Read by Ilyana Kadushin
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Kristin wakes up every morning from the same chilling, unforgettable dream. And suddenly, it’s visiting her during the day too. As her life turns stranger by the minute, Kristin is haunted and terrified. Is it all in her head? Or is the nightmare becoming her life?
Kristin searches desperately for what’s real through the lens of her camera, only knowing two things for sure: that no place is safe and the fate of everyone she loves lies in her hands.
The Novels of James Patterson
FEATURING ALEX CROSS
The Big Bad Wolf
Four Blind Mice
Violets Are Blue
Roses Are Red
Pop Goes the Weasel
Cat & Mouse
Jack & Jill
Kiss the Girls
Along Came a Spider
THE WOMEN'S MURDER CLUB
The 6th Target (coauthor: Maxine Paetro)
The 5th Horseman (coauthor: Maxine Paetro)
4th of July (coauthor: Maxine Paetro)
3rd Degree (coauthor: Andrew Gross)
2nd Chance (coauthor: Andrew Gross)
1st to Die
You've Been Warned (coauthor: Howard Roughan)
Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports
The Quickie (coauthor: Michael Ledwidge)
Step on a Crack (coauthor: Michael Ledwidge)
Judge & Jury (coauthor: Andrew Gross)
Maximum Ride: School's Out — Forever
Beach Road (coauthor: Peter de Jonge)
Lifeguard (coauthor: Andrew Gross)
Honeymoon (coauthor: Howard Roughan)
Sam's Letters to Jennifer
The Lake House
The Jester (coauthor: Andrew Gross)
The Beach House (coauthor: Peter de Jonge)
Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas
Cradle and All
When the Wind Blows
See How They Run
Miracle on the 17th Green (coauthor: Peter de Jonge)
Hide & Seek
The Midnight Club
Season of the Machete
The Thomas Berryman Number
For more information about James Patterson's novels, visit www.jamespatterson.com.
IT'S WAY TOO EARLY in the morning for dead people.
That's what I'd be thinking, were I actually thinking clearly right now. I'm not.
The second I turn the corner on my way to work and see the crowd, the commotion, the dingy gray body bags being wheeled out of that oh-so-chichi hotel, I reach for my camera. I can't help it. It's instinct on my part.
Click, click, click.
Don't think about what's happened here. Just shoot, Kristin.
My head whips left and right, the lens of my Leica R9 leading the way. I focus first on the faces around me — the gawkers, the lookie-loos. That's what Annie Leibovitz would do. A businessman in wide pinstripes, a bike messenger, a mother with her stroller, they all stand and stare at the terrible murder scene. Like it or not, this is the highlight of their day. And it's not yet eight a.m.
I move forward, even as something inside me is saying, "Look away, walk away." Even as something says, "You know where you are. This hotel. You know, Kristin."
I'm weaving my way toward the entrance to the hotel. Closer and closer, I'm being pulled — as if by an undertow that I can't resist. And I keep shooting pictures as though I'm on assignment for the New York Times or Newsweek.
Click, click, click.
Parked at jagged angles, police cars and ambulances fill the street. I look up from their sirens, tracing the twirling beams of blue-and-red light as they dance against the surrounding brownstones.
I spy more gawkers in the windows of nearby apartments. A woman wearing curlers takes a bite of a bagel. Click.
Something catches my eye. It's a reflection, the sun bouncing off the rail of the last gurney being wheeled out of the hotel. That makes four. What happened in there? Murder? Mass murder?
They sit, gathered on the sidewalk — four gurneys — each holding a body bag. It's horrifying. Just awful.
My wrist twists, and I go wide-angle to shoot them as a group — like a family. My wrist twists back, and I go tight, shooting them one by one. Who were they? What happened to these poor people? How did they die?
Don't think, Kristin, just shoot.
Two muscular paramedics walk out of the hotel and approach a couple of cops. Detectives, like on Law & Order. They all talk, they all shake their heads, and they all have that hardened New York look to them, as if they've seen it all before.
One of the detectives — older, rail thin — looks my way. I think he sees me.
Click, click, click.
Having burned through a roll of film, I furiously load another.
There's really nothing more to shoot, and yet I keep firing away. I'm late for work, but it doesn't matter. It's as if I can't leave.
My head snaps back to the gurneys as something catches my eye. At first, I can't believe it. Maybe it's the wind, or just my mind playing tricks early in the morning.
Then it happens again, and I gasp. The last body bag . . . it moved!
