Attica, New York
They called him the Night Watchman.
Back in the late sixties, he stole into women’s homes after
dark on nights when the moon was full and they were alone. He
slaughtered them--and always left an eerie calling card at the
The authorities never publicly revealed what it was.
For over a year, the killer engaged in a deadly game of cat and
mouse with the local police and FBI, the press, and the jittery
populations of cities he so sporadically struck beneath a full
moon, claiming seemingly random female victims.
No one ever did manage to figure out how or why he chose the women
The only certainty was that he watched them closely in the days or
weeks leading up to their deaths. Learned their routines. Knew
precisely where and when to catch them alone at night, off-guard
Out of the blue, the killing stopped.
Months went by without a telltale murder. Then years.
The Night Watchman Murders joined a long list of legendary unsolved
American crimes, perhaps the most notorious since the Borden axe
murders almost a century before.
Unsolved? Of course Lizzie was guilty as hell. She was acquitted
based only on the Victorian presumption that a homicidal monster
couldn’t possibly dwell within a genteel lady.
Back then, few suspected that pure evil was quite capable of
lurking behind the most benign of facades.
A hundred years later, as the Night Watchman went about his
gruesome business undetected, even those who knew him best had yet
to catch on. He–like others who would come after him: Ted
Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer–was a monster
masquerading as a gentleman.
Unlike the others, though, he was never apprehended. Not for the
Night Watchman murders, anyway.
A theory came to light, when the bloodbath was so suddenly
curtailed, that the killer had either died himself, or been jailed
for another crime.
As the decade drew to a close, the lingering public fascination
with the Night Watchman faded and was finally eclipsed by the
elusive Zodiac Killer.
Years went by, decades dawned and waned, the nineteen-hundreds gave
way to a shiny new millennium.
Once in awhile, some Unsolved Crimes buff would turn the media
spotlight on the Night Watchman.
For the most part, though, he remained shrouded in shadow, and has
to this day.
Ah, well, the darkest night always gives way to dawn.
He emerges into the hot glare of summer sunlight on what happens to
be the longest day of the year.
Fitting, isn’t it?
He smiles at the final uniformed guard standing sentry over his
path to freedom.
The guard doesn’t smile back.
They never have. They simply keep a joyless, steady vigil,
scrutinizing the most mundane human activities, day in and day out,
night in and night out.
Night in and night out...
Ha. No joy in it for prison guards, anyway.
Street clothes are on his back for the first time in three and a
half decades; bus fare home is stashed in his pocket...if he had a
home to go to.
Thirty five years is a long time.
But finding a place to live is the last thing on his mind as he
walks toward the bus stop, free at last, with nightfall hours
* * *
New York City
“Five minutes,” a cute twentysomething production
assistant announces, sticking her short, chic haircut into the
Lucinda Sloan promptly pulls out a compact, snaps it open, and
finds a stranger looking back at her.
Oh, for the love of...
The reflection shakes its head.
Thanks to the morning show’s makeup artist, she’s
wearing more makeup than usual.
A lot more makeup.
More makeup, quite possibly, than she’s ever worn in her
life–or at least since her sixth grade coed dance at The
Millwood Academy, a milestone occasion for which she also stuffed
her bra with toilet paper. Twenty years later, that’s hardly
necessary, though if it were, she wouldn’t bother. These
days, she’s strictly a lip-gloss and blue jeans kind of
But if Lucinda Sloan has learned anything at all in this
forty-eight hour media feeding frenzy, it’s that pre-camera
primping is de rigeur here in the big leagues. All
national television news show guests are plopped into the hair and
makeup chair, regardless of whether they’re a movie star or a
run-of-the-mill psychic who just helped snag a notorious Jersey
Shore serial killer.
Though she belongs to the latter category, Lucinda looks, at the
moment, like the former.
It’s the lipstick. Definitely. Her mouth is slicked red, the
very shade of fresh blood. Maybe that was the intent, given the
macabre topic of her impending segment.
