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Murder Games
 

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Murder Games


  The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

  Copyright © 2017 by James Patterson

  Excerpt from The Store copyright © 2017 by James Patterson

  Cover design by Gregg Kulick

  Author photograph by Sue Patterson

  Cover copyright © 2017 by Hachette Book Group, Inc.

  Hachette Book Group supports the right to free expression and the value of copyright. The purpose of copyright is to encourage writers and artists to produce the creative works that enrich our culture.

  The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book without permission is a theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like permission to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), please contact [email protected] Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

  Little, Brown and Company

  Hachette Book Group

  1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104

  littlebrown.com

  twitter.com/littlebrown

  facebook.com/littlebrownandcompany

  First ebook edition: June 2017

  Little, Brown and Company is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. The Little, Brown name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

  The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.

  The Hachette Speakers Bureau provides a wide range of authors for speaking events. To find out more, go to hachettespeakersbureau.com or call (866) 376-6591.

  ISBN 978-0-316-55347-6

  E3-20170517-NF-DA

  Table of Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Prologue: The Dealer Manifesto Prologue Chapter

  Book One: Shuffle Up and Deal Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Book Two: Everything’s Wild Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Book Three: Dealer’s Choice Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  Chapter 61

  Chapter 62

  Chapter 63

  Chapter 64

  Chapter 65

  Chapter 66

  Chapter 67

  Chapter 68

  Book Four: Down and Dirty and Very, Very Deadly Chapter 69

  Chapter 70

  Chapter 71

  Chapter 72

  Chapter 73

  Chapter 74

  Chapter 75

  Chapter 76

  Chapter 77

  Chapter 78

  Chapter 79

  Chapter 80

  Chapter 81

  Chapter 82

  Chapter 83

  Chapter 84

  Chapter 85

  Chapter 86

  Chapter 87

  Chapter 88

  Chapter 89

  Chapter 90

  Chapter 91

  Book Five: Showdown Chapter 92

  Chapter 93

  Chapter 94

  Chapter 95

  Chapter 96

  Chapter 97

  Chapter 98

  Chapter 99

  Chapter 100

  Chapter 101

  Chapter 102

  Chapter 103

  Chapter 104

  Chapter 105

  Chapter 106

  Chapter 107

  Chapter 108

  Chapter 109

  Epilogue: Special Delivery Chapter 110

  A Preview of “The Store”

  About the Authors

  Books by James Patterson

  Newsletters

  For Barbara and Will Cravens

  —H.R.

  Prologue

  The Dealer Manifesto

  Entry #1

  SO YOU want to be a serial killer…

  Sure, you can go around just shooting people, bang-bang, but I’ve found that guns, while sometimes the right tool for the job, often leave me unsatisfied. There’s a lack of intimacy involved when all you have to do is pull a trigger. You hear the blast and see the carnage, the way your victim’s flesh ruptures and bursts open in an instant, but you don’t really feel the same adrenaline as with other, let’s say more personal, methods of murdering someone.

  Me? I like to mix things up. There are so many wonderful and creative ways to kill people, and I really feel as if I owe it to myself and my cause to make sure that I branch out and keep it interesting. And even when circumstances do call for a gun, I try to add a twist to it, a little something extra. Sundaes always look better with a cherry on top.

  Still, you’d be amazed at how much satisfaction can be derived from some of the most rudimentary approaches. Stabbing someone to death, for instance. I can’t think of a more personal and intimate experience. The sound that a knife makes when piercing human skin is nothing short of intoxicating. You can’t help yourself sometimes. You want to hear it over and over and over.

  Of course, repeatedly stabbing someone to death isn’t without a downside or two. For instance, it tends to be messy. That’s why I like to wear clothes that I can simply throw away afterward. No muss, no fuss. If you want to be a real stickler for hiding evidence, though, burning the clothes would be even better.

  But if you’re on a budget or partial to a particular outfit—you know, a certain shirt or comfortable pair of pants that you enjoy killing in more than others—remember that you want to treat the bloodstains as soon as possible with a strong prewash stain remover and let it soak in for a good hour or so before throwing the clothes in the Maytag. Also, I highly recommend an extra rinse cycle.

  Another downside, or at least a potential one, is that stabbing a person to death requires a tad more preparation. It takes a little longer than simply aiming a gun, and it also puts a premium on the element of surprise. Even then, the first couple of stabs don’t always do the trick. Be prepared for some resistance, depending on the size and stubbornness of your victim.

