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Authors: Tess Gerritsen

Call After Midnight

BOOK: Call After Midnight
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A fan-favorite novel by internationally bestselling author Tess Gerritsen

Newlywed Sarah Fontaine has just received the news that every wife fears: her husband of two months has died abroad in a hotel fire. Yet convinced he's still alive, Sarah forges an alliance with Nick O'Hara from the U.S. State Department that has the two of them crisscrossing Europe on a desperate search for signs of life. As Sarah and Nick become quarry in the secret world of international espionage, they must risk everything for answers that may prove fatal.

Rave reviews for the novels of
Tess Gerritsen

VANISH

“Gerritsen's latest novel is a tense, taut thriller that grabs readers from the get-go and never lets up.”

—Booklist

BODY DOUBLE

“An electric series of startling twists, the revelation of ghoulishly practical motives and a nail-biting finale make this Gerritsen's best to date.”

—Publishers Weekly

“The story zips along.… A delightfully bizarro plot twist.”

—Entertainment Weekly

THE APPRENTICE

”Well-drawn characters and a compelling story will grab readers' interest and earn Gerritsen more admirers.”

—Booklist

“Leave the lights on, check the closets, and lock the doors before cracking [
The Apprentice
].”

—People

THE SURGEON

“Gliding as smoothly as a scalpel in a confident surgeon's hand, this tale proves that Gerritsen…has morphed into a…suspense novelist whose growing popularity is keeping pace with her ever-finer writing skills.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Gerritsen fans know by now what to expect from her: a fascinating story with a gripping plot and believably human characters. Such is
The Surgeon,
and, in places, then some. Let new readers learn what the fans delight in.”

—Booklist

THE SINNER

“Gerritsen gives atmospheric depth to her tale… satisfyingly gritty.”

—
Publishers Weekly

Also by
New York Times
bestselling author Tess Gerritsen

KEEPER OF THE BRIDE

THIEF OF HEARTS

IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS

PRESUMED GUILTY

WHISTLEBLOWER

NEVER SAY DIE

UNDER THE KNIFE

CALL AFTER MIDNIGHT

TESS GERRITSEN

Call After Midnight

To Jacob,
who was always there

CONTENTS

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

PROLOGUE

Berlin

I
T TAKES TWENTY
seconds of pressure on the carotid arteries to render a man unconscious. Two minutes longer, and death is inevitable. Simon Dance didn't need a medical textbook to tell him these facts—he knew them from experience. He also knew there could be no slack in the garrote. If the cord wasn't taut, if it allowed just a short spurt of precious blood to reach the victim's brain, the struggle would be prolonged. It made the whole process sloppy, even dangerous. There was nothing as savage as a dying man.

As he crouched in the darkness, Dance wound the garrote twice around his hands and glanced at the luminous dial of his watch. Two hours had passed since he'd turned off the lights. His assassin was obviously a cautious man who wanted to be sure Dance was deeply asleep. If the man was a professional, he would know that the first two hours of sleep are the heaviest. Now was the time to strike.

In the hallway outside, a footstep creaked. Dance stiffened, then rose slowly and waited in the darkness beside the door. He ignored the pounding of his own heart. He felt the familiar spurt of adrenaline as it kicked his reflexes into high gear. He stretched the garrote between his hands.

A key was easing into the lock. Dance heard the metallic click of the teeth grating softly across metal. The
key turned, and the lock opened with a soft clunk. Slowly the door swung in, and light from the hall spilled into the room. A shadow moved through the doorway and turned toward the bed, where a man appeared to be sleeping. The shadow raised its arm. Three bullets from a silencer thudded into the pillows. As the third bullet struck, so did Dance.

He whipped the garrote around the intruder's neck and snapped the cord up and back. It tightened precisely around the most exposed portion of the carotid artery, by the angle of the jaw. The gun fell to the floor. The man thrashed as if he were a hooked fish and tore frantically at the garrote. He reached back and tried to claw Dance's face. His arms and legs went out of control, wildly jerking and thrusting in all directions. Then gradually the legs crumpled, and the arms reached out one last time before going limp. As Dance counted the minutes, he felt the body's last spasms, the seizures of starved and dying brain cells. He held on.

When three minutes had passed, Dance released the garrote, and the body dropped to the floor. Dance turned on the lights and gazed down at the man he'd just killed.

The mottled face was vaguely familiar. Perhaps he'd seen the man on a street or on a train somewhere, but he didn't know his name. Quickly he went through the man's clothes but found only money, car keys and a few tools of the trade: extra ammunition clips, a switchblade, a lock pick. A nameless professional, thought Dance, wondering offhandedly how much the man had been paid.

He dragged the body onto the bed and tossed aside the three pillows that had been fluffed up beneath the covers. He estimated the body's size to be six feet plus or minus an inch. The same height. Good. Dance exchanged clothes with the corpse; it was probably unnecessary, but he was a thorough man. Then he took off his wedding ring and tried
to slip it onto the corpse's finger, but it wouldn't quite fit over the knuckle. He went to the bathroom, soaped the ring and finally managed to jam it on the dead man's finger. Then he sat down and smoked a few cigarettes. He tried to think of any details he might have missed.

