fuel the brain that had gotten her into Columbia premed, thinking now about how to turn Doug around. She'd have to play him, say how sorry she was, and explain sweetly that he had to understand it wasn't her fault. She tried it out in her mind.
See, Dougie, I'm not allowed to take calls. My contract strictly forbids me to tell anyone where we're shooting. I could get fired. You understand, don't you?
She'd make him see that even though they'd broken up, that even though he was crazy for what he was doing to her, criminal for God's sake, he was still her darling.
But—and this was her plan—once he gave her an opportunity, she'd knee him in the balls or kick in his kneecaps. She knew enough judo to disable him—as big as he was. Then she'd run for her life. And then the cops would bury him!
"Dougie?" she yelled into the phone. "Will you please answer me? Please. This really isn't funny."
Suddenly the music volume went down.
Once again, she held her breath in the dark and listened over the pulse booming in her ears. And this time, a voice spoke to her, a man's voice, and it was warm, almost loving.
"Actually, Kim, it is kind of funny, and it's kind of wonderfully romantic, too."
Kim didn't recognize the voice.
Because it wasn't Doug's.
A NEW KIND of fear swept through Kim like a cold fire, and she started to pass out. But she got a grip on herself, squeezed her knees together hard, bit her hand, and kept herself awake. And she replayed the voice in her head again.
"It is kind of funny, and it's kind of wonderfully romantic, too."
She didn't know that voice, didn't know it at all.
Everything she'd envisioned a moment ago, Doug's face, his weakness for her, her learning how to win him over when he got out of control—that was all gone.
Here was the new truth.
A complete stranger had tied her up and thrown her into the trunk of his car. She'd been kidnapped—but why? Her parents weren't rich! What was he going to do to her? How was she going to escape? She was—but how?
Kim listened in silence before asking, "Who is this?"
The voice was mellow and calm when he spoke again.
"Sorry to be so rude, Kim. I'll introduce myself in a minute or two. It won't be very long now. And don't worry. Everything's going to be fine."
The line went dead.
Kim blanked when the phone call cut off. It was as if her mind had been disconnected, too. Then the thoughts tumbled in. She found hope in the stranger's reassurance. So she clung to it. He was acting… nice. He'd said, "Everything's going to be fine."
The car took a hard left, and Kim rolled against the side of the trunk, braced her feet against the wall of the compartment. And she realized that she was still gripping the phone!
She held the keypad close to her face. She could barely read the numbers by the pale light of the faceplate, but she still managed to punch in 911.
She listened to the three rings, then four, and then the operator's voice. " Nine-one-one. What's your emergency?"
"My name is Kim McDaniels. I've been—"
"I didn't get that. Please spell your name."
Kim rolled forward as the car come to a stop. Then the driver's side door slammed—and she heard the key turning in the trunk lock.
Kim gripped the phone tighter, scared that the operator's voice would be loud enough to give her away, but more scared that if she hung up she'd lose the GPS connection between herself and the police, her best hope of rescue.
The phone call could be traced. That was correct, wasn't it?
"I've been kidnapped," she spat.
The key was turned, left and right, the lock not quite unlatching, and in that fraction of a minute Kim desperately revisited her plan. It was still good. Say her kidnapper wanted to have sex with her. She could survive that, obviously, but she had to be smart, make him her friend, remember everything so she could tell the police.
The trunk lid lifted, and moonlight spilled over her feet.
And Kim's plan to seduce her abductor flew out of her mind. She hauled back her knees and kicked hard at the man's thighs. He jumped back, avoiding her feet, and before she could see his face, the blanket was thrown over hers, the cell phone ripped from her hands.
Then—there was the prick of a needle in her thigh.
Kim heard his voice as her head rolled back and the light faded.
"Fighting me is pointless, Kim. This isn't about you and me. It's a whole lot bigger than that, trust me. But, then, why should you trust me?"
KIM CAME to consciousness.
She was lying faceup on a bed inside a glowing, yellow-painted room. Her arms were tied and anchored behind her head. Her legs, a long way away, were roped to the metal frame of a bed. A white satin sheet was tucked under her chin, draped between her legs. She couldn't be a hundred percent sure, but she thought she was naked under the sheet.
She pulled at the rope holding her arms behind her, and she got terrifying glimmers of what might happen to her next, nothing that matched the man's promise that "everything's going to be fine." Then she heard grunts and squeals coming from her throat, sounds she'd never made before.
She got nowhere with the ropes, so she lifted her head and as best she could, looked around the room. It seemed unreal, like a stage set.