Did I just see what I think I saw?
I'm terrified and want to run away. Instead, I edge even closer. Instinct? Undertow?
I'm staring at that zipped-up body bag, and all I know is that there's been a horrible mistake by the police or the EMS.
It's creeping backward. That body bag is opening from the inside!
My eyes bulge, and my knees buckle. Literally. I stagger through the crowd, staring through my lens in shock and disbelief.
I see a finger emerge, then an entire hand. Oh, God, and there's blood!
"Help!" I scream, lowering my camera. "That person is alive!"
The crowd turns, the cops and paramedics too. They glance at me and scoff in disbelief or reproach, shaking their heads as if I just escaped from Bellevue. They think I'm nuts!
I stab the air, pointing at the body bag as the hand pushes through the plastic, desperately reaching out for help. I think it's a woman's hand.
Do something, Kris! You have to save her!
I raise my camera again, and —
I JOLT UP SO FAST I nearly break my neck. I'm drenched with sweat, crying hysterically, and have no idea where I am. Everything is blurry, so I try to rub my eyes into focus, but it's hard because my hands are trembling out of control. Actually, my whole body is trembling.
I plead with myself, C'mon, Kris.
Finally, shapes begin to appear before me, followed by outlines . . . and, like a Polaroid, it all becomes clear.
It was just a dream, you spaz! Just a dream.
Collapsing back into my pillow, I let out the world's hugest sigh of relief. Never have I been so happy to be alone in my own bed.
But it was so real.
The body bags . . . a woman's hand coming out of one of them.
I turn to my alarm clock — a little before six a.m. Good, I can still get a few more minutes of sleep. But the moment I close my eyes, they pop right open again.
I hear something, a pounding, and it's not just my stressed-out heart. Someone's at the door.
Throwing on the same blue terry cloth robe I've had since my Boston College days, I trudge across my tiny apartment, which is decorated with the very finest furnishings from the Crate & Barrel factory-reject sale. So what if my couch has only three legs and belongs in a Farrelly brothers movie?
The pounding gets louder. More urgent and annoying.
All right already, hold your horses!
Approaching the door, I don't call out and ask who it is. That's what peepholes are for, especially in Manhattan.
Quietly, I lean forward and squint to look with a tired eye.
I open the door. Glaring at me through a pair of drugstore bifocals is my nosy old neighbor from down the hall, Mrs. Rosencrantz. She's clearly ticked off about something, and that makes two of us.
"Do you realize what time it is?" I grumble.
"Do you realize what time it is?" she shoots back. "Once and for all, you've got to stop this psychotic screaming every morning."
I look at Mrs. Rosencrantz — all four feet ten of her — as if she's the one who's psychotic. I may have been crying, but I certainly wasn't screaming.
"You know, if you really want to hassle someone about noise, Mrs. Rosencrantz, you should find out who's playing that music at six a.m."
She gives me a sideways look. "What music?"
"C'mon, you don't hear that? It's coming from . . ." I step into the hallway, turning my head left and right.
Wait — where exactly is it coming from?
Mrs. Rosencrantz shakes her head and huffs. "I don't hear any music, Ms. Burns. And if you're trying to be a little smart-ass with me, I'm telling you right now I don't appreciate it."
"Mrs. Rosencrantz, I'm not trying to —"
She cuts me off. "Don't think I can't get you evicted, because I can."
I frown at the old bat, who happens to look even more unpleasant and haggard than usual, if that's possible. You want smart-ass, lady? I'll give you smart-ass!
"Mrs. Rosencrantz, I'm going back to bed now . . . and if you don't mind my saying so, you could use a little more beauty sleep yourself."
With that, I promptly close the door on her stunned, sourpuss face.
I'm about to turn and make a beeline for my bed, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror by the coat closet. Whoa! I'm sporting some serious raccoon eyes and a pretty spectacular case of bedhead. Omigod, I look almost as bad as Mrs. Rosencrantz!
Supposedly, I have this killer wink that everybody loves. I wink at myself in the mirror. It doesn't help. I wink at myself again. Nope, nothing.
I laugh out loud, and for a moment, I forget about the horrible dream and my neighbor from hell.
But only for a moment.
Because I still can't figure out the music and where it's coming from.
Walking around my apartment like Elmer Fudd hunting rabbits, I press my ear against the walls. Feeling totally ridiculous, I drop to my knees and try listening through the floorboards.
Only after grabbing a chair to climb closer to the ceiling do I realize what's going on. The music isn't coming from anywhere.
