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The Survivors Club

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The blonde caught in the sights of the Leupold Vari-X III 1.5-5 x
20mm Matte Duplex Illuminated Reticle scope didn't seem to fear for
her life. At the moment, in fact, she was doing her hair. Now she
had out a black compact and was checking her lipstick, a light,
pearly pink. Jersey adjusted the Leupold scope as the reporter
pursed her lips for her own reflection and practiced an alluring
pout. Next to her, her cameraman let his heavy video equipment fall
from his shoulder to the ground and rolled his eyes. Apparently, he
recognized this drill and knew it would be a while.

Ten feet away from the blonde, another reporter, this one
male--WNAC-TV, home of the Fox Futurecast, because heaven
forbid anyone call it a forecast anymore--was meticulously picking
pieces of lint off of his mud-brown suit. His cameraman sat in the
grass, sipping Dunkin' Donuts coffee and blinking sleepily. On the
other side of the stone pillar that dominated the sprawling World
War Memorial Park, a dozen other reporters were scattered about,
double-checking their copy, double-checking their appearance,
yawning tiredly, then double-checking the street.

Eight-oh-one a.m., Monday morning. At least twenty-nine minutes
until the blue van from Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) was
due to arrive at the Licht Judicial Complex in downtown Providence
and everyone was bored. Hell, Jersey was bored. He'd been camped
out on the roof of the sprawling brick courthouse since midnight
last night. And damn, it got cold at night this early in May. Three
Army blankets, a black coverall, and black leather Bob Allen
shooting gloves and he still shivered until the sun came up. That
was a little before six, meaning he'd had two and a half more hours
to kill and not even the chance to stand up and stretch without
giving his position away.

Jersey had spent the night--and now the morning--hunkered behind a
two-foot-high decorative-brick trim piece that lined this section
of the courthouse's roof. The faux railing afforded him just enough
cover to remain invisible to people in the courtyard below, and
more importantly, to the reporters camped in the grassy memorial
park across the street. The railing also offered the perfect rifle
stand, for when the moment came.

Sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m., the blue ACI van would pull
up. The eight-foot-high wrought-iron gate that surrounded the inner
courtyard of the judicial complex would open up. The van would pull
in. The gate would swing shut. The van doors would open. And then .
. .

Jersey's finger twitched on the trigger of the heavy barrel AR15.
He caught himself, then eased his grip on the assault rifle,
slightly surprised by his antsiness. It wasn't like him to rush.
Calm and controlled, he told himself. Easy does it. Nothing here he
hadn't done before. Nothing here he couldn't handle.

Jersey had been hunting since the time he could walk, the scent of
gunpowder as reassuring to him as talcum. Following in his father's
footsteps, he'd joined the Army at the age of eighteen, then spent
eight years honing his abilities with an M16. Not to brag, but
Jersey could take out targets at five hundred yards most guys
couldn't hit at one hundred. He was also a member of the Quarter
Inch Club--at two hundred yards, he could cluster three shots
within a quarter-inch triangulation of one another. His father had
been an American sniper in 'Nam, so Jersey figured that shooting
was in his genes.

Five years ago, seeking a better lifestyle than the Army could
afford him, he'd opened shop. He used a double-blind policy. The
clients never knew his name, he never knew theirs. A first
middleman contacted a second middleman who contacted Jersey. Money
was wired to appropriate accounts. Dossiers bearing pertinent
information were sent to temporary P.O. boxes opened at various
MAIL BOXES ETC. stores under various aliases. Jersey had a rule
about not hitting women or children. Some days he thought that made
him a good person. Other days he thought that made him worse,
because he used that policy to try to prove to himself that he did
have a conscience when the bottom line was, well, you know--he
killed people for money.

If his father knew, he definitely wouldn't approve.

This gig had come along five months ago. Jersey had been instantly
intrigued. For one thing, the target was a genuine, bona fide
rapist, so Jersey didn't have to worry about his conscience. For
another thing, the job was in Providence, and Jersey had always
wanted to visit the Ocean State. He'd made four separate trips to
the city to scope out the job, and thus far, he liked what he

Providence was a small city, bisected by the Providence River,
where no kidding, they ran gondola rides on select Friday and
Saturday nights. The slick black boats looked straight out of
Venice, and the mayor even had a bunch of good ol' Italian boys
manning the vessels in black-striped shirts and red-banded
strawhats. Then there was this thing called WaterFire, where they
lit bonfires in the middle of the river. You could sit out at your
favorite restaurant and watch the river burn while tourists bounced
around the flames in gondolas. Jersey had been secretly hoping
someone would catch on fire, but hey, that was just him.