To the right side of the bed were two closed windows, hung with gauzy curtains. There was a table beneath the windows loaded with lit candles of all heights and colors, and there were tropical flowers.
Birds of paradise and ginger—very masculine to her eyes, sexual really—stood erect in a vase beside the bed.
Another look around, and she took in cameras, two of them. Professional grade, mounted on tripods on either side of her.
She saw lights on stands and a sound boom she hadn't noticed at first, positioned above her head.
She became aware of the roar of surf, loud, as if the waves were crashing against the walls. And there she was, pinned like a butterfly at the center of it all.
Kim took in a deep breath, and screamed, "HELP MEEEEEE."
When her scream faded, a man's voice came from behind her head. "Hey, hey. Kim. No one can hear you."
Kim turned her head harder to the left, stretched her neck with tremendous effort, and saw a man sitting in a chair. He was wearing earphones, and he pulled them down from his head so that they were resting on his collarbones.
Her first look at the man who'd taken her.
She didn't know him.
He had medium-length hair, was maybe in his late thirties. He had regular features that could almost be called handsome. He was muscular, wearing form-fitting, expensive-looking clothes, a gold watch she'd seen in Vanity Fair. Patek Philippe. The man in the chair looked to her like the actor who played the lead in the latest James Bond movie, Daniel Craig.
He put the earphones back on and closed his eyes as he listened. He was ignoring her.
"Hey! Mister! I'm talking to you!" Kim shouted.
"You should hear this," the man said. He named the music, told her that he knew the artist, that this was a first studio cut.
He stood, brought the headphones over to her, and put one of the earpieces against her ear.
"Isn't that great?"
Kim's escape plan evaporated. She'd missed her big chance at seduction. She thought, Whatever he wants to do, he's going to do. But she could still beg for her life. Tell him it will be more fun if she participated—but her mind was scrambled from the injection he gave her and she felt woozy, too weak to move.
She looked into the man's light gray eyes, and he looked back as though he felt affection for her. Maybe she could use that. She said, "Listen to me. People know I'm missing. Important people. Life Incorporated. You've heard of them? I have a curfew. All the models do. The police are already looking for me…"
"James Blond," as she suddenly thought of him, said to her, "I wouldn't worry about the police, Kim. I was very careful." He sat beside her on the bed, placed his hand on her cheek admiringly. Then he put on blue latex gloves.
He lifted something from a nail in the wall, a mask of some sort, and when he put it on, his features became distorted. And very scary.
"What are you doing? What are you doing?"
Kim's screams ricocheted around the small room. The man said, "That was great. Could you do that again? Are you ready, Kim?"
He walked around to each of the cameras, checked the angle through the lenses, turned them on. The bright lights blazed.
Kim followed the blue gloves as they whisked the satin sheet away from her body. It was cool in the room, but the sweat immediately beaded up on her skin. She knew.
He was going to rape her.
"You don't have to do this," she said.
Kim started keening, a whimper that rose to a cry. She turned her face away, stared toward the closed windows, heard the nameless stranger's belt buckle hit the floor. She began sobbing without reservation as she felt the drag of latex running over her breasts, the feeling in her groin as he opened her with his mouth, the blunt feel of him pushing his way in, her muscles tightening to stop him from entering her.
His breath was soft against her face as he spoke into her ear.
"Just go along with this, Kim. Just go along. I'm sorry, but it's a job I'm doing for a lot of money. These people watching are big fans of yours. Try to understand."
"I want you to die," she said. She bit down on his wrist, drawing blood, and then he hit her, slapped her hard on each of her cheeks. Tears made her skin sting.
She wanted to pass out, but she was still conscious, very much under the blond stranger's body, hearing him grunting, feeling —too much. So she did her best to block out everything but the sound of the waves and thoughts about what she would do to him when she got away.
WHEN KIM WOKE UP she was sitting in a bathtub of warm water, leaning with her back against the sloping rim, her hands tied under the suds.
The blond stranger was on a stool beside her, washing her with a sea sponge as naturally as though he'd bathed her many times before.
Kim's stomach heaved, and she vomited bile into the tub. The stranger stood her up in one powerful swoop, saying "Alley Oops," and she noticed again how strong he was. This time she heard a hint of an accent but couldn't place it. Maybe Russian. Or Czech. Or German. Then he pulled the bathtub plug and turned on the shower.
Kim swayed under the spray, and he held her up, supported her body as she cried out and hit at him, trying to kick but losing her footing. She started to go down, and he caught her again, laughing, saying, "You're a little something special, aren't you?"
Then he wrapped her in very plush white towels, swaddled her like a baby. When he settled her on the closed toilet seat, he held out a glass of something for her to drink.