The music is inside my head.
THIS IS NOT GOOD!
I stand perfectly still in my living room and try to listen . . . between my ears. The music is faint, but it's definitely there. How bizarre is this? How scary? What a weird, weird morning this has been, and I've barely been out of bed five minutes.
I close my eyes. It's a song, and it sounds familiar. I've definitely heard it before. For the life of me, though, I can't put my finger on it.
Just keep quiet and keep listening, I tell myself.
But in the next second, I can do neither, as the silence in my apartment is upended by the phone ringing. It's okay, though. It's always okay when he calls.
"Good morning, sweetheart," Michael whispers, "this is your phone sex wake-up call."
I've heard him say the line a hundred times and still I giggle. "Good morning," I whisper back. And now I'm smiling.
"How did you sleep, Kris?"
"Why? What's wrong?"
"I had this horrible, horrible dream, and to top it off, my crackpot neighbor just pounded on my door and flipped out on me."
"Let me guess," he says. "It's that nasty old lady from down the hall. The one out of Rosemary's Baby."
"Bingo. The woman's got one foot in the grave and the other in her mouth. I swear, the things she says, she's going to drive me crazy." Maybe she has already.
"Even more of a reason to move, Kris."
"I knew you were going to say that."
"The offer still stands. It's only what you deserve."
"I told you, Michael, I don't want you getting me a new place. I need to do it myself. I will. My portfolio is at the Abbott Show. I'm gonna be a star. Aren't I?"
"Of course you are. But you're so stubborn sometimes."
"That's what you love about me."
"You're right," he says. "The fact that you're smart, talented, and gorgeous has nothing to do with it."
God, how I love him. He's such a sweetheart!
Mind you, it doesn't hurt that he's also handsome, athletic, and a managing partner at Baer Stevens Asset Management. Michael could buy me ten new apartments without batting an eyelash.
"So, are you already at the office?" I ask.
"Of course. Either you eat the Baer Stevens, or the Baer Stevens —"
I chuckle. The sun's barely up. "I don't know how you do it."
"Clean living, that's how."
"Speaking of doing it, though . . ."
"Very funny, lover boy. Just for that you're going to have to buy me dinner first."
"Damn, I wish I could, except I've got to wine and dine some important clients in town for the night. Business before pleasure, as they say. What about after dinner? You could be my dessert. Yum."
"We'll just see about yum."
Of course, Michael knows that's as good as a yes with me. All I really want to do is my photography and be with him, my almost perfect man.
"Now tell me," I say.
His voice drops to a whisper again. "I love you, Kristin. I adore you. I can't live without you."
"And I love you, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I do, Michael."
He sighs. "Such music to my ears. You really do love me, don't you?"
I don't respond. I can't. The word has me momentarily frozen.
It dawns on me that since Michael called, I no longer hear the song in my head. What a relief! I'm not losing my mind after all.
"Kristin, you there?" he asks.
For a split second, I consider telling him about the music. I don't, though. It's a little too flaky.
"Yeah, I'm here," I say.
"I'm fine — sorry, I was just checking the time. Don't want to be late for work."
"You're right," he says. "I'll let you go. Lord knows you don't want to piss off that boss of yours."
SO, WHAT OTHER BAD THING can possibly happen to me this morning?
I think I'm kidding as I hang up and head for the bathroom. That's when I turn on the shower and discover there's no hot water. Ugh! No way!
Now there's a different sound in my head. It's Michael, laughing, with yet another reason why I should let him be my sugar daddy and buy me an apartment. No way!
Shivering under what amounts to an arctic drizzle, I proceed to take the world's fastest shower.
I dress, gulp some OJ while munching on a Chai Tea Luna bar, and do a quick inventory of my shoulder bag before heading out the door. It's all there — wallet, keys, cell phone, and the only other thing I carry with me at all times, my Leica.
Walking up Second Avenue past 46th Street, I pass the same cramped newsstand I do every day. It's lined sidewalk to ceiling with every magazine imaginable, and I glance at the covers, my eyes taking in the flawless faces of various celebrities and supermodels. Good morning, Brad, Leo, Gisele, Angelina.
Funny, most people want to be them. I just want to photograph them.
That's my dream, and I'm getting very close, according to my agent and a few big editors. And hopefully according to the Abbott Show, the prestige gallery where my work is being considered. But until it comes true — when I make a name for myself and those same famous people shout, "Get me Kristin Burns!" for the cover of Vanity Fair — I keep right on walking.