Lucinda suppresses a shudder, remembering the gore she encountered
at a secluded Monmouth County farmhouse just a few days ago. Thank
God the only blood shed at the final crime scene belonged to the
killer, slain by the cops to save the would-be victim’s
Fourteen year-old Tess Hastings is now laid up with a broken leg at
home in Montclair. Her parents, Camden and Mike, have protected her
from the press so far, but they’re here in the green room
Mike, handsome in a suit, sits with a protective arm around his
pregnant wife, as though someone is going to snatch her away. And
no wonder, after their family’s ordeal.
Your family is safe now--the lunatic can’t hurt you, or
anyone else, ever again, Lucinda wants to tell him.
Trouble is, that wouldn’t help. Once you’ve encountered
violent evil, you never feel safe in this world again.
Who knows that better than Lucinda? Her life’s work has taken
her to the darkest places imaginable; has shown her that human
beings are capable of inflicting unspeakable cruelty.
She learned long ago not to let any of it get to her–at
least, not on the outside. She’s not about to spend her life
looking over her shoulder.
She’s a Sloan, after all.
Generations before her have traditionally valued a stiff upper lip
almost as much as they have their material possessions. Lucinda
might have eschewed the trappings of wealth in her adult life, but
when high pressure hits, her own facade is stolid as the stone
mansion where she grew up.
She sighs and snaps the compact closed.
“Don’t worry...you look great.”
The compliment--courtesy of Detective Randall
Barakat–inspires an unwanted spark of satisfaction.
“Thanks.” Feeling his eyes on her--and not about to
return the gaze--she busies herself wiping imaginary lipstick off
An imminent live on-air interview is nerve-wracking enough. Sitting
so close to Randy that she can smell his Tic-Tac breath takes that
stress to a whole new level.
The Hastings case brought them together again after three
years...but only professionally.
Randy’s married now, living seventy miles away from Philly on
Long Beach Island, and Lucinda’s long over him.
But hey, she’s one hell of an actress.
Randy, on the other hand, wouldn’t win any Oscars for his
performance since their paths crossed again last month. Lucinda
doesn’t have to be psychic to know that he, too, has
unresolved feelings. But she wouldn’t tap that vein if it
were made of gold.
“Hey–what about me?” His voice conveniently
barges into her thoughts.
“What about me?” Randy repeats. “Do I look
Reluctantly, she glances up at him.
Black hair, blue eyes, dimples, bronzed skin. Yeah. He looks okay,
and then some.
“Lucinda, can I borrow your mirror for a second?”
Camden Hastings asks, and Lucinda hands it over.
Cam, an attractive olive-skinned brunette, has also been glammed up
for the cameras. Her lipstick, though, is a subtle pearly
Lucinda should be wearing pink lipstick, too, or a nice summer
peach shade, or–hey! Here’s a thought: how about no
lipstick at all?
Wistful, Lucinda figures that right about now on an ordinary Monday
morning, she’d be home wearing an old tee-shirt, dishing up
her usual breakfast: Cap’n Crunch or Frosted Flakes, coffee,
and a can of Pepsi.
Then again, the green room spread isn’t too shabby. She was
able to snag two glazed donuts and a Pepsi before heading into the
makeup chair for the works, from foundation to curled
Next, she visited the hairstylist, who chattily tamed her auburn
waves. Lucinda typically lets her hair hang down her back
unfettered; it now nests sedately in a jeweled barrette at the nape
of her neck.
Her hair is behaving itself and the lipstick hasn’t yet made
its way onto her teeth, so she’s good to go. Not bad for a
lip-gloss and blue jeans kind of girl.
Yeah, and she can’t wait to ditch the barrette, scrub her
face, and stick this little black Chanel dress back in her spare
closet. Way, way back, where it belongs, hanging beside the other
relics of her society girl past. She’s kept only a few
designer items; they come in handy for occasions like weddings,
charity functions, funerals, lunch with her mother--only slightly
more appealing than funerals–and national television
This happens to be her fifth national television appearance in the
last forty-eight hours, and in her entire life. She’s
starting to get the hang of it, though.