The city was pretty. This courthouse, on the east side of the
river, was an impressive red-brick structure with a soaring white
clock tower that dominated an entire city block. Old world colonial
meets new world grandeur. The front of the courthouse sat on
Benefit Street, which seemed to be a mile-long advertisement for
old money--huge historical homes featuring everything from
Victorian turrets to Gothic stone, interspersed with green lawns
and neatly constructed brick walls. The back of the courthouse,
where Jersey was, overlooked the sprawling memorial park, the
grassy expanse littered with dignified bronze sculptures of
soldiers and significantly less dignified pieces of modern art. The
modern art carried over to the Rhode Island School of Design
(RISD), with its urban campus stretching alongside the

Rhode Island didn't have much in the way of violent crime. Thirty
homicides a year, something like that. Of course, that would change
today. The state was better known for its long history of financial
crimes, Mafia connections and political corruption. As the locals
liked to say, in Rhode Island it isn't what you know, but who you
know. And in all honesty, everyone did seem to know one another in
this state. Frankly, it freaked Jersey out.

Jersey started to yawn again, caught it this time, and forced
himself to snap to attention. Eight twenty-one a.m. now. Not much
longer. On the grass across the street, the various news teams were
beginning to stir.

Last night, before coming to the courthouse, Jersey had sat in his
hotel room and flipped back and forth between all the local news
shows, trying to learn the various media personalities. He didn't
recognize the pretty blonde down below, though her cameraman's
shirt indicated that they were with WJAR, News Team 10, the local
NBC affiliate. Network news. That was respectable. Jersey was happy
for her.

Then he wondered if the woman had any idea just how big her morning
was about to become. His target, Eddie Como, aka the College Hill
Rapist, was major news in the Ocean State. Everyone was here to
cover the start of the trial. Everyone was here to capture shots of
slightly built, hunch-shouldered Eddie, or maybe get a glimpse of
one of his three beautiful victims.

These reporters didn't know anything yet. About Jersey. About his
client. About what was really going to happen this sunny Monday
morning in May. It made Jersey feel benevolent toward all the
bored, overhyped, overgroomed individuals gathered on the grass
below. He had a treat for them. He was about to make one of them,
some of them, very special.

Take this pretty little blonde with the pearly pink lips. She was
up first thing this morning, armed with canned copy and thinking
that at best, she'd get a shot of the blue ACI van for the morning
news at her station. Of course, the other twenty reporters would
shoot the same visual with pretty much the same copy, nobody being
any better than anyone, and nobody being any worse. Just another
day on the job, covering what needed to be covered for all the
enquiring minds that wanted to know.

Except that someone down in that park, sitting on the grass,
surrounded by war memorials and freakish exhibits of modern art,
was going to get a scoop this morning. Someone, maybe that pretty
little blonde, was going to show up to get a routine clip of a blue
ACI van, and come away with a picture of a hired gun instead.

There was no way around it. The only time Jersey would have access
to Eddie Como was when the alleged rapist was moved from the ACI to
the Licht Judicial Complex on the opening day of his trial. And the
only time Jersey would have access at the Licht Judicial Complex
was when Eddie was unloaded from the ACI van within a fenced-off
drop-off roughly the size of a two-car garage. And the only way
Jersey could shoot into a drop-off zone enclosed by an
eight-foot-high fence was to shoot down at the target.

The massive red-brick courthouse took up an entire city block.
Soaring up to sixteen stories high with swooping red-brick wings,
it towered above its fellow buildings and zealously protected its
back courtyard and the all-important drop-off zone. So Jersey's
options had been clear from the beginning. He would have to access
the courthouse itself, easily done in the cover of night once he
learned the routine of the Capital Security guards.

