Fifty Fifty (Detective Harriet Blue #2)

Fifty Fifty (Detective Harriet Blue #2)

James Patterson

Chapter 1

SHE WAS PERFECT. And so rarely the perfect ones came, fluttering out of the darkness like moths into golden light. Swift and uncatchable.

He had wandered the third floor of the car park for a couple of hours now, risking it all for his ideal victim. A number of young women had crossed the little grassy field below where he stood as classes at the university ended and new ones began. He watched them toting shoulder bags and the occasional paper coffee cup, blinking in the warm daylight. Then the place was deserted again, and he waited.

It was bright out, leaving a dark shadow in the corner of the parking lot, to the right of the fire stairs. He’d watched a potential girl enter the stairwell, his heart thumping, but she was only halfway up the concrete steps towards him before he realised she wasn’t right. She had a friend on the phone. Cackling laughter. No. He’d know her when he saw her. Big doe eyes. Frightened, down-turned mouth. Thin wrists he could squeeze and twist.

The desire to flee picked at him. It was risky, hanging around too long. The university campus was on high alert after the police had found his previous works. Marissa. Elle. Rosetta. His brunette beauties mangled, ruined. Tragedies laid out on the sand. As news of the Georges River Killer spread, girls across campus had started dyeing and cutting their hair, walking in groups at night, having the security guards take them to their cars. It wasn’t about the hair for him – although he hadn’t failed to notice their striking resemblance to his first, many years ago. No, his university girls had simply been the right kind of innocent. Content, confident. He looked for the forthright stride, the high chin, the captive excitement of rosebuds just before they bloom.

He told himself to be patient. The plan had gone so well so far. His finale was worth the risk. A few more minutes. He wandered into the stairwell as he heard footsteps.

Then he saw her, her hand on the rail, gripping, pulling as she ascended. A slice of her soft cream brow and high cheekbone as she turned the corner.

Oh, there she was. His perfect girl.

Chapter 2

SHE EMERGED FROM the stairwell door and he swept an arm around her throat, yanked her backwards. The sickening rush of chemicals through his veins threatened to knock him off balance. She didn’t make a sound at first. The breath left her instantly. Her bag fell. Then the clap of his palm over her mouth, her heels dragging as he turned and pulled her towards his vehicle.

‘No!’ a muffled wail. ‘Stop! Stop! Stop!’

She bucked, twisted, tried to sink out of his arms. He was ready for the movement, knew the victim’s dance by heart. He sank with her, gripped tighter, pulled her body hard against his. Never letting her think for a moment that she had a hope of escape. Hope was a dangerous thing.

He had no idea where it came from. She was totally under his control. But hope had infected her, as tangible in her body as an electric pulse. Without warning she stiffened, let go of his hands and swung her fists over her own head at his face.

A fumbling blow. The shock of it. He let her go. She hit the ground and the scream erupted out of her, rapturous, like a song. He punched her in the stomach, tried to gather her up. This wasn’t the plan!

She twisted and scrambled against a car. He swiped at her. Missed.

She was up and running. And as she ran, she almost knocked over another girl standing there watching, mouth hanging open, phone in hand.

‘Run!’ his victim screamed at the girl, already disappearing into the fire stairs. ‘Run!’

He righted himself. The new girl was too shocked, appalled by what she’d witnessed, to take a step back out of range. Big brown eyes, dark skin, the slowly opening and closing mouth of a woman feeling paralysing terror wash over her.

She wasn’t his perfect girl, but she was a delightful surprise.

He seized her wrist.

Chapter 3

SHE FIRST BECAME aware of the television in the corner, its robotic noises, bleeping and zooming and piercing jingles, the crash and tumble of advertisements. Caitlyn shifted her face against the mattress. She was sweating badly, or bleeding, she couldn’t tell. She tried to speak and found her lips were sealed by tape. Panic shot through her. A spike of pain that reached from the heel of her bare foot to the crown of her skull. She turned, struggled against the tape on her wrists. Her nose was broken.

A damp concrete room. A bare mattress, a blanket bunched at the end. Rusty beer kegs and wooden crates, a pile of trash in the corner waist high. Mop heads and buckets and a milk crate full of bottles, a vacuum cleaner covered in an inch of dust. Caitlyn reeled, tried to get her bearings, scrabbled against the wall. Her ankles were bound. The terror was so loud in her brain that for a moment it blocked out all sound from the television. She saw him standing before the screen, turned away from her, his hands hanging by his sides.

The university. The car park. She’d been on the phone to her mother in California, fending off her ridiculous warnings about the killer on campus. It had been bright. Sunny. Afternoon. Then, in a snap, a different picture altogether, the curtain sailing closed and sailing open again on a horror-movie scene. The girl fighting with the hooded figure between the cars, rushing past her, a blur of heat. Run! Run! Caitlyn hadn’t run. Hadn’t done anything. And then he’d been right in front of her, impossibly fast, his fist swinging down towards her face.

Every story she’d ever heard of abduction and death and rape rushed through her mind, a whole catalogue of atrocities collected since she was a child and her teacher first taught them about Stranger Danger. True crime novels she’d browsed in airports. Macabre, late-night episodes of SVU, young girls being dragged out of sex dungeons, recounting atrocities, shivering in the witness stand. Now you are one of them, Caitlyn thought. Now your nightmare begins.

The man in front of the television was angry. His broad shoulders were high. She watched, wild-eyed, as he gripped the back of his shaven skull, ran a hand down his neck and back again, scratched hard. Caitlyn looked at the television screen just beyond him, the police leading a cuffed, black-haired man towards a waiting paddy wagon.

‘… the arrest of Samuel Jacob Blue over the murders of three young women abducted from the area surrounding the University of Sydney campus. Police say Blue was apprehended in …’

‘This wasn’t the plan,’ the man with the shaved head murmured. He turned and glanced at Caitlyn where she sat huddled against the wall. He seemed to be assessing, his mind churning with decisions. ‘Fuck. Fuck!’

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