Her family isn’t.
In Bitsy and Rudolph Sloan’s world, a woman’s only
proper place in the newspapers is on the society pages–or the
obituaries. Her parents were horrified to see their only child
splashed all over the news. They’ve left several messages to
let her know.
“Do you ever pick up the phone for them?” Cam asked
curiously when her mother’s number popped up on her cell
“Pretty much never.”
“That’s so sad.”
Cam’s reaction caught Lucinda off guard.
It’s been years since she questioned her
relationship–or lack thereof–with her parents. Years
since she went from being a poor little love-deprived rich girl to
a self-sufficient woman whose life is enriched by friends and
work–a vocation that, ironically, led to the communication
breakdown with her parents in the first place.
Randy again. He produces a plastic box, gives it a little
“No, thanks.” Lucinda can’t resist adding, as he
pops yet another green pellet into his mouth, “I don’t
want to go on TV with a green tongue.”
“I have a green tongue?”
“I’ve seen worse. But hey, your breath is minty
Cam returns the compact and checks her watch. “Hasn’t
it been more than five minutes?”
“Not even two.” Mike rubs circles in the small of her
back. “Take a deep breath and relax.”
“You make it sound so easy.”
Cam has been looking at her watch repeatedly for the last twenty
minutes–anxious, Lucinda knows, not to get the latest
interview underway but to get it over with.
With their daughter safe and sound, their recently troubled
marriage back on track, and another baby on the way, the Hastings
have no interest in being on TV. They wouldn’t be here at all
if it weren’t for the Ava Neary. It was Lucinda who alerted
Cam that her older sister’s long-ago death might not have
been a suicide after all.
Maybe I shouldn’t have told her...or at least, not so
soon after what happened to Tess.
But Cam needed to know, after all these years of trying to
reconcile her own turbulent past, that nineteen year-old Ava
didn’t jump from the top floor of Manhattan building that
long ago day. She was pushed to her death.
Lucinda expected Cam to dispute–or at least
question–that claim, based as it is on nothing more than a
psychic vision of Ava struggling with a hooded figure before the
fall. But Cam didn’t dispute it. Maybe deep down, she already
suspected the truth.
All this media attention over the serial killer is a golden
opportunity to shed light on Ava’s case. Whoever took her
life might still be out there. Someone, somewhere, might know
The Hastings agreed to all these interviews with the stipulation
that Ava would be prominently featured–and that Tess would
The press would have a field day if they knew that the rescued
girl’s mother–like Lucinda–is a clairvoyant. But
Cam’s abilities are under wraps, and it was officially
Lucinda’s ESP that led the police to the killer. Only
Lucinda, Mike, and Randy are aware that Cam was having visions of
her daughter’s abduction long before it became a frightening
Lucinda returns the compact to her bag, a vintage Hermes
Kelly–named after the late princess of Monaco who, like
Lucinda herself, was a product of Philadelphia’s Main
First Hollywood, then a real-life Prince Charming, whisked Grace
Kelly away from all that. Granted, her fairytale ending had a fatal
postscript. But at least the dashing Ranier claimed her as his
Not so for Lucinda Sloan. Her would-be prince married Carla
Karnecki, the proverbial truck stop waitress with a heart of
She was already Randy’s live-in fiancé back when Lucinda
Yet Lucinda felt an instant tug of attraction the moment they met
and sensed that it was mutual, despite his being engaged.
Of course she fought it. So did he.
But working together day after day, night after night, under the
most exhausting, heart-wrenching of circumstances, their emotions
on edge...maybe it was inevitable that Lucinda and Randy would wind
up in each other’s arms sooner or later.
It only happened a few times, and they both hated themselves for
Meanwhile, an oblivious Carla was blissfully planning the wedding,
dutifully saving her tips for her dream house, and caring for her
dying mother, Zelda.