"Take this," he said. "It will help you. Honestly it will."
Kim shook her head, said, "Who are you? Why are you doing this to me?"
"Do you want to remember this evening, Kim?"
"You've got to be kidding, you effing pervert."
"This drink will help you forget. And I want you to be asleep when I take you home."
"When are you taking me home?"
"It's almost over," he said.
Kim raised her hands toward him, noticing that the rope binding her wrists together was different now. It was dark blue, possibly silk, and the pattern of knots was intricate, almost beautiful. She took the glass from him and emptied it down.
Next the stranger asked her to bend her head forward. She did, and he towel-dried her hair. Then he brushed it, making tendrils and curls with his fingers, and he brought bottles and brushes out of the long drawer of the vanity surrounding the sink.
He applied makeup to her cheeks and lips and eyes with a deft hand, dabbing a little concealer at a raw place near her left eye, wetting the brush with his tongue, blending the foundation in, saying, "I'm very good at this, don't worry."
He finished his work, then reached his arms around and under her, lifted her towel-wrapped body, and carried her into the other room.
Kim's head lolled back as he placed her on the bed. She was aware that he was dressing her, but she didn't assist him at all as he pulled a bikini bottom up her thighs. Then he tied the strap of the swimsuit top behind her back.
The suit looked to Kim a lot like the Perry Ellis she'd been wearing toward the end of the shoot. Red with a silver sheen. She must have mumbled, "Perry Ellis," because James Blond said, "It's even better. I picked this out myself when I was in Saint-Tropez. I got it just for you."
"You don't know me," she said, the words pouring sideways out of her mouth.
"Everyone knows you, honey. Kimberly McDaniels. What a beautiful name, too." He moved her hair to one side and knotted a second swimsuit tie behind her neck, tied a bow, apologized if he'd pulled at her hair.
Kim wanted to make a remark, but she forgot what she was going to say. She couldn't move. She couldn't scream. She could barely keep her eyes open. She looked into the pale gray eyes that caressed her.
He said, "Stunning. You look so beautiful for your close-up."
She tried to say, "Screw you," but the words blended together and came out as a long, tired sigh. "Scoooooooo."
INSIDE A PRIVATE LIBRARY on the other side of the world, a man named Horst sat back in his leather-upholstered armchair and watched the large HD screen beside the fireplace.
"I like the blue hands," he said to his friend Jan, who was swirling his drink in a chunky glass. Horst turned up the volume with the remote.
"It's a nice touch," Jan agreed. "With the swimsuit, and the skin, she is as American as apple pie. Are you quite sure you saved the video?"
"Of course I did. Look now," said Horst. "Watch now how he quiets his animal."
Kim was lying on her stomach. She was perfectly hog-tied, her hands behind her back and tethered to her legs, which were bent up at the knees. Along with the red swimsuit, she was wearing shiny black patent leather shoes with five-inch heels and slick red soles. They were top designer shoes, Christian Louboutin, the very best, and Horst thought they looked more like toys than shoes.
Kim was pleading with the man his audience knew as "Henri." She was sobbing softly. "Please, please untie me. I'll play my role. It will be even better for you, and I'll never tell anyone."
Horst laughed, said, "That is the truth. She will never tell anyone."
Jan put down his glass, then said with edgy impatience, "Horst, please roll back the video."
On screen, Kim said again between sobs, "I'll never tell anyone."
"That's good, Kim. Our secret, eh?"
Henri's face was transformed by the plastic mask and his digitally altered voice, but his performance was strong and his audience was avid. Both men leaned forward in their chairs, watched as Henri stroked Kim, rubbed her back, and murmured to her until she stopped whimpering.
And then, as she seemed to go to sleep, he straddled her body, wrapping his hand in the young woman's long, damp, yellow hair.
He lifted her head from the flat of the bed, pulling hard enough that Kim's back arched, and the force of the pull made her cry out. Possibly she saw that he'd picked up a serrated knife with his right hand.
"Kim," he said. "You'll wake up soon. And if you ever remember this, it will seem like a bad dream."
The beautiful young woman was surprisingly quiet as Henri made the first deep cut across the back of her neck. Then, as the pain caught up with her—hauled her violently out of her stupor—her eyelids flew open and a curdled scream erupted from her painted mouth. She wrenched her body as Henri sawed and cross-sawed through her muscles, and then the scream cut out, leaving an echo as Henri completely severed Kim's head from her body in three long strokes.
- On Sale
- Jun 29, 2009
- Page Count
- 416 pages
- Little, Brown and Company