The Dolls


By James Patterson

With Kecia Bal

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An investigative reporter is about to uncover the secrets of The Dolls: the perfect lovers, perfect companions, and perfect killers.

Investigative reporter Lana Wallace has covered many crimes of passion in 10 years. But nothing will prepare her for the dark secrets of . . . The Dolls.

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Chapter 1

It should have been invigorating, jogging for the first time along Boston Harbor at dawn, breathing the cool briny mist.

But my morning run didn’t work its usual magic.

A hot shower didn’t help clear my mind, nor did the mug of green tea during my commute. I was trying to picture myself stepping confidently into a new job, a new city, and a new life. But all I felt was my stomach doing flips, over and over.

At least my suit looks smart.

I looked down at the crisp navy blazer, part of a steal I’d picked up in one of Chicago’s consignment boutiques. I knew the color would work with my haircut, a shoulder-skimming auburn bob, in waves today, all part of an outfit planned—down to the pearl studs—months ago when I got the news.

But the shoes—the perfect nude pumps—were either left behind in Chicago, like the 24-7 crime beat, or squeezed into the bottom of one of the dozens of boxes I ripped open that morning, frantic and frustrated.

Why didn’t I keep the ensemble together in the move? Come on, Lana.

Breathing in deeply, I picked up my pace in the final stretch of my trek from the T station stop to the office of the Times-Journal. This was it. If I spend any longer waiting for courage to catch up, I’ll be late.

My first new job in a decade loomed just ahead, four stories of brick and glass outlined in the morning sun, taller buildings arching up behind it. I forced the anxiety fluttering up through my chest back down to the pit of my stomach. Another deep breath. I pushed open a glass door, taking a swift stride to a receptionist’s desk.

The tired-looking woman behind it hardly looked up, but nodded knowingly when I introduced myself as the newsroom’s new hire.

“I’ll call Mr. Shawley to take you up,” the woman said flatly, grabbing her phone.

Around the entryway walls hung poster-sized, front-page layouts in plastic frames. That’s where my byline belongs.

The woman jammed the phone back into place, shook her head and stood, glancing at me. “Guess it’s me who’s taking you up. There’s something going on.”

“What is it?”

“Some kind of breaking news.”

Maybe if the receptionist had been warmer, or if it had been any other day in my career, I would have tried for more information. I just followed, focused on not screwing this up.

The receptionist finished her chore as quickly as she could, letting a door slam behind her and leaving me in just a newsroom, which was sparse, even for 8:40 a.m. on a Monday.

Where is everybody?

There: a cluster of people behind a wall of windows on the opposite side of the newsroom. But there was a single reporter clicking at a laptop in a ghost town of waist-high cubicles. I recognized him from my interview as editor Tim Shawley. He looked in my direction and motioned me over.

“Welcome!” he said warmly. He gave a kind smile and stretched his sport coat over a barrel stomach. “So glad to be here.” I smiled right back and gave a solid handshake.

“You’re a little early—but that’s good. We could use a crime-solver this morning, it turns out.”

“Oh? Good. Well, I’m ready.”

That’s a fib.

He led me over to the glassed-in conference room and opened the door to a room full of half-finished mugs of coffee and the chatter I was used to in a busy newsroom.

“Guys, this is Lana Wallace. She comes from Chicago, where she’s covered crime for the past ten years. She picked up a bunch of awards in that time, but I was able to convince her to make the switch to business—and the daylight shift.”

The “guys” were about seven men in loosened ties—had they been here all night, or just gotten down to business and not tightened them yet?—and two women circling a whiteboard.

Tim introduced everyone and got back to business.

“We don’t typically pull folks together for an editorial meeting this early, but in this case, we’re trying to figure out how to deal with a high-profile murder—a second one, actually.”

Five minutes in—and it’s a crime story. Bring it on.

Elaine Hartman, the silver-haired city editor with a face full of stern lines, acknowledged me with a brisk nod and spun back around to the whiteboard.

