The Darkness (2009), страница 1
Praise for the novels of
“The emotional dichotomy makes Parker
a captivating and complex protagonist, one whose
pithy observations about New York are dead on.”
— Publishers Weekly
“This thriller proves truly scary as it explores every parent’s
worst nightmare. The next book can’t come fast enough.”
— Library Journal
“An exciting whodunit…
Fans will appreciate this entertaining suspense thriller
with the right touch of sexual tension to augment a fine read.”
— Midwest Book Review
“A painstakingly refined story, from the realistically constructed
characters to the consistently pedal-to-the-metal pacing.”
— Chicago Tribune
“One of the great new voices in the genre.”
— CrimeSpree magazine
“A fresh tale with original characters...
Pinter knows what he’s doing as his exciting plot
grabs readers from the first page.”
— South Florida Sun-Sentinel
“Those who enjoy their noir
with a dash of real-world research will love The Guilty. ”
“A fabulous thriller…
will prove to be one of the best of the year.”
— Midwest Book Review
“Pinter’s a wizard at punching out page-turning action, and the
voice of his headstrong protagonist is sure to win readers over;
his wild ride should thrill any suspense junky.”
— Publishers Weekly
“An excellent debut. You are going to love Henry Parker,
and you’re going to hope he survives the story,
but you’re not going to bet on it.”
“A first-rate debut from an author who dares to take the
traditional thriller in bold new directions.”
“A harrowing journey—chilling, compelling, disquieting.”
“A stunning debut by a major new talent!”
“From the opening sentence to the exhilarating conclusion,
Pinter’s debut thriller gets the reader’s heart racing.
Pinter is clearly one to watch.”
— Library Journal [starred review]
“It’s Front Page meets The Sopranos
with more than a little Scorsese thrown in.”
“A top-notch debut… Fast-paced, gritty and often raw,
The Mark is a tale you won’t soon forget.”
“A fast-paced addictively suspenseful thriller.”
To the booksellers, librarians and readers
who support my work.
And to Bud White, who refused to die.
Paulina Cole left the office at 4:59 p.m. Her sudden departure nearly caused a panic in the newsroom of the New
York Dispatch, where she’d worked as a featured columnist and reporter for several years. Paulina was prone to late
nights, though many argued whether the nights were due
to a work ethic that was second to none, or simply because
she was more comfortable spending her time among competitive, ambitious and bloodthirsty professionals than
sitting on the couch with a glass of wine and takeout.
She had left that day after a particularly frustrating
conference call with the paper’s editor in chief, Ted Allen.
Paulina had spent the better part of two years becoming
the city’s most notorious scribe in no small part due to
her ambivalence concerning personal attacks, heated vendettas, and a complete refusal to allow anyone to get the
best of her. When her instincts faltered, she called in
favors. When she got scooped, she would trump the scoop
by digging deeper. And she held grudges like ordinary
folks held on to family heirlooms.
Which is why, after reading a copy of that morning’s
New York Gazette, the paper Paulina used to work for and
now wished buried under a paper landfill, she demanded
to speak with Ted. She knew the man had a two o’clock
tee time, but she’d seen him golf before and cell phone
interruption might even improve his thirty-seven handicap.
That day’s Gazette featured a story about the murder
of a young man named Stephen Gaines. Gaines’s head
had met the business end of a revolver recently, and in a
twist of fate that Paulina could only have wished for on
the most glorious of days, the prime suspect was none
other than Gaines’s father, James Parker. James Parker
also happened to be the father of Henry Parker, the
Gazette’ s rising young star reporter, whom Paulina had
as much fondness for as her monthly cycle.
Paulina had cut her teeth at the Gazette, and had briefly
worked side by side with Henry Parker. But after seeing
what the Gazette had become—an old, tired rag, refusing
to adapt to new technologies or understand that hard news
was essentially dead—she’d made it her business to put
the paper out of its misery.
Nobody cared to read about the government or the economy—at least not on a grand scale. They only cared about
what they saw right in front of them, day in and day out.
Their mortgage payments. Their bank accounts. It was all
visceral. You bought the celebrity magazine so you could
make fun of the stars’ cellulite with your friends.You shook
your head at the news program that exposed the foreman
whose building was overrun with rats because he refused
to pony up for an exterminator.You scorned the politician’s
wife who stood silent at the press conference by her cheating louse of a husband. Paulina gave those with no life
something to live for, something to chat about at the nail
The New York Gazette was dead. It just didn’t know
So when Ted Allen suggested that Paulina write an
article about vampires, she was taken aback to say the least.