The three bullets, of course. Hunting around in the pillows and ticking, Dance managed to retrieve two of the bullets. The third was probably embedded somewhere in the mattress. Before he could probe any deeper, he heard footsteps in the hallway. Did the assassin have an accomplice? Dance swept up the gun, aimed at the door and waited. The footsteps moved on and faded down the corridor. A false alarm. Still, he should leave now; to stay any longer would be foolish.

From the dresser drawer, he pulled out a bottle of methanol. It would burn rapidly and leave no residue. He poured it over the body, the bed and the surrounding rug. The room contained no smoke alarms or automatic sprinklers—Dance had chosen the old hotel for just that reason. He set the ashtray beside the bed and gathered the dead man's belongings, along with the empty methanol bottle, and put them in a trash bag. Then he set the bed on fire.

With a whoosh the flames took off, and in seconds the body was engulfed. Dance waited just long enough to be certain there'd be nothing recognizable left.

Carrying the trash bag, he left the room, locked the door and walked down the hall to the fire alarm. He didn't see the point of killing innocent people, so he broke the glass and pulled the alarm lever. Then he took the stairs down to the ground floor.

From an alley across the street, he watched the flames shoot from his window. The hotel was evacuated, and the street filled with sleepy-eyed people wrapped in blankets.
Three fire trucks responded within ten minutes. By that time his room was a blazing inferno.

It took an hour to extinguish the fire. A crowd of curious onlookers joined the shivering hotel guests, and Dance studied their faces, filing them away in his memory. If he saw any of them again, he would be warned.

Then, through the knot of people, he spotted a black limousine crawling slowly down the street. He recognized the man sitting in the back seat. So the CIA was here. Interesting.

He had seen enough. It was late, and he needed to be on his way, back to Amsterdam.

Three blocks away, he threw the trash bag with the empty methanol bottle into a dumpster. With that the last detail was taken care of. He'd done what he had come to Berlin to do. He'd killed off Geoffrey Fontaine. Now it was time to vanish. He walked off whistling into the darkness.

* * *

Amsterdam

T
HE OLD MAN
was awakened at three in the morning with the news. “Geoffrey Fontaine is dead.”

“How?” asked the old man.

“A hotel fire. They say he was smoking in bed.”

“An accident? Impossible! Where is the body?”

“Berlin morgue. Very badly burned.”

Of course, thought the old man. He should have known the body would not be recognizable. Simon Dance, as usual, had done a superb job of covering his tracks. So they had lost him again.

But the old man still had one card to play. “You told me there was an American wife,” he said. “Where does she live?”

“Washington.”

“I will have her followed.”

“But why? I just told you the man's dead.”

“He's
not
dead. He's alive. I'm sure of it. And this woman may know where he is. I want her watched.”

“I'll have my men—”

“No. I will send my own man. Someone I can count on.”

There was a pause. “I will get you her address.”

After he'd hung up, the old man could not go back to sleep. For five years he'd waited. For five years he'd been searching. To have come so close, only to fail again! Now everything depended on what this woman in Washington knew.

He had to be patient and wait for her to betray herself. He would send Kronen, a man who'd never failed him. Kronen had his own methods to extract information— methods difficult to resist. But then, that was Kronen's special talent. Persuasion.

CHAPTER ONE

Washington

I
T WAS AFTER
midnight when the telephone rang.

Through a heavy curtain of sleep, Sarah heard it ring. The sound seemed impossibly far away, as if it were a distant alarm going off in a room beyond her reach. She struggled to wake up, but she was trapped somewhere in a world between sleep and wakefulness. She had to answer the phone; she knew her husband, Geoffrey, was calling.

All evening she'd waited to hear Geoffrey's voice. It was Wednesday night, and on his monthly trips to London, Geoffrey always called home on Wednesday. Tonight, however, she'd crawled into bed early, sniffling and coughing, a victim of the latest flu virus to hit Washington. It was influenza A-63 from Hong Kong, a particularly miserable strain that she now shared with half her colleagues in the microbiology lab. For an hour she'd sat up reading in bed, fighting valiantly to stay awake. But the combination of a cold capsule plus the most recent
Journal of Microbiology
had worked faster than any sleeping pill. Within minutes she'd fallen back on the pillows with her glasses still perched on her nose. It would be just a short rest, she had promised herself, just a catnap…. In the end, sleep had crept up and ambushed her.

She woke with a start to find that the bedside lamp was on,
Journal of Microbiology
still draped across her chest.
The room was slightly out of focus. Pushing her glasses back in place, Sarah glanced at the clock on the nightstand. Twelve-thirty. The telephone was dead silent. Had she been dreaming?

She jumped as the phone rang again. Eagerly she grabbed the receiver.

“Mrs. Sarah Fontaine?” asked a man's voice.

BOOK: Call After Midnight
4.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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