“Katherine’s just posted a breaking news update online with what we know from police and now the DA, which is little. Eric Blake, forty-seven, owner of several Boston-based companies, found dead in his condo late yesterday. Stabbing. Ruled a homicide.” Elaine scribbled in black marker as quickly as she talked. “Katherine will also handle the press conference this afternoon. I think our editorial should focus on how the DA and police are being so damn tight-lipped. We’ve got a second homicide in the span of a week—and she’s released a two-sentence statement to match the last two-sentence statement from police. Tyler found a headshot we had, but it would be nice if we could pull a little more info about Eric Blake. We’ve hardly said anything about who this guy is.”

Tim glanced over the men thumbing through tablets on a table and turned to Katherine, pacing in flats around Elaine. Her brown hair was tied back in an efficient ponytail, a burst of curls bouncing behind her. I knew from her work bio and her history as a veteran crime reporter that she had to be mid-forties—but her energy level seemed more appropriate for twenty-two.

“What do we know about him?” Tim asked. “Any connections to Tony McAndrews?” And then to me, “He was the first victim, a private equity partner.”

“Other than they were both loaded—not sure about the connection yet. Quick search shows that Eric Blake was the CEO of a startup called PrydeTek. I’m still checking our file stories to see what we’ve said about him before.” Katherine paused, glancing at me. “Maybe we can have our new business reporter help me go through them?”

Yes, please.

Elaine studied my “pick me” face for a moment, then gave a quick response.

“That’s fine. Maybe we can have her shadow you for now. Ed’s on vacation, until next Monday. Trying to use it all up before he retires. The business section can wait a little longer for someone with…enthusiasm.”

Katherine’s expression was friendly, with a sparkle of mischief.

“Well, these guys both came from the startup sector. You could look at it as a business story—a business owner and a millionaire investor, both found tied up and slashed. And naked.”

I took my cue.

“Right. We just don’t know what kind of business they were up to.”

Even Elaine broke her no-nonsense act for a second and chuckled.

Chapter 2

Penthouse Murder Victim ID’d as Drex Equity Principal

Slain Business Leader Lauded for Tech Investments

Second Businessman Slashed

I flipped through the headlines from last week—and this morning—on my phone while Katherine and I waited in a crowded reception area of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s main office downtown. I was wedged between two irritated cameramen, equipment loaded over their shoulders.

“Where’re you from?” one asked.

“Mack, this is Lana.” Katherine looked back at me. “She’s our new business reporter—only she’s stuck spending the week with me.”

I looked up from my phone with a smile at him.

“Some way to break her in,” he grunted, as we were ushered to a law library set up for a press conference.

I hustled to get to a seat in the first of three rows of chairs that stretched from one book-lined wall to another. Mack and the other TV news crews set up their tripods in the back and strung them to eight microphones they attached on top of a wooden podium.

District Attorney Allison Brito, short and smart-looking, walked in moments later, and stood behind the microphones. She was flanked by men and women, including department leads from the Homicide Unit and the Special Prosecutions Unit that handles white-collar crime.

“That’s Andre Davies with the Boston Police Homicide Unit—he’s cool.” Katherine finished announcing the lineup and her voice died down to a whisper, along with the din of gossip all around us.

The DA adjusted a few of the microphones, cleared her throat, and thanked the group for coming. The roomful of reporters watched expectantly.

In a span of about three minutes, she recapped the brief statement her office had sent to news crews this morning. “The investigation is ongoing. Please let the public know that anyone with information should call Boston Police or Crime Stoppers immediately. And, yes, investigators are looking into potential similarities to the previous fatal stabbing.”

That was it?

There was surprise at how quickly the DA was done with her update. And then the questions started.

“What have you uncovered about last week’s murder?” a woman’s voice rang out.

“We are following up on every possible lead in the case of Mr. McAndrews.”

“What about the medical examiner’s report?” Another voice. And another question that went unanswered.

