Internationally bestselling author Jeffery Deaver always wanted to be a writer: He wrote his first “book” at age 11; was editor of his high school literary magazine and a reporter for the school newspaper; and started his working career as a journalist. After earning a law degree at Fordham University, Deaver practiced as a corporate attorney for eight years before he left to pursue writing full-time. The Bone Collector, his first novel featuring Lincoln Rhyme wasn’t originally meant to be a series, but the quadriplegic detective, his conflicted assistant, Amelia Sachs, and their high-tech system of forensic police work proved enormously popular with readers. A former folk singer, Deaver once appeared as a corrupt reporter on his favorite soap opera, As the World Turns.
The heart of a concert hall is people.
And when the vast space is dim and empty, as this one was at the moment, a venue can bristle with impatience, indifference.
Okay, rein in that imagination, Kayleigh Towne told herself. Stop acting like a kid. Standing on the wide, scuffed stage of the Fresno Conference Center’s main hall, she surveyed the place once more, bringing her typically hypercritical eye to the task of preparing for Friday’s concert, considering and reconsidering lighting and stage movements and where the members of the band should stand and sit. Where best to walk out near, though not into, the crowd and touch hands and blow kisses. Where best acoustically to place the foldback speakers—the monitors that were pointed toward the band so they could hear themselves without echoes or distortion. Many performers now used earbuds for this; Kayleigh liked the immediacy of traditional foldbacks.
There were a hundred other details to think about. She believed that every performance should be perfect, more than perfect. Every audience deserved the best. One hundred ten percent.
She had, after all, grown up in Bishop Towne’s shadow.
An unfortunate choice of words, Kayleigh now reflected.
I’ll be your shadow. Forever…
Back to planning. This show had to be different from the previous one here, about eight months ago. A retooled program was especially important since many of the fans would have regularly attended her hometown concerts and she wanted to make sure they got something unexpected. That was one thing about Kayleigh Towne’s music; her audiences weren’t as big as some but were loyal as golden retrievers. They knew her lyrics cold, knew her guitar licks, knew her moves onstage and laughed at her shtick before she finished the lines. They lived and breathed her performances, hung on her words, knew her bio and likes and dislikes.
And some wanted to know much more…
With that thought, her heart and gut clenched as if she’d stepped into Hensley Lake in January.
Thinking about him, of course
Then she froze, gasping. Yes, someone was watching her from the far end of the hall! Where none of the crew would be.
Shadows were moving
Or was it her imagination? Or maybe her eyesight? Kayleigh had been given perfect pitch and an angelic voice, but God decided enough was enough and skimped big-time on the vision. She squinted, adjusted her glasses. She was sure that someone was hiding, rocking back and forth in the doorway that led to the storage area for the concession stands.
Then the movement stopped.
She decided it wasn’t movement at all and never had been. Just a hint of light, a suggestion of shading.
Though still, she heard a series of troubling clicks and snaps and groans—from where, she couldn’t tell—and felt a chill of panic bubble up her spine.
The man who had written her hundreds of emails and letters, intimate, delusional, speaking of the like they could share together, asking for a strand of hair, a fingernail clipping. The man who had somehow gotten near enough at a dozen shows to take close-up pictures of Kayleigh, without anyone ever seeing him. The man who had possibly—though it had never been proven—slipped into the band buses or motor homes on the road and stolen articles of her clothing, underwear included.
His hand on the dead-man throttle, the driver of the Serbian Rail diesel felt the thrill he always did on this particular stretch of railway, heading north from Belgrade and approaching Novi Sad.
This was the route of the famed Arlberg Orient Express, which ran from Greece through Belgrade and points north from the 1930s until the 1960s. Of course, he was not piloting a glistening Pacific 231 steam locomotive towing elegant mahogany-and-brass dining cars, suites and sleepers, where passengers floated upon vapors of luxury and anticipation. He commanded a battered old thing from America that tugged behind it a string of more or less dependable rolling stock packed snugly with mundane cargo.
But still he felt the thrill of history in every vista that the journey offered, especially as they approached the river, his river.
And yet he was ill at ease.
Among the wagons bound for Budapest, containing coal, scrap metal, consumer products and timber, there was one that worried him greatly. It was loaded with drums of MIC — methyl isocyanate — to be used in Hungary in the manufacture of rubber.
The driver — a round, balding man in a well-worn cap and stained overalls — had been briefed at length about this deadly chemical by his supervisor and some idiot from the Serbian Safety and Well-being Transportation Oversight Ministry. Some years ago this substance had killed eight thousand people in Bhopal, India, within a few days of leaking from a manufacturing plant there.
He'd acknowledged the danger his cargo presented but, a veteran railway man and union member, he'd asked, "What does that mean for the journey to Budapest . . . specifically?"
The boss and the bureaucrat had regarded each other with the eyes of officialdom and, after a pause, settled for "Just be very careful."
The lights of Novi Sad, Serbia's second-largest city, began to coalesce in the distance, and ahead in the encroaching evening the Danube appeared as a pale stripe. In history and in music the river was celebrated. In reality it was brown, undramatic and home to barges and tankers, not candlelit vessels filled with lovers and Viennese orchestras — or not here, at least. Still, it was the Danube, an icon of Balkan pride, and the railway man's chest always swelled as he took his train over the bridge.
His river . . .
He peered through the speckled windscreen and inspected the track before him in the headlight of the General Electric diesel. Nothing to be concerned about.
There were eight notch positions on the throttle, number one being the lowest. He was presently at five and he eased back to three to slow the train as it entered a series of turns. The 4,000-horsepower engine grew softer as it cut back the voltage to the traction motors.
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