Randy wanted to break the engagement. Lucinda told him not to do
it, not for her sake. She never really understood why she reacted
that way, and she later regretted it, thinking of what might have
But at the time, it was a gut reaction, and she always trusted her
Maybe she was so drawn to Randy because he was unavailable. Maybe
she was too independent back then, freshly sprung from her gilded
cage, not ready for all their relationship would entail if he were
free. Maybe she just couldn’t handle what his leaving Carla
would do to her conscience. Maybe she was afraid of needing him.
Maybe, maybe, maybe...
So much uncertainty. She loathes uncertainty, and it dogged every
move she made with Randy–even after it was over.
Did she expect Randy to tell her she was wrong about them? Did she
want him to fight for her, make her change her mind?
As if anyone ever could.
But if anyone could, it was him.
Didn’t he know that?
No. He didn’t know.
Anyway, girls like Carla deserve a fairy tale ending, right?
Randy transferred to an out of state job on the Jersey shore.
Lucinda built a nice little life for herself and put the past
Now that Not-Prince-Charming is back on the scene, though,
she’s got her work cut out for her. With three more joint
press interviews scheduled in the next two days, Lucinda
can’t escape Randy just yet.
“Okay, let’s go! Cell phones off, everyone.
You’re on right after the author interview.” The
production assistant is back to herd Lucinda, Randy, and the
Hastings down the hall toward the studio.
People stride importantly past them in both directions, clipboards
and props in hand. The scene is becoming familiar. Lucinda knows
what to expect beyond that sound-proof door: on-air talent who are
household names, authoritative producers, bustling stagehands,
jeans-clad camera men, bright lights, a clip-on mike, arctic air
The door opens, and in they go.
Lucinda is getting to be an old hand at this TV stuff.
“Nervous?” Randy whispers as they’re led to the
“Nah. Are you?”
He shrugs, grins. “We can’t all be as cool and composed
as the Comely Clairvoyant.”
She rolls her eyes. He’s quoting yesterday’s New
York Post, which Lucinda’s friend Bradley Carmichael,
who lives in Manhattan, called and woke her to tell her about at
five-thirty a.m. when it was hot off the press.
“You’re a tabloid star, darling!” Bradley, on his
way to the gym, has always been oblivious to the fact that some
people aren’t up at dawn to work out. “Just like Paris
But the press has been all over this story, particularly her role
in it. She’s pretty much been portrayed as a Sexy Soothsayer
Superhero–that being this morning’s Daily News tagline
beneath a particularly flattering photo of her.
“The Daily News says you have a smokin’ hot Jennifer
Anniston bod and a Demi Moore bedroom voice.”
“Bedroom voice?” She laughed at that. “If
I’d been in a bedroom lately I wouldn’t have this
“Meaning I always get hoarse when I’m
over-tired,” she informed Bradley.
“Well, the world doesn’t know that. The world thinks
you’re a smoldering femme fatale.”
Forget the world. Lucinda can’t help but wonder what
Randy’s wife thinks of all this. Is Carla at home watching
right now? If so, will she suspect that her husband and the Comely
Clairvoyant slash Sexy Soothsayer Superhero were once a hot
Anyway, what does it matter? Once is the key word.
Once upon a time...
Yeah. Unlike Princess Grace and Carla Karnecki Barakat, Lucinda
Sloan only got the fairy tale beginning.
* * *
“Never, ever, ever turn on the television in the
daytime. You do, and it’s all over.”
That was the advice Vic Shattuck’s former colleague David
Gudlaug gave him upon his mandatory retirement from the
Bureau’s Behavioral Studies Unit last summer.
Dave had already been retired for a good decade by then, and was
full of other nuggets of advice, which didn’t, thank God,
include buying an RV.
Vic’s had his fill of travel over a twenty-five-year career
with the FBI. Not so with Dave, who’s on yet another cruise
with his wife this month, somewhere in the Mediterranean.