To my job as a nanny.
Cutting over to Third Avenue, I head up five blocks before crossing to Lexington. I head north five more blocks and then cut across again, to Park Avenue. I do the same thing every day, the same zigzag pattern. Don't know why — I just do. Or maybe I do know why, and do it anyway.
Normally, I'd be taking pictures along the way, capturing the faces of the drones as they head to work while trying not to dwell on the fact that I'm one of them. There's not a lot of happiness along the sidewalks at this early hour. What I see is fatigue, angst, and a tremendous amount of boredom.
Of course, that's what makes for good photographs. I mean, when's the last time a smile won the Pulitzer?
Still, after the morning I've had, I decide to keep the camera tucked away in my shoulder bag. I'm feeling a little preoccupied. I'd say my head is in the clouds, except there aren't any today. It's a beautiful blue-skied morning in the middle of May, the kind of day that makes people happy to be alive.
So I take a deep breath and berate myself. Snap out of it, Kristin! And for a while, I do.
Right up until I turn the corner onto Madison.
Not just a little one either.
I scream at the top of my lungs.
The police cars, the ambulances, the twirling beams of blue and red light.
This can't be happening. It isn't possible. . . . But there it is anyway. Plus an awful smell in the air — like something burning!
The crowd gathered in front of the same hotel and the gurneys being wheeled out the entrance.
Can't be! Cannot!
But it is.
My dream . . . it's happening!
Everything just as I saw it. Every person too — the pin-striped businessman, the bike messenger, the mother with her stroller — all watching the murder scene.
And that smell — that's new — but what is it?
I close my eyes, squeezing them tight as if to reboot my brain. Am I really seeing this?
Yes. I am seeing this, every insane detail.
My eyes blink open, and I'm still standing on the corner of 68th and Madison, in front of the Fálcon Hotel. The Fálcon, of all places.
I want to run away. I know I should bolt while the bolting's good. Instead, I reach for my camera.
Don't think, just shoot.
But I am thinking.
As my finger clicks madly away, I'm thinking that this is impossible, that it can't be real, and the more I think this, the more I know I have to keep shooting.
I need proof.
The same powerful undertow as the one in my dream grabs hold of me as I inch closer to the entrance of the Fálcon. I look up at the windows of the surrounding brownstones and see the woman in curlers taking a bite out of her bagel.
Click, click, click.
My heart is pounding, pounding, pounding, as if there's a big bass drum inside my chest.
I look at my hands. Then at my arms. There's a rash all over me — or maybe it's hives.
Suddenly, I can't breathe. The final body is being wheeled out of the hotel, and this is the last chance for me to run away.
I don't run.
My feet don't move, and my camera lens is fixed on the four gurneys gathered on the sidewalk. I'm gasping for air, drowning in my own fear, just about to lose it big-time.
Because I know what happens next.
"Help!" I yell out.
The mere thought of the zipper moving on that body bag is enough. I don't need to wait to see it happen. Once was plenty.
I lower my camera and frantically wave my arms.
"Help!" I yell again, much louder this time. "Please, help!"
I'm shaking as I start to cry, the tears streaming down my cheeks. The rash, the hives — it's getting worse.
This is unbearable.
"Please, someone, listen to me."
And that's when someone does.
I SEE HIS EYES FIRST, very dark, intense, and unblinking, staring right into mine.
He's dressed in a gray suit, nothing fancy, jacket open with a loose tie, yellow-and-red stripe. Clipped to his belt is a scuffed-up badge. NYPD?
With a deliberate gait bordering on slow, he weaves his way through the crowd and walks up to me. All this time, his eyes never leave mine. I guess he heard me screaming. I smell his aftershave . . . and tobacco.
"Oh, thank God," I say, a relieved hand slapping my chest. "Are you with the police?"
"I'm a detective, yes."
I point back at the hotel. "Hurry, you have to do something."
He gives me a strange look before glancing over his shoulder. "Excuse me? I have to do what?"
I jab my finger at the gurneys again, the words tripping over my tongue. "The zipper . . . over there . . . the one on the . . ." I take a deep breath and spit it out. "The person in that last body bag is still alive!"
The detective looks at the hotel again. It's not quite a smirk on his hardened face when he turns back to me, but it's close. There is something unsettling about this man, deeply so.
"Lady, I can assure you the person in that bag is dead. They're all dead."
"Please, just go check."
He shakes his head. "No, I won't go check. Did you hear what I just told you?"