He would have to take up position on the sixth-story roofline
immediately overlooking the drop off point to have a clean shot
down into the fenced-off area. He would have to line up the shot in
the cover of darkness. And then, when the van finally arrived
sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m., he would have five seconds to
stand, blow off the top of Eddie Como's head, and start

Because while the state marshals who escorted the inmates probably
wouldn't be able to see him--the angle would be too steep--and
while the prisoners themselves wouldn't be able to see him--they
would probably be too busy screaming at all the brains now sprayed
in their hair--the reporters, every single greedy,
desperate-for-a-scoop reporter camped across the street--they would
have a clear view of Jersey standing six stories up. Jersey firing
a rifle six stories up. Jersey running across the vast roofline,
six stories up.

The shot itself was going to be easy. A mere seventy feet. Straight
down. Hell, Jersey should forget the assault rifle and drop an
anvil on the guy's head. Yeah, the shot itself was downright
boring. But the moments afterward . . . The moments afterward were
going to be really entertaining.

A disturbance down the street. Jersey flicked back to the pretty
blonde in time to see her drop her lipstick and scramble forward.

He glanced at his watch. Eight thirty-five a.m. Apparently, the
state marshals didn't want to keep the reporters waiting.

Jersey brought his rifle back down against him. He adjusted the
scope to 1.5, all he would need for a seventy-foot headshot. He
checked the twenty-cartridge magazine, then chambered the first
round. He was using Winchester's .223 Remington, a 55-grain soft
point bullet, which according to the box was best for shooting
prairie dogs, coyotes and woodchucks.

And now, the College Hill Rapist.

Jersey got on his knees. He positioned the rifle along the top of
the rail, then placed his eye against the scope. He could just make
out the street through the stone archways lining the outer
courtyard. He heard, more than saw, the black wrought-iron fence of
the inner courtyard swing open. Calm and controlled. Easy does it.
Nothing here he hadn't done before. Nothing here he couldn't

He flexed his fingers. He listened to the reassuring crinkle of his
black leather shooting gloves . . .

The prisoners would be shackled together like a chain gang. Most
would be in khaki or blue prison overalls. But Eddie Como would be
different. Facing the first day of trial, Eddie Como would arrive
in a suit.

Jersey waited for the barking sound of a state marshal ordering the
unloading of the van. He felt the first prick of sweat. But he
didn't pop up. He still didn't squeeze the trigger.

Twenty reporters and cameramen across the street. Twenty
journalists just waiting for his or her big break . . .

"Courtyard secure! Door open!"

Jersey heard the rasp of metal as the van door slid back. He heard
the slap of the first rubber-soled shoe hitting the flagstone patio
. . .

One, two, three, four, five . . .

Jersey rocketed up from his knees and angled the AR15 twenty-two
degrees from vertical. Searching, searching . . .

The dark head of Eddie Como emerged from the van. He was gazing
forward, looking at the door of the courthouse. His shoulders were
down. He took three shuffling steps forward--

And Jersey blew off the top of his head. One moment Eddie Como was
standing shackled between two guys. The next he was folding up
silently and plummeting to the hard, slate-covered ground.

Jersey let the black-market rifle fall to the roof. Then he began
to run.

He was aware of so many things at once. The feel of the sun on his
face. The smell of cordite in the air. The noise of a city about to
start a busy work week, cars roaring, cars screeching. And then,
almost as an afterthought, people beginning to scream.

"Gun, gun, gun!"

"Get down, get down!"

"Look! Up there. On the roof!"

Jersey was smiling. Jersey was feeling good. He clambered across
the courthouse roof, the gummy soles of his rock-climbing shoes
finding perfect traction. He turned the corner and rounded the
center clock tower, which rose another several stories. Now you see
me. Now you don't.

Shots fired. Some overpumped state marshals shooting their wad at
an enemy they couldn't see.

Jersey's smile grew. He hummed now as he stripped off his gloves
and cast them behind him. Almost at the rooftop door. He grabbed
the front of his black coveralls with his left hand and popped open
the snaps. Three seconds later, the black coveralls joined his
discarded rifle and gloves on the rooftop. Five seconds after that,
Jersey had replaced his rock climber's shoes with highly polished
Italian loafers. Then it was a simple matter of reclaiming the
black leather briefcase he'd left by the rooftop door. Last night,
the briefcase had contained the dismantled parts of an AR15. This
morning, it held only business papers.

Excerpted from THE SURVIVORS CLUB © Copyright 2003 by Lisa
Gardner. Reprinted with permission by Bantam, a division of Random
House, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Survivors Club
by by Lisa Gardner

  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553584510
  • ISBN-13: 9780553584516