Vic found that out from Dave’s son, who answered the phone
when Vic called this morning to ask, with regard to turning on the
television in the daytime, “What’s all over?
The day? Life as I knew it? What? Is it really so bad?”
Vic’s wife Kitty left for work a little while ago as he
settled into his chair in front of the TV.
“What are you going to do today?” she asked.
“Same as I do every day. A whole lot of nothing.”
He saw the look in her eyes. Kitty can say less with silence than
most women can say with a week’s worth of words.
Vic has never been big on television–daytime, or otherwise.
He managed to follow Dave’s advice, at first. Re-settled with
Kitty to their native New England after years living near Quantico,
he golfed every day the weather would allow. Kitty, who
doesn’t golf, went stir crazy after a few idle weeks and
found an accounting job at the university. On rainy days, he kept
busy with Kitty’s lengthy Honey Do list around their
new–albeit centuries old–saltbox home, mostly
But then winter settled over the mountains of New England, and
there wasn’t much to do--around the house or otherwise.
One morning, Vic turned on the television to see if it was going to
snow–it was, big surprise--and wound up watching the entire
morning newscast waiting for weather updates.
The storm held off till the next day, so he tuned in again to check
the local closings and cancellations list–not that he had
anywhere to be. And not that a winter storm in the mountains of
Vermont was out of the ordinary in the least.
But it was good, sitting there in front of the wood-burning stove
with a cup of coffee, catching up on what’s been going on in
Not as fulfilling as working, of course. But he didn’t have a
choice about that. You reach 57, and ready or not, there you go.
You miss your job and the people. You try to stay busy. You think
about the things you did right and the things you’d do
differently and, always, about the one that got away.
When spring came, he started golfing again–until he threw out
his back. Two specialists and one surgery later, he’s been
ordered to stay away from the golf course until it’s fully
So here he is, on a beautiful summer morning, watching the morning
news as has become his daily habit. He’ll follow it up with a
couple of lame talk shows targeted toward women, and channel surf
after lunch, avoiding the shopping networks.
The way he sees it, as long as he stays away from home shopping,
he’s not pathetic.
And as long as he remembers to keep dirty dishes out of the sink
and fold the laundry, Kitty doesn’t seem to think he’s
pathetic, either. At least, she doesn’t say it.
Maybe it was better when he was pleasantly oblivious to the news,
though. Between the political coverage out of Washington, a
passenger airliner crash in South America, and another hurricane
bearing down on the Gulf Coast, things are looking pretty
Vic looks around for the remote to turn the channel.
“This morning,” the beautiful anchorwoman says,
“we’re going to talk with a New Jersey woman who as a
child overcame the tragic suicide of her older sister, only to have
her young daughter abducted by a serial killer just days ago. Meet
the police detective and beautiful psychic who teamed up to rescue
the teen and apprehend the killer–and learn why they are
seeking new information on the decades-old so-called
In other words, they’re looking into the possibility that it
might have been a homicide. Interesting.
Vic stops looking for the remote.
“But first,” the anchor continues, “we have the
author of a new book on the disappearance of aviator Amelia
Earhart, and he claims to have solved the mystery at
Ah, Amelia Earhart. One of the great unsolved mysteries of all
Vic watches the segment with interest. The author is a journalist
who has spent the past two years with a team of scientists digging
up convincing forensic evidence on an island in the South
“What made you decide to write this book?” he is asked
as the interview winds to a close.
The journalist shrugs. “I’ve just always been obsessed
with what happened to her.”
“I know the feeling, buddy,” Vic mutters.
It was an obsession with an unsolved case that led him to FBI work
in the first place.
He’d gotten interested in crime back when he was a psych
major and a notorious murderer was terrorizing the
northeast–the one the press called the Night Watchman. He
became so fascinated by newspaper accounts of the murders that
Kitty–who was just his girlfriend at the time–had a
suggestion for him.