“Vampires are huge,” Allen had said. “There are those
books that have sold like a gajillion copies. Now there are
movies, television shows, soundtrack albums. Hell, newspapers are the only medium that isn’t getting a piece of
it. Teenage girls love them, and teenage boys want to get
into the pants of teenage girls. And this all scares the
living hell—no pun intended—out of their parents, so you
write a piece on vampires I bet it’s one of our bestselling
editions of the year.”
“What the hell do I know about stupid vampires?”
Paulina said, laughing at herself for even asking the
question. She stopped laughing when she realized Ted
“Oh, I don’t know,” Allen had said. “D
about some boys and girls who go around biting people
on the neck because they think they can be vampires? Go
interview them. Even better, go undercover and pretend
to be one of them. You know, pretend you like to bite
people’s necks and see what they tell you.”
“Ted, I’m in my forties,” Paulina said. “I don’t think
going undercover with teenagers will fly.”
“Are you kidding?” Ted said. “What’s that term? Milf?
The teenage boys will love you.”
That’s when Paulina left.
Rain beat down upon the streets steadily, with the precision of soft drumbeats. The drops splashed upward as
they struck the pavement, and Paulina felt the water
soaking her ankles as she exited into the gloom. A bottle
of Finca Vieja Tempranillo was waiting at home. It was
a good red wine, with a slight plum taste, and she could
picture slipping into a warm bath with a glass in one
hand and a romance novel in the other. The rest of the
bottle sitting on the ledge just within reach, ready to be
tilted until the last drops were consumed. Ordinarily she
was not that kind of girl, in fact laughed at those who
were, but Paulina needed a night away from it all.
Paulina opened up an umbrella and stepped into the sea
of New Yorkers, entering the crowded bloodstream
known as the commute home. The streets were chock-full
of open umbrellas, and she tried to wedge her way into
the crowd without having her eye poked out by a random
As she took her first step, Paulina heard a man’s voice
yell, “Miss Cole! Miss Cole!”
She saw a man wearing a dapper suit and dark overcoat
approaching. He was tall, six one or two, with hair so
blond it was nearly white, peeking out from underneath
a billed cap. He looked to be in good shape, late thirties
or early forties, and for a brief moment Paulina felt her
heart rate speed up. The car service company had really
stepped up their recruiting.
“Miss Cole,” the man said, stopping in front of her.
“My name is Chester. I’m from New York Taxi and Limo.
Ted Allen called to request a ride home for you.”
“Is that so,” Paulina said, barely hiding her smile. She
knew months ago that she had Ted by the balls. Things
like this proved it. Keeping her happy and pumping out
pieces was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a year
to the Dispatch, and the publicity she received raised the
paper’s profile more than their “crackerjack” investigative team ever could. That Ted would extend an olive
branch so quickly surprised her at first, but if she ran the
company she’d want to make sure her star reporter got
home safe, sound and dry.
“Please,” Chester said, “come with me.”
Chester opened up a much larger umbrella and held it
out. Paulina smiled at him, a big, bright, toothy smile, and
stepped under the umbrella. He led her to a Lincoln Town
Car which sat double-parked at the curb. Holding the
umbrella to shield her from the rain, the driver opened the
door. Paulina thanked him, picked up the hem of her skirt
and climbed into the backseat of the car. The driver shut the
door, and Paulina watched as he walked around to the front.
Two sealed bottles of water were set in a pair of cup
holders, and crisp new editions of that morning’s newspapers were folded in the pocket in front of her. The rain
pattered against the windows as Paulina unscrewed one
of the bottles and took a long, deep sip.
The driver flicked on his blinker and pulled into traffic.
He headed uptown. The only sound Paulina could hear
was the rubber squeaking of the windshield wipers. The
only smell that of the car’s leather.
“Good day, miss?” the driver asked.
“Better than some, worse than others,” she replied.
Traffic was bumper to bumper, and the car inched along.
Paulina began to grow restless. As much as she hated taking
the subway, she probably would have been home by now.
“You think there might be a faster route?” she asked,
leaning forward slightly when the car stopped at a red
light. The driver turned around, grinned.