“Are there any leads on the suspect—persons of interest?” The same voice, a man, tried again.

The DA sighed, but answered: “Not yet. No witnesses that we know of. That’s really all I can release at this time. We are trying to be sensitive to the families.”

Outrageous. A killer is at large—maybe two killers—and the DA’s hardly saying anything.

“Allison, can you at least tell us how many stab wounds?” This time, it was me, shouting over the crowd. “And where?”

She stopped her exit—and looked at me in the front row.

“Who are you with?”

“Lana Wallace, with the Times-Journal.” I didn’t let my voice waver.

The cramped room was quiet for a moment while she studied me.

“A single puncture wound to the chest. That’s really all I can say.”

And it was the last thing she said, walking away with a few bold reporters trailing her to the door. I would have, too, but Katherine had my elbow.

Chapter 3

Detective Andre Davies was shaking his head—in a friendly, you-know-I-can’t-say-anything way—before we got to him.

“Andre, this is nuts and you know it.” Katherine cut right to the point. “Two weird murders in one week, two millionaires—and we’re getting zero. I guess money talks.”

The detective stayed composed, his strong jaw set, but his green eyes smiled.

He tilted his head—he was at least eight inches taller than Katherine and I—and in a lowered voice said: “Except, sometimes money doesn’t talk.”

He was talking to Katherine, but his eyes wandered to me.

“The families are difficult, I’m sure. And they have to be putting the pressure on to keep this quiet,” Katherine answered quickly. “Is that why the DA took over media relations from Boston PD?”

Only a smile in reply.

Getting nowhere, Katherine switched gears and introduced me to Davies. I shook his hand, thinking thank you, Katherine, as she launched into small talk. “How are your boys doing?” she asked. “Did you and Kelly pick a preschool for Noah?”

Damn. Of course. He’s married.

He relaxed.

“No on preschool, but one week into summer break for Justin and we’ve already visited the ER, so we’re off to a running start. Don’t let anybody tell you bowling’s not a sport. It’s a dangerous one.” Lucky Kelly. He’s funny, too.

“Lana, are you as much of a troublemaker as Kat here?”

I tried to think of something witty to say back, but I was at a loss.

“We get along so far, if that’s any sign.” That was the best I could do. I tried for a playful smile.

“You covered crime in Chicago? This should be nothing.”

“Well, this is certainly different,” I answered. “I mean—some guy fatally stabs a man in the chest and walks away. Nobody saw him? Either time? You guys have to know a lot more than you’re saying. And what kind of motive? Is it the money?”

“Like Allison said, one stab wound. That means little spatter. Perp could have walked away without drawing attention. No prints showed up on the handles of either of the knives—”

“Where’d you find them?” I squeezed in a question.

“Still there.”

“You mean…in the victims’ chests?”

Detective Davies gave a barely detectable nod, and looked around. The room was empty now, besides the three of us. He whispered: “Deep, too, all the way to the handle. Horizontal, aligned with muscle grain. Means even less blood.”

“Both times?”

One more nod. Finally, I was getting somewhere.

Same MO. And the killer had to be strong—and calculating—to shove a kitchen knife that far, in the right place, in one hit.

“Were there signs of forced entry?” I tried for more. “A struggle? And why were they naked?”

Amused by the barrage, the detective settled a melting gaze on me.


On Sale
Aug 1, 2017
Page Count
144 pages

James Patterson

About the Author

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author, best known for his many enduring fictional characters and series, including Alex Cross, the Women’s Murder Club, Michael Bennett, Maximum Ride, Middle School, I Funny, and Jacky Ha-Ha. Patterson’s writing career is characterized by a single mission: to prove to everyone, from children to adults, that there is no such thing as a person who “doesn’t like to read,” only people who haven’t found the right book. He’s given over a million books to schoolkids and over forty million dollars to support education, and endowed over five thousand college scholarships for teachers. He writes full-time and lives in Florida with his family.

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