“Why don’t you solve the case?”
“Because I’m not a detective.”
Kitty just looked at him.
The next thing he knew, he’d changed his mind about becoming
With Kitty’s support, he filled out applications, endured
tough interviews, passed incredibly difficult tests. Eventually, he
found himself in a four-month FBI training program in
As an agent in the seventies, when a rash of what his future mentor
Robert K. Ressler coined “serial killing” took hold
across the country, Vic grew even more fascinated by the criminal
mind. Curious about what made human monsters tick, he found that
his earlier interest in psychology came in handy on the job.
For four years, he took college courses in deviant psychology by
night, hunted down the bad guys by day. It might not have been the
dream situation for a happily married father of four kids–the
youngest being twins--but he and Kitty made it work.
It all came together when he earned his masters and was assigned to
the FBI’s BSU as a criminal profiler. There, he studied the
complex cases of known serial killers–including the most
notorious of all time, Charles Manson–and applied what he
learned to active, unsolved cases.
And to inactive cases.
Revisiting the long-exhausted evidence on the Night Watchman
murders, he pored over every detail and conjured a profile of the
perpetrator. He anticipated what the unknown subject’s next
moves were likely to have been, and come up with a pro-active plan
to lay a trap for him.
All the while, he imagined the satisfaction he would find in
solving one of the most notorious cold cases in Bureau
It didn’t happen.
He profiled the killer as an organized, highly intelligent white
male. He was young, probably in his early twenties at the most when
the crimes occurred. His relationships with women were
unfulfilling. He felt no remorse after killing and was in no hurry
to get away; on the contrary, he meticulously staged the victims
and left a distinct calling card at the scene.
Yes, Vic knew who they were looking for
He just didn’t know when–or
where–or whether--the unsub would strike
Still, not a day goes by, even after almost forty years, that Vic
Shattuck doesn’t wonder what happened to The Night
All those brutal killings--and then nothing.
Vic has a theory, of course–just like everyone else who ever
had anything to do with the case. The killer either died, or went
to prison on some unrelated crime.
For years after the murders had ended, the evidence boxed away,
pending inactive, Vic held his breath. He waited for him to
re-emerge; waited for another woman to turn up dead at the hands of
the Night Watchman.
There were a number of crimes with a similar M.O.: woman who lives
alone is killed by an intruder in the night. One, years after the
last known Night Watchman murder, was even an obvious–and
flimsy--copycat crime. It was a domestic abuse case that ended in
murder, and the husband tried to make it look otherwise.
No one bought it for a minute, not even the press.
The moon wasn’t even full that night.
But for the investigators, the dead giveaway--as it were--was that
the Night Watchman’s calling card, the one that had never
been revealed to the public, was conspicuously absent at the
The victim’s lips hadn’t been smeared with red
* * *
It’s the red lipstick that gets him.
It always has been.
She’s a beautiful woman, yeah. Great body–skinny with
big boobs. Just the way he likes them. Who doesn’t?
But that luscious red mouth has him mesmerized, even before he
actually hears the words spilling from it in a hauntingly throaty
voice, or reads the caption superimposed over her image.
LUCINDA SLOAN, PSYCHIC DETECTIVE.
“Yes, I’ve been involved in missing persons work for
years now,” she informs the handsome interviewer in a throaty
voice, “but they don’t always turn out this
“In other words,” the interviewer says, “you
don’t always catch the bad guy–or woman, as the case
may be? This was just a lucky break?”
She appears to weigh her response carefully before acknowledging,
“It was absolutely a lucky break in the sense that Tess
Hastings’ life was saved. But two other girls lost theirs to
a ruthless serial killer.”
“I understand you were working with the police to find those
missing kids and had had visions of their deaths before Tess
Hastings was kidnaped?”
“And you tend to use a process called psychometry, is that
right? You make physical contact with something that belonged to
the person you’re trying to find–say, a piece of
jewelry or clothing–and you are then able to glean
information about the person?”