“Let’s see what we can do.”
The driver made a right turn, and soon the car was
heading east. When they got to First Avenue, Paulina
could see signs for the FDR Drive north. He pulled onto
the on-ramp and headed uptown. The FDR tended to get
flooded during heavy rain, but Paulina didn’t mind chancing that to get home quicker. She watched the cars out-12
side, eyes widening as she saw her exit, Sixty-first Street,
appear in the distance. Yet instead of slowing down and
pulling left toward the exit ramp, the car sped along, bypassing the exit completely.
“Hey!” Paulina said, leaning forward again. “That was
my stop. This isn’t NASCAR, pay attention.”
“My apologies,” the driver said, “I must not have seen
“No kidding, Stevie Wonder.” Paulina cursed under her
breath. The next exit wasn’t until Ninety-sixth Street,
and then he would have to loop all the way back downtown. Just like Ted Allen to hire a car service and get a
driver dumber than a pile of bricks.
Traffic moved along steadily, and Paulina sighed as
they approached the Ninety-sixth Street exit.
“Exit’s coming up,” she said, making sure to remind him.
“Got it, thanks, Miss Cole.”
As they approached the exit, Paulina noticed the car
was not slowing down at all.
“Hey, will you slow down? What the hell is wrong
with you? You’re going to miss it!”
The car drove right by the exit without slowing
down one bit.
“Where the hell are you going?” Paulina yelled. The
driver did not answer. “I’m calling Ted. You’ll work as a
brain surgeon before you ever work our account again.”
“Put the phone down, Miss Cole.” The driver’s voice
had lost all of its pleasantries.
“Screw you. Now I’m calling the cops. Forget our
account. Your ass is going to jail.” She took out her cell
phone and flipped open the cover.
“If you ever want to see your daughter with all her
limbs intact, you’ll put the phone down right now.”
Paulina’s mouth fell open in a silent scream. Her
daughter…how did this man even know about her?
Paulina’s daughter lived with her first husband, a loser of
a man named Chad Wozniak. He was a good father, an
aspiring architect who never progressed beyond the word
aspiring. He was a good man, a decent man, but not a
provider. That’s what Paulina had wanted for her family,
but in the end she had to do what Chad could not.
Abigail. She was twenty years old. A junior in college.
A 3.7 average, captain of the soccer team at so
spoke. Maybe once every few months, and usually only
when Abby’s checking account ran low. Abby was beautiful, even if sometimes this budding young woman
seemed like a stranger to her own mother.
“You’re a sick monster,” Paulina said, closing the phone.
“Don’t be like that. We’re almost there.”
The driver took the FDR to the Triboro Bridge, pulling
off once they’d arrived in Queens. He skidded around an
off-ramp, took several turns in a neighborhood Paulina
did not recognize, and slowly eased into an alleyway
bookended by two buildings that looked like they were
about to collapse. Paulina could see nobody, hear nobody.
She was all alone with this man. Through the rain and
desolation, nobody would hear her if she screamed.
The driver exited the car and walked around to the
backseat. Paulina locked the door from the inside. She
heard a click as the driver unlocked it with his remote.
Before she could lock it again, he threw open the door,
grabbed Paulina by her coat and spun her into the mud.
Wet slop splashed into her face. Paulina felt her eyes
grow warm, anger rising inside of her. She launched
herself at the man, her nails bared to rake at his face, but
he merely grabbed her by the neck, held it for one horrible
moment as he stared into her eyes.
Then Paulina felt him press something against her
side, and suddenly she felt a scorching pain worse than
anything she’d ever experienced. Her body twitched as
she screamed. She lost control of her bladder, then
dropped facedown into the mud. Paulina looked up to see
the man holding a Taser, smiling.
“I wouldn’t do that again. I can smell your piss.”
Paulina could feel hot tears pouring down her face. She
was on her hands and knees, caked in grime, and her
body felt like it had just been plugged into an electrical
socket. She slowly got to her knees, managed to stand up,
her breath harsh and ragged.
“What do you want?” she cried. “Money? Sex?” She
shuddered at the last word, praying he didn’t, praying
there was something else, something that wouldn’t leave
a scar. Pain she could take, but that kind of pain would
The man shook his head. Holding the Taser, he reached
inside his overcoat, rain beading down the dark fabric.