  Not all folks, however, will put up a fight. We assume that people have a tremendous will to live, but it’s amazing how quickly some of them will resign themselves to their fate, especially when it comes to dying in a massive pool of their own blood.

  That about covers it for my first entry. If you
have any questions, I’m afraid you’re on your own. It’s not like I have an 800 number or an e-mail address I can give out. For obvious reasons, too, I can’t tell you my real name. But lately people have taken to calling me the Dealer, which I happen to like, so I’ve taken to it as well. There’s a nice ring to it. The Dealer. Clean. Authoritative. Quite proprietary, too, given my methods. I’d trademark it if I could.

  I mean, the best serial killers, the ones whom people tend to remember, always manage to have a good moniker, the kind of nickname that seems to suit them perfectly. Otherwise, what’s the point? The shrinks will tell you that guys like me are first and foremost narcissists, but if that means taking pride in your craft and planning each and every murder with meticulous care, then I suppose there are worse things to be called.

  Honestly, I’m just giving you all what you want. A little razzle-dazzle, an escape from your dreary lives. What else are you going to talk about while sipping your four-dollar coffees and acting superior to the rest of the world?

  You want me. You need me. And in time, you’ll all discover that I’m doing you nothing less than a huge favor. Trust me.

  Now, if you don’t mind, there’s someone else I really need to kill.

  Book One

  Shuffle Up and Deal

  Chapter 1

  THE LECTURE hall hushed to a pin-drop silence the moment I walked in, every conversation stopping on a dime, every pair of eyes homing in on me, watching my every move.

  For the record, any professor who tells you that he doesn’t get off on this bit of catnip for the ego, if only a little, is completely full of crap. We all love it.

  Milking the silence a few seconds longer, I took my time unloading my shoulder bag on the table next to the lectern before slowly turning to the class with the same opening speech I’ve been delivering now for years. The only thing that ever changes is that the faces staring back at me always seem to look just a little bit younger every time I give the speech.

  There’s nothing like a college campus to make a thirty-four-year-old guy feel over the hill.

  And we’re off…

  “Good morning, my assembled prodigies, all you former class presidents and valedictorians, type A go-getters and relentless overachievers, and hopefully only a tiny smattering of you whose mommies and daddies knew the right people on the Yale admissions committee. Welcome to Abnormal Behavioral Analysis, commonly referred to as Intro to Psychopaths or, better yet, Your Ex-Boyfriend or Girlfriend 101. My name is Professor Dylan Reinhart; that’s Dylan with a y, and, yes, my mother was a huge Bob Dylan fan. Are there any questions so far?”

  Every year, someone takes the bait.

  A blonde in the third row raised her hand with an easy confidence that bordered on flirtation. Clearly she hadn’t done her homework on me.

  “Yes? What’s your name?” I asked.

  “Heather,” she answered. Heather with the come-hither smile.

  “Thank you, Heather, but asking if there were any questions was a rhetorical question on my part. I haven’t begun teaching you anything yet, so there shouldn’t be anything you need to ask about,” I said. “And with that we come to the first rule of this class. Ask only what you don’t understand.”

  I can be such a hard-ass sometimes.

  Although I assure you it’s not without a larger purpose in mind for these students. The vast majority of them have been treated like geniuses since the third grade, and the sooner they figure out they’re not, the better. As a former patent-office clerk with crazy hair once said, “A true genius admits that he knows nothing.” That guy’s name was Einstein.

  Meanwhile, poor Heather in the third row looked as if she’d just eaten a bad oyster. Don’t worry, I’ll make it up to her at some point.

  I continued. “The textbook for this class is entitled Permission Theory: Redefining Abnormal Behavior, and for those of you not familiar with the author, handsome devil that he is, let it be known that he’s a bit of a narcissist who enjoys listening to the sound of his own voice almost as much as he does forcing others to listen to it.”

  Most of the room laughed. Those who didn’t had their heads buried in their syllabi to see that, yes, I, Dylan Reinhart, was indeed the author of said textbook.

  “This of course brings us to rule number two,” I said. “You will attend every class. Your only excuse for missing a class will be your own death or someone else’s, provided this someone else either breast-fed you, coached your Little League team, or routinely put a five-dollar bill in your childhood birthday card and signed it Love, Grandma and Grandpa.”

  A student in the first row, obviously a freshman, was typing feverishly on his laptop. I remained silent until he finally looked up at me.

  “What are you doing?” I asked.

  He swallowed hard and glanced at his keyboard, confused. “I was…um…taking notes,” he said meekly.

