Read The Ninth Step Online

Authors: Grant Jerkins

Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Suspense

The Ninth Step

BOOK: The Ninth Step
5.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Praise for
At the End of the Road

“Unsettling suspense and chilling tone… A disturbing (in a good way) coming-of-age story with one of the creepiest characters to inhabit my imagination in a while—a paralyzed man with ‘a distinctively reptilian appearance’ who might be the devil on Eden Road.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Irresistibly creepy… Reminiscent of classic thrillers… from
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane
Nightmare on Elm Street,
and not since
Lord of the Flies
have we seen children at the mercy of such meanness from their own kind.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Absolutely pitch-perfect… Deserving of a place on shelves alongside the all-time classic coming-of-age stories ever written.”

The Florida Times-Union

Praise for
A Very Simple Crime

A Very Simple Crime
is the product of A Very Talented Writer. Grant Jerkins’s stylish prose and rich characters set him apart. As a reader, you will enjoy every page. It’s impossible this is a first novel. Don’t miss it.”

—Ridley Pearson,
New York Times
bestselling author of
In Harm’s Way

“The degree of wickedness in [Jerkins’s] stylish legal thriller still delivers a chill… There’s not a soul you can trust in the story… [A] well-fashioned but extremely nasty study in abnormal psychology, which dares us to solve a mystery in which none of the normal character cues can be taken at face value.”

The New York Times Book Review

“A masterfully Hitchcockian story… Every time you think you know where things are headed and what a character is about, Jerkins throws in another twist that leaves you shaking your head at its diabolical cleverness. This is not, however, a book for the faint of heart… Jerkins’s writing is both brilliant and brutal… Endlessly fascinating.
A Very Simple Crime
is a very impressive debut. Grant Jerkins has serious skills, and you’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t jump on board his bandwagon and get a comfy seat
because [it’s] going to be standing room only soon.”

Savannah Morning News

“Gritty, sordid, disturbing, and addictive.”

Richmond Times-Dispatch

“So stylishly twisted that I read it in one sitting.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
(Top 10 List)

“No one in this novel is as they appear to be, and the twists and turns never let up until the very last page. This dark, chilling debut… is a real page-turner and should especially appeal to legal thriller fans.”

Library Journal
(starred review)

“You have to admire the purity of Jerkins’s writing: He’s determined to peer into the darkness and tell us exactly what he sees.”

The Washington Post

“Beautifully plotted… Wholly original, funny, scary, haunting… and oddly arresting from the very first sentence.”

—Nicholas Kazan, playwright and Oscar-nominated
screenwriter of
Reversal of Fortune

“Jerkins juggles his plot twists like a top circus acrobat in this nasty legal noir.”

Publishers Weekly

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Grant Jerkins







Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India

Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Copyright © 2012 by Grant Jerkins.

Cover image Road © Stephen Carroll / Trevillion Images.

Cover design by Diana Kolsky.

Interior text design by Laura K. Corless.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


Berkley Prime Crime trade paperback edition / September 2012

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Jerkins, Grant.

The ninth step / Grant Jerkins.—1st ed.

p.      cm.

ISBN: 978-1-101-58153-7

1. Life change events—Fiction.    2. Secrets—Fiction.

3. Self-realization in women—Fiction.    4. Psychological fiction.    I. Title.

PS3610.E69N56   2012




10   9   8   7   6   5   4   3   2   1



For William Irish and John O’Brien

I would like to thank Robert Guinsler of Sterling Lord Literistic and Natalee Rosenstein of Berkley Prime Crime. Also at Berkley, my thanks to Robin Barletta, Megan Gerrity, Andromeda Macri, Kayleigh Clark, and Amy J. Schneider.

I’m grateful to Tricia Parks and Gary Mullet for checking my math. Any errors in that regard are mine alone.

Lots of friends—old and new—also helped out along the way. Readers and supporters include Carmen Tanner Slaughter, Becky Hann Kraegel, Renea Winchester, Robert Leland Taylor, Ed Schneider, Kris Stowers, Jan Thomas, Delphia Early Hudson, and Cathy Blanco. Sandy McGrew offered some insights into alcohol and tranquilizers. And my newest buddies, Ellen Schlossberg and retired Atlanta police sergeant Connie Locke, of Mt. Yonah Book Exchange, in Cleveland, Georgia, were of great assistance to me.