He finds a scrap of paper and a pen, writes it down along with
Lucinda Sloan, Psychic Detective.
“And that’s what you did in the case of those two
“Did you ever think there was hope of finding them, Ms.
For a moment, she bites her luscious lower lip. Then, shaking her
head, she says, “I didn’t, no. It’s not an exact
science, but in my line of work, I’m brought in after the
fact, so with my visions, I tend to see things after they
“In other words, when it’s too late.”
“Do you ever get immune to dealing with human anguish on a
“Not immune–I guess accustomed is a better
“How do you cope?”
“It’s never easy. You have to be able to
compartmentalize your life–you know, remove yourself from
“Remove yourself.” The reporter nods. “I
understand that you were supposed to be on an Alaskan cruise
vacation right about now, but you missed the boat, so to speak, in
order to help find Tess Hastings.”
“That’s right.” She shrugs. “It’s not
a big deal.”
“Detective Barakat, hindsight is twenty-twenty, but I’m
sure there are some on your force who might have criticized you, at
the time, for putting any stock into a psychic’s
Regrettably, the camera shifts to a man whose caption reads
DETECTIVE RANDALL BARAKAT, LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP.
“Well, it’s not like I went around broadcasting
“How did her involvement come about? Was it official, or
“Unofficial–I mean, I’ve known Lucinda for years.
We used to work together on missing persons cases when I was back
in Philly. I’ve seen her do some amazing things.”
Oh you have, have you?
The detective’s gold wedding band is clearly visible as he
fidgets with his lapel. The guy is married–not to the amazing
Lucinda with the luscious red lips, or the caption would
undoubtedly say so.
But something in the man’s blue eyes–a flicker of
admiration, a flash of regret, a glimmer of lust,
perhaps–conveys that Detective Randall Barakat has more than
casual interest in Lucinda Sloan, Psychic Detective.
“They’re calling Lucinda a super hero these days,
Detective Barakat. Do you agree?”
“Sure. You know, danger goes with the territory when
you’re a cop. But Lucinda, she’s fearless. Nothing ever
The camera darts back to her as the interviewer asks, “What
do you say to that, Lucinda? Is there anything at all you’re
“The dark,” she says promptly–almost glibly, with
a jittery little laugh and a sidewise glance at the
“You’re afraid of the dark?” the interviewer
But she’s not kidding. She means it. I can
“Ever since I was a little girl. I guess I always figured bad
things couldn’t happen in broad daylight, you know? When the
sun goes down, the boogey man comes out.”
His gaze narrows.
He stares thoughtfully at her until the camera cuts away again, to
a man and woman identified as CAMDEN AND MICHAEL HASTINGS, PARENTS
OF KIDNAPED GIRL.
The interviewer drones on, questioning them about their ordeal. His
mind drifts until screen shifts again.
In sheer disbelief, he finds himself looking at a vintage photo
captioned AVA NEARY, SISTER OF CAMDEN HASTINGS, SUPPOSED 1970 NYU
“Now that Mr. and Mrs. Hastings’ daughter has been
found, they–with the assistance of Lucinda Sloan, are looking
into the death of Mrs. Hastings’ sister, who supposedly
jumped to her death from a building at New York University over
thirty-five years ago.”
Well, well, well.
What a small world.
Lucinda Sloan’s red mouth announces, “We’re
asking anyone who knew Ava Neary at NYU and might have any
information on the period leading up to her death to please come
A small world indeed, he thinks, as an idea ignites in the
mind once deemed, by a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation,
competent to stand trial for matricide.
Tried, convicted, sentenced, rehabilitated.
No longer a threat to society.
Or so it was assumed last June, when the Night Watchman was
unwittingly released after serving thirty-five years in prison.
Excerpted from DEAD BEFORE DARK © Copyright 2010 by Wendy
Corsi Staub. Reprinted with permission by Zebra, an imprint of
Kensington. All rights reserved.