  “Rule number three,” I announced with a little added volume. “You will not take notes in this class. I repeat, you will not take notes. What you will do is listen. The premise of this course is to challenge the long-standing conventional thinking about abnormal behavior, and as far as I’m concerned there’s nothing more abnormal than my lecturing to a roomful of stenographers.” I paused, smiling. “Are there any questions?”

  This time, no one raised a hand. Geniuses or not, they were all still students at Yale. They didn’t get there by learning slowly.

  “Good,” I said. “Now let’s get started.”

  But before I could, a noise in the back of the room had every head turning. It was only the door opening, nothing more.

  Still, there was something different about it.

  Sometimes you just know the sound of trouble even before she walks into the room.

  Chapter 2

  “SHIT!” SHE announced from the top of the aisle as she realized everyone was staring at her. Immediately she slapped her forehead. “Shit, I just said that out loud, didn’t I?”

  “Yes, you did,” I said. “Lucky for you, I don’t give two shits about someone cursing in my class.” I stepped out in front of the lectern. “Welcome.”

  Writers can spot their own books a mile away, and she had mine tucked under her arm. “You’re Professor Reinhart, right?” she asked.

  “Yes,” I answered. “And you are?”

  “Clearly interrupting,” she said.

  She was either a student or someone who happened to look young for her age. I couldn’t tell.

  For sure, though, she was attractive. The proof wasn’t so much the way the male students were staring at her but rather the female students. If you don’t understand that, then you probably have no clue why women buy expensive shoes. Hint: it has nothing to do with men.

  “I’m sorry, I still didn’t get your name,” I said.

  “It’s Elizabeth,” she answered. “Elizabeth Needham.”

  “Are you a student here, Ms. Needham?” I asked.

  “At Yale?” She laughed deeply from her gut. “You’re kidding me, right?”

  “Apparently I am,” I said.

  She looked around the room. “I mean, no offense, of course.”

  “I’m sure I speak for everyone here when I say none taken. But if you’re not a student…”

  “Then who am I? Yes, that’s a good question,” she said.

  “Will there be a good answer?”

  “How about I just sit in on the class and we’ll talk afterward?”

  She half tiptoed over to an empty chair in the back row. For good measure, she gave me a nod as if to say, “Carry on.”

  Whoever she was, she had balls.

  As if the entire class were sitting midcourt at Wimbledon, they all turned their heads back to me—whoosh!—to see what would happen next. The ball was clearly in my court.

  “Sixty-eight thousand, two hundred and thirty dollars,” I called out.

  Whoosh! went everyone’s head back to her.

  “Excuse me?” she said.

 
; “That’s the cost of a year at Yale, Ms. Needham, of which approximately forty-nine thousand dollars is for tuition,” I said.

  “Are you asking me to leave?”

  “No, I’m asking if you have your checkbook.”

  Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!

  With that, she stood with a huff and began walking toward the door. I couldn’t help feeling a twinge of guilt. My damn conscience. It’s my Achilles’ heel.

  “I hope I didn’t offend you, Ms. Needham,” I said.

  She stopped, raising a palm. “That’s quite all right. For the record, though, it’s Detective Needham. The reason I’m here is because I’m pretty sure someone wants to kill you.”

  Then whoosh!

  She was gone.

  Chapter 3

  “GO AFTER her!” a few students shouted.

  I was tempted, but I figured if someone really did want me dead there was no better place to be than in a roomful of potential witnesses.

  I stayed put and delivered my lecture as planned. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the best lecture I’d ever given, and maybe I rushed through it just a wee bit. A guy can compartmentalize only so much.

  I obviously needed to talk to this woman, and I knew it would take only one call after class to know whether she was still on campus.

  “No,” said the guy who answered the phone at the New Haven police department. “We don’t have a Detective Elizabeth Needham.”

  I didn’t think so. There was something “big city” about her. Or at least a bigger city than New Haven. That meant she traveled a distance to see me. No way she would leave without our talking.

  Sure enough, within seconds I felt the vibration of a text message. She’s a detective, she flashes her badge, and the dean or some other keeper of all things confidential coughs up my cell number.

  Meet me @ Jojo’s.

  No address and none needed. A coffee shop that everyone on campus knows. It was close by, too.

  A few minutes later, I was walking toward her at a table in the back. She had my book and some colored folders laid out meticulously, everything perfectly aligned. She was peering at me with her dark brown eyes over an oversize mug.

 
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