And always, Andria.

Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrong-doing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.


Table of Contents

1. Goth was Over

2. Great Pumpkin

3. The Boy Needed Saving

4. Schizonucleosis

5. A Tiny Thing

6. God Forbid, a Barfly

7. About Damn Time

8. Karma and its Chameleon-Like Qualities

9. He Hoped the Threat of it would be Enough

10. The Art of the Sniper Bid

11. The Monotonous Electronic Hum of a Flatline

12. Subtle but Permanent Brain Damage

13. The Sweet Odor of the Conducting Gel

14. Covering up her Crime

15. Soylent Green is People

16. It Didn’t Look Very Good at All

17. An Accumulation of Radioactive Isotopes

18. Weird Sci-Fi Shit

19. Swollen Black Bodies

20. I Need for you to not Talk to Me

21. The Droning Robot

22. Meals for One

23. These People were Insane

24. Chaos and Crime

25. Rectangles of White Light

26. You’re Only as Sick as your Secrets

27. The Dirty Little Things We Do to One Another

28. Do No Harm

29. Going on Seven Months Now

30. Note to Self

31. You have Three Seconds to Vacate

32. Full of Potential

33. Rigid Angles and Bright Primary Colors

34. Probably Drunk When She Did It

35. Helen Keller’s Hand

36. What if he Finds Out?

37. He Could Quite Possibly Hit Her

38. An Omen

39. If you Knew What you were Looking for

40. Gold Teeth and Platinum Grills Glinting in the Sun

41. It’s a Wonderful Life

42. We Can Help Each Other

43. Nice Gun

44. What It Would Be Like Having your Baby Born in Jail

45. Just Another Lie

46. Helen = Murder

47. Fists Poised to Strike

48. It Was Only For a Millisecond that He Paused

49. This Crime Has Transformed Him

50. Puzzle Solved

51. Dear, you have a Visitor

52. An Investment Opportunity

53. Nobody Knows About Stuff Like this

54. He Leveled the Gun at Cornell’s Head

55. Even Steven

56. The Cornell Problem

57. Layers

58. The Forgotten Clue

59. The Heat Closing in

60. Mad Fuckery

61. A Fate that Looked Dark Indeed

62. Closing the Case

63. A Never-Ending Schizonucleotic Nightmare

64. Something Unspoken


At two thirty in the afternoon, while teaching his last class of the day, ninth-grade geometry teacher Edgar Woolrich was thinking about the online auction that ended that night. The listing was for a vintage Japanese puzzle box—of which he, admittedly, already had many. But this particular box was special. It had five hidden compartments. Quite rare. The final price could easily climb into the thousands. Or, the obverse, a true bargain could be had.

Timing his bid would be critical. It was Friday night, so one could extrapolate that many potential bidders would be out at social functions. There were time zones to consider. Potential bidders on the West Coast could still be stuck in late-day commutes, while Edgar would be snug at home, his mouse pointer
poised over the “confirm bid” button. Of course, ubiquitous handheld devices lessened that edge considerably. And the auction already had eighteen people watching it. Plus you had to factor in folks like Edgar himself who never clicked the “watch this item” button—lest they tip their hand in some unforeseen way.

No, the factoring that came into play while bidding on an online auction was like plotting irrational numbers on an infinite grid.

The lines of intersection were beyond reckoning, the variables endless.

“The triangle,” Edgar said, “is God’s own perfection.”

Nobody heard him. While he had been daydreaming about the puzzle box, his class had taken advantage of his inattentiveness.

Edgar picked up the music triangle that he had borrowed from Mrs. Frazer, the band teacher, and struck it repeatedly with the metal wand. All of the students looked to the front, and the classroom grew quiet. Edgar wrapped his fingers over the vibrating metal instrument to stop the lingering note.

BOOK: The Ninth Step
5.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Predators I Have Known by Alan Dean Foster
Small Apartments by Chris Millis
Es por ti by Ana Iturgaiz
Before I Say Good-Bye by Mary Higgins Clark
Sands (Sharani Series Book 1) by Kevin L. Nielsen
Caine's Law by Matthew Stover
One Lonely Degree by C. K. Kelly Martin
Torn Souls by Cattabriga, crystal
Chosen Sister by Ardyth DeBruyn