"You don't understand, Detective. The zipper on that last body bag, it's going to — "
I stop myself cold. Hold it right there, Kris. Not another word!
I complete the sentence in my head and suddenly, embarrassingly, I realize how crazy it all sounds. I sneak a quick peek at that last body bag, which still hasn't moved. I want to tell this guy about the dream; I want to make him believe me.
So of course I can't tell him about the dream.
"I'm sorry," I say meekly, starting to put away my camera. "I don't know what I was thinking. I guess I just got scared."
"Four murders," he says. "That's scary, all right."
I can feel the detective's eyes on me as I fumble with the lens cap for my camera, but I don't look at him. And as I turn to slink away as quickly as possible, I don't say another word. No good-bye, no apology, no nothing. Way to go, Kristin. You've just made a complete fool of yourself.
It's been a morning to remember.
Four dead bodies.
THE RASH, whatever it was, is gone now. So is that awful burning smell. Why was that different than in my dream?
Thankfully, I'm not very good at running and dwelling, otherwise I'd be obsessing about what did or didn't just happen as I race up to the Turnbulls' building on Fifth Avenue across from Central Park.
For now, what I force myself to think about is that I'm late for work and how that's a major no-no with the boss, something Louis, the morning doorman for the building, is all too pleased to point out as I blow by him.
"Uh-oh," he says, slowly shaking his nearly bald head. "Somebody's in trouble. Never let 'em see you sweat, Miss Kristin."
"Good morning to you too, Louis," I say over my shoulder.
I hop on the elevator and press PH for the penthouse, the top, the ritz.
Eighteen stories later, I step out onto the black-and-white-checked marble of the foyer that separates the only two apartments on the floor. My rushed footsteps echo as I steer left to the Turnbull residence with key in hand.
Please let her be in a good mood.
Opening the door, I see Penley's rail-thin frame standing before me. It doesn't matter how much Restylane she's got spackling her frown lines, I can tell she's pissed.
"You're late," she announces, her voice detached and chilly.
"I know, I'm sorry. I'm really sorry."
"Sorry doesn't work for me, Kristin." She picks a piece of lint from her designer workout clothes. Nearly every morning, she heads to the gym after I arrive. "You know I have to be able to rely on you," she says.
"Yes, I know."
"From where I'm standing, I'm not so sure you do. In fact, I'm pretty sure that you don't."
I look at Penley "the Pencil" Turnbull and want to scream so loud it will break crystal, and there's plenty of it in earshot. Her patronizing tone, the way she refuses to yell at me because that would be sooo middle-class, it drives me absolutely bonkers.
Penley folds her arms. It's her Mommie Dearest pose. Actually, her Stepmommie Dearest pose. "So, can I still rely on you, Kristin?"
"Yes, of course you can."
"Good. I'm glad we've had this little talk."
She begins to walk away, then stops, very nearly pirouettes. Almost as an afterthought, she updates me on the kids, of whom she isn't the natural mother. Their real mother died in a shooting accident the year Sean was born. "Dakota and Sean are both in the kitchen, finishing their breakfast. Oh, and be sure to double-check that they have everything for school. I don't want to get another note home saying they forgot something. It's embarrassing."
Yes, Your Highness.
I watch Penley glide down the hallway to her bedroom before I start for the kitchen. I only get a few steps when the phone rings. I pick it up in the study.
"Hello, Turnbull residence."
"Is the boss in the room?"
I lower my voice. "No. You just missed the mistress."
"Were you late?"
"Was she a bitch to you?"
"You have to ask?"
"I guess you've got a point there," he says. "So, how are you, anyway?"
"Michael . . ."
"What did I tell you about calling me here?"
"Who says I called for you?"
"Yeah, right, like you actually want to speak with Penley."
"What, a guy can't talk to his wife?"
"You know what I mean; it's risky."
"I keep telling you, Penley doesn't believe in answering the phone. That's what she has you for."
Right then, I hear a voice behind me. Her voice. "Who is that, Kristin?" asks Penley.
I nearly swallow my stomach.
"Oh, gosh, you startled me," I say, breathless.
She couldn't care less. "I asked who you were talking to."
"No one," I answer.
"It's obviously someone." She gives me a disapproving glare. "That's not a personal call, is it? Because you know how I feel about those when you're supposed to be working."
"No, it's not a personal call," I assure her. Unless, of course, you count your husband.
"Then who is it?"
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- Sep 10, 2007
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